The Double-Entry Journal: Preparing Quotes and Commentary

The Double-Entry Journal: Preparing Quotes and Commentary

There are several ways to prepare notes for an essay. Brainstorming, list making, scattered notes, and marking up texts are common ways to prepare an essay, though not always successfully so.The double-entry journal (DEJ) is one way to organize the quotes you would like to use and also prepare the commentary/ideas that you plan to use as part of your essay.
On a sheet of paper, you divide the page into two equal columns. The column on the left-hand side is labeled "Passage," and the column on the right-hand side is labeled "Response." See below.

PASSAGE
(quote, direct examples/details)
RESPONSE
(opinions, findings, analysis/connections, commentary)
Under the "Passage" column, you copy down the phrases/passages from the text that you consider the most important. These are your potential quotes for the essay. These passages are copied straight out of the book, and are immediately followed by the page number from which the passage is taken. Make sure you use quotation marks around the passage taken from the book. Under the "Response" column, you write down everything YOU can think of that explains why the passage is important. Write down your opinions and impressions of the passage, as well as any connections you can make with previous incidents. This is also the place where you analyze the passage--identify any literary terms that are represented, make comments about certain words, ideas, colors, actions that are shown. Comment on such things as character, theme, setting, imagery, diction (vocabulary use), style, etc.

This is the answer column!!! All the important analysis in your essay will come from the information you write down in this column! Write as much as you can, even if it doesn't seem relevant at the time. Pointless or irrelevant comments may be useful later on.

The following are student samples of what the DEJ should look like.

PASSAGE
(quote, direct examples/details)
RESPONSE
(opinions, findings, analysis/connections, commentary)
From Steinbeck's The Pearl. Sample by Kristina.

"He struck her in the face with his clenched fist and she fell among the boulders, and he kicked her in the side." (pg. 76)

Though the comments here are in sentences, your own DEJ can be written in short-hand or simpler notes.

Kino is an angry and violent man. In this specific moment, Kino has the power to hurt Juana and protect his pearl. It shows Kino in a negative light. Juana is a weak character, she does nothing to defend herself.

From Steinbeck's The Pearl. Sample by Roxana.

"Juana had need of a man. She couldn't live without a man." (pg. 77)

Juana thinks that men are superior. Juana is needy. She feels worthless without a man. Without a man, she has no purpose. A man would offer important things---food, shelter, companionship, protection. These are all things she has to have. This passage reveals more about Juana's character.
From Sophocles' Antigone. Sample by Joram.

"Why dawdle then? Your conversation is nor mine be more acceptable to you. And yet it ought to be; where could I win respect and praise more validly than this burial of my brother?" (pg. 181)

This shows that Antigone is smart and defiant. She is setting up an argument with Creon. She wants to argue with him about his leadership and wrong doings. She is being openly defiant and challenging his rulership. She wants Creon to realize that burying her brother, Polyneices, is more important than his need to prove he is king. She is also pointing out that her actions are worthy of praise and respect, while his are not.

Once you have these passages and responses set up, you have your essay pretty much written. You have your quotes selected and cited (the page #), while the "Response" column has all your analysis written down. Because the passage and response are right next to each other, your notes are all on the same page, so you don't have to worry about missing notes.

To print out a blank copy of of a double-entry journal page, click here, otherwise you can easily make your own. Happy Writing!!!

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