Extending Drafts

Here are some points of advice if you are drafting your essay and feel like you do not have enough to write to get the project where you need it.

1.) Do not look at your work for this paper as something that is merely getting you to the word count.  If you are looking to this project solely as its word requirement then you are putting yourself in severe risk of failing to produce quality work.  Think about what you really wish to accomplish with your argument and then check your thesis to see whether it encapsulates the same ambition.  A more ambitious thesis will require more legwork to support, though it will also amount to a more sophisticated and robust (i.e. longer) paper.  (Note: Being ambitious does not mean being broad. Our criteria for a strong main claim are forever in play.)

2.) Use your sources. It’s often the case that sources aren’t being used enough for support.  The idea is to think of your sources going beyond direct examples of ideas to include moments where the author’s arguments can be applied for support.  Your sources have limits, though you can stretch them and apply the arguments loosely to many other ideas and primary texts for analysis.  Additionally, going beyond the eight required sources for the paper to include more source material is certainly possible, and oftentimes desirable.  As Ballenger writes in The Curious Researcher, documentation is key element distinguishing the research paper from any other kind of essay (117). You need to demonstrate to your reader that you know what you’re talking about, and that you can utilize and explain the source material in a way that bolsters your own work. Your sources are your friends, and think of them that way. Here’s how:

  • You need to introduce them.  Be sure to use a signal phrase (given the style you’re using) to introduce authors when you first mention them. 
  • You don’t want to take advantage of them.   Don’t let your sources do all of the work; don’t just quote/paraphrase without saying what you think, or how the quotations/paraphrases work within your paragraphs to support your own point.  Paragraphs should include a healthy mix of your own words and the source material.
  • You don’t block them out of the conversation.  Let them talk from time-to-time to get an actual conversation going on, rather than you just solely going on with what you think.  Your view matters, but you need to integrate your sources coherently and completely into your view.
  • You don’t want them to annoy everyone and talk forever.  Be sure to only include necessary information, either with paraphrases or with direct quotations (eliminate unnecessary parts of the passages and use ellipsis (…) to indicate information you’ve omitted).  Your reader will thank you.
  • You need to give your friends credit.  Always cite what you get from them with in-text citations including page numbers.

Consider this student example.  Note that the highlighted portions are when the sources are talking, and that it’s an even ratio between author and source (also note that the quotations are sandwiched in: it goes from author to source to author): 

Direct-to-consumer advertisements can also lead to an over prescription of medications. When commercials are not clear enough and provide only subjective symptoms for a disorder, people can easily misinterpret the information and be led to believe they have the advertised disease. Some advertisements also lead people to believe that they can successfully self-diagnose, when in reality a diagnosis takes a lot of information to confirm, and symptoms can be in different form depending on the individual.  Mary Ebeling’s article “‘Get with the Program!’: Pharmaceutical Marketing, Symptom Checklists and Self-diagnosis” asserts that advertisements cause people to feel they can properly diagnose themselves without knowing that they are actually missing an essential part of the diagnostic process. DTCA often lists the symptoms of a disorder but these symptoms are only “ signs” of certain problems in the body but do not prove the cause of the problem (826). When people view commercials they are led to believe they can diagnosis solely on those conditions. But according to Ebeling, symptoms are considered “subjective criteria” because they could signify multiple disorders; whereas “ signs-alterations in organs and biochemistry” give the doctor “ objective data… to constitute a disease” (828). This is a potential negative of DTCA because people are convinced they have a disorder before they seek medical assistance and take actual tests. When patients misdiagnose themselves it is more likely that their doctor will inaccurately diagnose them. As Mintzes asserts, “Systematic review of diagnostic accuracy in primary care estimates that 15 people are falsely diagnosed with depression for every 10 correctly diagnosed” (269). This is significant because the rate of false diagnoses has increased and advertisements are partly to blame because they have the potential to convince people they have the described illness and embody those symptoms.

3.) Check the suppressed points in your argument.  It’s often the case that we leave out full explanations of the principles we use to guide our reasoning: principles we don’t always share with others.  Look to see where these points may be unpronounced and explain them in enough detail so that someone who may not share your same values can fully understand your view.  (This is also how to consider acknowledgement and response on paragraph level: providing what others may say about your point(s) and responding to the alternative view you raise.)

4.) Consider the range of rhetorical appeals in your paper and diversify on the paragraph level, if necessary.  Look for moments where you rely heavily on a specific rhetorical strategy in the paper and see whether including others would bolster the strength of the point (ex. focusing on bringing in more data/case study material when doing more exposition, or explaining the weight of the problem for individuals involved when looking at hard research).

