1. Paper Writing
2. Writing: The Bridge between
Consciousness and Unconsciousness
© Mark T. Unno 2000
Please follow these guidelines when writing your papers.
Submit your papers by the deadlines stated in the syllabus. You have
three grace days for all papers except the final paper, for which
there are no free extensions. If you have a problem before the final
paper, be sure to talk to me by the day before the deadline.
2. Basic Elements
- Mechanics are important. They are the basic tools that make the
- a) Descriptive
Title. As simple as this is, some people forget.
- b) Introductory
or Thesis. A thesis paragraph states what you are setting
out to show in your paper and how you will do this. An introductory
paragraph provides the reader with a clear understanding of what the
paper is about. In general it is a good idea to avoid the overuse of
the first person voice, since this can interrupt the flow of your
prose. Here are some examples to think about:
- Effective introductory paragraph that does not use "I":
- In Dakota-A Spiritual Geography, Kathleen Norris writes
about her life on the Western plains of the United States. She
describes it as a kind of monastic world in which she has been able to
come in contact with her spiritual roots through the lives of the
people there, the land, and the solitude of her own inner life. She
does not falsely idealize life on the plains as some kind of paradise
away from the urban jungle. In fact, she is critical of the insularity
and pettiness of the small towns in which she lives and works. Rather
than detracting from the positive sense of her life there, however, her
critical perspectives make her work more real and lead the reader to
want to get to know her and the plains better.
- Effective introductory paragraph that uses "I":
- In reading Dakota-A Spiritual Geography, I was struck by
the beauty of Kathleen Norris' prose and her ability to convey the
subtleties and complexities of her life there, of people, place, and
time, the relation between work, art, and the spiritual life. At first,
I read her work as the account of a woman and a culture vastly
different from my own. As I continued to read, however, I became aware
that, in some ways, her world mirrored mine. While speaking out of a
distinct geographical and cultural landscape, Norris can make us
recognize features of our own lives of which we may not have been
- Weak introductory paragraph that uses "I":
- In this paper, I will write about Kathleen Norris's book Dakota-A
Spiritual Geography. I will discuss her views on the relation
between the Dakotas as a geographical location and a spiritual place. I
will show that there is a connection between the two. I will use ideas
from her work as well as Carol Christ's ideas about nature. I will also
show that, while useful in several ways, Christ's ideas are
insufficient for understanding Norris' complete view of life in the
- c) Conclusion.
The conclusion brings the ideas of your paper back into succinct focus.
This may involve some summarizing but should also refocus ideas by
reformulating some of your thesis/introductory ideas in a way not
possible without having read the body of your paper. You may not answer
all questions that you raised or resolve all issues outlined in your
introduction. One way to conclude your paper is to raise further
questions, showing your awareness of their existence and possibilities
for further inquiry. Sometimes, the best questions give rise to even
- d) Documentation. Whenever you
make generalizations or assertions, document your claims with
references, either from the readings or the lectures. If you make a
statement that seems controversial and you don't cite a reference, then
I will not know where your ideas came from. You cannot be too careful
on this point.
- e) Format
for References. For
the final paper, I am going to ask that you all use footnotes or
endnotes following the format given in the syllabus and the writing
sample. Please note the use of commas and parentheses. For shorter
papers, you may use parenthetical notes. (You should follow one of the
standard formats for parenthetical use.)
- f) Page
numbers. In case the
pages come loose, I will be able to read your paper.
- g) Use block
citations four lines or longer. When using block quotations, do
use quotation marks at the beginning and end of the block. Use
the margin command rather than the tab command to create block
quotations. This will make it much easier for you.
- h) Subheadings.
These are not required, but you may find it helpful to insert
subheadings as you go along. They can help you to organize your paper
as well as to let the reader know that new topics are being addressed.
- a) Check
spelling. There should be few errors in this regard.
- b) Run-on and incomplete sentences. Avoid
sentences that are too long. Check to make sure that you do not have
- c) Punctuation. Punctuation should follow standard guidelines.
There is often confusion about commas. There are a
few simple rules that will keep you
out of trouble. I have summarized them here.
Otherwise, consult a writing
manual or ask the instructor. "The
Rules of Usage" from William Strunk's The
Elements of Style covers most cases of comma usage
including those that apply to
independent and dependent clauses.
- d) Tenses.
Be consistent in your use of past and present tense. If you are writing
a thought paper (ideas, philosophy), it is accepted practice to put
everything in the present tense. For example, you may write, "The
Buddha says, . . . ." or "The Tibetan master Milarepa behaves in
unconventional ways." If you are writing a research paper dealing with
historical issues, you should put scholarly assertions in the present
tense ("I think," "Gregory Schopen states") and historical facts in the
past ("Shakyamuni delivered a sermon," "Devadatta turned traitor"). In
any case, be consistent.
