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Critical Reflection Essay

Upon entering the English 101 unit I was aware that it was writing intensive, a fact that genuinely scared me as I feel that writing is far from one of my strengths. Even in high school when the papers were short and the topics were simple I still struggled. Sentence composition, paragraph formation, and a lack of vocabulary were just a few of my most noticeable flaws. Even a two page paper would seem like a challenge, a fear that I soon realized I would have to conquer when on the first day we were assigned a four, seven, and eight page paper. Such a task seemed daunting, I was not sure if I was completely prepared for the amount of work ahead of me. However along with fantastic peer editing from my fellow classmates and great tips and advice from my professor, Abigail Browning, I achieved more thanI thought was originally possible.

My first step in writing my papers was brainstorming my essays which was normally the easiest part for me. I feel that a majority of my topics, although not extremely complex were still quite strong. My three topics; school uniforms, speeches on police brutality, and the effect of media on hip-hop music all had plenty of evidence to support them. As well as having a plethora of information I also wrote on topics that I was passionate about. To be passionate about what you are speaking on is without a doubt one of the most critical and necessary elements to writing a paper. I found this out very early on when I wrote my first essay on school uniforms. My writing was stale, boring, and lacked personality. Instead it felt more like I was simply spewing out facts that I had read off of random websites and arranged into a four page paper. There was no style in my writing, and each sentence came out as regurgitated and poorly planned.

I attribute most of this poor writing due to the fact that I cared very little about my topic, and instead simply focused on finishing the paper with as many facts as could find. The writing although strong in its use of evidence led to a lack of interesting work. This is especially evident through the fact that the grade actually dropped from the first draft to the final draft. Even though I had peer review and critiques too change my paper I still did very little to actually fix what the underlying problem was, I just wasn’t interested in what I was writing about.

Such change was however made in my second and third essays when I started writing about topics that I had both a prior knowledge of. Not only was there an improvement in my grades but also I enjoyed writing the papers more. Although it was still a long and seemingly boring process I still had much more fun looking up and researching each topic, and in the end such an enjoyment did seem to reflect itself in my paper.

Although brainstorming came to me quite easily other aspects of the paper were much harder for me to format and do correctly. One of the most difficult aspects seemed to be the arrangement and formations of my paragraphs and sentences. I would struggle with where I should place certain details and examples with regards to tying it back to my thesis statement. Such mistakes led to poor sentence structure as well as paragraphs that had very little importance to my paper.

For example in my school uniforms paper I wrote “It is easy to say that your outfit should not determined by how you dress, which is partially true, however to state that it plays no role is completely ignorant.” In one sentence not only did I give credit to the other side but I also offered up a statement that lacked any significant evidence. Instead I placed one of my opinions into the writing then did not back it up with any significant statistics or quotes that may have improved the writing. The same mistake is made again in my second paper when I add an introduction at the beginning of each section just before I discuss different canons of each speech. One example of this poorly planned out idea is when I wrote “The first thing I notice in the speeches is the way in which they have been arranged. The arrangement of the speech is incredibly important due to the fact that it allows the reader or listener to understand what exactly is being presented to them as well as what problems are being addressed.” Such writing comes off as basic and immature. When trying to address the canons of writing I should develop my paragraphs so that they don’t involve poor introductions. I have learned to improve on ideas like these and plan to use my new techniques in future papers and assignments.

Another key component of our class was the peer editing on all of our drafts. Although not an unfamiliar process to me, peer editing is something that I rarely used to my advantage. Often times I would read the critiques and comments left by my peers and blow it off as irrelevant or poorly done. It was not until my English 101 class when I realized how beneficial the comments of my classmates could be.

Unfortunately it took a wake up call on my first essay to realize just how important these comments could be. Upon finishing the first draft of my essay on school uniforms I immediately went back to my high school writing habits and turned it in feeling that it needed very little to change. Even after having my classmate, Steve Splitter, grade my paper I still did little to change or revise my work. Steve gave me great advice like rearranging my sentences as well as strengthening my introduction and conclusion. I chose to ignore most of Steve’s criticism, partially do to laziness as well as a lack of confidence in my ability to make my paper any better. Such poor decision making was reflected in my final grade when I lost a significant amount of points due to a lack of editing.