5.) Give your conclusion some weight.   Like introductions to longer papers, conclusions for them can be longer.  Don’t just think of the conclusion as the final paragraph of your paper.  Take some time to reiterate the significance of your thesis and explain what the reader needs to know when moving forward in life after your awesome argument.  There are various models for concluding, and I encourage you wholeheartedly to look to Dr. Coats’s post for his students on concluding essays.  Though no matter what, note that all conclusions should restate the purpose of the argument in unique language and drive home the stakes of what you have established.

Acknowledgment & Response

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of explaining warrants when necessary, it’s important to discuss acknowledging the opposition to your argument (or portions of it) and responding appropriately. We can think of this task as tackling charges of problems with the logical structure of our arguments (i.e. claims, reasons, evidence. We can refer to this as as “intrinsic soundness”). Though, much of the task with acknowledgment is spent addressing various alternatives to framing the problem the way you do, or considerations of evidence you may have overlooked (we can refer to this as “extrinsic soundness”). It’s not necessarily the case that there will be stark objections that you have to entertain—issues are very rarely black/white, yes/no. This is why it’s important to understand the nuances of your argument so you can anticipate reasonable counterarguments and respond to them. It’s not that you just pull something out of the air that someone could say in response to what you’re saying and then beat it down (this is a Straw Man fallacy). The considerations must be reasonable insofar as someone who is actually invested in the issue may actually have a problem with what you’re asserting and have good reason to take such a problem.

When imagining these kinds of considerations, it’s necessary to have your audience in mind—the stakeholders in what you’re arguing.  Thus, it’s key to think of the actual stakes they have in what you’re saying and what they will say to push back.  And research audiences are not pushovers.  It is helpful to try and put yourselves in their shoes when thinking about possible objections to you portions of your argument: What would people interested in your project say in response to what you present?  More specifically, what would the authors of your sourcework say?

Consider the following dialogue:

Kelly: Sally, you should stop eating soy because it is bad for your health.
Narrator: Sally is making the claim backed up by the one reason—soy is bad for you.
Sally: Wait, what? How is soy bad for me? What about Silken tofu smoothies? Soybean salads? I thought that soy was the health food of choice!
Kelly: Uh, yeah Sally…maybe in the 90s. But recent studies have shown that frequent soy intake can lead to an increase in risk of breast cancer because of high estrogen levels. In fact, Smirkens and Willis (2012) showed that soybeans are the most concentrated source of isoflavones in our diet, and that since isoflavones bind to estrogen receptors, they can have similar effects as estrogen. You don’t want to take this risk so you shouldn’t eat soy. Think about the isoflavones!
Narrator: Here, Kelly is using research to support her assertion that soy is bad for one’s health because of the increased risk of breast cancer.
Sally: Wait a minute… aren’t isoflavones good things? I remember reading a study conducted by Tompkins and White (2013) that showed isoflavones’ positive effects on regulating cell growth, which actually protects us against some cancers. Additionally, Blanch and Phillips (2011) showed that isoflavones have shown to moderately help cholesterol levels. So, I don’t know about all this isoflavone talk.
Narrator: Sally, not too keen on what Kelly is proposing, responds to the point by explaining other evidence supporting an alternative position on isoflavones.
Kelly: Okay, you may be right that Smirkens and Willis’s study may have been too limited—isoflavones may not be all that bad.
Narrator: Kelly is now necessarily conceding a bit given the evidence presented and the limitations of the study she references.
Kelly: Though, there are other reasons why soy is bad for you. For instance, look at processed foods like soy burgers and soy energy bars. When items such as these include the words “soy protein” on the package, it means that they are processed. As Terry and Calvin (2013) showed in their comprehensive study of the Boca “Chik’n” patty, this means that many of the original essential nutrients are stripped from the food. Eating these products only seems healthy given the soy hype–they are just empty nutrients.
Narrator: Kelly is now offering and supporting another reason that soy should not be consumed—certain soy products are bankrupt of nutrients.
Sally: Ugh! I hate empty nutrients!
Kelly: Don’t we all?

The major points here:
*You must make acknowledgements to rebuttals when making claims–nothing is perfect.
*These rebuttals come from your research–you don’t just make them up.
*Conceding to certain points does not mean that your argument is bad–it just means that you need to continue to support your point with additional reasons/evidence.

 The major major point: it’s your job to establish relevant and real acknowledgments you must make given your argument.  This demonstrates your credibility to the reader and helps establish trust, which is essential.

To help illustrate this major major point, previous wonderful UTAs wrote this sample paragraph using the language of A&R. Pay attention to the choices they made with verbs and adverbs when signaling—you will need to make the same kinds of moves when making such points.

