“Line of thinking” paragraphs
Or learning to revise your own
What is the difference
between revising and
One of the most successful strategies for revision is to
re-outline “after the fact” – i.e., after you have
devised an initial structure and completed a draft of
the paper.
This process is especially useful for identifying the
transitional or “stitching” strategies that are best
suited to each paragraph and to the paper as a whole.
But what else can you do, and where can you do it?
This exercise helps you to recognize where other kinds
of transitional strategies may be wanted (and why)
and begin to see what other possibilities – for your
particular essay – might look like.
It also helps you to understand whether your draft is
saying what you most mean it to say; it creates a map
for revision.
PART 1. Write out a “line of thinking”
The line of thinking paragraph is a mini-version of the
existing draft.
In short, it re-tells your argument, using one sentence (or
two, if necessary) for each existing paragraph in your
It is NOT an outline of the draft, or a description of your
main points, but rather a sort of re-enactment of the
basic interpretive and argumentative “moves” in your
Take out a clean sheet of paper.
And your draft.
On your clean paper, write one new sentence that
delivers the key message of each paragraph in your
draft; write these sentences in sequence until every
paragraph in the essay is “covered” and your clean
sheet has turned into a paragraph encapsulating the
entire draft.
But remember…
…you are not outlining, and you are not describing;
you’re re-enacting.
Don’t write, “This paragraph tries to say that Rossetti
was influenced by Barrett Browning, and she was
aware of this influence as problematic to her brother,
a circumstance which informs moments of defiance in
“The Lowest Room.”
Do simply write, “Rossetti was influenced by Barrett
Browning, and she knew that this influence bothered
her brother, a circumstance which informs moments
of defiance in “The Lowest Room.”
Don’t (outline style) write down what you mean
the paragraph to say; write down what it does in
fact centrally communicate.
If you can’t figure out what a paragraph
centrally communicates, or if it communicates
too much at once or communicates not what
you meant it to, here is a place for revision. Let
your line of thinking paragraph (as much of it as
exists) help you know what you most want the
paragraph to say – then revise your paragraph to
make it say that.
Part 2:
Now find a partner and switch papers. Take
about 10 minutes to read each other’s papers.
Are you done yet?
Now discuss with your partner what you discovered in
your line of thinking paragraph.
Does your partner agree with the way you re-enacted
each of your paragraphs?
Can they help you re-enact the ones you found more
You don’t need to do this for every paragraph, but you
might want to ask your partner for help with the
paragraphs that gave you the most trouble. Or you
might want to show your partner an example of a
paragraph that you felt was successfully re-enacted.
Are there other questions your partner might help
you answer about revising your paper?
Such as…
• Did you use Chicago Style correctly?
• Did your partner catch any typos or grammar
errors in your paper?
• Was there are part of your paper that was
confusing or needed clarification?
• Anything else?
PART 3. Re-read and revise your “line of
thinking” paragraphs at home
Read your paragraphs again and take note of the
following components:
• key terms
• points of transition/ connection in the
argument (“stitching”) and the ways these
work. For example, does the stitching involve:
--comparing and or contrasting a point from a previous paragraph to a new
point in the next one (or that will be coming in the next one)?
--elaborating or extending a previous point (often marked by “in addition” or
--qualification: acknowledging – and perhaps conceding – the relevance of an
alternative interpretation?
--responding to a question or counterargument by challenging or refuting this
--orienting: situating your argument after a discussion of other interpretations?
--raising a question that will clarify or further explore your earlier discussion?
--using a “meta-move” that simply says quite directly what you are going to do
next and why
The key term is an immensely useful tool for anyone
trying to move away from a “listing” structure
(signaled in prose by phrases like “another example,”
“the next moment where,” and so on) towards a
structure rooted in concept and the transformation of
If you see yourself listing ask whether that portion of
your discussion might be reorganized around a name
for a dynamic you see in the text and your writerly
project of explaining/ illuminating this dynamic for
your readers.
Having considered the questions above, identify
for yourself at least one spot where the line of
argument may need to be strengthened; and a
spot where it appears already to be strong.
Paper #2 Preview!
In a three-to-five-page paper (or digital equivalent)
analyze a short story, novel, poem, play, or any other
text using a theoretical method (or methods).
Note: You don’t need to show mastery of the theory,
which is why the assignment is short. Rather I’d like to
see that you’re putting good effort into understanding
the theoretical method you’ve chosen and that you’re
trying to apply it to a text.
More on this soon!

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