Thursday, 20 February 2014

How Do You Write Effective Articles, Reports, Speeches and Debates

Students preparing for the class twelve board exams in English should know that good articles have a logical flow of ideas and arguments;  smooth transition of sentences and paragraphs, along with a unity of structure (a well-defined introduction, followed by the argument, and a sound conclusion). A good article has a ‘voice’, it is neatly written without too many grammar and spelling errors. A well-planned article will have fewer errors, and therefore fewer cancellations, and overwriting. It makes good sense to use a blank sheet for rough work to list value points to be used under each of the three paragraphs. Students should use sensible vocabulary without being too pompous, and stick to the word limits, exceeding the word limit by ten to twenty words should not result in a penalty.
Learning Tasks:

1. Determine whether the question in the paper will lead to a discursive article, an opinion based article, or descriptive article; it could also be a factual report, a speech or debate.
Some of the descriptive/discursive/factual articles that appear in the board exam could include topics like International terrorism, Bio-Terrorism, A.I.D.S., Pollution, Population crisis, Unemployment, Crime against Women, Literacy, Communalism …etc. 
The purely factual descriptions include reports, descriptions of concepts, The definition of a good leader, Genetic Research, Gene-Therapy, Renewable and Non-Renewable Energy Sources, E-Commerce, Immunization, Global Warming, A visit to an Old age home…etc. It would, however, be wrong to assume that articles might belong only to one category - thus a question dealing with the ‘Impact of Social Networking sites’ can be either discursive, descriptive, or even both while an article on Global Warming can be an opinion based article. Factual descriptions include reports, description of processes, ancient monuments, biographies and so on. If a student was asked to write an article on Refraction or Optical Illusion, then it would be more factual than opinion based - the same goes for an article on Photosynthesis, Mutation, and even a description of fuel cell technology.

2. Identify a suitable title for the article. It should be catchy, interesting and crisp!
A catchy title will draw the reader's attention. It goes without saying that the title is a window into the article itself, so be sure to make your title not just catchy, but also crisp!

3. Supply the name of the writer, the "By" line, in many cases, the name is in the question itself.
Attribution is an important element of article writing, so don't forget to write the by-line, otherwise, someone else might claim that he is the original writer of your article!
4. Start listing value points under the three headings for three paragraphs, the first being the Introduction,  while the second is the analysis, and the third is the conclusion.

Important Elements of the Article include:

  1. A Suitable Title 
  2. Name of the writer (By Line)
  3. The first paragraph of your article introduces the topic. It includes a brief description of the impact of the problem, a definition, (immediate impact on the society, the environment and flora and fauna). This paragraph sets the tone of the article, it can also include the thesis statement.
  4. The second paragraph will analyze the problem from a broader perspective. It deals with a greater emphasis on the following points (some of which were touched upon in the first paragraph): a) Impact on the environment, society, flora and fauna b) future implications. This paragraph brings out the conflict, the argument and could provide the antithesis to the first paragraph.Steps that were taken by the Government to solve the problem. Facts, data, and statistics are provided in this paragraph.
  5. The third paragraph deals with The writer's suggestions on how to solve the problem. conclusion about the whole issue, and the writer’s perceptions about the topic.All the loose ends, queries, and doubts are tied up in the concluding paragraph. This paragraph provides the synthesis of the first paragraph and the second paragraph.
Suggested value points for the topic: Communication in the I.T.Age:

The first Paragraph or the Introduction can be based on the following headings:
What is communication? It refers to the effective transmission of information
1. Means of communication in the past: horseback, smoke signals, semaphores, the electric telegraph, radio …etc.
2. Means of communication in the IT age: microwave, blue tooth, Classroom Wi-Fi, internet…etc.

The second Paragraph or the analysis, argument or justification could be based on the 
following headings:
Analysis of communication in I.T. age: The advantages
1. Communication has become fast - Vast quantities of information can be exchanged-Broadband,
    Wi-Fi Technology has boosted the  Speed of signals, microwave radio waves
2. Students are able to explore the whole world and do research
3.  It has classroom which is better connected to reality
4. Education without Boundaries
5. Transfer of Money
6. Browsing of books, study material,
7. Exchange of notes in medical research
8. Conferencing
9. Instant communication with pictures
10. Effective means of communication
11. The World as a global village
The Third and concluding paragraph could include the following points:
Benefit  of  Communication in the I.T. age
1.  brings the rural communities into the mainstream
2.  educate rural communities
3.  provide solutions
4. Meteorological forecast
5. Communication
6. Pricing of Farm Produce
7. Illiteracy
8. Global Classroom
9. Basic tailor-made solution to cultural problems
10. To provide rural students sufficient study material
11. Commerce-online transaction
12. Concluding statement:
I.T. has changed the entire society.We have come a long way from the time when we sent smoke signals. The Internet has transformed communication, it has become more effective and faster and more reliable.