Vegetarianism contributes to a healthier diet by eliminating from the diet the saturated fat and cholesterol found in many meat products. However, author Keegan Vegan (2013) noted that many vegetarians consume eggs for added protein, in which case they are not significantly cutting cholesterol out of their diets due to the high cholesterol content in eggs. “In just two eggs,” Vegan points out, “a vegetarian can already exceed his or her recommended daily cholesterol intake” (p. 53). While it is true that vegetarians need to watch how much egg product they are consuming, cholesterol in eggs can be eliminated rather simply. Consumers can separate the egg yolks, which contain the most cholesterol, from the egg whites and use only the egg whites. On the other hand, eliminating meat from the diet also raises the issue of losing other nutrients provided by meat. Author Laura Carnivora (2012) asserted that removing meats from the diet cuts out valuable sources of nutrients like iron and vitamin B12, of which eggs and dairy products contribute significantly less (p. 102). While meats are rich sources of many essential vitamins and nutrients, the vegetarian can obtain these nutrients through a well-researched combination of other fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Substitutions of fruits and vegetables also provide additional necessary nutrients that meat does not contain, while reducing intake of cholesterol and saturated fat at the same time. Through diligence and well-researched choices, vegetarians can make positive substitutions for protein and the vitamins and minerals found in meat while cutting out the negative components in many meat products.

The Fault in Our Reasoning

(Kinda like this)

As I have previously gabbed on about (and here and here), warrants are imperative when making arguments because they are usually where issues arise with readers: why they would disagree and reject what you’re saying. Warrants are guiding principles for our reasoning and they often go unexplained or left suppressed–which, as we have discussed, is often problematic.  Why? Because! we aren’t all committed to the same beliefs/ideologies/views/ideas/what-have-yous. (And some people will never budge with what they believe, no matter what.) What’s important to remember is that it’s not always enough for an argument to be persuasive merely based on the claim, evidence, and reasoning connection; you need to understand your audience in order to understand how much heavy lifting you need to do with your reasoning with explaining the warrants of your work.

It’s difficult (and frustrating) to understand what warrant(s) need explaining given how many warrants can be at play given a particular discussion. Many times there are competing warrants given any argument.  Situations are complex, and people vary so much with how they understand them given their thinking and interpretations of particular issues. The Key Point: Don’t assume your reader will agree with you and your principles!

NOTE: When thinking about our specific purposes for the Inquiry Project, your methodology with your sources is meant to help your reader understand what you’re bringing to the table to analyze the particular problem you have established.  Your methodology gives the reader a framework for how you’re thinking/discussing the points throughout the paper: setting up the research and support you will draw on later in the essay to help situate concepts, context, definitions, etc.

Thinking about warrants also allows us to consider faulty ones, where the flaws in our reasoning can be identified and even categorized into general errors people make in argumentation. We call these things logical fallacies, and there are many of them. One of the biggest problems with fallacious arguments is that they’re disguised as valid ones. Consider the following:

We knew if Tommy showed up to Wednesday’s foursquare practice then he was definitely going to take home the gold in Saturday’s Jam-Off. He didn’t show up, though, so he’s not going to win.

This particular fallacy, denying the antecedent, often goes overlooked: Just because Tommy doesn’t show up to practice doesn’t mean he won’t win Saturday.  (Who knows what will happen at the Jam-Off!)  It’s easier to see the problem if we change the example but keep the same form:

We knew if Tommy became a firefighter he would save the lives of others. Unfortunately, he became a heart surgeon so he will never save anyone.

Despite being filled in with different content, both examples follow the same structure and are therefore equally fallacious. This is why fallacies have names: the structures have been used so many times to warrant an identity of type, where we can look to these types to readily pick them out when committed.

Though, merely knowing the names of fallacies and identifying them in stock examples doesn’t get us very far.  (It’s almost like a parlor trick.) It’s not hard for students to identify fallacies in examples when having time to deliberate; what’s hard is to not catch yourself committing one (or many) when it matters. This is (in part) why I suggest that, for our purposes with the Inquiry Project, we shouldn’t worry about specific fallacies over thinking of their general nature and the kinds of things they are doing: whether they are manipulating the structure of an argument, someone’s character, or the audience’s emotions.