There are a few stylistic matters to note.
- a) Use
There is no need to fill your paper with technical vocabulary or
difficult terms. If you do use them, they will have a greater effect
when you write for the most part in clear, straightforward English.
- b) Avoid
using too many conjunctions
and qualifiers, such as "however," "then," and "given that." Usually,
the reader will know how one sentence relates to the next without the
use of these terms, and the resulting paper will be easier to read. Use
your own good judgement as to when they are necessary. As a rule of
thumb, use sparingly.
- c) Gendered
pronouns. It is now widely considered that the exclusive use of
male pronouns to refer to both sexes is unacceptable. There are a
number of strategies that can be used to negotiate this matter. You may
use i) male and female pronouns alternately, ii) neutral pronouns such
as "one" and "they"; however, avoid mixing these two pronouns in the
same sentence, iii) both (When a person finds him or herself in this
situation . . .), or iv) "s/he". There are, however, possible
exceptions. If you have any questions about this, please see me.
- Don't use "one" and "they" as pronouns for the same referent
(This confusion arises because of the use of "they" instead of "his" or
"her.") Be careful when you use humans or human beings to replace
"men." "Human beings" is often more appropriate than "humans," and
sometimes "people" is a better choice.
5. Common Errors
- a) "Different
"Different from" is the correct usage, not "different than."
- b) "Complementary" versus "Complimentary." Be sure to know the
difference between these two words. Yin and yang are complementary.
Words of praise are complimentary.
- c) "Affect" versus "effect." One can measure the economic effects
of having too much inventory, but one cannot easily affect nationwide
economic trends that may decrease consumer demand.
- d) A "novel" is a work of fiction. Memoirs, journals,
biographies, and autobiographies are nonfiction works. Do not refer to
them as "novels."
There are generally three types of papers, thought papers,
research papers, and creative papers. There are commonly elements of
all three present, but papers largely fall into one of the three
categories. The focus on REL 303 is the thought paper; no outside
research is required. The focus on REL 407 in the shorter papers is
the thought paper; no outside research is required. The focus on REL
407 in the final paper may be either a thought paper, which requires
no outside research, or a research paper involving use of outside
- a) Thought papers may make use of materials beyond the required
reading but need not do so. Rather, the focus is on careful study,
analysis, and elaboration of ideas presented within a limited context,
such as a single article or book with some support from assigned
secondary readings. It is often helpful to focus on one or two ideas,
passages, or paragraphs and consider the ramifications thereof.
- b) Research papers deal with a careful study of objective
evidence available to support and refute arguments. You are not
required to go to outside material, but it is often helpful to obtain
supporting evidence beyond what is found in the required texts to back
up your assertions.
- c) Creative papers may include forms such as fictional narrative,
personal narrative, poetry, and illustrations as part or all of the
finished product. It is important to work closely with the instructor
if you wish to do a more creative project.
- d) You may write on one of the suggested topics, or you may
formulate your own topic; in the latter case you need to write out a
paragraph-length topic and submit it by email to the instructor for
- e) Sometimes it may happen that a more personal narrative style
will be incorporated into your writing, one that includes personal
experiences, fictional narrative, or reflections about the writing
process. Some of the suggested paper topics will elicit different
styles or genres of writing. However, it can be more challenging to
adopt alternative styles and genres. If you would like to pursue
different avenues of writing but are unsure about how to do this,
samples are available for your perusal.
- 7. Drafts
- Peer review drafts will be required for some papers. Guidelines
for peer review will be made available separately.
Although grading is an imprecise art, it is possible to attain a
considerable degree of consistency. In general, the key points are:
Represent ideas fairly and accurately, raise critical questions and
doubts, explore theses questions and doubts to provide a
sophisticated account of the ideas and issues under consideration,
and write clearly. I look for the following when reading papers:
- a) Writing. If you write clearly and grammatically, you will
think clearly and in an organized fashion. If you think clearly, this
will be reflected in your writing.
- b) Accuracy. Have you represented the relevant ideas fairly? Did you
document your ideas with direct quotations and/or page
- c) Focus and coverage-a balance of the two. On the one hand, have
you covered the main ideas relevant to your topic? On the other, are
you focused enough? A sense of the larger picture should be present,
but pursuing too many themes or ideas results in confusion. There should
also be a degree of analytical reach to your examination of the topic
that covers more than a bare-bones, one-dimensional reading of the topic
- d) Sophistication and depth. Have you taken into account various
facets of a problem or idea? You can be accurate at a general level
("The Buddha was a seeker of truth."), or you can be accurate at a
sophisticated level ("The Buddha was a seeker of truth who formulated
his understanding in terms of the four noble truths."). Have possible
questions and objections been taken into account?
