How to write essay items that score points with your teacher!
Have you ever wondered what your teachers are really looking for when they grade your essay exam items? If we could draw a picture of what your teacher is looking for, it might be something like the illustration below:
Let's break down this illustration into its component parts and see how they work together. To begin with, we might imagine that everything you say or write about could be classified on a scale representing the spectrum of abstract-to-concrete concepts. The figure below represents such a "spectrum of abstraction." Almost any statement we make could be placed at a point in the spectrum, depending on how general or how specific it is.
Concept: At the top of the figure, at the highest level of abstraction, is what we might call a "concept." Concepts are vague, difficult-to-define thoughts. Little productive communication can occur on such vague concepts; they must be narrowed considerably. Two people "talking about" concepts like those listed below would experience frustration until they are able to focus their communication on some more specific aspect of the concept.
Proposition: We narrow our focus on concepts by expressing some proposition regarding the concept. It might be helpful to think of propositions as statements, beliefs, or value judgments about concepts. Propositions begin to provide a more precise shape and clearer focus for our communication. Here are some examples of proposition statements:
• Americans have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
• The two-parent family is the backbone of American social structure.
• Shakespeare is the greatest dramatist of all times.
• Tax cuts stimulate growth in a free-market economy.
• Baseball is the most "American" of all sports.
• Several categories of consumer electronic devices are currently very... [continues]
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