Framing Claims

courtesy of flickr.com

courtesy of flickr.com

As I have mentioned previously, we are concerned with generating conceptual, interpretive questions and claims in this class, all of which go beyond binary pro/con, yes/no, good/bad thought.  In getting there, we need to ensure that our main claims–our theses–are doing meaningful, interpretive work. Such theses should be new contributions to how we understand the world and that provoke audience interests and questions.  (At the very least, your main claim needs to be debatable, supportable, and significant to your audience.  See Dr. Coats’s post on descriptions for the claim criteria we have discussed in class.)  If you succeed in making a strong thesis with equally strong support, people will still disagree with you.  Though, disagreement, rather than mere dismissal, is a mark of success.  It means that you are contributing to the world and making it a better place through discussing new interpretations of data.  You’re so good!

The best way to set up your argument and demonstrate why your thesis is compelling—and that it’s worth it for the reader to continue reading to find out why he/she should believe it—is to first establish a framework in the introduction of your project for the problem you wish to explore and that your argument will give response.  Thus, it’s prudent to establish these three components up front:

  1. A statement regarding what is typically understood about your topic, including necessary background and context (the status quo).
  2. A statement regarding what you have come to believe is problematic with this. typical understanding (the problem), including why this problem is significant to the reader.
  3. Your thesis, encapsulating what you think people should embrace instead of the status quo.

Consider this paragraph (Note: I made most of this stuff up):

Most scholars have agreed that, prior to the late 19th century, throwing playing cards (often referred to as “scaling”) was a low-form spectacle: generally limited to tricks used by amateur magicians and intoxicated gamblers.  It was only until French magician Alexander Herrmman’s “flying card” act in 1890 that card throwing was accepted as a veritable skill. [1]  However, this reading of history undermines the significance of the work of conjurer Holtz Bellini to the art of card throwing. [2]  Though not well known in popular circles of performers, his card routines incorporated insurmountable speed and accuracy.   Further journal evidence was found in an 1846 issue of The Monthly Ruse which revealed a promotion of Bellini’s work, indicating that he would be “the first conjurer ever to successfully saw a woman in half with playing cards alone” (33).  Moreover, in “52 Reasons to Reconsider Messing with a Magician,”Calvin Tinks and Laverne Copp report that Bellini’s throwing abilities were reminiscent of 17th century martial arts, with particular similarities to the Dragon Scale Dance technique of instrument manipulation (803). [3]  If we overlook Bellini’s career, particularly his work touring in antebellum America, we jeopardize our understanding of the lineage of card throwing and how this history has influenced contemporary performers. [4]   By looking deeper into his methods and acts during the mid-ninetieth century, we can see that Bellini’s work serves an as integral link between old forms of object manipulation and new forms of scaling. [5]

1. Here is the status quo, establishing the general context of the issue and typical understanding of the history.
2. This begins the turn with the problem, where the common understanding of the the history is destabilized by pointing to what is missing given the common conception leaving out the importance of Bellini.
3. This serves as further evidence to bolster support for the problem actually existing.
4. Here is the significance of the problem, urging what is at stake for the reader by accepting the common conception of the issue.
5. The thesis.  This is what the rest of the paper goes on to show is true to replace the current status quo.  Notice that this is not a claim picking a side of an issue, but one that calls for a different and better understanding of it.

For longer projects,  it takes longer to establish these major parts of the introduction.  But no matter what, by the end of your introduction, your audience should have a clear understanding of the problem at hand, why it’s necessary to care about this problem, and the precise and significant thesis you will support and that responds to the problem at hand.

When looking to the thesis itself, understand that you should concern yourself with something that will change the way people think about the particular problem you establish rather than something like a call to action or a policy change.  There is an important distinction between practical (i.e. tangible) problems and conceptual (i.e. interpretive) ones.  Practical problems deal with applying understandings we already have.  However, before we can do anything in the world in terms of action, we need to have grounded and sophisticated understandings of the issue.  (Otherwise we would just be running around the world like jerks asserting stuff with no tenable grasp as to why action should happen.) Providing these sophisticated understandings–supporting conceptual claims–is what we concern ourselves with when addressing our particular audiences.

Consider the differences between these two claims:

Claim 1: We need to elect more Green Party candidates into office.
Claim 2: Grassroots democracy initiatives are significantly overlooked and undervalued given their potential for community-building and prosperity.

The first is a practical claim telling us what should happen in the world; it necessarily calls for an action with voters, otherwise it won’t work.  The second is a interpretive claim telling us how we should understand a particular concept (grassroots democracy) and why it’s so significant to our lives. Although it may seems like the first claim is more desirable, it’s not nearly as sophisticated or precise as the second.  Moreover, it doesn’t really get to the significance of the issue at hand.  Of course, a paper written to support such a claim could include such justification, but it would take a great deal of work and would still run the risk of being broad and nebulous.  The second claim is specific and has the significance built in for us.  Also, it’s important to note that, in order to buy claim 1, you need to have an understanding of something like claim 2, which most people clearly don’t have.  This is not to say that the answer to your conceptual problem shouldn’t ever yield potential for practical significance—doing things in the world to better it is great!  Though, asserting and supporting conceptual claims is where our work here lies: trying to get our audiences to think of specific phenomena in the world in a different, better way.  If you suspect that your thesis is too practical, try to find a way to take the action you want to promote and move it into the background so that it becomes personal justification for your interpretation of your primary text.

