Presented Tuesday, March 29, 2016
View the webinar recording
Last updated 4/4/2016
Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint slide “Housekeeping” in the large central panel. The slide shows a graphic with information that Beth discusses. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side.
Audio: Beth: Good evening, everyone, and thank you so much for joining us. Sorry for the brief pause there. My name is Beth Nastachowski, I am the manager of multimedia writing instruction at the Writing Center. And I'm going to get the webinar started by going over a couple of quick housekeeping notes before I hand it over to our presenter for today, Melissa.
So, if you're new to webinars or you haven't been to a Writing Center webinar in quite a while, this would be useful information to take note of here. The first is that I am recording this session. So, if you have to leave for any reason, or if you'd ever like to come back and review the webinar, review what Melissa talks about today, you're more than welcome to do so. We have the webinar archive which holds the recordings for all of our webinars, all of our webinars are recorded, so you can always access them on our webinar archive. And I'll be sure to post this recording by tomorrow evening.
Also note that there's lots of ways for you to interact with us today. I know that Melissa has put together a couple polls, chats, and we have some exercises, as well as that quiz that we had open in the lobby, and we're going to have another quiz at the end of this session as well. So I encourage you to interact with us as much as possible. The more you interact and the more you engage with our discussion today, the more you will be able to take away from this webinar. Also note that we have a Q&A box on the right side of the screen, so if you have any questions or comments throughout the webinar, please make sure to let me know in that Q&A box, I'd be happy to help. And I'll answer you as soon as I can.
Also note that if you have any technical issues, please do let me know in that Q&A box, I'll try to help as much as I can, but also note that there's a technical help button, called help at the top right-hand corner of your screen, and that is a great place to go if you have any significant technical issues. And then the last thing to note here that I skipped over was that if you have any questions, particularly near the end of the webinar and we don't get to answering them or if you think of questions after the webinar, please make sure to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we're always happy to help via that address as well. With that, I will hand it over to you, Melissa.
Visual: The slide changes to show the title of the webinar and Melissa’s name and position in the Writing Center.
Audio: Melissa: Thank you, Beth. Hi, everybody. My name is Melissa Sharpe, I am a writing instructor here at the Walden University Writing Center and maybe you have worked with me in the past if you've ever used myPASS system for paper appointment. If you haven't, it's definitely a service worth checking out. So today we are going to take a look at how to build and organize academic arguments. And this is a very important topic because most of the academic writing you're doing is probably argumentative in nature. Especially at the graduate level but even at the undergraduate level, we tend to create writing that is not just presenting facts but that is forming opinions, analyzing, assessing, drawing conclusions, and all of that falls under this category of argumentative writing so that is what our focus is going to be today.
Visual: The slide changes to show the agenda for the webinar. There are four text boxes superimposed over a large arrow that points to the right. The boxes are labelled “Argument,” “Evidence,” “Organization,” and “Revising.” Melissa discusses each of these in depth.
Audio: Specifically we're going to look at a few pieces that go into creating arguments. So we're going to define what argument is. We're going to look at how you support argument, both through choosing powerful evidence and organizing in a logical way and you can also look at how you can revise an argument to make sure that what you have created at the end is what you set out to do way at the beginning when you first came up with that opinion.
Visual: The slide “Arguments” opens and the top left corner has a silhouette of a man and a women in what appears to be a heated discussion. Three bullet points define the word and the APA manual is referenced in a text box at the bottom.
Audio: So we're going to get started right here with what is an argument. Well, there's lots of definitions of argument. And they range from the very academic, creating this, you know, multipage paper that's an argument to having a fight with somebody, disagreeing about a topic. But the argument that we're talking about today is that highly academic definition. So, you're going to need to have supporting evidence, you're going to need to have the purpose set out that you are there to persuade your reader. Some types of writing that may seem argumentative might present both sides and let the reader draw the conclusion or choose a side at the end. But a lot of argumentative writing is also the writer themselves has an opinion that they're trying to convince the reared, kind of get on board with them. It also needs to be a coherent series of statements that leads us from point to point to that end conclusion.
