Writing Cafe©
and casad.org
Glossary
Definitions and Usage for College English

 

Abbreviations
Avoid abbreviations in formal text. When using acronyms (words formed from the initial letters or parts of a word), use the full title first followed by the acronym, e.g., hypertext markup language (html).
 
accept/except
Accept is to take in, add, or put in to; except is to leave out or not consider.
 
accuracy
The degree to which a measure or description falls within or represents a limit or specified standard, as in an arrow hitting a target.
 
adverb clause
A dependant or subordinate clause that marks time and qualifies the action of a sentence. Adverb clauses are large continuity markers beginning with words like if, because, since, although, even though, and when.
 
allegory
Like similes and metaphors, or for that matter any symbol, allegory is the use of one thing to represent another. Thus, the characters in a story or the story itself are meant to represent ideas and principles (and often historical figures and events). George Orwell's Animal Farm (1945) describes the principles of Russian Communism through a revolt by farm animals. The allegory of ideas is common in medieval literature as in Dante's Divine Comedy (1307-21) where the pilgrim represents man's quest for salvation through reason.
 
aesthetic
An event or its attributes which an individual or group finds pleasing or beautiful, often an aspect of color, proportion, harmony, or truth. The Golden Rectangle has the proportion 1.0 to 1.618 which many claim is a reflection of ultimate reality even if only silhouetted by numbers. See constant.
audience
The person, group, or practice for which the paper is written. In expository writing the audience is most often a group of students or colleagues seeking a better understanding of a particular objective or empirical reality (physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, economics, law, etc.). See purpose.
 
Background
That part of the documented research paper which acts as an introduction to the history (primary sources/review of literature), issue, and purpose of the paper.
 
base rate
The value at which a unit rate is standardized. Base rates are natural or artificial standards against which we compare current rates or desired rates. A 500-year flood is a base rate (the actual measure is some x-feet or percent above flood stage) to which we can apply the current facts. Did I hear that the 1997 Red River floods approached a 1,000-year rate?
 
Claim
The full sentence assertion or hypothesis you are trying to explain or test. Most people recognize three types of claims--factual, theoretical, and normative. You can test a factual claim. You can compare and contrast theoretical claims. You can agree or disagree with normative claims. Examples: Factual--Students who have completed English 113 write more reports than those who have not. Theoretical--Students who have completed English 113 are better (normative?) writers than those who have not. Normative--Students should take English 113. Avoid normative claims in English 113.
 
chronological
related to or based on a method of telling or marking time. Many background statements are organized chronologically often from recent past to present.
 
cohesion, coherence
Stuck together, linked, related, tied down, fixed, connected. See transitions.
 
context
The setting (place and time) in which the event or composition occurs. When you hear a person say, "in what context," they are asking for the actual conditions which could qualify and extend or limit meaning.
constant
This word has the same derivative as standard. A constant doesn't change and we rely on that unchanging nature to communicate observations (the constant e and spiral galaxies) and take measurements (there are 12 inches in a foot).
 
controlled conditions
Observations made of an event or between two or more events where sampling, measurement, and experimenter errors are minimized and the error is calculated or made explicit.
 
correlation (r)
A relationship among variables or their characteristics. A positive correlation indicates a similarity of tendency; a negative correlation indicates a tendency to difference. Thus, were we to get a better tasting orange juice by paying more per ounce, the correlation would be positive. If we were to get a worse tasting orange juice by paying more per ounce, the correlation would be negative. Spearman's rank-order correlation coefficient provides a formula for assessing the relationship of ranked characteristics. In many of our food surveys we used the characteristics unit cost and taste.
 
corroborate
This unfortunate sounding word means only to repeat the results usually by another or in another context.
 
Documentary, document
A writing that contains information, evidence, and the primary or first-hand sources of evidence, particularly controlled field and laboratory experiments and surveys.
 
Documenting sources
Introducing and recognizing the sources of information in your writing.
 
Documentation style
Methods of giving credit to sources used. All styles must indicate how the reader can locate and review the primary research information. Common elements include author name, report title, publication, place of publication, publisher, date. An internet address is now also included for web sites and publications on the sites. If you have no standard style preference (MLA, APA, Chicago), use one in your English writer's handbook. If you don't have a handbook, it is essential that you get one.
 
