How To Write Commentary For Essays

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Guidelines for writing a commentary

Carina Berterö

Editor-in-Chief

Author information ►Copyright and License information ►

Copyright © 2016 C. Berterö

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, allowing third parties to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and to remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially, provided the original work is properly cited and states its license.

Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2016; 11: 10.3402/qhw.v11.31390.

Published online 2016 Mar 11. doi:  10.3402/qhw.v11.31390

A commentary is a comment on a newly published article. A commentary may be invited by the chief editor or spontaneously submitted. Commentaries in International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being are peer reviewed. We now welcome commentaries!

What is a commentary?

The goal of publishing commentaries is to advance the research field by providing a forum for varying perspectives on a certain topic under consideration in the journal. The author of a commentary probably has in-depth knowledge of the topic and is eager to present a new and/or unique viewpoint on existing problems, fundamental concepts, or prevalent notions, or wants to discuss the implications of a newly implemented innovation. A commentary may also draw attention to current advances and speculate on future directions of a certain topic, and may include original data as well as state a personal opinion. While a commentary may be critical of an article published in the journal, it is important to maintain a respectful tone that is critical of ideas or conclusions but not of authors.

In summary, a commentary may be:

  1. A critical challenge to one or more aspects of the focal article, arguing for a position other than that taken in the focal article.

  2. An elaboration or extension of the position taken in the focal article, basically sympathetic to the position taken in the focal article but pushing the argument further.

  3. An application of a theoretical or methodological perspective that sheds light on the issues addressed in the focal article.

  4. A reflection on the writer's experiences in applying the issues addressed in the focal article, in particular health and well-being settings.

  5. A comment on the applicability of the issues raised in the focal article to other settings, or to other cultures.

How to write a commentary

Commentaries in International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being should not exceed 10 manuscript pages. A tightly argued four- to six-page commentary is likely to be better received than a meandering 10-page ditto. Use these simple guidelines:

  • Do not summarize the focal article; just give the reference. Assume the reader has just read it. Move directly to identifying the key issues you want to raise.

  • Do not include general praise for the focal article.

  • Use only essential citations. For commentary purposes, cite only works absolutely essential to support your point.

  • Use a short title that emphasizes your key message. (It should be clear in context that all commentaries are a reaction to a particular paper).

  • Do not include an abstract.

  • Make clear your take-home message.

  • Make sure there is full author information (name, affiliation, address, phone, email) for all authors. Authors must be individuals.

Review process

Commentaries will be peer reviewed and most likely accepted if they are in line with the definitions and guidelines outlined. A small set of reviewers will read and evaluate all commentaries as they need to compare commentaries for issues of redundancy and to make evaluations of relative merit.

Queries for the editor

Authors should feel free to correspond with the chief editor prior to submitting a commentary if there are questions about any aspect of the evaluation and publication process. Authors may prepare a brief outline of the key points they desire to present in the commentary and send it to the chief editor.

Does it cost anything to submit a commentary?

Spontaneously submitted commentaries incur a cost of €65 per typeset page. The author will be invoiced once the commentary has been accepted for publication.

We hope you will send us a commentary whenever you think there is a need to broaden the perspectives on health and well-being presented in our journal.

Carina Berterö
Editor-in-Chief

Articles from International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being are provided here courtesy of Taylor & Francis

For several weeks now, we have been identifying the essential elements of essays and learning how to incorporate these effectively and successfully. We have discussed that the thesis statement is the glue that holds the entire paper together, the body paragraphs are the meat where the majority of your argument will be found, and last week we looked at how the details are the key to unlocking your argument.  Today we are going to take a look at the other extremely important factor in writing a well-thought out essay.  It is needed for every single detail that you write.  It is the commentary.

 

Commentary Definition

When you write commentary, you are explaining to your reader how the details relate to the thesis statement. Commentary does not contain facts.  Instead, they help explain why the details are relevant to the topic.

 

Writing Commentary

You are going to need at least two sentences of commentary for every detail sentence.  A good rule of thumb is that your commentary should be twice as long as your details.  Otherwise, your paper is just full of facts.  We want to know how YOU think these facts prove your point and what YOU think they mean.

 

Here are a few different methods for writing commentary:

1) Opinion: this is where you write your belief, subjective judgment or way of thinking about a detail .

2) Interpretation: your explanation of something that is not clear.