Here are some other practical claims.  How can we make them conceptual ones?

1.Parents should have the right to choose whether their children get vaccinations.
2. Emojis should be used as evidence in court cases dealing with communication via texts.
3. Social matchmaking apps such as Tinder should enforce background checks for their users.

Digging Deep with Arguments

Before getting into argument components and all their wonder, here is a quick note about analysis:

Whenever we look to study anything, need to have very specific data to analyze.  Consider the following things: “ Hollywood horror film,” “office memo for a large company,” “store sign.”  Though these are more specific than their larger counterparts—movies, office documents, signs—they are still fairly abstract.  These are what we can refer to as “types” of things, rather than specific “tokens.”  We can make “store sign” more specific by looking at particular film—say, the Apple Store sign.  This gets us closer to a token of the type “store sign.”  Though, it could get even more precise.  A token could be the Apple Store sign at Short Pump Mall.  When using primary texts for our purposes with the CAP, we want something closer to a token than a type.

Consider this range of specificity:

Very Abstract: Social Media
Abstract: Facebook
Concrete: My Facebook Profile Page
Very Concrete: A full screenshot of my Facebook page from today, or, my status updates from the past week.

We need very concrete texts because they afford us actual hard data we can use pull out for analysis: looking at everything on the page and picking out salient parts for evidence given your angle/perspective.

OKAY.  Now we’re ready for the argument talk.

Simply put, an argument is a set of reasons (we can also call them premises) working together to show why a thesis is true.   People discuss ‘argument’ differently given particular disciplines. Philosophers, for instance, typically break arguments down formally into premises and conclusions. Consider the following example:

Premise 1: If the building is burning down, then we should run like hell.
Premise 2: The building is burning down!
Therefore, we should run like hell!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is an example of a formal argument where the conclusion necessarily follows from the premises—meaning, if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true. Though we can break arguments down this way, we typically don’t make formal arguments in common conversation and writing. Rather, we typically use informal ways of discussing arguments like enthymemes (or brief arguments). Here is the same argument as an enthymeme:

We should run like hell (claim) because the building is burning down! (reason)

From here we get to the elements of argument we have discussed so far in class:
Claim: The point you’re trying to prove true
Evidence: The data you interpret to support your reasoning
Reasoning: Your explanation of how/why the evidence supports the claim

We can think of these as the logical elements (logos) of argument. Though, as we began discussing today, it’s not always enough for an argument to be persuasive merely based on the strength of the writer’s claim, evidence, and reasoning.  Arguments are rhetorical endeavors; you must think about the specific audience you are addressing and how an argument is appropriately tailored given this audience.  Thus, it’s important to understand the moments in your argument where you need to spend time explaining your assumptions and beliefs/principles you’re invoking to frame and support your work.  Otherwise, your argument will have limited success.

From here, we get the importance of these:
Warrants: The belief/principles) connecting one’s reasoning to his/her claim.

Warrants are imperative when making arguments and are usually where issues arise with readers: why they would disagree and potentially oppose what you’re selling.  They are also, at times, tricky to understand.  Warrants involve the relevance of a reason, and the relevance is not something where everyone will necessarily agree.  They are principles that are often based in our societal commitments–and we know we all don’t share the same commitments.  Similarly, we won’t all agree on the truth of all warrants.

In certain instances, we don’t have to explain our warrants when making arguments.  Consider the brief building burning argument above. The warrant connecting the reason to the claim would be something like, we don’t want to die. You probably wouldn’t even need to go far past “The burning is building!” to convince someone to run.  However, there isn’t much work being done here.  More complex arguments–even slightly more complex arguments–need explicit warrants.  Consider my example in class today with drinking coffee. The conversation could go like this:

You: Ryan, you shouldn’t be drinking coffee right now (claim) because you’re sick (reason).
Me: Why does being sick matter with drinking coffee?
You: Coffee dehydrates you (evidence) and will deplete your body causing you to stay sick longer. Since you want to get better as quickly as possible (warrant), you should cut the coffee for now.
Me: Ah, fair enough. But I need coffee to get through the day. Have you seen me without it? No, because it’s the worst! I become this terrible monster, like a Gorg. Since no one wants to be around a terrible Gorg Ryan (warrant), I’m going to take the hit, enjoy my drink, and just suck down more Emergen-C.