Dualism
There are two kinds of things (my way and your way, mind and body, ying and yang).
 
dummy
A mockup, layout, or model of the essential elements of the documented research paper. Rather than just an outline, a dummy anticipates how much space will be allotted to each major idea, topic, or sub-topic heading.
 
Empirical
Capable of observation, measure, and reproduction (repeatable) at least in principle.
 
executive summary
A rather long but condensed version of the report that details all essential parts of the purpose, procedure, results, and conclusions. It must stand alone, with no additional information introduced that is not in the report.
 
explanation
A rhetorical purpose which emphasizes information, analysis, and audience understanding rather than arguments, persuasion and audience satisfaction. Explanatory prose relies on direct material referents, measurements, scientific scales, and inference testing.
 
event
Facts are interactions between two or more (billions) of instances, or points, or bits of data stuff in time. It is the degree of abstraction that determines the character of an event; it is the amount of change (variability) that determines its age.
 
evidence
Information which characterizes a claim or theory. The claim, "your papers have been late" is characterized by marks on an attendance sheet or a time/date stamp on a document.
 
expected frequency
A phrase when using a Pearson chi-square test (two samples are independent, randomly and independently sampled, observations singular for each cell, sample size large) which
denotes a basis (usually numerical) for comparing observed frequencies. For example, all other things being equal, I would not expect that the men who enter my store would be more inclined to buy grapes than the women who enter. I expect, no matter how many of each enter, their proportion of grape buyers to be the same.
 
expected value
The sum of all values of x times their probability. If I need some tomatoes for a salad and I put some money in my pocket to pay for them, I would have put a sum at least equal to or greater than what I expect to pay for them. When I reach the store and find that the tomatoes are $1.25 per pound, I have an observed value which may or may not be significantly different than the expected value.
 
expository writing
The systematic explanation of an event or its model or representation. Expository writing is most concerned with the mixture of facts and theory. Writing without theory is blind. Writing without facts is empty.
 
Fact
Often an empty word. In science and business writing, a fact is a measurement or attribute of an event independent of the scientist or the tool. (See data.) Facts are also reproducible and reliable. If one were to analyze the light spectra given off by carbon at the edge of the seeable universe and right here at home, it would have the same attributes. The carbon atom is a fact of life. We can distinguish fact from inference and interpretation by asking the question, how is this known? A sound argument, interpretation, or inference jumps out of the facts of experience and points the way to further questions and tests.
 
fair copy
Accessible and readable without hesitation. No puzzles, mis-quotes, or lack of citations. Documents written in standard English and according to a recommended format. Fair copy may contain glosses, comments, and instructions by the author to the editor. On-line submissions are at least fair copy. Since on-line instructors function much like editors, be sure to send "revised drafts" which are easy to read. Do not send "rough drafts" as an excuse to submit sub-standard copy or write in sub-standard English. Fair copy is intended for someone else; it's what you submit to a printer or hand in to an instructor.
 
falsifiable
The quality of a claim, hypothesis, or assertion which indicates what would happen if it were false. Karl Popper used the principle to demarcate between testable/empirical claims or the claims of science and the interesting but unfalsifiable (untestable in principle) claims of an emerging social science which were often just interesting ideas or statements of faith or belief. Thus, if one asserts that all the world is a stage, what conditions or events would occur today if all the world were not a stage. Or, how would existing conditions or events be any different if the assertion or claim were false. Popper was worried that psychological claims would be little more than truisms and folk wisdom saying no more than what could be explained by chance or a placebo effect. However, If E=MC squared were false, light would not bend around Sol's gravitational field.
 
fewer/less
Fewer is countable; less is degree. Thus, I have fewer dollars than you, but also less money.
 
figurative
Figurative language tries to explain the unfamiliar using the familiar. For example, saying there is a hole in the ozone layer is figurative since a good percent of original ozone still remains. The speaker or writer assumes that the audience is less likely to understand the significance or magnitude of a decrease in parts per million ozone and so uses hole as a figure of speech. Metaphors and similes (the evening is spread out against the sky like a patient etherized upon a table) are figurative. Allegories are elaborately figurative.
 
