RECOGNIZING SIGNAL WORDS PART II

Understanding the Basic Patterns for Organizing Information

How do you normally go about explaining your ideas to someone? Most of us do pretty much the same thing: we use patterns of speech.

Although there are many ways to express ideas, writers usually use speech patterns and generally mix or combine them in paragraphs and passages. Once you begin to understand these patterns, you should be able to follow the writer’s sequence of ideas more readily and improve your comprehension. These patterns will further help to clarify topics, key ideas, and the relationship of supporting statements.

The writers’ purpose and the topic help determine how their material will be arranged. Terms writers use to signal to the reader which organizational method is being used should be familiar to you, since these are often the very words instructors use in exams and quizzes: for example, classify, define, list, describe, analyze. You have probably used these words unconsciously when writing responses in test-taking situations. Understanding patterns of organizations used by writers assists you in your reading/study tasks and better prepares you to take examinations. These patterns can also serve as models or examples for your own writing tasks.

Sources: Flemming, Reading for Results, Houghton Mifflin Co., MA 1993.
Langan, College Writing Skills with Readings, McGraw-Hill Book Co., NY 1989.
Vogel & Lehmann, Fundamentals of College Reading, Prentice Hall, NJ 1993.
Wassman & Rinsky, Effective Reading in a Changing World, Prentice Hall, NJ 1993.

College Reading Skills Program, 5/93; Revised 9/98.

 

SPACE

Space signal words alert the reader as to the position or direction of a particular subject, inanimate or not.

next to
to the left
to the right
nearby

across
on the opposite side
below
above

Example:
On a recent Wednesday afternoon thousands of people gathered around City Hall in Philadelphia to witness an experiment. Could a professional ballplayer catch a baseball thrown from a height of 500 feet? Standing atop City Hall was a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. In the street below an outfielder pounded his glove. The baseball, upon reaching the outfielder, would be traveling with a force great enough to maim or even kill.

Exercises:

1. The vegetable bin of my refrigerator contained an assortment of weird-looking items. Next to a shriveled, white-coated lemon was a pair of oranges covered with blue fuzz. To the right of the oranges was a bunch of carrots that had begun to sprout points, spikes, knobs, and tendrils. Near the carrots was a net bag of onions. The most horrible item, though, was a head of lettuce that had turned into a pool of brown goo. This brown goo had seeped out of the bag and lined the bottom with a sticky, bad-smelling liquid. (3 signal words)

2. Lake Tahoe is a wonderful place to visit. The lake is an unbelievable royal blue color at its deepest parts and a fantastic aqua green color at its shallowest. Across the majestic lake are the Sierra Nevada mountains. Nearby the lake is the hot and dry state of Nevada; it is only thirty minutes away coming from the northeast part of the lake. Of all its admirable qualities, Lake Tahoešs vibrant colors is the best one. (3 signal words)

 

CLASSIFICATION

In using signal words of classification, a writer classifies information in a series of statements giving supporting facts or details. The order in which the information is presented is usually not significant and can be switched around without changing the meaning.

categories
characteristics
classes
classify
divide
dimensions

elements
features
groups
kinds
methods
aspects

numbers
parts
sorts
types
ways

Example:
The Chinese responded to prejudice and persecution in two ways: First, they created an insulated society-within-a-society that needed little time from the dominant culture. Second, they displayed a stoic willingness to persevere, and to take without complaint or resistance whatever America dished out.

Exercises:

1. Many people have to communicate and work with members of other cultures, and social skills training is now being given to some of these who are about to work abroad. Intercultural communication is necessary for several kinds of people: tourist, government/business visitors, and students in the peace corps. (1 signal word)

2. Not all violence is the same. Various thinkers have categorized violence in several ways. One of the best is that of political scientist Fred R. van der Mehden, who sees five general types of violence: primordial, separatist, revolutionary, coups, and issues. (3 signal words)

 

SEQUENCE OR TIME ORDER

Sequence or time order signal words help the reader see which important details will be developed in a sequential pattern. Numbers may be used, but for the purpose of showing time order or steps in a process, not for the purpose of merely listing at random.

first
second
third
next
most important
last
eventually
then
meanwhile

above
adjacent
after
before
below
down
subsequently following this step
as
now

finally
furthermore
later
stages
steps
when
while
during

Example:
Most children go through similar stages when they are beginning to talk. According to linguists, first, babies learn to babble. Next, they speak in one word utterances. Following this stage, at about the age of one and a half or two years old, children are speaking in two word utterances. Subsequently, they are speaking in short sentences. The actual age that children go through these stages varies but most follow a similar sequence.