The argument that during during the argumentative writing that we're going to be looking at today starts with the thesis that states the opinion but the argument also has to end up leading back to that thesis at the very end. And we'll look at that more as we talk about organization. It's also important to note town here at the bottom of the screen, in A.P.A. style, arguments need to be presented in a professional, noncombative manner. So even though you're trying to share an opinion and show that it is the best opinion to have on a topic and you are trying to persuade people to agree with you, we have to do so in a professional way. We don't want to come across as sounding angry or belittling the other side.
Visual: PowerPoint slide #5 opens with the poll question: “What is argumentation?” The Q&A and captioning pods move side-by-side to the top right and a moderate sized pod for the poll options opens below them. Melissa reads the options for the poll.
Audio: All right. We're going to take a poll right now. And I want you to look at those sample statements and choose which one is argumentative. As you select, I will read them out loud for us. So, first choice, a paper describing to readers what happens physiologically to a person's brain when that person eats chocolate. Or the second option, a paper persuading readers that chocolate, in moderation, has health benefits. So, go ahead and pick out of those two which of those essays is argumentative.
If you take a look at the results that have come in, you will see that most of the people in this room have chosen the option that says a paper persuading readers that chocolate, in moderation, has health benefits. And that is the argumentative topic for a paper. And the reason for that is, well, first, it's persuading. So we have that keyword which will help us, which means you're trying to convince people to agree with you. But we can also tell that its argumentative because it's presenting an opinion, which is that chocolate has health benefits.
In the first paper, a paper that describes what happens physiologically to a brain when a person eats chocolate would be repeating information from research. Not really forwarding an opinion. So, when we think about arguments, we want to make sure that we're starting off with an opinion on a topic and that means that it has to be something that a person could potentially disagree with. We couldn't disagree with research about the brain, but we could disagree with how much chocolate has health benefits or if it has health benefits at all.
Visual: The layout reverts to the previous setup with a large question mark in the place of the PowerPoint slide.
Audio: Before we dig deeper into looking at arguments, specifically how to craft an argumentative thesis, I want to pause to ask Beth if any questions have come in regarding how we define arguments.
Audio: Beth: You know, I don't see any questions so far. So I think we're good to keep moving'.
Audio: Melissa: Okay, great.
Visual: PowerPoint slide #7 opens “Establishing the Argument for a Paper: Reasons” It is followed by three bullet points that Melissa discusses.
Audio: So, if you are tasked with writing an argumentative essay, you are going to have to, well, come up with that argument for the paper. And once you have your opinion for your paper, you may feel like you are kind of stuck with where to go in presenting that argument. And, so, I always tell my students to think of their argument in terms of needing reasons. It needs reasons why you feel that way.
We're going to look at a couple sample arguments throughout this webinar and one of those is going to be about childhood obesity. So, if I'm writing about childhood obesity and I've decided I'm going to support the opinion that childhood obesity is bad, which it does not sound very professional in its wording, but this is a work in progress, so it's fine, if I am on the side that childhood obesity is bad, I'm readers are going want to to know why. So reasons answer the question why. Oops once you create the opinion that you want the paper to forward, you need to come up with reasons why. This is going to support your argument and when we get to organization, it will also help you organize it. Because you can only talk about one reason at a time. Creating reasons can also help you define the length of your paper. If you have two really general reasons, it's going to be a very large paper because there's a lot to cover, but if you have two specific reasons, that is a shorter assignment.
Visual: PowerPoint slide #8 opens with a tree graphic showing how the argument connects to the reasons. The text box at the top of the graphic shows the opinion and the two text boxes that are connected to the opinion show the reasons. Melissa discusses the graphic.
Audio: So here's my opinion. Childhood obesity is bad. And I have two reasons. The first is that there's negative effects on health. And my second reason is there's negative effects on academics. Now my paper has a little bit of focus in terms of the direction that it's going to go. And I can use these reasons to create a thesis eventually.
Visual: Slide #9 opens “Establishing the Argument for a paper: Thesis Statements” and has three bullet points with details that Melissa discusses.
