Spring 2020, Starting a Paper

Starting a Paper

One of the most difficult sections of any paper is its beginning. The expectation of an opening that captures and holds readers’ attention while still communicating necessary set-up for an argument is certainly daunting. Nearly all the concepts from the Lexicon must find their way into the start of a paper in the exact right quantities; lots of motive in an introduction is usually desired, whereas very little analysis is wanted or needed so early on. Couple this with the fact that there are infinite possible ways to start a paper, and it may feel downright impossible to accomplish successfully at times.

Rather than focusing solely on thesis or motive, this section highlights papers that successfully incorporate these terms while also orienting the reader, introducing necessary sources, and defining key terms. Pay close attention to the relationships between ideas in sentences and clauses themselves, since it is at this level where the beginning of a paper can truly finds its greatness.

Close Looking, Spring 2020

Close Looking

While previous issues of Tortoise have highlighted pieces with exemplary sections of “close reading,” none thus far have highlighted what in this issue we are calling “close looking.” Similar to close reading—a description of which can be found here—close looking is essentially the detailed analysis of the presentation of a primary source’s argument. In some instances, close reading and close looking are trying to reconstruct a creator’s intent from their creation itself. Both require the breaking down of individual elements of a piece in order to understand its whole. The trick is the ability to re-associate the reality of an object with the possibilities which existed prior to or during its creation. One must ask, “Why is this feature present? What else could have taken its place, and what effects does its presence have on the piece as a whole knowing what else could have been in its place?”

Despite their similar objectives and questions, close looking utilizes different types of media from close reading. Where the object of a close reading is grounded in text—poetry, novels, speeches—close looking focuses on the visual. From sculptures and photographs to films and even commercials, close looking analyzes those media whose evidence comes in the form of color, shape, size, materiality, and even time. It can be difficult to translate one’s experience with close reading to the act of close looking and vice versa, since one must readjust their expectations and relearn how to break down pieces into analyzable components. But understanding how to do so opens worlds of evidence to authors with the gusto to take them on.

This section features authors who have mastered the act of close looking. Pay attention to what parts they dissect their objects of analysis into and how they then reassemble those parts to create deeper meanings.

Spring 2019

Spring 2019: 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.

In our Spring 2019 issue, we are getting “Up Close and Pedagogical” with academic research and writing.  Our goal is twofold: First, we want this issue to serve as a reminder that all writing stems from a careful initial observation—of a source, of a problem in scholarship, or a problem in the world surrounding the writer, or even a detail from the writer’s own life and lived experience.  Some of our pieces this year began with simple acts of looking—at posthuman cyborg fashion, at Tor encryption, at Alt-Right iconography—and expanded into intricate arguments upon further research. Others incorporate close observations of secondary literature as their means of analysis, turning them into lenses through which to view evidence. You might notice this trajectory from a seemingly minor observation to a full argument when you read about the “literariness” of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence or the genre-defying nature of Kafka’s “Before the Law.” Some of our pieces even invoke observation itself as their subjects: the man in the photography of Diane Arbus and the characters in the film Perfect Blue show us that what we look at can sometimes look back.

Our second goal is that we want to demonstrate how all writing should be carefully read. Several pieces already show us how to look, whether by comparing images of Peruvian cuisine, giving frame-by-frame analysis of Korean T’aep’yŏngmu dances, or illustrating Burmese myths through a comic narrative.  But in the case that you cannot see how a piece is successfully constructed, our commentaries are meant to help guide your eye. We highlight the pedagogical underpinnings of each piece—the motive, structure, source use, etc.—such that you yourself may learn to make closer observations, and ultimately, craft stronger writing.

So grab your magnifying glasses and telescopes as we explore writing seminar papers, senior theses, and everything in between throughout the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and more.  We are about to get “Up Close and Pedagogical.”