Exercises:

1. When a car overheats and stalls from vapor lock, follow these steps. First, if you are on the freeway, stay in your car. Wait until a member of the highway patrol comes to help you get to the side of the road. However, if it is safe to push the car to the side of the road by yourself, do it. Once you are at the side of the road, lift the hood and place a wet cloth on the fuel line and the fuel pump. If you do not have a wet rag, then just sit there until things cool off. Once you have cooled the line so that the gasoline is no longer boiling, wrap the rag around the line. Better yet, carry some tinfoil in your car. Tinfoil, wrapped around the line, carries the heat away. When the car has cooled down, get back on the road, and act as though nothing had happened. (7 signal words)

2. If you are going to be recording a lot of tapes, it would be wise to follow these steps. Find a brand and type of tape that works well in your machine and stick with it. This will save you money in the long run, since tape is cheaper when bought by the case. Then, when unwrapping a new tape, fast-wind it all the way through and then rewind it back to the beginning. This will free up any sticking that may have developed in the tape while it was stored. Following this step, check the microphone and line level controls. If the recorder has separate controls, turn down the one for the input youšre not using, to prevent unnecessary noise in recording. Finally, be sure that the recorderšs bias and EQ switching are set to the correct position for the tape in use. (4 signal words)

 

DEFINITION

Signal words which define teach the technical language of the subject. Sometimes they are straightforward; some are abstract.

define
is
is defined as

known as
that is
the term means

we mean
we can state
we refer to

Example:
Our country has been obsessed with youth for far too many years. Age has been defined only as a decline from a peak of youth. Age is a fate worse than death. Negative stereotypes of older people are reinforced daily in the popular media, which contain very few examples of anyone 60 or older doing anything active or dynamic in society.

Exercises:

1. By self-esteem, we refer to the evaluation which the individual makes and customarily maintains with regard to himself or herself; it expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates the extent to which an individual believes himself to be capable, significant, successful, and worthy. In short, self-esteem is a personal judgment of worthiness and is expressed in the attitudes that the individual holds towards himself. It is a subjective experience which the individual conveys to others by verbal reports and other overt expressive behavior. (4 signal words)

2. Creativity is known as the act of bringing something new into the world, whether a symphony, a novel, an improved layout for a supermarket, a new and unexpected casserole dish. It is based first on communication with oneself, then testing that communication with experience and the realities one has to contend with. The result is the highest, most exciting kind of learning. (2 signal words)

 

END OF THE ROAD SIGNALS – STOP

Stop signals warn the reader to “slow down.” You should be anticipating important information at this point. The most important ideas are about to be presented in brief form or restated.

accordingly
to summarize
finally
the implication
in retrospect
to recapitulate
last of all
on the whole

last of all
consequently
the effect
in conclusion
thus
then
in brief
to sum up

basically
therefore
hence
the most inportant
in summary
as a result
in short
ultimately

Example:
Euthanasia is defined as mercy killing, either by the sick people themselves or by their relatives or close friends. One controversial doctor is a strong proponent of this act: Dr. Jack Krevorkian. Dr. Krevorkian has publicly admitted to giving assistance to people who have committed suicide. As a result, he has been called a saint by some, a murderer by others.

Exercises:

1. Garlic is used in various old-fashioned, cure-all remedies. A syrup made from garlic is said to cure colds. A clove of garlic wrapped in a wet cloth and kept on the chest will relive the discomforts of bronchitis. And garlic really can be soothing when rubbed on insect bites. Garlic does contain an antibiotic, allium, which doctors use to lower high blood pressure in patients. Consequently, garlicšs value is not all superstition. (1 signal word)