Audio: So, the thesis is that all-important statement that appears at the end or near the end of your introduction and it acts as a road map so that the reader knows what you're going to be proving in a paper. If I ended my introduction with the statement that just said childhood obesity is bad, you would know what the paper is about, but it doesn't really give you as a reader any direction as to what's going to happen and even if you're the writer of that paper, you might get lost along the way and end up including too much information. But if you have your two reasons, that it is harmful to health and academics, the reader and yourself as the writer know where that paper is going to go. So stating your reasons in your thesis statement can be a wonderful tool.
Visual: Slide #10 opens “Tips for your Thesis” and has three questions for the writer to address that Melissa discusses.
Audio: Now, an argumentative thesis statement has to pass a few tests. And the first one is that the thesis has to be an opinion, which means someone has to disagree with it. And I want to add the caveat that, you know, a sane person has to be able to disagree with it because it is possible to state the opposite of pretty much anything, but you want to make sure that your thesis statement, a person could holy the opposite opinion. So, for my thesis of childhood obesity being bad, because of the effects on health and academics, somebody could flat out disagree with the whole thing and say that childhood obesity isn't as bad as we make it out to be or they could say that it isn't obesity that has effects on academics, it's something else. So that thesis statement is argumentative because it leaves room for a person to disagree with me. You also want to make sure when you look at your thesis is that it's based on evidence. So, when you are in the research phase of writing your paper, you want to make sure that you have the evidence to back up what it is you're saying.
It's very tempting maybe to create an initial argument that's based on gut feeling or personal opinion or personal morals. But you have to be able to support your argument with evidence. So, you have to make sure that that research is there to back you up. And this reminds me of an appointment I had with somebody once who, they were struggling because they said they were just out of evidence to support their opinion. They couldn't find enough out there. And my suggestion was, well, maybe it's time to rethink the opinion based on the evidence that you have.
You also want to make sure that your thesis is narrow enough that you can write about it in depth. It's better to dig, really really deep into just a few subpoints instead of looking at everything related to a topic briefly. It's definitely better to dig deep than to kind of glaze over everything related to a topic.
Visual: Slide #11 opens “Topics versus Theses” and shows a comparison chart with topic on one side and Thesis on the other. Melissa discusses these.
Audio: When we're talking about thesis statements, it's important to know that there is a difference between the topic of a paper and the thesis statement itself. The topic is the subject of the paper. So, the subject of my hypothetical paper is childhood obesity. That's the topic. That's the subject. But my thesis statement is my argument or my opinion. And here's a much more lovely-worded version. Childhood obesity negatively affects children's overall health as well as their academic achievement.
Now, in my introduction, I would rather have that as my thesis statement because it's argumentative and it's sharing that -- the specific direction in which I will take the essay. If I were only to take the topic, like this, my paper will discuss childhood obesity and how childhood obesity is affecting children, you don't know what my opinion is, you don't know what the argument or the side that I'm taking. That's more of a, like, discovery essay or maybe even a look at what research has to say on the topic. It's not argumentative. You need to be able to tell the writer's opinion from the thesis statement.
Visual: Slide #12 opens with a poll question “Which is the strongest thesis?” The layout shifts so that the PowerPoint slide is slightly smaller, the Q&A and captioning pods shift side-by-side to the top right, and the poll pod opens below them with five options that Melissa reads aloud.
Audio: We're going take a poll here. So that you can look at some sample thesis statements and let us know which one you think is the strongest. I'm going to read through these five options as you make your choice. Many companies are using gamification techniques. The next option, how are companies using gamification to increase benefit employers and employees? Option three, this paper will discuss how companies are using gamification techniques to benefit employers and employees. Option four, this paper will explore the question of how companies are using gamification to benefit employers and employees. And option five, gamification in the workplace has several benefits to employers and employees. Which is the strongest argumentative thesis?
I can see from my results that most people have chosen that last thesis statement. And I'm going to have to agree. That's the strongest argumentative thesis because it has an opinion. Remember, a strong argumentative thesis will share an opinion and it will be possible for somebody to disagree. So, if I choose for my argumentative thesis, gamification in the workplace has several benefits to employers and employees, it would be possible for somebody to say that gamification does not have benefits. You could disagree with that statement. Or you could even say that it has benefits only for the employees, not for the employers. Even that is a disagreement. It's just a part of the argument that you can disagree with, but that still counts.