- e) Creativity. Are you open to unexpected insights and a sense of
- f) Grade Scale: A+: 97-100, A: 94-96, A-: 90-93, B+: 87-89, B: 84-86,
B-: 80-83, C+: 77-79, C: 74-76, C-: 70-73, D+ to D-: 60-69, F 59 and
If you cover criteria
a) through c), you should get a B. Provided you have gone that far,
can add further dimensions to your paper. If you have any questions
about comments I have made on your paper or your grade, please come
see me. It is important for me to know of any doubts or problems.
- 8. In Conclusion
- By studying these guidelines, I hope that your learning
experience will become more pleasurable and rewarding for both you and
me. These guidelines are meant to help you polish a skill, academic
writing, that you are developing as you progress. Don't get so hung up
about them that you feel your creative processes hindered. If anything,
they should provide just enough of a framework to express your
analytical and creative skills. The accompanying essay emphasizes the
creative aspect of paper writing.
The Bridge between Consciousness and Unconsciousness
Megumi and Mark Unno
I like writing. When I am totally absorbed in writing, many ideas
which have never occurred to me before can pop up in my mind, or once
confused and fragmentary information and thought can be spontaneously
organized and become clear. It is one of the most satisfactory
moments for me.
Yet, I often struggle for long periods trying to organize ideas in
front of the cruel white paper. This is especially true when I am
trying to be systematic and logical, beginning with an outline. Since
anything unclear or vague is eliminated in the process of making an
outline, the paper turns out to be organized, clear, and compact, but
I rarely have a sense of satisfaction.
What is the difference between a paper which emerges spontaneously
and one that begins with a concern for logical consistency? I have
been wondering how I can bridge the gap between these two types of
writing and the attitudes they represent. I have found some clues to
these problems in three articles written by Donald Murray, Peter
Elbow, and William Stafford.
What they emphasize in common is the process; writing is not the
description of a result; in fact, writing itself can create the
result. This means that we should not worry too much about how the
last draft will turn out, or how we can organize all of our ideas
before we begin. According to Murray, what we need for writing is
enough information and a clear purpose: logic or order can appear
later in the process. Elbow even denies the need for coherence in the
initial stages of producing writing. He suggests "freewriting," which
activates the writing process by getting rid of any concern about
correction. Also, Stafford remarks that the most important things for
his writing are receptivity and a willingness to give up high
standards. For all of these writers, logic and organization, which
has restricted me in certain ways, are secondary at the initial stage
of production. It is true that logical rigor is important, but we can
worry about that as much as we like after everything has been written
down that we want to say.
What is important in writing is, as the three writers agree, the
productivity of writing. According to Murray, for example, writing is
the process of "making something that was not there before, finding
significance where others find confusion and bringing order to
chaos." By writing you can
find new things, which may be a new thought, a new feeling, a new
idea, or even a new self which you would never have found without
In order to promote this kind of productivity, Murray, Elbow, and
Stafford agree on the importance of opening our minds. Murray points
out that writing gives us an opportunity to capture, at the conscious
level, unconscious feelings and ideas we had not noticed or had
forgotten. Elbow says freewriting is a method to make our
consciousness empty so that we can pick out something unconscious
from deep within our hearts. Stafford remarks that the power letting
him write is not a conscious device but his "own weak, wandering,
diffident impulses" and his "confident reliance" upon these
Writing might be compared to a breeze blowing towards the small
window between consciousness and unconsciousness. The window is
usually closed because consciousness is too strong to let the window
open, and one ends up living in only half of the house, that is, the
entire world of one's existence. But when writing occurs with the
mind open, a breeze opens the window and one can encounter other
aspects of the self, or even another self and become more fully
integrated: The wonder of the writing process may even be the act of
When I try to stick to the rules of logic from the outset, my
consciousness prevents the window from opening to the other world. My
writing then becomes a mere product of my pre-existing consciousness
rather than the activity of my whole self. Repeated experience and
practice of freewriting has helped me to open my mind. I can worry
about logic and organization after my creative impulses have found
expression on paper.
© Mark T. Unno, Megumi Unno 1997
 This essay is an
adaptation of Megumi Unno, "Writing: The Bridge between Consciousness
and Unconsciousness," Foothill College, 1990.
 Mary Jane Schenck,
Read, Write, Revise: A Guide to Academic Writing (New York:
St. Martin's Press, 1988), pp. 2-17, cites Peter Elbow, "Freewriting
Exercises," Writing without Teachers (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1973); Donald Murray, "Why Write?" Write to
Learn (CBS College Publishing, 1984); and William Stafford, "A
Way of Writing," Field 2, Spring, 1970.
 Schenck, p. 3.
 Schenck, p. 16.