2. Basically, my grandmother was an extremely thrifty person. She was one of those people who hoard pieces of used aluminum foil after carefully scraping off the cake icing or beef gravy. She had a drawer full of old eyeglasses that dated back at least thirty years. The lens prescriptions were no longer accurate, but Gran couldn’t bear to throw away “a pair of good eyeglasses.” She kept them “just in case,” but we could never figure out what horrible situation would involve a desperate need for a dozen pairs of old eyeglasses. We never realized the true extent of Gran’s thriftiness, though, until after she died. Her house was to be sold, and therefore we cleaned out its dusty attic. We donated some of her belongings to charity, and some were sold. On the whole, we made a decent amount of money and decided to donate that to charity as well. (2 signal words)

 

PRACTICE IN RECOGNIZING SIGNAL WORDS

Activity 1
Below are some of the signal words that are most often used by writers. Place each word under its proper heading below.

classes

accordingly

across

to the right

last

next

that is

features

near

after

is

hence

in summary

we mean

sorts

 

Classification
Definition
Space
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
 
Stop
Time Sequence
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________
_______________________

Activity 2
Please circle the signal words in the passage below and then identify the various types used.

1. Creative thinking usually involves five stages. First, the problem is defined. Second, creative thinkers saturate themselves with as much information as they can find. Then comes the incubation stage. Next, problem solving moves to an unconscious level and the mind ponders different possible, or even impossible, solutions. The incubation stage is followed by illumination. By illumination, we refer to a period of sudden understanding or insight. Finally, there is the verification stage when solutions or answers are critically evaluated. (9 signal words)

2. If we study a child’s handwriting, certain personality types are revealed. First, if children have handwriting that is slanted only a little to the right or is straight up and down, they have a moderate temperament and use good judgment. This type is usually affectionate and sharing. Second, if the handwriting slants to the far right, they are usually emotional children who react quickly. Their quick responses are often negative responses. The third type, children who write with a backhand slant, are very logical, unemotional, and sometimes very insecure. Therefore, their world seems to revolve around themselves rather than around friends and loved ones. (7 signal words)

 

 

ANSWER KEY for RECOGNIZING SIGNAL WORDS PART II

 

SPACE Exercises

1. The vegetable bin of my refrigerator contained an assortment of weird-looking items. Next to a shriveled, white-coated lemon was a pair of oranges covered with blue fuzz. To the right of the oranges was a bunch of carrots that had begun to sprout points, spikes, knobs, and tendrils. Near the carrots was a net bag of onions. The most horrible item, though, was a head of lettuce that had turned into a pool of brown goo. This brown goo had seeped out of the bag and lined the bottom with a sticky, bad-smelling liquid. (3 signal words)

2. Lake Tahoe is a wonderful place to visit. The lake is an unbelievable royal blue color at its deepest parts and a fantastic aqua green color at its shallowest. Across the majestic lake are the Sierra Nevada mountains. Nearby the lake is the hot and dry state of Nevada; it is only thirty minutes away coming from the northeast part of the lake. Of all its admirable qualities, Lake Tahoešs vibrant colors is the best one. (3 signal words)

CLASSIFICATION Exercises

1. Many people have to communicate and work with members of other cultures, and social skills training is now being given to some of these who are about to work abroad. Intercultural communication is necessary for several kinds of people: tourist, government/business visitors, and students in the peace corps. (1 signal word)

2. Not all violence is the same. Various thinkers have categorized violence in several ways. One of the best is that of political scientist Fred R. van der Mehden, who sees five general types of violence: primordial, separatist, revolutionary, coups, and issues. (3 signal words)

SEQUENCE OR TIME ORDER Exercises

1. When a car overheats and stalls from vapor lock, follow these steps. First, if you are on the freeway, stay in your car. Wait until a member of the highway patrol comes to help you get to the side of the road. However, if it is safe to push the car to the side of the road by yourself, do it. Once you are at the side of the road, lift the hood and place a wet cloth on the fuel line and the fuel pump. If you do not have a wet rag, then just sit there until things cool off. Once you have cooled the line so that the gasoline is no longer boiling, wrap the rag around the line. Better yet, carry some tinfoil in your car. Tinfoil, wrapped around the line, carries the heat away. When the car has cooled down, get back on the road, and act as though nothing had happened. (7 signal words)

