"If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win a hundred battles without jeopardy." Sun Tzu, Art of War. In this edition of the EazyPaper newsletter, Professor Randy and Michael expand on how to "know thy purpose" and how to "know thy tool" on the path to academic success."
The Purpose of Your Paper
by Professor Randy
Last month, I discussed the importance of getting into the right "space" for writing. Being in the right physical space and "head space" will help us to write with greater creativity and clarity. This month, I will look at knowing the purpose of your paper.
Sometimes, your professor will clearly state the purpose of a paper. For example, the assignment description might read, "Discuss how the Allied defeat at the World War II Battle of Dieppe may have influenced future battles during the war. Provide evidence that would support these connections." In this example, the purpose is to connect a specific battle with subsequent battles. You do not have to summarize the Battle of Dieppe or describe other battles. All you need to do is to describe how the Battle of Dieppe influenced other battles and provide a rationale for your contentions. Any ideas that do not move you towards accomplishing this purpose are useless for this particular assignment.
Now, there may be times when the assignment purpose is unclear or has a large scope. The professor may have done a poor job of writing the assignment description or may have purposefully given you freedom in determining the assignment's purpose. Here is an example of a general assignment description: "Describe the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)." The description contains a broad purpose statement, which provides some direction. Yet, one might tackle this larger purpose in many different ways. I would suggest creating one or more sub-purposes that capture what is most important and interesting about NAFTA. A more focused purpose statement would read, "Describe how NAFTA functions along with its advantages and disadvantages." In this revised purpose statement, I have identified three sub-purposes, which provide specific direction as I engage in research and writing. Of course, if you are left wondering if your sub-purposes actually align with what your professor expects, ask for confirmation or further clarification.
Once you know the purpose of your paper, keep it in front of you for the entire writing process. You should constantly measure your research and writing against the assignment purpose. Include the purpose in your opening and closing paragraphs. Refer to it periodically in the body of your paper. Do not get sidetracked from the purpose. Keep building on it. Many students lose marks on their assignments because they stray from the assignment purpose or add unrelated information.
Knowing the purpose of your paper and sticking to it will help you to stay focused on what is most important for a particular assignment. This will keep you on topic and on track for a higher grade.
Page Orientation and Size
by Michael Hu
Last month's article covered page margins, and looking at the screenshot of Figure 1, it is only natural to cover Page Orientation and Size next.
Figure 1: Page Setup section of the Page Layout tab
The Page Orientation feature is pretty self-explanatory: layout your page vertically in the Portrait orientation, or lay it out horizontally in the Landscape orientation. Click the Page Orientation button of Figure 1 to try it out - it's best understood by example. This feature is most useful is when you have a figure or a table that is wider than it is taller. Using the Landscape orientation would then allow you to fit the figure or table on one page rather than two.
However, sometimes you may only want to put a single page in Landscape orientation, while leaving the rest of the paper in the default Portrait orientation. This is where section breaks around the Landscaped page will help. See January's article on how to insert section breaks for more details.
The Page Size feature is equally self-explanatory: click the button and choose the type of paper in your printer. Most paper you buy in North America is Letter size (8.5" x 11"), so you won't have to change this default. Occasionally, some photocopier printers have Legal size (8.5" x 14") paper in their second tray, so switching the page size to Legal will enable you to print properly to those printers.
Where this feature becomes especially useful is when you are printing pictures or business cards on specialized paper or card stock. Measure the size of your paper or card stock and then set your page size accordingly.
Know how, and just as importantly, when to use Word's specialized Page Layout tools will make Word more versatile in your toolbox for future academic and professional success.