The Mad Scientist’s Guide to Composition
A Somewhat Cheeky but Exceedingly Useful Introduction to Academic Writing
  • Publication Date: October 31, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781554814459 / 1554814456
  • 200 pages; 6" x 9"
Exam Copy

Availability: Worldwide

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to Composition

A Somewhat Cheeky but Exceedingly Useful Introduction to Academic Writing

  • Publication Date: October 31, 2019
  • ISBN: 9781554814459 / 1554814456
  • 200 pages; 6" x 9"

Unlike some college composition guides the size of phonebooks and about as interesting, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to Composition seeks to be fun, funny, and a little cheeky. Considering the composition classroom as a “mad scientist’s laboratory,” this guide introduces different kinds of writing as “experiments.” “Writing an essay” is a task that can strike fear into a student’s heart, but performing an experiment—that licenses creativity and doesn’t presume that one knows the outcome from the start. This loose theme lends coherence to the approach to composition, while encouraging students to have fun with writing.

The Mad Scientist’s Guide covers the kinds of writing most often required on college campuses, while also addressing important steps and activities frequently overlooked in composition guides, such as revision and peer reviewing. Actual examples of student writing are included throughout, as are helpful reminders and tips to help students polish their skills. First and foremost, the Mad Scientist’s Guide seeks to make writing fun.

Introduction: Monsters are Scary, but Writing Doesn’t Have to Be!

  • Your Turn: Anxieties

Chapter 1: Nuts and Bolts: Mechanics

  • Your Turn: The Horror, The Horror!
  • Dismembered Parts of Speech
    • Your Turn: Mad-Libbing Monster Style
  • The Curious Case of the Incomplete Clause
    • Danger Words
    • I Am Legion: The Singular They
  • Punctuation of Doooommmmmm
    • This is the End (end punctuation)
    • The comma: look upon me and despair
      • That vs. Witch
      • Commas Around Titles?
      • Comma splices
    • The Mysterious Semicolon
      • Transitional phrases
    • The Revenge of the Apostrophe
    • Colon-oscopy
    • Quotation Marks: The Summoning
      • Punctuation Placement
    • Your Turn: Sentences Gone Mad!
    • Your Turn: The Paragraph from Hell
  • Paranormal Paragraphs
    • How Many Paragraphs?
  • The Between: Transitions
    • Your Turn: Cross Over Children—Transitions

Chapter 2: Graverobbing: finding sources, evaluating sources, and incorporating sources

  • Conjuring Spirits: Finding and Using Sources
    • Terminology: Primary vs. Secondary Sources
    • Terminology: Scholarly vs. Non-Scholarly Sources
    • Terminology: Periodicals and Journals
    • Terminology: Just What the Heck is a Novel?
    • Terminology: Editors and Edited Collections
  • Burial Sites: Finding Sources
    • Databases
    • Working Backwards from References Lists
  • Here Lies Truth: Evaluating Sources
    • Peer Reviewed Sources
    • Publication Venue
      • Bias vs. Biased
      • Media Sources and Bias
      • Authors
    • Sources of Despair
      • Encyclopedia Articles
      • Book Reviews
      • Wikipedia
      • Theses and Dissertations
  • Translating Incantations: Reading for Meaning
    • Your Turn: Reading for Meaning
  • Speak Spirit! Incorporation Sources
    • Note taking
    • Summary
    • Paraphrase
    • Quotation
    • Your Turn: Summary, Paraphrase, Quotation
    • How to Avoid Angering the Dead: Plagiarism and Quotation
      • Signal Phrases
      • Quotation Marks: Single vs. Double
      • Quotation Marks: Placement with Punctuation
      • Quotations Explained

Chapter 3: Readying the Lab: Brainstorming, Formulating an Argument, Outlining

  • Brainstorming
  • Arguments: Thesis statement Guidelines
    • Use of the First Person in Academic Writing
    • Your Turn: Evaluating Arguments
  • Outlining

Chapter 4: Conducting Experiments: Writing to Inform, Writing to Persuade, and Writing to Evaluate

  • Rhetoric of the Damned: The Art of Persuasion
    • Context, Audience, Conventions
      • Diction and Tone
  • Your Turn: Context, Audience, and Conventions
  • Rhetorical Strategies
    • Ethos, Logos, Pathos
    • Your Turn: The Classical Appeals
    • The Five A’s: Allusion, Analogy, Anecdote, Assertion, Authority
    • Your Turn: The Five A’s
  • Rhetorical Fallacies
    • Your Turn: Rhetorical Fallacies
    • Your Turn: The Rhetorical Analysis
  • Channeling Information: Writing to Inform
    • Experiment: The Informational Essay
  • Mirroring the Soul: The Personal Reflection
    • Experiment: The Reflective Essay
  • Unholy Mash-up? Synthesizing Sources
    • Experiment: The Synthesis
  • Here for An Argument
    • In the Beginning: Introductions
      • Since the Beginning of Time
    • Pieces of the Body: Body Paragraphs
      • Cherry-picking Support
    • Final Destination: the Conclusion
    • Experiment: The Argumentative Essay
    • Success or Failure? Writing to Evaluate
    • Experiment: The Evaluation

Chapter 5: The Monster Lives! … or Does it? Revision, Retroactive Outlining, Peer Reviewing

  • Self Review
  • Final Steps…
  • The Perilous and Painful Process of Peer Review
  • Re-Vision
    • Retroactive Outlining
  • Return of the Dead: Revision in Action
    • Your Turn: Retroactive Outlines
    • Your Turn: Peer Reviewing and Outlining
    • Your Turn: The Error Log
    • Your Turn: Further Evaluation

Chapter 6: Placating Ghosts: Systems of Citing Sources to Avoid Angering the Dead … and the Living

  • Plagiarism (again)
  • Italics vs. Quotation Marks: A Battle to the Death for the Ages
  • Monsters Love Asparagus (MLA formatting)
  • Audacious Paranormal Association (APA)
  • Cunning Methods of Suffering (Chicago Manual of Style)
  • Ouija

Chapter 7: The Great Beyond…

  • Your Turn: A Letter to Your Former Self

Addendum 1: Successful Experiment 1

  • “The Stigmatization of Mental Disorders in Psychological Thrillers” by Katelyn Miller

Addendum 2: Successful Experiment 2

  • “Pennywise the Dancing Clown as a Metaphor for Bullying” by Dimitri Dikhel

Addendum 3: Common Mad Scientist Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Addendum 4: Finishing Touches

Addendum 5: A Monstrous Word Search

Jeffrey Weinstock is Professor of English at Central Michigan University.