(Note: It’s really not that bad. I’ve cut consumption quite a bit)

Though you may make a valuable case why I shouldn’t drink coffee while I’m sick and want to get better—and I do—it doesn’t trump my commitment to wanting to drink and be merry. This is why the logical elements of argument are not enough on their own: audience matters. The point: many warrants can be at play and compete at any given time. Because of this, you need to make sure that they are relevant, specific, and superior to other warrants.

Core concepts from readings act as warrants for your own work.  You will not use them as mere evidence for your argument (like you would reports of data, for instance).  Rather, you will take the claims/assertions of the authors we have discussed and apply them to your primary text: resting on what they have said for support.  When looking to core readings (and any source you may use ever in life) for warrants to utilize for your own work, look for argumentative moments where the authors are positing a view rather than just providing a description of something.

Signals for Warrants


courtesy of flickr.com

When incorporating the core readings into your work, you must introduce the author.  You do this by using signal phrasesSignal phrases are ways to introduce your reader to the ideas of others in a clear way. The way they look varies given particular style guides (APA, MLA, etc.), though they serve the same purpose. They are also necessary in academic writing.

Here are some examples with the signaling verb in bold.

*As economist Thomas Puddledunk suggests, “The working class will always create a cyclical and systematic rise and fall of equitable resources” (15).
*World renowned Slamball sports columnist Jack Freely states, “In any game, both teams want to win. What matters is who does” (2).
* Psuedopsychologist Robert Colbert claims, “Access to the mind only begins with the acknowledgment of the self while the self is aligned with the stars” (43).
*As postmodern philosopher Michel Mandermeer argues, “A prelapsarian reading of David Mamet’s About Last Night… both denies a Derridean ontology and negates a necessary epistemological contradiction of the body” (71).

Of course, there are many verbs you can use in phrases. The choice, though, is not arbitrary: use the verb you find best fits with how the author discusses the relevant idea.

When using signal phrases, also understand that you must cite all of the information coming from the source, paraphrased or not. This looks different given the style you use. For instance, APA privileges the year of publication as well as where as where the information comes from in the text, but is in past tense and typically does not include many direct quotations.

APA Example: Economist Thomas Puddledunk (2015) suggested that “the working class will always create a cyclical and systematic rise and fall of equitable resources” (p. 3).

No matter what, you need to include the page number (or the closest approximation, if there are no page numbers) for where you retrieved the information.

No Page Number Example: World renowned Slamball sports columnist Jack Freely (2015) stated, “In any game, both teams want to win. What matters is who does” (para 4).

Here you would have to count the paragraphs to see where the quotation came from. This way, your reader understands exactly where to look for this information if he/she wanted to check the original source.

The idea is to get as much mileage out of your sources as possible. The major points you use from the sources will act as warrants—not evidence—for your work.  It’s not incredibly important that you use the language of “warrant” so much as it is important that you understand how the sources are used.  You’re not relying on them for facts, but resting on the author’s work to bolster your own.  They act as principles to establish your own work–you don’t need to prove they’re true.  (Another way of putting this is that they act as conditionals for your assertions: something like, “If Shirky is right, then it seems that…”).

Here is a breakdown of using the core readings: taking the direct passage from a source, paraphrasing the passage (i.e. putting it into your own words), using a signal phrase with the paraphrased passage, and then finally incorporating this into a body paragraph of a paper. (Note: the final segment is an outline of each element working in the argumentative paragraph structure.)

  1. Direct Quotation from Shirky:

“In a world where a dozen editors, all belonging to the same professional class, can decide whether to run or kill a national story, information that might be of interest to the general public may not be published not because of a conspiracy but because the editors have a professional bias that is not aligned by the similar challenges they face and by the similar tools they use to approach those challenges. The mass amateurization of publishing undoes the limitations inherent in having a small number of traditional press outlets” (65).

  1. This Paraphrased by me:

The Internet allows us to both readily and easily seek out news we understand is not necessarily vetted and controlled by institutions.

  1. Incorporated with Signal Phrase:
    As Clay Shirky suggests,the Internet allows us to both readily and easily seek out news we understand is not necessarily vetted and controlled by institutions (65).
  1. This used as a Warrant in Critical Analysis:

Major network television news anchors have become archaic resources of information. As Clay Shirky suggests, the Internet allows us to both readily and easily seek out news we understand is not necessarily vetted and controlled by large companies and institutions (65). Shows such as Dateline and Meet the Press, though certainly still viewed by many, do not garner the same amount of attention they did in previous decades. We can now both select the kinds of news we would like to access from an array of like-minded individuals from various online platforms while also receiving such news with swift delivery. Now that we can access reports and data analyses at any given moment in a day, relying on delegated time slots for broadcast journalism is both unnecessary and arbitrary.