finished or photo ready copy
A document you could publish on the net. Contains few, if any, errors and has been checked by an independent source or editor. In English 113, I grade the finished copy after I have seen the fair copy.
 
focus
In composition, focus entails separating out and examining those topic and sub-topic ideas which account for most of the explanation of a variable(s). Most writers do an initial survey of their topic to uncover the key variables.
 
format
The design or organization of a document. Format and layout determine the document's shape. The reader or audience comes to rely on format so that they can quickly access and scan documents. Thus, format standards are maintained by most disciplines and publishing houses, e.g., business letter, memo, science experiment, documentation, usage.
 
homunculus
Little man (a fully formed human inside of every sperm and egg).
 
Idealist
One who believes that Truth with a capital T can be discovered and known as in a unified field theory of physics. Numbers are discovered.
 
impressionism
The perception of reality that is mediated by personal emotion and reason.  In art, an impression was distinct from a representation.  The early impressionists like Claude Monet (1840-1926) tried to bring more light and atmosphere into the painting's slice of life.  Starting with a white background (instead of dark or black), impressionists worked toward the darker colors.  Previous painters had started with a dark background and worked toward the lighter colors.
 
inference
Inductive inferences or inductive generalizations are abstractions or constructs based on information or measurements from a sample or set of direct observations. Inductive inferences or generalizations however are no more true or contain no more information than the observations or measures upon which they are based or drawn. Deductive inferences are conclusions derived from a set of premises which are usually inductive inferences or generalizations.. A deductive inference or conclusion draws its truth value from the premises and its validity from the logic/language structure. A sound argument is one which is both true and valid. A mistaken or false deductive inference or conclusion is often the result of an error in the preliminary reasoning. (See logical fallacies.)
 
issue
In the question, issue, problem logic, issues are conditions, events, or procedures over which parties disagree or have come to no certain agreement, usually because they lack an independent confirmation of the facts.
it's
Contraction of it is. The possessive pronouns its, ours, yours, hers, theirs do not need an apostrophe to show possession.
 
interrogative adverbs
Adverbs which begin a question such as what, who, where, when, why, how much.
 
Literature search
A review of the primary researchers who have conducted field or laboratory studies developing findings related to your chosen topic. See also interrogative adverbs, above.
 
Margin
The area (white space) of a page from the edge to the beginning of any field or text, usually an inch to an inch and a quarter in width. Most major subheadings in books and articles start on the margin (usually left). Titles and chapter headings are usually centered. On the margin means on the inside edge.
 
material
The stuff that stars and things are made of (and us too).
 
mean
The arithmetic mean or average is the sum of the individual scores or measures divided by the number of individual scores that were summed.
 
mode
The most frequent score(s) in a distribution of scores.
 
monism
There is only one kind of thing (my opinion, my way, god's way, elementary particles).
 
Normally distributed
Following the distribution of the normal curve--the mountain we used to draw when we were kids, just above the horizon line with uniformly slopped shoulders down to the lake. Sort of like Mt. Saint Helens before she blew.
 
Organizing principle
The arrangement of data in a table must connect to the purpose. If the purpose is to find the best value, then the data table is arranged from best values to least values, left margin, top to bottom. Tabular display is easy to read because of the almost universal left to right, top to bottom flow of data. Graphical display organizes around the most important variable or relationship(s) between variables as in a map with roads, rivers, and mountains.
 
Parallelism
Writers achieve more coherence in their compositions by describing different ideas using the same grammatical structure or sentence type, or by using the same location from one paragraph to the next. Poetry contains many parallel elements.
 
passive voice
The passive construction is inherently wordy and vague, e.g., It has been decided that...rather than, I decided; or scientific reports have been shown to...rather than, using scientific reports Jones showed that.... Passives hide the doer of the action. Passives can be buck passers. Passives also signal that the writer may be writing habitually or in a stream of thought without conscious control of the action. The author may not know the structure of the writing. Use the passive only when the object of the action is more important than the subject or producer of the action, and then carefully. Don't confuse the passive voice with the past tense, e.g., the passive forms of I sang the song and I was singing the song are the song was sung and the song was being sung. Avoid the latter.
 