2. If you are going to be recording a lot of tapes, it would be wise to follow these steps. Find a brand and type of tape that works well in your machine and stick with it. This will save you money in the long run, since tape is cheaper when bought by the case. Then, when unwrapping a new tape, fast-wind it all the way through and then rewind it back to the beginning. This will free up any sticking that may have developed in the tape while it was stored. Following this step, check the microphone and line level controls. If the recorder has separate controls, turn down the one for the input youšre not using, to prevent unnecessary noise in recording. Finally, be sure that the recorderšs bias and EQ switching are set to the correct position for the tape in use. (4 signal words)


DEFINITION Exercises

1. By self-esteem, we refer to the evaluation which the individual makes and customarily maintains with regard to himself or herself; it expresses an attitude of approval or disapproval, and indicates the extent to which an individual believes himself to be capable, significant, successful, and worthy. In short, self-esteem is a personal judgment of worthiness and is expressed in the attitudes that the individual holds towards himself. It is a subjective experience which the individual conveys to others by verbal reports and other overt expressive behavior. (4 signal words)

2. Creativity is known as the act of bringing something new into the world, whether a symphony, a novel, an improved layout for a supermarket, a new and unexpected casserole dish. It is based first on communication with oneself, then testing that communication with experience and the realities one has to contend with. The result is the highest, most exciting kind of learning. (2 signal words)


END OF THE ROAD SIGNALS – STOP Exercises

1. Garlic is used in various old-fashioned, cure-all remedies. A syrup made from garlic is said to cure colds. A clove of garlic wrapped in a wet cloth and kept on the chest will relive the discomforts of bronchitis. And garlic really can be soothing when rubbed on insect bites. Garlic does contain an antibiotic, allium, which doctors use to lower high blood pressure in patients. Consequently, garlicšs value is not all superstition. (1 signal word)

2. Basically, my grandmother was an extremely thrifty person. She was one of those people who hoard pieces of used aluminum foil after carefully scraping off the cake icing or beef gravy. She had a drawer full of old eyeglasses that dated back at least thirty years. The lens prescriptions were no longer accurate, but Gran couldn’t bear to throw away “a pair of good eyeglasses.” She kept them “just in case,” but we could never figure out what horrible situation would involve a desperate need for a dozen pairs of old eyeglasses. We never realized the true extent of Gran’s thriftiness, though, until after she died. Her house was to be sold, and therefore we cleaned out its dusty attic. We donated some of her belongings to charity, and some were sold. On the whole, we made a decent amount of money and decided to donate that to charity as well. (2 signal words)


PRACTICE IN RECOGNIZING SIGNAL WORDS Exercises

Classification
Definition
Space
classes
is
near
features
that is
across
sorts
we mean
to the right
 
Stop
Time Sequence
hence
next
in summary
last
accordingly
after


Activity 2
Please circle the signal words in the passage below and then identify the various types used.

1. Creative thinking usually involves five stages (classification). First (time sequence) , the problem is defined. Second (time sequence), creative thinkers saturate themselves with as much information as they can find. Then (time sequence) comes the incubation stage. Next (time sequence), problem solving moves to an unconscious level and the mind ponders different possible, or even impossible, solutions. The incubation stage (classification) is followed by (time sequence) illumination. By illumination, we refer to (definition) a period of sudden understanding or insight. Finally (time sequence), there is the verification stage when solutions or answers are critically evaluated. (9 signal words)

2. If we study a child’s handwriting, certain personality types (classification) are revealed. First (time sequence), if children have handwriting that is slanted only a little to the right or is straight up and down, they have a moderate temperament and use good judgment. This type (classification) is usually affectionate and sharing. Second (time sequence), if the handwriting slants to the far right, they are usually emotional children who react quickly. Their quick responses are often negative responses. The third (time sequence) type (classification), children who write with a backhand slant, are very logical, unemotional, and sometimes very insecure. Therefore (stop), their world seems to revolve around themselves rather than around friends and loved ones. (7 signal words)

Flemming, Reading for Results, Houghton Mifflin Co., MA 1993.
Langan, Reading and Study Skills, McGraw-Hill Book Co., NY 1989.
Vogel & Lehmann, Fundamentals of College Reading, Prentice Hall, NJ 1993.
Wassman & Rinsky, Effective Reading in a Changing World, Prentice Hall, NJ 1993.

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