I see that initially some people had voted for the question, although there was I think a few changes there, for some reason I thought the question had more in the beginning, and that question is one that could lead you to the argumentative thesis if you were using that as a research question in your prewriting. But we wouldn't want to see that appear as an argumentative thesis because it is asking a question. And the thesis should, instead, answer the question. Now, some of these other points, while they may not make for argumentative thesis, they are things that would appear in the essay because we need to know how it's being used in order to then talk about what the benefit is. At this point, I'm going to stop and ask Beth if any questions regarding thesis statements have come in so that I can answer those for you before we move on to looking at evidence.
Visual: The layout shifts to the previous setup with the Q&A, captioning and files pods stacked on the right. The PowerPoint slide opens to a question mark as they discuss participant questions.
Audio: Beth: Thanks so much, Melissa. I wondered if you could talk a little bit about whether a thesis statement needs a citation with it? That was one question we had.
Audio: Melissa: Yes. So, a thesis statement should present what your idea, your focus, your argument is for the paper that follows. Because of that, we would not expect to see a citation at the end of it. Even though your opinion is based on research, the thesis itself is not a paraphrase or summary of the research. It's a conclusion drawn from it. Hopefully that makes sense. So, all the research you include that supports your thesis when you summarize, paraphrase and quote that in the paper cite that, but the thesis itself is from your brain as the writer, it's your conclusion, your thought, and we do not need to see a citation there because it is from you, the writer.
Audio: Beth: Fantastic. That's great, Melissa. One other question was about the length of a thesis statement. Could you talk about whether a thesis statement should be -- I guess how many sentences they should be and kind of how you make that determination?
Audio: Melissa: Well, the first thing to do is to always check assignment instructions in case your instructor has specified the length of a thesis or has given a sample thesis that you should model yours off of. You are -- we are always writing for audiences, and in academics, a lot of times that audience is our instructor. So we need to make sure we're giving that specific instructor what he or she is looking for. In general, my advice for thesis statements, I prefer a one-sentence thesis that states the topic, the opinion, and then previews the major points. However, sometimes I see two-sentence thesis statements that I think are excellent as two sentences, and a distinguished reader can tell what a thesis is when it hits. However, if your thesis statement is half of a page, then it might be time to scale that back into something that's easily identifiable. And related to that, a thesis statement does need to be directly stated. It has to be a sentence that you could touch on the screen or on the paper. It can't be something that is implied. We need to have a thesis that is directly stated.
Audio: Beth: Fantastic. Thanks, Melissa, I think that's all we have for right now.
Audio: Melissa: Okay, great, thank you, Beth. All right.
Visual: The next slide opens “Evidence” opens and pictures a funnel with types of sources written in circles within the funnel. An arrow points out of the bottom of the funnel and is labelled “Use evidence to persuade your readers.”
Audio: So once you have that argumentative thesis, you are able to move on and start crafting your entire paper, developing and supporting that argument. And the key to developing and supporting your argument is to have really good stuff backing it up. And that's what we call evidence. And the evidence is used to persuade your readers and evidence we collect from our sources when we are in that research phase.
So you're going to see articles from your peer-reviewed journals. This is where reading you've done in books will come in, scholarly websites, C.D.C. reports, all of these things are evidence. It's the "stuff" that backs up your opinion. Even if you have reasons why childhood obesity is bad, I could say that it negatively affects health, you as my reader will say, okay, sure, but prove it to me. So the evidence is there to prove it to the reader. This is what really is going to persuade them.
Visual: The next slide, #15, opens and continues the tree graphic from earlier. Below each reason is an example of evidence that Melissa discusses.
Audio: So here is -- I guess it was a graphic organizer for my hypothetical paper. And you'll see there's a lot more boxes on there now. And down at the very bottom row is all the evidence. The research I've conducted, the case studies I found, some expert testimony, statistics, it's all down there. And that evidence is supporting and holding up my two reasons. Childhood obesity has effects on health and it has effects on academics. And those reasons are supporting and holding up my overall opinion, which is that it is bad. So these things work together to create the argument. When you state an opinion, people are going to ask you, okay, well, why do you feel that way? And even when you give them your reasons, they will say to you, prove it to me. And that's what the evidence is there for. To prove it to the reader.