paradigm
An example which illustrates a model or method of interpretation. A paradigm can be a conceptual framework or theory used to explain physical and cultural phenomena.
 
paraphrase
When source material can be shortened or summarized without losing the emphasis and main ideas of the original, paraphrasing is appropriate. Principal ideas still must be referenced to the original source. Commonly the paraphraser uses her own words, but in science and business writing, to avoid distortion or omission, the structure, emphasis, and key language of the original (as in a précis) are appropriate. Long adjective clauses can become adjectives, noun clauses nouns, adverb clauses, adverbs. Note original: "Whether we think of television as a source of propaganda, whether we think of it as a first-class source of information, or whether we think of the television as our primary source of entertainment, it is first and all the time something that affects the individual" (Coston, 83). Note paraphrase: Whether we think of television as propagandistic, informative, or entertaining, it primarily affects individuals.(Coston, 83).
 
paper plan paragraph
Last paragraph of the background statement where the writer sets out the methods and main sub-topic headings to be developed in the body of the paper.
 
parenthetical documentation
This form of notation uses parentheses (Woodward, 41) in the text to refer quoted or paraphrased material to the Works Cited.
 
plagiarism
Copying or not setting off or enclosing in quotes  the writing of another.  The student who submits plagiarized copy  frequently fails the class on the spot.
Pragmatism
There are many things and what benefits me most is true (if it works, fine. If it doesn't work, fix it. If you can't fix it, throw it away and start over). Pragmatism is not far from monism as the circle goes.
 
pluralism
There are many kinds of things (points of view, moral codes, ways of knowing).
 
photo-ready copy
Sent out to the net for anyone to read. Its purpose is not to request revisions but to make a point and receive a judgment. This is the copy that the instructor grades.
 
point of view
First person (I, we), second person (you), third person (he, she, it, they). Reports, expositions, and explanations emphasize the third person, concentrating on the actions and reactions of subjects, variables, factors, and events.
 
population
A population is a collection of objects or events (of often infinite size) that have common characteristics. For our purposes, we will talk about rather limited ones, like orange juice sold by the Covington Safeway. Population parameters are often given Greek letters.
 
précis
A condensed version of an original which maintains the language, structure, and emphasis of the original. It is a summary but does not use paraphrase. Technically, scientific and business summaries are précis' since great effort is taken not to distort the original in summary.
 
primary source
A researcher or group of researchers who set up controlled experiments and report their findings and produce experimental or business data. Primary sources are the backbone of documented research papers. Many newspaper and magazine writers are not primary sources; rather, they are secondary sources quoting or interviewing primary sources (we hope so).
 
problem
In the question, issue, problem logic, the problem is a specific discrepancy between an existing condition and a desired or expected one. For example, if you are currently producing five widgets, and you seek (want) or your goal is to produce seven, your problem is 2 widgets.
 
proofreading
Orally reciting, word by word, line by line, and page by page to reduce copy errors. An example of a line not proofread is: It has not be shown that the ...(been).
 
proof marks
http://www.atmos.washington.edu/gcg/EDC.hp/Proofmarks.EDC.gif
 
purpose
The author's aim or intent is classically defined as to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. One might also include to express self or to write what one thinks, as in a diary. One could reasonably claim that most purposes are aesthetic, that is, to seek a clearer, more beneficial, or more pleasant state. For our purposes though we will stay with the classical definitions. English 113 emphasizes expository writing as explanation of cause and effect, the scientific method, rational analysis, and reducing error. Thus, the primary purpose of papers written for 113 is to analyze and clarify issues (disagreements) of a factual or conceptual nature. And to define problems and make proposals. And to test inferences. To recognize meaningful fragments...As in, did the reader go so far as to read to this line. If so, score 10.
 
qtd. in
The work of a primary source which you find in the work of another and wish to quote. Finish the parenthetical documentation with (qtd. in Works Cited name of secondary reference).
 
question
In the question, issue, problem logic, the question sets or states the initial purpose or direction of inquiry,e.g.., what is the best buy on computers in the Pacific Northwest? The research question is anticipated and aided by a preliminary survey of previously defined problems, solutions, or issues. It is useful to think of the question, issue, problem logic as a spiral..
 
