Spring 2018: Editor’s Note

Tortoise: A Journal of Writing Pedagogy is an annual journal that publishes excerpts of student scholarship from within the Princeton community. Showcasing writers from all disciplines and levels—both Princeton undergraduate and graduate students—we emphasize the writing process as much as its “finished” product.

Tortoise curates excerpts of exemplary academic writing with reflective commentaries on the research and writing methods underpinning the prose. Tortoise’s ambition is thus not only to share student writing with a wider audience but also to demonstrate how it works and how it was developed.

Our Spring 2018 issue is titled “Anti-thesis”, which may seem like a surprising theme for a publication about writing pedagogy.  As writers, we tend to agonize over articulating our thesis statement. How can we possibly synthesize our entire argument into a sentence or two? Oftentimes, in the process of writing, it can be helpful to focus first on developing and strengthening other aspects of your essay like close reading analysis, orienting, and motive. In the process of developing and refining these parts of the essay, we often clarify our understanding of our own argument. Once we fully understand what we are trying to argue, the thesis will often appear, nearly fully formed and ready to be put on the page, a sum of various other argumentative parts. “Anti-thesis” encapsulates this entire process. We hope it will remind beginning and experienced writers alike that good works of academic writing build interesting and effective arguments not just by crafting a good thesis, but also by fully considering each aspect of the Writing Lexicon: motive, structure, analysis, and even conclusion.

Tortoise’s 2018 issue showcases the ways in which 13 different writers have refined and supported the core argument of their essays using far more than just a perfect thesis statement. This gallery of works covers a diverse number of disciplines and writing tactics. As you read through this issue, you will discover whether or not Asian migrants defy the “immigrant health paradox,” how spirituality and savagery collide in William Faulkner’s Light in August,  and what kind of invasive species vex policymakers in the United States. You will also be introduced to how conclusions work to synthesize essay arguments, how literature reviews frame the scholarly argument that a writer is preparing to enter, and how key terms work to orient and anchor an argument in the scholarly conversation. This issue will show you how each part of the Writing Lexicon connects together, like pieces of a puzzle, to craft beautiful finished works of art. Enjoy!

The author


Catherine Wang ’19 is a junior in the Operations Research and Financial Engineering department. This is her second year as a Writing Center Fellow, and she is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Tortoise.