Visual: The next slide “Source of evidence” opens and shows a comparison table. One side has a green arrow pointing up labelled “good sources” and the other side has a red arrow pointing down labelled “Not the best sources.” Melissa discusses these. A text box at the bottom directs participants to a webinar “Personal Experience” that Melissa mentions.
Audio: Now, evidence can come from many sources. Some of these are better than others. On the left side of the screen, you'll see our good sources, and these include statistics and data, studies and experiments, facts that are supported by research, specifically those that appear in peer-reviewed sources. That's our gold standard for research. Now, we have some other sources that may support your opinion, but they're not the best ones to use. And that would include anecdotes, maybe something that you heard somebody tell you or a friend of a friend, analogies, trying to compare something to something else, personal experience and popular magazines and opinion pieces.
So, if you find an article in "Time" magazine that's related to your topic, it might be good to try to find the research that they reference in "Time" magazine and use that source itself. If you are writing an opinion piece on a topic and you see that in the "New York Times" there's an op ed on the same topic, you might want to see if they mention research that you could go to but you don't want to back your opinion with another opinion. You want your academic opinion to be rooted in the original best, highest-quality research.
Now, sometimes personal experience fits into some assignments that we have. And we actually have a webinar that covers how and when to include personal experience. So you might want to go to the website and check that out if you're wondering when personal experience can come in as evidence or details in something that you're working on.
Visual: Slide #17 opens “When writing an argument:” and lists a comparison of do’s and don’ts that Melissa discusses. The “do” list is in a green box and the “don’t” list is in a red box.
Audio: When writing an argument and grounding it in your evidence, I do have some tips of things to do and some practices that are best avoided. So, first, like we just said, you want to keep your ideas based on evidence. You want to avoid only basing it on beliefs and opinions. You want to have it based on evidence, facts, research, numbers, all of that good stuff from scholarly resources. This way you're supporting your thesis with those things instead of statements like, "I think" and "I believe." Even though you think it and you believe it because it's your opinion and it's your paper, it's very easy to dismiss those because the proof doesn't go anywhere farther than just something that you think or you believe. It's easy to dismiss. Well, you think that but it's not really the truth.
So we need to pull in facts and evidence and research instead of keeping things focused simply on our beliefs and opinions. When you include the evidence, and we're going to look more at this next, it has to also be tied with analysis and you have to look at things with critical thinking and logic and reasoning. We want to -- oh, whoops -- where did my slide go? There we go. We want to make sure that the thesis is not simply backed with claims that you have moral beliefs of your own. Again, we need to stick with evidence and reason and logic in that research.
When you do present your argument, you want to address the opposing sides. You want to say, some people think this. You want to point out that other side, otherwise you're arguing in a vacuum, you're kind of -- there's a phrase -- preaching to the choir. You are avoiding the other side and it makes your argument stronger if you take a look at what the opposition says and address it. So you're going to refute what they say. When you do this, you do not want to criticize, belittle, make fun of the other side. You want to say, some people believe this, however. And you're going to prove them wrong, fairly and with respect and with those facts, statistics and evidence. But if you ignore the other side, your argument isn't as deep as when you address the other side head-on.
Visual: Slide #18 opens “Build on evidence, not opinion” and has a text box with an opinion-based statement. Melissa discusses the problem with this statement.
Audio: So, here's a statement that is opinion based. Today, high school curricula are boring, unimaginative, and based on rote memorization. This is an opinion because of two key words. And that would be "boring" and "unimaginative" and those are opinion based because my definition of boring may vary from yours and when I describe what makes it boring, you could look at it and say, I don't think that's boring, that sounds great. So, this is an opinion that's based on more opinion, which creates for a weak argument.
Now, the third point there, based on rote memorization, is something that can be proven. I can take a sample of a high school curricula, I could look at the curriculum for English and science and say, look, look at the standards that they're meeting and the ways that they're meeting them. I could dig into those individual lesson plans. That's rote memorization. I could prove that to you. However, I can't really prove boring and unimaginative because that's an opinion I'm using to back my opinion.