  1. This Paragraph Broken Down in Argument Elements

Major network television news anchors have become archaic resources of information.[1] As Clay Shirky suggests, the Internet allows us to both readily and easily seek out news we understand is not necessarily vetted and controlled by large companies and institutions (65).[2] Shows such as Dateline and Meet the Press, though certainly still viewed by many, do not garner the same amount of attention they did in previous decades. We can now both select the kinds of news we would like to access from an array of like-minded individuals from various online platforms while also receiving such news with swift delivery.[3] Now that we can access reports and data analyses at any given moment in a day,[4] relying on delegated time slots for broadcast journalism is both unnecessary and arbitrary.[5]

Here is another example my super brilliant and wonderful UTAs from last semester made using Malcolm Gladwell. A bit of background for their analysis: Caine’s Arcade is a story in which a 9 year-old boy, Caine, set up a makeshift cardboard Arcade. Although overlooked by many, one person took notice to Caine’s Arcade and made a documentary about it, making Caine Internet famous, with around a hundred customers per week, setting up a scholarship fund, and starting a cardboard “diy” empire across the country.)

(The “thesis” we are exploring is do-it-yourself (DIY) culture- how the shift has occurred from interest in mass production to DIY solutions, with an emphasis on communication as can be seen through Caine’s Arcade)

While there are a plethora of creative children across the country, it is rare for them to achieve the same amount of success as Caine for their innovation; the question becomes why this particular young person has become so successful with his DIY empire. Caine’s success hinges on one particular person, documentarian Nirvan Mullick, who served as a catalyst for his popularity. Gladwell explores this phenomenon of a singular person serving as agents for particular movements; and further asserts that “a very small number of people are linked to everyone else in a few steps, and the rest of us are linked to the world through those special few” (37). Mullick is one of these individuals, as he was the person who took Caine’s story to a widely accessible platform. Mullick fits into Gladwell’s classification of a “Connector,” people who have a broad and functioning network with many other individuals in different social spheres (48). Because of Mullick’s desire to share Caine’s work, and his social connections that allowed Caine’s cardboard sentiment to spread; his cardboard masterpieces were the inspiration for the materialization of DIY dreams of thousands of others.

[1] Sub-claim (i.e. topic sentence)

[2] Warrant

[3] Evidence

[4] Warrant

[5] Reasoning

The Adventure of Inquiry!


Here’s a claim: We should think of any phenomenon as a potential locus for a Choose Your Own Adventure of inquiry.  (I thank Edward Packard in part for this view, and for filling my childhood with many hours of gaming and conditionals way before I knew how much I would continue to love gaming and conditionals as an adult.  Particularly with this book.)  As I’ve mentioned before, we can have many interpretations of any datum or data to lead us to many distinct, rich questions regarding how to better understand the material.   Issues are rarely black and white; they depend on us as thinkers to interpret and explain what’s going on with them in order for everyone to better understand their significance.  What’s important to understand is how we are interpreting data: what our personal acquaintances with them afford us and how we are framing everything.  We must establish boundaries for interests (how we think about things and topics in specific disciplines, for instance), but these boundaries are prudent–they help us hone our thoughts and allow for deeper analyses.  The real issue is trying to establish the boundaries we can set for ourselves given the subject of inquiry and the adventure on which we wish to embark.

Here’s a very short game we can play as a model for the potential of adventurous inquiry:

Player 1 Begin

Intro to Analysis

from commons.wikimedia.org

from commons.wikimedia.org

At the heart of it, UNIV 200 is a process course where all of the work throughout builds in some way as a sustained, researched, argumentative response to a conceptual problem you establish. This goes beyond how some people may think about argument–as mere disagreement, taking a stance or a position, or binary debate.  What we are striving for in this class, much like what you will strive for whenever you need to make an argument, is much more sophisticated, complex, and important to the your field of discovery.  Isn’t that cool?

Whenever we engage in a process of inquiry, we must figure out what we specifically want to study and how we will approach the phenomenon, or primary text.  “Primary text” here means the first-hand relationship between the author of the text and the data that is being provided.  That means you must analyze the data before they will be useful to you.  These are objects, images, videos, websites, GIFs, legal documents, songs, poems, speeches, and many, many more things. So for right now!  here’s a bit about primary texts and the rationale for their importance when discussing analysis.

