After taking WR150: Reading Disaster, I improved not only my writing and researching skills, but also my confidence in class participations. In the self-assessment written at the beginning of the semester, I expressed my wish to turn writing into a natural habit and to produce profound, coherent essays. While there is still room for improvement, I can proudly note the progress I made in writing good introductions, searching for effective sources, and sharing my ideas with others.
The first most striking progress took place in my first paper: “Stuck in Time: Death and Coping Mechanisms in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five” – which marked my transition from WR100 to WR150 – where I learned how to write an introduction for academic papers. My first draft of the paper begins with a quote: “Why me?” followed by a paragraph of research questions instead of an establishment for my thesis. I felt embarrassed at the first peer-review workshop because my peers were confused with not only my thesis but also the whole paper structure. One of my peers suggested, “Probably better to end the paragraph with a statement instead of question.” This experience, however, impelled me to put greater effort into revising the paper and going to the writing center for further assistance. In the end, my final draft for the paper carefully followed the instructions for what an introduction should contain – prelude, common ground, problem, and resolution. However, the transition was not good enough and vague words blurred my focus (e.g. “Vonnegut, like many artists, expresses his ‘ideas’ through his creations”). The introduction for my first paper contains essential components but is not good enough in making transitions and choosing effective words, which I continued to work on for the next two papers.
When writing the second paper: “Photographic Works of Hiroshima-Nagasaki A-Bombing: A Message to Future Generations and the Morality of Photo Taking,” I experienced less trouble writing a concise introduction that effectively stated my thesis after I decided to analyze a single photographic book rather than comparing two. However, I struggled a lot when writing the introduction for my final paper; I repeatedly made changes in an effort to make it more clear and concise. Because of the mass amount of information available regarding war photography, I was eager to discuss the subject from a wide variety of perspectives. It was not until I made more progress in my research and wrote several paragraphs was I able to revise my introduction and make it more specific.
Another distinctive achievement is my improvement as a researcher. Prior to this course, I had never borrowed a book from the library at Boston University; I did not know how to take advantage of the resources I had access to. As I searched for a subject for my second paper, I came across HIROSHINA-NAGASAKI: A Pictorial Record of the Atomic Destruction, which was not even on my online search list. The book became my main source for the second paper and this experience led to my active hunt for physical books in the library for my final paper. However, since the books provided extensive information for my research, I was forced to narrow down on what information to incorporate into my papers. Eventually, I did a pretty good job selecting useful evidence to support my claim in paper two by not overusing other people’s work or flooding the paper with photographs. I constantly reminded myself to write with critical thinking skills, not compiling information from books or articles. On the other hand, the research process for my final paper was much more difficult than the previous papers. I wished to study the changes in war photography over time, which is a rather broad and large-scale project. I spent a great amount of time reading various books and online articles to make a more specific argument for my paper, which I narrowed down to the analysis of the authenticity and credibility of war photography.
Besides learning to write a good introduction and doing effective researches, I have tried my best to engage in class discussions. In WR100, I rarely participated in class discussions, which were not as earnest and constructive as the discussions in this class. There are many seniors in my class and they often provide insightful comments; although this has increased my pressure in providing thoughtful viewpoints, I really appreciated the opportunity to learn from others who are more eloquent and persuasive, at least in verbal skills, than I am. Frequent blog posts and class discussions urged me to finish required readings in order to have my own opinion about them. At first, I had difficulty providing different views for discussions not only because I read more slowly than others but also I was weak in critical thinking. To solve this problem, I forced myself to start reading the materials as soon as possible and more than two times if time allowed. As the class proceeded, I found that I was becoming more comfortable in writing blog posts and speaking up in class. However, this solution did not work well with peer-reviews when we had to read others’ papers and give feedbacks in class. I wished my feedbacks to others could be better. Finally, even though my oral presentation for the final paper did not prove I became immune to public speaking (I still speak with “ums” and “like” when I am not sure what to say next), I have become more confident in discussing my viewpoints with others.
While the improvements I have made in this class are not limited to the three mentioned above – writing good introductions, making good use of library and online resources, and sharing personal viewpoints – they are the most significant rewards I gained from this class. The learning experience has helped me move towards my continuing goal to be a better writer.
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