Visual: Another text box appears below the first with an example of an evidence-based revision of the first statement. Melissa discusses how this is an improvement for the academic argument.
Audio: Confusing? Let's look at this from an evidence-based standpoint instead. Because high school history curricula are based on rote memorization, Smith, 2011, citation there, because that is the article where I found my proof that there's rote memorization, so, because high school history curricula are based on rote memorization, visual and kinetic learners often do not get the support they need. There's my opinion, backed with a piece of evidence. Now, my evidence comes first. We have rote memorization. And my analysis and presentation of the opinion follows right after it. Strong opinions and strong arguments are going to be rooted in that evidence. Do we have any questions coming in about evidence or supporting arguments before we take a look at how to organize everything that we've collected?
Visual: The question mark slide opens again.
Audio: Beth: You know, I'm looking at the -- there was one question about whether, you know, if you're reading through and you're looking, you're researching on a topic and you can't find research on your topic, so there's not as much research on your topic, other people haven't done that research, do you have any suggestions for how students should go about finding evidence in those cases? Sorry, that's a really general question. Does that make sense?
Audio: Melissa: No. That does. So, there's two things that could be going on, and the first is, the research that you find just may not be forwarding the opinion that you want in which case you want to take a good look on the research that does exist on the topic before you create your solid argument. The other problem is, which it sounds like what you were saying, you do that search and there's just nothing turning up, not a lot of sources on your chosen topic. And at that point, I recommend that you go directly to the librarian and ask them for help to come up with search terms, to do a good dig of the research that does exist because librarians are amazing resources. And they are the ones who will be able to find whatever it is that exists or gets you on the right track to finding whatever it is that exists so that you can create the best argument that you possibly can. And if you happen to find a huge gaping hole in the research, well, maybe that's a research study for you to tackle in the future as a scholar. Help close that up for future generations of students.
Audio: Beth: Yeah. I think that's such a great point, Melissa, I hope you don't mind, I was just going to add, too, potentially it's also a case, the librarians can help determine this as well, you might need to broaden your scope a little bit. So maybe someone didn't do research specifically on your population and topic but they did a similar research on similar population on your same topic. So maybe you don't want to look at writing staff members self-efficacy but you want to look at university staff member self-efficacy, something like that. Does that make sense?
Audio: Melissa: Yes, that's a really great point. And the librarians are awesome at coming up with appropriate and very effective search terms. And also databases, helping you find the best database for your search and learning how to create those search terms and limiting what you get, definitely.
Audio: Beth: Agreed. Agreed. I think that's all we have for right now, Melissa.
Audio: Melissa: Okay, great, thank you so much.
Visual: The layout changes so that the captioning and Q&A pods are above the PowerPoint slide on the right half of the presentation screen. Slide #20 is open “Evidence + Analysis” and has a sample evidence in a text box and the direction for the chat activity at the bottom. The left half of the screen has a large chat pod for all participants to respond with a small pod at the top where Melissa puts the good examples pulled from participant responses. Melissa discusses the activity and then the good examples.
Audio: So, once we have our research, which becomes our evidence, we have to put it to use in the essay. And that means it's going to appear. So, here is a statement that I might put in my essay. According to recent data, 88% of my patients in the United States needing to see a health care specialist are able to do so within a month. Now, I don't want to just drop the evidence in. I have to make it work for me. And that means I need to follow it up with analysis. I have to digest it for the reader. I have to apply critical thinking to that piece of evidence. So what I'm going to have you do now, is think about this piece of evidence and in the chat box, I want you to write one sentence that you could follow up with based on this particular evidence.
So, one sentence of analysis that you could put after this paraphrase. And something we are going to notice as these responses begin to roll in is that there are many different angles that we can address this evidence from. So, this piece of evidence could appear in five different papers and could be analyzed in five different ways. So I actually see a few pieces of analysis coming in. And a few people have said something similar to this first example. These turnaround times indicate there is an effective method of scheduling being used. So, if you're writing a paper about the best way to schedule care and some sort of health care organization, you could use this evidence to say, this turnaround time indicates that what is in place is working well.
