1. Paper Writing Guidelines

2. Writing: The Bridge between Consciousness and Unconsciousness

Mark T. Unno 2000

Paper Writing Guidelines

Please follow these guidelines when writing your papers.

1. Deadlines 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

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 previously aware.
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 Dakotas.


3. Mechanics

4. Style

There are a few stylistic matters to note.

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


6. Types of Papers

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 sources.

7. Drafts
Peer review drafts will be required for some papers. Guidelines for peer review will be made available separately.

8. Grading Criteria

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:

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.

Writing: The Bridge between Consciousness and Unconsciousness[1]

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.[2]

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."[3] 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 writing.

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 impulses.[4]

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 another self.

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

[1] This essay is an adaptation of Megumi Unno, "Writing: The Bridge between Consciousness and Unconsciousness," Foothill College, 1990.

[2] 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.

[3] Schenck, p. 3.

[4] Schenck, p. 16.