It’s no crazy secret that people view common material differently given who they are and their interests.  Academic pursuits are no different. For instance, philosophers and psychologists often look at the same topics and texts but ask different questions about them.  Consider the topic of lying.  Many psychologists are interested in lying, though they care about things like cognitive considerations (i.e. what’s going on in the brain when we lie?) and frequency (how often do we lie?); many philosophers are interested in lying, though they ask questions about the nature of lying (what exactly is a lie?) or the ethical implications lying may have (when is it right to life, if ever?).  It’s not that the philosophers have it right and the psychologists don’t, but that different disciplines look at things differently than others given particular interests.

Personal experience, or knowing more about the history and origins of a text, can also help bolster analyses.  Consider the top reddit post here of the image of the pug.

Given these data–the image itself, how it is ranked on reddit, the picture’s subject line, etc–we can ask various questions about reddit itself and how it operates (e.g. what does it take to get popular on reddit if such an adorable picture only has four points (or “karma”)?), or other questions about the picture itself (animal rights? people’s fascination with animal costumes for their pets?).  Though, my experience with the image is distinct given that I know a lot more about the particular instance and animal—the pug is Emma, my loving companion.  I can discuss the text in a differently than anyone else: I am acquainted with the data in a unique way.  Unless I’m not, which would be weird.

A Key Point: primary texts can be interpreted many ways, and the evidence to support the point can range greatly.  Consider the RVA sticker.  As Richmonders, we know what this is, have seen it frequently in various instances, and perhaps even own one.  Yet, how we understand what the sticker represents varies.  We interpret the sticker differently—or similarly—for many reasons: our views of Richmond, our understanding of where the sticker is located, how we get one, what it looks like, how it can be manipulated, the variations of the sticker, etc.  For instance, one could make a case for the the sticker representing brilliant unity within the city.  For one, they are free, so anyone who wants to have one can, but they’re also everywhere.  Additionally, the sticker itself provides a space (the white of it all) to fill in with whatever you want, demonstrating personal preference of whatever you’d like. This helps show that while we are all a part of a dynamic community, we are nevertheless diverse individuals, and very much like the sticker which allows for individual tastes and views, Richmond also welcomes them.  (Note: all of this is based on our experience of Richmond and the sticker.)

Though, not everyone will interpret the sticker this way.  One could see the sticker representing growing gentrification within the city.  Here’s how that argument could go:  The white of the sticker represents the increasing population inhabiting neighborhoods once deemed unsuitable for many occupants and have been predominately and historically black.  True, there may be a lot of “empty space” to fill and make new and unique, but it can only be accessed by certain dominant groups.  This growing space represents the push to revamp neighborhoods like Jackson Ward, Church Hill, Carver, and Randolph for the past decade (and longer, really).  These communities are disrupted by dominant groups inhabiting the revamped, developed neighborhoods while original members are pushed out.  The thin black outline of the sticker represents this: subordinate citizens pushed outside of the city, further and further to the outskirts.

Of course, this is just one way of interpreting the sticker.  The point is that there are many ways to interpret texts.  However, this does not mean that texts can be interpreted in any way.  One must make a compelling case with a strong argument.

Personal experience can be useful,  but remember that everyone can analyze any text if they have provided themselves with a suitable context for their interpretations.  The more precise you can get with primary text also adds to the richness of the analysis and discussion.  Also remember that  the creator of the primary text did not necessarily intend to create any particular argument, nor pinpoint exactly how you think the primary text should be understood.  For instance, when we watch this video

we can safely assume that the Dancing Guy or anyone a part of dancing along the way did not start dancing to demonstrate the importance of the “First Follower” as Derek Sivers, the person who is doing the analyzing, interprets from the video. Though, he argues a convincing case for how the formation of the group dance demonstrates the importance of the “First Follower” theory, and does so only using the evidence from the primary text (the video). But we don’t have to agree with his interpretation if we have good reasons to doubt its soundness, and we can think interpret in many different ways beyond what has been provided.  We want to concentrate our own interpretations of the primary text given what we see and, because of what we see (i.e. the evidence itself), how we think the text should be understood.

I leave you with three important parameters Dr. Coats has established for primary textual analysis:

  1. Anything can be a suitable object of academic study, given certain boundaries. But not every object will necessarily lead to an interesting claim.
  2. Anything can be a source of meaning, but that meaning is dependent on the observer and the context (disciplinary / methodological lens, other critical warrants) of his or her observation.
  3. Knowing more about the origins, history, and value of a text can lead to richer interpretations, but everyone can analyze any text if they have provided themselves with a suitable rationale for their analyses.