How to Handle Expository Writing

September 29, 2011

Academics, Classes, Guides, Tips

Expository Writing: how to manage the dreaded class.

(DISCLAIMER: I don’t wanna scare anyone, even though you might think me adding a disclaimer to this post means it’s scary, but just listen to what I say and leave your expectations at the door)

Before I started classes, I wasn’t really worried about expos. I was like “I’m a pretty decent writer, got A’s in my AP English classes, know how to word things eloquently, I’ll be fine”. Well. I was wrong. Blatantly wrong. Expos is probably the most complained about, hated class at Rutgers… maybe besides organic chemistry, I hear that one a lot too. But anyway, the whole point of expos is so that they teach you how to write in such a way that you’re taking a position and making whatever points you can to DEFEND your position. For me, it was EXTREMELY hard to figure that out because it’s not so much a persuasive essay as it is you restating your thesis in different ways. It’s very hard to figure that out but once you get it, you’re gonna do well. Guaranteed. Here are a few things you should know about the class, itself:

1. Grading
Papers are graded on an NP, C, C+, B, B+, A scale. NP means not passing. Your paper grade is based on the average of all of your papers. You have 5 official papers and one critical review. The critical review doesn’t count. So that means if you get an NP, C, C, B, C, you’ll probably end up with a C+ or maybe even a B. If it’s NP, C, B, B, A, you’ll get a B+ and so on. Mine was NP, C, NP, C, B, so I got a C+. What determines that is your teacher will present your work to the committee of professors who oversee the class and try to convince them to give you a certain grade.

2. Reading the articles
So what’ll happen is, you’ll have your book and the book has a bunch of different essays, articles or excerpts from books by an author. You get a few days to read the story, and you discuss it in class. Once you discuss it, you write your rough draft which you get about 5 days for. You come into class and do peer reviews. We usually did 2 days of peer reviews but not all classes get the option to do that. Once you do that, you go back and do your final draft and hand it in. Then you repeat the process.

3. Writing the paper
So the rough drafts have to be 4 full pages + works cited. Final has to be 5 pages + works cited. Yes, it is a pain in the ass. My advice though is to let yourself ramble in your rough draft. Like it’s seriously okay because you could say literally anything as long as it defends your thesis. Then for the final, they pretty much expect you to do LOTS of editing and additional work to get it to 5+ pages. My advice on that is to disregard the 4 pages limit for the rough draft and just try to get to 5; that way, you worry about writing less.

4. Editing
Something important is to get other people to read and edit your papers. A lot of times something you think is clear, they may not know what the hell you’re talking about, so the best thing is to find people who will read your paper for you outside of class. Everyone’s got different expos teachers who have different techniques, so they may point something out that you never noticed. 

The most important tip I can give you about expos though, is to go to your teacher’s office hours. Seriously. The only time I got a B on my papers was because I went to her office hours and she read my paper and gave me critical suggestions. It will save you.

To sum it up: Expos will be hard, but go to office hours every single time you feel confused or anything, which may be every time, and that’s okay. And DON’T PROCRASTINATE YOUR PAPERS. That basically means you’re shooting yourself in the foot.

**If anyone has any other questions about expos, let me know. It’s a tough class and this is just the summary of it, so if there’s anything specific you wanna know that I didn’t mention, I’ll be happy to tell you about it.

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