Upon starting to write my second paper I immediately knew that I had to focus more on the critiques of my classmates, and less on my ability as a writer. As I began to write about two different speeches regarding police brutality I became worried that whoever edited my paper would not be able to approach such a controversial topic with on open mind. Fortunately, my classmate Micah Hanner was the perfect man for the job. He pointed out the fact that my writing shined when I used personal examples as well as praising me for the arrangement of my paper, two compliments that I have continued to use in my writing and hope to develop better in all my papers. However Micah also pointed out the fact that I still struggled with certain canons and helped to explain better ways to write about each of them. Micah’s advice was especially useful due to his extensive knowledge of the canons that I saw were clearly reflected in his paper. I used both Micah’s compliments and criticisms to develop my second draft and did indeed receive an improved grade.

My third essay on the media’s effect on hip-hop music is without a doubt when I took the best advantage of my peers comments. Shimeka Blue and Elizabeth Leonard both did a fantastic job of supplying me with new ideas and examples. They pointed out numerous sections of my paper that needed to be rearranged and told me what I could add in order to further improve the writing. They particularly pointed out the fact that my introduction was lacking in both substance and also did a poor job of introducing my paper. My original introduction started as ““Niggas With Attitude” also known as N.W.A. That’s the name of one of the most infamous yet truly influential hip-hop groups of all time.” It was boring, repetitive, and did not connect to my thesis. After hearing what they had to say I changed the introduction to “I got a sawed off, squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off” says Ice Cube from the popular hip-hop group N.W.A, also known as “Niggas With Attitude”. Not only does this introduction serve the purpose of introducing the group N.W.A it s also allows to show off an example that connects to my original thesis regarding violent lyrics and how the media is unfair in its criticism of hip-hop culture. Such important ideas that I got from my peer reviewing sessions led to me receiving a 94 on my final paper, the highest grade out of all three of my essays. It is clear that peer reviews have been effective in my development as a writer and will continue to play a role as I develop my skills.

Our English class also focused a large portion of our writing skills on our abilities to address the rhetorical appeals in each one of our papers. The ethos, pathos, and logos contribute greatly to you credibility as an author and should be vitalized at any time possible.

The easiest canon for me to address was definitely logos. Not only was it easy to find statistics and facts for my thesis statements but also I find that I write better when using such a technique. Logos allows me to support and analyze every statement I make instead of rambling on for countless paragraphs with information that I don’t even have support for. It forces me to arrange paragraphs better by keeping it in a strict form that consistently ties back to my thesis. For example in my second essays first draft I included the statistic “only 33% of police that are charged with misconduct end up with a conviction”, however upon revision I removed it realizing that it was out of place and affected my logos as an author.

On the other hand pathos and ethos were much harder for me to identify and use in my writing. In fact I often times found myself struggling with separating the difference between the two, and I would become confused as to whether or not I was actually using a rhetorical appeal. Eventually I learned to solve this problem and ended up using pathos in the final revision of my first essay. I used an example about my brother stating “I saw him go through years and years of torment from his fellow classmates due to his weight issues.” The use of such an ethos connected emotionally with my audience and brought them closer to my writing. Even ethos began to shine through in my writing when I included my previous knowledge of hip-hop music in my third essay, as well as my knowledge of rap artist Common in my second essay. Such use of personal example built on my credibility and ethos as an author and strengthened each one of my papers.

The final aspect of the English 101 class is the final portfolio, a project that deserves time and preparation. I have chose to arrange the portfolio in a way that best shows off the progress and achievements that I have made through my writing.

The portfolio will be arranged with the rubric of my drafts coming first followed by each draft of my paper in sequential order. Such an arrangement allows me to show my growth as a writer and reflects my ability to capitalize off of my peer editing comments. When it is presented in such an order the reader can develop a solid opinion on my work as well as develop an opinion on how I have improved. It also creates a great contrast between the best and worst of each paper. Showing such contrast also creates an interesting dynamic that displays the best and worst of my writings and reviews. Arranging the portfolio in this way puts the final stamp on my improvement as an author and leaves the reviewer of portfolio with a positive and excited my feeling about my work and its future.

In conclusion, it is clear that I have indeed improved as a writer. My sentence structure, paragraph formation, vocabulary, and overall abilities have improved. The use of the portfolio should prove such a point as it displays my growth and newfound abilities. From here on out my papers will only improve as well as my use of the rhetorical appeals, canons of writing, and use of peer editing.

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