Glossing Your IdeasWriter's Web
(printable version here)

Glossing provides a quick method to focus papers. It names the main idea shared by a group of sentences in a paragraph and allows the writer to see if this idea supports the concept of his paper. A gloss can be either a single word, a phrase, or a sentence.

One simple way to gloss is to take a section or a few sentences from the paper and ask the following questions:

  • How does this relate to my overall idea?
  • In a few words, what is this sentence or paragraph about?
  • How does this advance my case, rather than summarizing what comes from others?
  • Why should I make this point here, rather than elsewhere?
  • Where should it fit, logically? Here, or elsewhere? (that may require glossing other places)

The answers to these questions should be written in the margin of your rough draft. These answers should also be written in your own language. If there is a discrepancy between the answers and your intentions for your paper then editing must be done.

After asking and answering these questions, make a list of the glosses. This tactic will help to sort the ideas and see connections between the glosses.

Next, look at the connections between the glosses and the concept of your paper. Ask yourself the following questions to help you as you revise your draft:

  • What is my thesis? (i.e., what is the general idea I am trying to express, argue, etc.)
  • Is my thesis coherent? If not, why not?
  • Is the thesis included in the introduction? If not, where is it?
  • Do my paragraphs follow this main idea or thesis? If not, where do they diverge from the thesis?
  • Do I have topic sentences? Do these topic sentences follow the thesis? If not, where do they diverge from the thesis?
  • Why did I order the paragraphs this way?
  • Is the order logical? Why or why not?
  • Does the conclusion summarize my paper in a different way than the introduction? If so, how so?

Glossing can also be used when reading books. By writing notations in the margin of the book, it allows you to see the connections needed for conceptual analysis. These connections, in turn, will assist in writing a concise and cohesive essay. In addition, glossing builds the vocabulary which will be used in the essay.

Back to 'Focusing/Connecting Ideas'
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Updated February 2021, to clarify questions asked.