question, issue, problem logic
The natural logic of empirical or material conditions or events. The underlying assumption is that one can test or produce a material answer to an empirical or material question. Answers can become issues (disagreements over the facts). Once we agree on the facts, we can define problems. Once we have a defined problem (a material difference between what is and what could, should, or will be) we can begin the logic path again by raising questions as to possible solutions.
 
quality
Three variables affect quality: accuracy, precision, and reliability. A quality letter of inquiry accurately states the need or purpose, follows a standard letter template, and gives the reader no reason to believe that future letters would be otherwise.
 
Range
Interval between the lowest or least and the highest or most measured value of the event (variable) being measured.
 
rank
The relative value of a measure, member, or event in a group of events. We assign a rank to the measure relative to the other measures. In our cases, we usually rank from most preferred or greatest value to least.
 
readable
Easy to scan and access information. Some helpful elements include descriptive titles, headings, and illustrations; paragraphs which begin in transition and get quickly to the main idea; active voice; multivariate analysis; fresh metaphors.
 
realism
What we might call the ordinary or common sense view of perception in that we sense reality directly.  Scientific realists propose objects and events that  are independent of perception (mass, natural selection, random mutation) and which figure into the understanding of cause and effect.
 
realist
A naive realist is a person who believes that what you see is what you get. Scientific realists believe that the laws of science are external to and independent of mind..
 
referent
The object or event (real or imagined) to which a word (symbol) refers.
 
relevance
The relationship between an issue or solution and the problem. Also, the degree to which the measures of the event account for the variability of the event. Relevance usually requires an understanding of the relationships between sets (collections of things) or between elements (things within sets). Avoid meaningless measures of trivial events.
 
reliability
The degree to which events in the presence can be expected to occur in the future. The likeliness that test results in one setting repeat in another similar setting.
 
rhetoric(al)
Rhetoricians study how language can best produce meaning and persuade. Because there is no limit to what a skilled writer or speaker might say, many people associate rhetoric with propaganda or bombast. Still, the modern task of rhetoric is to so construct the process of writing that the topic is relevant, explanations are clear, the evidence weighty, and the conclusions valid.
 
Sample
A subgroup of a population. Random samples can be constructed when the researcher knows every member of the population and every member has an equal chance of being included in the sample. Representative samples select key characteristics or key members with known measures. The statistics derived from the sample are meant to represent the population parameters.
 
scope
The boundaries, parameters, or limits within which the research or inquiry is conducted. The scope statement defines the population from which the sample is drawn.
 
should and must
Avoid should unless a probability statement and must unless a logical necessity. Better to give a reason or rationale than an opinion or an imperative.
 
significance
Important differences. These differences can be statistical ones between or among groups, economic differences between or among outcomes, or scientific differences which have import for a wide variety of topics, as in the recent doctoral dissertation concluding that the universe may not be uniform in every direction.
 
standard
A notch on the stick that is meaningful but never abiding. Just the other day I realized that high jumping 7 feet 5 inches was now typical for the best male athletes, where 7 feet was the standard twenty years before. Composition and document standards have also changed in twenty years. Science and business writing has raised the standards for readability by emphasizing information and decreasing decoration, requiring an active prose style (voice), and requiring easy-to-scan formats.
 
statistic
Samples produce statistics which are numerical estimates of a population's parameters A sample more or less represents a population. The better the representation, the more one can rely on the statistics as being low error estimates of the population parameters. Student research papers review sample statistics from primary sources to produce valid and reliable conclusions about their topic.
survey
A description of the principal characteristics of a variable or set of variables. It is important early on in the survey process to define what measures best serve the explanatory purpose of the paper's topic. For example, we buy food for many reasons: less money, good taste, convenience, nutrition (it's good for you), status, popularity. A survey would describe the relative value people assign to these assumed reasons. The writer must always check back to see if the original assumptions of what is valuable remain valid. See focus and purpose.
 
syntax
The structure or form of a language unit, usually a sentence. All communication is characterized by a vocabulary (symbols), in a particular order (syntax), delivered by and through a particular medium (sensory system).
 
