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Writing Support Services

We help you to improve your writing through individual consultations and by providing resources, such as manuals, tips, links to writing web pages, and videos.

Expository Writing

According to the Purdue Online Writing Laboratory, “The expository essay is a genre of essay that requires the student to investigate an idea, evaluate evidence, expound on the idea, and set forth an argument concerning that idea in a clear and concise manner. This can be accomplished through comparison and contrast, definition, example, the analysis of cause and effect, etc” (OWL,

University of Michigan says more concisely, “Exposition is a type of oral or written discourse that is used to explain, describe, give information or inform” (  

A paper needs to have a clear main point it is trying to make. Traditionally this main point is called a “thesis.”  The word “thesis,” however, has the connotation of defending a strong position on a controversial subject. Some make a distinction between a thesis, which is proper for an argumentative or persuasive essay, and a “focus,” which is proper for an expository writing. This distinction makes a point that the expository writing is not strongly argumentative, yet does give a perspective on a topic.

One can compare the difference between expository and persuasive writing to the difference between teaching and debate.

Michigan explains several patterns that are common in expository writing: description, sequence, comparison, cause and effect, problem and solution ( They even give visual representations of each of them, such as this one for cause and effect:

Most writing at SHSST is expository. 

Reflection Paper

A reflection is an organized statement of your reaction to a situation, event, reading, talk, problem, or idea. Some reflections want you to focus on your thoughts; others are interested in your feelings as well. Although it is not a research paper, if you do quote or use the ideas of another, you need to cite.

You may see the following on your syllabus or on a writing assignment: “Write a reflection on….” 

According to Plymouth State (Plymouth State), a reflection has the following components:


  • Describe the experience, problem, idea, situation, or content of the reading or talk

  • Give your initial response

  • Thoughts

  • Do you agree/disagree?

  • Emotions (if required by the assignment)

What is the relationship to your previous learning and experience?

  • Classes
  • Previous education
  • Life experience

Explain the significance

  • Application
  • “Consider if and how what you have read and learned changes your thinking and might affect your practice in both personal and professional situations.” (IIRP)

Questions you might want to ask:

  • “Does the reading, lecture, or experience challenge you socially, culturally, emotionally, or theologically? If so, where and how? Why does it bother you or catch your attention?
  • “Has the reading, lecture, or experience changed your way of thinking? Did it conflict with beliefs you held previously, and what evidence did it provide you with in order to change your thought process on the topic?
  • “Does the reading, lecture, or experience leave you with any questions? Were these questions ones you had previously or ones you developed only after finishing?
  • “Did the author, speaker, or those involved in the experience fail to address any important issues? Could a certain fact or idea have dramatically changed the impact or conclusion of the reading, lecture, or experience?
  • “How do the issues or ideas brought up in this reading, lecture, or experience mesh with past experiences or readings? Do the ideas contradict or support each other?” (WikiHow)

Reference List

IIRP. “IIRP Tips on Writing Reflection Papers.” Accessed November 16, 2015.

WikiHow.  “How to Write a Reflection Paper.” Accessed November 16, 2015.

Butner, Sean. “Steps in Writing a Reflection Paper.” Synonym. Accessed November 16, 2015.

Plymouth State University Graduate Studies. “Reflection Paper.” Plymouth State University. Accessed November 16, 2015.

Persuasive Research Paper

A persuasive or "argumentative" paper attempts to convince the reader of the author's viewpoint using arguments, evidence, and citations from authority. It usually involves research. Here is a common outline of a persuasive paper


  • "Hook” to draw the reader into the issue
    • This is usually relates the topic to an issue the reader might be interested in.
  • Statement of your thesis. A thesis is a statement that you wish to argue for or defend.  It is more than a topic sentence. 

Presentation of the problem:

  • What is the issue you are addressing?

  • Definitions

  • What is the history of its development?

  • Who are the major protagonists?

  • What are the underlying issues?

Presentation of two opposing positions concerning the problem. 

  • This ought to include not only a summary of the position, but also a summary of the arguments used to support the position and possible objections to the position.

  • The objections can either be by a real scholar or of your own making.

    • See St. Thomas for a model for anticipating objections.

Analysis and judgment about the positions:

  • This is the heart of the paper, where you state your position and give arguments for it.

  • Basis for your judgment

  • If you agree with your main protagonist, you need to address the objections you’ve brought up in the earlier part of the paper.


  • Usually you refer back to the “hook” and show how your conclusion relates to the issue of the hook.

  • Do not introduce new ideas, unless you want to simply suggest further avenues of exploration.

Guidelines for a Homily (Written or Oral)


  • Who is the audience?
    • What are their concerns?
    • What in the current situation might be on their minds? (e.g. 911, football, summer vacation)
  • Refer to:
    • Sacred Scripture
      • Including footnotes, marginal references, introductions, glossaries and other resources.
      • Scripture interpreted properly
      • OT/NT Typology
    • CCC
    • Homiletic Directory
      • Esp. the Ars Praedicandi (p. 21) and the CCC listings for Sundays (Appendix A, p. 71)
    • Other resources
  • Mark the written text for speaking
    • Use ellipses to indicate a pause (e.g. “Pray….Pray with your heart.”).
    • Use bold and italics to indicate emphasis (e.g. “You may think the Lord is talking to you…But is he?”).
    • Use tempo markings (e.g. “[slow]”).
    • Use blank lines between each block of ideas to indicate a pause.
  • Read it out loud

Does the homily:

  • take the form of a liturgical proclamation of Christ, the Gospel, and the paschal mystery as an act of worship?
    • Not a sermon on an abstract doctrinal topic
    • Not an exegesis
    • Not catechesis
    • Not personal witness
      • Faith of the Church, not preacher’s own story
  • connect with the readings of the day?
    • Is the interpretation of the passage exegesis or eisegesis.
    • Does any exegesis to help the listener understand what the text would have meant to the original audience?
  • connect the readings with the liturgical texts of the day?
  • connect the readings with Church doctrine?
  • connect the readings with the paschal mystery
  • connect the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Eucharist?  
  • Make an application to the life of the listener?
    • connect the world of the scripture to the people’s experience, desires, and struggles, etc.
    • connect with the culture of the listeners?


  • Are the sentences short, as is proper to oral communication?
  • Is there one main point that can be stated in seven or eight words or less?
  • Is there a hook at the beginning related to main point?
    • Not just an unrelated joke or story
  • Are there a small number (3-5) of coherent blocks of ideas?
    • Does each block have a topic sentence?
  • Is there a logical sequence of ideas?
  • Are there vivid, memorable images?
  • Does the conclusion:
    • Tie the whole thing together?
    • Refer back to the beginning?
    • Point at least implicitly to the Eucharist?


Writing a Critical Book Review

A book review is not the same as a book report like you may have written in school. The goal of a review is to evaluate the book. This involves four tasks: framing your judgment, describing and analyzing the content, identifying strengths and weaknesses, then making a judgment.

Here is a brief possible outline for a good book review.

Framing Issue (hook)

  • Why is this book interesting to or important for your reader?

Credentials of the Author

  • Education
  • Previous work
  • honors

Scope and Focus of the Book

  • Author’s intended purpose or goal
  • Intended audience
  • Author’s method

Summary of the Book

  • Include main arguments of the author


  • Strengthsof the book
  • Weaknesses of the book
  • Include
    • whether the arguments are sound,
    • whether the author achieves his intended purpose, and
    • whether the author writes in a way that his intended audience is served


  • Judgment
  • What is your basis for judgment of this book?
  • Refer to framing issue