Instructional Systems Handout #LPA1; "Free Resources for Students and Teachers";; User may copy this handout for educational purposes. Commercial use is prohibited. All rights reserved.

Drawing a "Blank"

Did you ever take a test or sit down to write a report about things you knew very well because you had studied or prepared but still drew a blank? Your mind temporarily could not recall details, facts, and figures. You were faced with the terrifying sight of a blank sheet of paper and needed desperately to fill up . . .


Our seven "spaces" complete the acronym S.P.A.C.E. with one developmental strategy each for the first three letters and two each for the last two:

The Seven Space Strategies

S.P.A.C.E. is an acronym that serves as a mnemonic strategy (a simple formula which helps one to remember complex material). Students have constructed such devices to learn names, dates, places, etc., as far back as there have been students. There have been many acronyms, rhymes, and formulas to call to mind the names of kings, presidents, capitols, and the like. Perhaps you have used some yourself.

The S.P.A.C.E. strategy works this way: Regardless of the writing chore that you have to do, once you have thought your way through the thesis, beginning paragraph, and the topic sentences, you must then provide specific and abundant support for your ideas. These ideas are already specifically stated in your thesis sentence and more specifically stated in your topic sentences, but remember that specific is a relative term. The topic sentences are specific relative to the thesis, and the thesis is specific relative to the opening sentence. It is reasonable to suppose, then, that the material that makes up the middle paragraphs is specific relative to the topic sentences. Once you get to the point that you know what makes up a topic sentence, you must then find specific proof to support its argument. Unless you are a very experienced writer, you must go about "hunting" this proof systematically, or you run the risk of echoing the topic sentence with repetitive and vague generalities and writing short paragraphs with unfulfilled commitments.

S.P.A.C.E. is a strategy to pick your brain systematically. Think of it as a strategy for invention in the sense of its related word inventory. If you are writing without notes or other printed resources (as you would be in a typical essay exam situation) S.P.A.C.E. will help you to remember what you have previously studied. If you are writing from notes and resource material (as in preparing a report or term paper) S.P.A.C.E. will help remind you of the contents of your notes and resources and will help you to organize them into specifically developed paragraphs. The process is simple:

  1. You think through your topic sentence.

  2. You recall the word space.

  3. You remember that S stands for statistics, P for premises, etc. (You may even jot these ten letters down on scratch paper or on your rough draft.)

  4. You quiz yourself about each S.P.A.C.E. item in relation to your topic sentence. (e.g., "What statistics do I know about the effect of N. A. F. T. A on the textile industry of the Texas Border?")

  5. After you have gleaned several items from the "spaces" that you have looked into, you construct your first middle paragraph.

  6. For subsequent middle paragraphs you follow the same procedure. When you have completed the middle paragraphs and written a brief ending paragraph, you have finished the basic theme.

This system of developing middle paragraphs works very well for most students and is especially useful to those writing under pressure of a time limit. But the S.P.A.C.E. strategy for paragraph development can be successful only if the user has a thorough understanding of each of the seven "spaces" and how they work singly and in combinations to provide supporting proof. Following is an explanation of each strategy. Click on S, P, or A below to learn more about these three space strategies.


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Web Author: J. Kline
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