Suggested Value points for an article on Global Terrorism could include the following value points:

The First Paragraph: The Introduction:
1. What is terrorism- the definition
2. Brief history
3.Few examples from recent times
The Second Paragraph: The Analysis
1. The impact of terrorism on human life
2. History of terrorism (I.R.A., P.L.O…etc.)
3. Present day examples (detailed-with specific instances)
4. Steps that were already taken by the Government to solve the problem.
The Third Paragraph, the conclusion could include the following value points:
Suggested Steps to solve the problem
1.Democratic methods
3.Educate the masses
5.Military option
6.Concluding Sentence or sentences which summarize the whole article briefly.

Important Note for Speech and Debates:

Students should note that the formats for Speechwriting, Debate writing and article writing are quite similar except for the following distinctions:

Speech Writing:

  • The opening sentence and the closing sentence are different from that of the article. In a speech, you would use a more conversational style or voice because you are addressing a visible audience. Ideally, you would start by greeting the audience and then introducing yourself and the topic. Look at the example as under: "Respected Principal, respected teachers, and my dear friends, a very good morning to all of you! Today, I, Keshav Kumar of class 12-A am going to deliver a speech for morning assembly on the topic, 'How much information should we share on social networking sites.' I hope I will be able to do justice to the topic."
  • The closing sentence of a speech would be: " I would like to thank all of you for listening to me so patiently, have a wonderful day!"
  • Students should note that in a speech, the student is at liberty in not taking a specific stance towards a particular topic. He or she might give equal importance to the positives and negatives.

Debate Writing:

  • The opening sentence of a debate is different from that of an article because like in the speech, the student is addressing a visible audience. Unlike the article, the voice would be more conversational and unlike the speech, where the voice is more conciliatory, the voice in the debate is more firm and aggressive. An example of how an opening sentence would look like in a debate is: "Respected Judges, respected teachers, and my fellow students, I am Keshav Kumar a  participant in this debate. The topic before me is, "We should allow students to bring their mobile phones to school" and I am going to speak for the motion. I am sure I will be able to convince my opponents and all of you that what I argue holds true for everyone."
  • A good debate like a good speech should have a closing sentence, and one of the most common closing sentences could be: " I would like to thank all of you for listening to me so patiently, and I am confident that I  have been able to convince you adequately, though there will be exceptions!Have a good  day!"
  • While the voice in the debate is the most aggressive voice of all, one has to ensure that etiquette is maintained and one's tone is not derisive or too sarcastic! One can use subtle sarcasm, tongue in cheek, or even irony without appearing to be insulting or cheeky!

The Inverted Pyramid Format- What do you put in each paragraph?

Note: A report might be written in three or more paragraphs. The number of paragraphs does not matter as long as there is a distinct Introduction, Main Body or Analysis and The Conclusion. 
Every Article, Debate, and Speech is built like a burger. The top Bun is the introduction, the stuffing is the Body and the bottommost bun is the conclusion.
The analogy of the fish can also be used to explain the flow ideas in Articles, Debates, Speeches and even Reports. The head of the fish is the Introduction, the fish gets a taste of its food The body of the fish can be compared to the middle of the write-up, the stomach which digests the food, it is the main body of the article which contains the analysis of the topic, while the tail of the fish is the conclusion this is where you tie up all your arguments, your loose threads or points.

Steps for building up an effective argument in a debate:

Note: The workshop model of writing can be of great help to students who want to improve their quality of writing. To understand the workshop model of writing better, students can refer to the 6+1 traits of writing. A good article should have the following elements:

  1. Voice: The personal tone, message of the writer, does he or she have a conversational tone?
  2. Idea: The main message, is the message clear? Is the writer clear about his ideas, and arguments?
  3. Presentation: The appearance of the writing, flow, handwriting, neatness...etc
  4. Conventions: The mechanical correctness (Grammatical structure, Syntax). Grammatical fluency cannot be ignored. Some students mix tenses.
  5. Organization: Internal Structure, flow, transitions, paragraphs (introduction, body, conclusion)
  6. Word Choice: Word usage, use of appropriate words which communicate the idea best. 
  7. Sentence Fluency: The rhythm and flow of language (Semantics)

You can also read the following articles as examples of frequently given questions in the paper:




1 comment:

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