Template
A model shape or design, like a cookie cutter. A common template for lab reports is purpose, procedure, observations, conclusions.
 
title page
The first page of a document (excluding the cover) which lists the title, author, and some facts of publication. For Green River students, they would put their paper title, name, course name, the college name, the place (Auburn, Washington) and the date.
 
theory
An explanation of why something happens or how something works. In its simplest form a theory is an untested hypothesis--a guess; in its most developed form a natural law. A good scientific theory will predict and hold for all but the most extreme or unusual conditions (as in black holes and alternate universes). A good social theory will explain what nature has left to drift.
tone
Attitude toward subject and reader. In letters of inquiry, I encourage a curious attitude to the subject and an appreciative attitude to the audience. In the documented research paper, I encourage a skeptical attitude toward secondary sources, an analytical attitude toward primary sources, and a no-frills but thoughtful attitude toward the audience. In a proposal, I would expect a bit of enthusiasm to all.
 
topical headings
Topical headings, like rhetorical headings (purpose, procedure, observations, background, Works Cited) divide the paper into major subsections but at the discretion of the researcher/writer. They may simply restate the major primary resources reviewed in the paper. They are consistent however with the paper plan described in the last paragraph of the background section.
transitions
Any words from the set of continuity marks (first, next, then), the set of conjunctive adverbs (whereas, however, furthermore) or the adverb clauses (when, if, since). In the larger sense, headings and sub-headings act as general transitions among thematic parts of a report.
 
Usage
The practice of rules and principles to produce exactness and clarity in meaning. Most usage guides help readers make sensible choices about controversial words, meanings, syntax, and pronunciation. In science and business writing, usage guides usually provide ways to reduce the official jargon, fuzzy thinking, and baloney. Fowler's Modern English Usage third edition (1996) edited by R. W. Burchfield is an excellent general source and who has not heard of Strunk and White's Elements of Style. Follow the general principles below:

Avoid nominal descriptions of events and their elements when more accurate and precise descriptions apply (ahh..vague words). For example: bad economic effect, important statistic, more than enough food.
Avoid tautologies. For example: square in shape, adequate enough, during the course of, final result, refer back, short length of time. The underlined portions add nothing to the meaning.
Avoid strings of prepositional phrases. For example: There was a lot of quickness in her step--She stepped quickly.
Avoid unnecessary abstractions. For example: retail outlet means store; intelligent can mean witty, clever, smart, bright, able.
Cut unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. For example: The convenient and attractive science laboratories were adequately serviced by qualified assistants could become certified technicians serviced the new science labs.
Prefer to use subordinate clauses and constructions over coordinate constructions. For example: She went to town and decided to have her hair done could become while in town, she had her hair done.
Avoid pretentious writing. For example: In many cases the arduous task of assuming leadership in public affairs has the ability to turn anyone away from right action and into crime. meaning leadership corrupts many people. see also, passive voice.
 
Unit costs, unit rate, unit value
A unit cost or rate is a two or more variable (multivariate) expression of an event, usually one which most fully explains your interest in the event. Some examples of unit rates include miles per gallon, cubic feet per second, kilowatts per hour, dollars per pound, calories per minute, miles per hour, parts per million, visits per year, birth rates, death rates, migration rates, crime rates, unemployment rates, inflation rates, interest rates, discount rates, bank lending rates--to name a very few unit rates.
 
See base rates.
 
Valid
The degree to which a measure or an inference represents the essential character or important characteristics of the variable or event being measured
 
variable
Any characteristic or event which changes or takes on different values one day to the next. When growing up, I kept track of my changes in height on the closet door frame. I was measuring the variable height. Science and business is more or less the study of what causes things to vary and how we can get things to vary the way we like.
vita
From the Latin vita meaning life. A vita is a short biographical or autobiographical sketch.
 
Works Cited
Usually the last page or part of any documented research report. Unlike a bibliography, the Works Cited contains only those sources quoted or referred to directly in the text of the report. Entries are alphabetical. Use a standard style sheet for formatting the entries. A college writing handbook will most likely give a good summary of the formats, especially the Modern Language Association (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA) style sheets.

rcasad© 04/05/03

Hit Counter