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.