Photo of two big wooden doors with large glass panes on which is written “The Office of the Principal”

Source: Principal’s Office, ecastro, Flickr

The teacher gets a note delivered from the office. She reads it and looks at you. The principal wants to see you.

You are sitting there on the other side of the principal’s big desk, and she asks you, “Did you see the fight in the stairwell this morning? Someone said you were there. We are trying to find out what happened.”

The following thoughts fly through your mind:

OK, that last thought is what you need to consider. What should you say?

A photograph of a large sign outside of a building lobby. The sign reads “THINK”.

Source: THINK, technovore, Flickr

You know that not all of these thoughts are going to help the principal find out what happened this morning in the stairwell.

Some of these thoughts are relevant, and some are irrelevant. In other words, some of these thoughts connect with the question on the principal’s mind (i.e., what happened in the stairwell), and some do not. Suppose the principal had asked, “What were you thinking about in the stairwell this morning?” In this case, all of the thoughts would have been relevant. Relevance depends on the matter at hand.

When you revise an expository essay, the “matter at hand” is the thesis of your essay, and within each part of your essay, the “matter at hand” is a subtopic of your thesis. When you consider the relevance of your evidence and the choice of your details, you always need to look back at the thesis and the subtopics to see if the evidence and details support those ideas. You need to connect your evidence and details to the matter at hand.

In this lesson, you will learn strategies for evaluating and revising an essay so that it contains relevant evidence and well-chosen details. You will also learn what actually happened in the stairwell.