3) Character and Subject’s Feelings: when you describe what the character or subject of the detail is feeling (ideal for literary analysis papers)

4) Personal Reaction: your personal emotions about the detail.

5) Evaluations: your objective judgment of a detail.

 

Commentary is the Treasure

Your commentary is the treasure that makes your paper shine.  It should always strengthen and extend the details. This is your chance to show us what you’ve got.  It is where you can impress us with your analysis and interpretation skills.

 

“What and Why” Method

You may be thinking, “Analysis and interpretation skills?  What if I don’t possess those skills?”  Well breathe easy, because interpretation is really just a fancy word for “what,” while analysis simply means “why”.

So if you are struggling to write your commentary try using the “what and why” method.  First, tell the reader WHAT your detail is talking about by defining or explaining.  Next, let your reader know WHY this detail is relevant to your thesis statement.

 

Starting Commentary Sentences

If you are struggling to start your commentary, consider beginning your commentary in one of the following ways:

“This shows that…”

 “This is important because…”

Obviously, you cannot start every sentence you write like that since this would be redundant.  However, even if you do not write these phrases at the beginning of all of your sentences, it is helpful even just to think these phrases in order to guide your commentary in the right direction.

 

Applying Commentary Techniques

Now that we have discussed the different options for writing commentary, and the method for doing  so, let’s put them together and see what is looks like.

 

Commentary Type: Opinion using the “what and why” method

Topic: education

Detail: According to the 2013 National Assessment of Education Progress Reading test, 80% of students score below grade level in reading.

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is my opinion?” and (2) “WHY is my opinion relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1)  A statistic like this shows the poor state of the education.  (2) If we are to help students become successful adults, we need to change the way we are educating our children.

 

Commentary Type: Interpretation using the “what and why” method

Topic: benefits of college

Detail: First of all, of 2,350,000 college students enrolling per year, only 1,750,000 will graduate.

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is my interpretation?” and (2) “WHY is my interpretation relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1) This shows that the high demand placed on students during their college years is too much stress for many.  (2) However rigorous it may be though, the pressure and expectations are reflective of a future career and help prepare young adults for these challenges.

 

Commentary Type: Character or Subject Feelings using the “what and why” method

Topic: cost of higher education

Detail:  For example, Benjamin Davis, a recent college graduate with a degree in Business, struggled for many years to find a job because of the recent unemployment struggles in America

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is the subject’s feelings?” and (2) “WHY is subjects feelings relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1) He, like most, experiences extreme frustration at spending a great deal of time and money obtaining his degree, but feeling like he has very little advantage over others without a degree when finding a job. (2) As a result, many who find themselves in a similar situation are left wondering if higher education is worth the high cost.

 

Commentary Type: Personal Reaction using the “what and why” method

Topic: bullying

Detail: Also,  a bully might speak cruelly in order to intimidate, steal a student’s belongings, or intentionally exclude one from a group .

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is my personal reaction?” and (2) “WHY is my personal reaction relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1) It is extremely upsetting to know that most children undergo this type of treatment at school. (2) It is hurtful, isolating, and can have long-lasting psychological damage on those students who experience bullying often.

 

Commentary Type: Evaluation using the “what and why” method

Topic: bears

Detail: Naturally, a bear, when threatened, will rise up from the ground, growl loudly, and begin charging at a speed of up to 35 mph.

Commentary: Your commentary for this detail will answer the following questions: (1) “WHAT is my evaluation?” and (2) “WHY is my evaluation relevant to my thesis statement?”

(1) Although this is a frightening experience, it is not entirely the bear’s fault. (2) In fact, most of the time when a bear attacks a person, it is the result of a person not understanding that when going out into the woods, he or she is entering a bear’s environment; forgetting to be respectful and cautious can cause the bear to react thusly.

 

When To Use Commentary Types

Depending on your assignment, choose the types of commentary that best fits your argument.  Use of a variety of different types of commentary to write a well-argued paper.

 

Workshop

Go back and look at step two of writing details from last week’s blog.  Look at the commentary you wrote and update it to fit into the “what and why” method using some of the above types of commentary.  If you did not do that step last week, go ahead and use the worksheet found here.

We hope this helped you when writing commentary.  If you still need help, call Oxford Tutoring for support or to schedule a writing tutoring session.

 

 

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