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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The very basics of logic, grammar, and writing strategy, February 22, 2005
This review is from: Thinking on Paper (Paperback)
The title, positive reviews, and Harvard affiliation of the authors was enough to make this book sound intriguing.

I must say that that I was astonished by the slenderness of the content. In this 150 page volume, the last third is dedicated to an overview of grammar and punctuation, covering basics which almost anyone expecting to be an author probably learned in middle school - or would have in any of several basic writing manuals.

Within the remaining 100 pages the authors do present an interesting breakdown of the writing process into three phases (of Generating and Recording Ideas; Composing Ideas; Expressing Ideas) in Chapters 1 and 2 (20 pages). The authors do explain the psychological importance of keeping these processes separated and helpfully suggest a strategy of portioning your writing time (esp. against a deadline) into roughly equal thirds for these three processes. These suggestions, however, can be adequately presented in a couple hundred words, e.g., as done in reviews, below.

Chapter 3 offers 20 pages on "The Essay" (e.g., It is composed of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion). The authors tell of the importance of developing a thesis and of making connections between points between evidence presented in the body. Indeed!

By the time I had read Chapter 3 it was becoming clear that some of the subtitle's intriguing promises (to aid the reader better to REFINE, EXPRESS, and GENERATE IDEAS) were going to be fulfilled at very rudimentary levels: perhaps as preparation for taking one's very FIRST course in composition.

As for the remainder of the subtitle ("Understanding the Processes of the Mind"), the authors may be forgiven if a mere two (trim) chapters dedicated to that ambitious undertaking (totaling 20 pages) offer very basic insights:

Chapter 4: "Making Sense: Reasoning for Discovery" - basic description of inductive and deductive reasoning; the need for probing one's analysis; considering the plausibility of evidence and assumptions.

Chapter 5: "Writing Sense: Reasoning for Presentation" - covers univeral approaches to arguments (thesis vs. antithesis, etc.) and types of questions (factual, interpretive, evaluative).

Then we round out the volume with:

Chapter 6: "Grammar" (40 pages).

If I were rating this volume as a primer on writing for high school students, I might give it 4 stars, as it IS written clearly (although certainly not grippingly) and covers some basics nicely.

Billed as its title bills it ("Thinking on Paper: Refine, Express, and Actually Generate Ideas by Understanding the Processes of the Mind"), I can give it only 2 stars (the second being for clever marketing by the publisher).

If you have had a composition course or own a basic book on composition, you can learn what this book has to add by scanning the reviews here.
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