However, there's another piece of analysis that I saw that says, this points out that 12% of the population must wait over a month. So, in the first example, I have a person who's writing an essay saying that things are effective in health care organizations and in the second piece of analysis, we have an essay that's saying, we do not have an effective enough health care organization. So, one piece of evidence can be used to support multiple arguments. What's most important is that we are following this up with a connection to the argument with analysis or critical thinking. We don't want to follow it up with another piece of research. And we don't want to repeat the statistic. We want to add something new to the conversation.
So, you can think of your analysis as answering the question, why is this important? Why does this matter? What makes this interesting? And that will help lead you to some really strong analysis. And I want to thank everybody for this participation in the chat box. It is so full. And I love to see that. So hopefully you've had some time, after you entered yours, to look up and down the list of possible analysis that could be used to follow this evidence and see that there really is a wide, wide range.
Visual: The screen reverts to the previous layout with PowerPoint slide #21 open in the main pod and the captioning, Q&A, and files pods stacked on the right side. The slide is titled “Evidence + Analysis: Different Interpretations” and has two text boxes with examples. Each example starts with the same sentence for evidence but then follows with a different analysis in bold font. Melissa discusses these examples.
Audio: There we go. I just had to click that button a couple times to get it to move. So, here is that same piece of evidence that 80 -- 80 -- that 88% of patients in the U.S. who need to see a specialist are able to do so in a month. And up at the top we have analysis that says, the statistic shows more than 10% of the population needs to wait. So, this is used to support an argument that says, health care is not good enough in some way. But down below, I have the same piece of evidence with slightly different analysis. And that analysis says, in other words, in terms of seeing a specialist, the U.S. health care system is meeting the needs of the majority of patients. So we can use one piece of evidence to support multiple arguments.
However, if this evidence just appeared in an essay without any analysis, the reader would not know what the opinion of the writer was, what the writer was trying to persuade them to believe. The reader would be left kind of hanging to choose their own conclusion. So, it's your job as the writer to fill in that blank for us, to add your analysis after the evidence, after the presentation of research.
Visual: Slide #22 opens “Ways to Use Evidence: Quoting” with a description of what quotes are and the required elements of quotes. Melissa discusses quotes in detail.
Audio: Now, when you include your evidence, there's a few ways you can do it. And the first one is, you can quote. And when you quote, that means you take the sentence from your source, word for word, and put it in your essay. When you choose to do this, and you may choose to do this because the original wording was something that you don't think you could duplicate or was said in such a powerful, meaningful way that you don't want to change those original words. And when you choose to quote, which means we're including the same sentence word for word, you have to put quotation marks around those words, phrases, sentences, whatever it may be, that you have taken from the research. We need the quotation marks. It shows us that the other source is talking, and you also have to cite it.
Visual: A text box appears at the bottom of the slide with an example of a quote.
Audio: So here's an example of what that might look like. You'll notice that the quote is surrounded in quotation marks and we have a citation. Noted the author's name, the year of publication and the page in which this quote appears. So you are welcome to include evidence to support your argument in the form of a quote.
Visual: Slide #23 opens and continues the topic of using quotes. It shows an example of a “dropped” quote that Melissa discusses.
Audio: When you do that, you want to avoid doing what we call just dropping a quote in. And that means a quote appears out of nowhere. This is formatted correctly, by the way, if you look at it. Quotation marks are there, citation is there, beautiful A.P.A. format, but this quote has just been dropped. As a reader, we don't have any indication that it's about to happen. And, so, we want to make sure that as a writer, we are introducing our quotes. And when you think about a quote, if you're reading a piece of fiction, a quote indicates that a character is talking. When you're reading academic writing, these quotes, you can think of them as you're allowing another expert to talk.
Whereas, characters talk in fiction, experts talk in academic writing. But before you let that expert talk, you should introduce them in some way, let us know that they're about to talk, what's their name, maybe where was their research published. You want to introduce them in some way.
Visual: A text box appears at the bottom of the slide with an example of an integrated quote that Melissa discusses.
Audio: And, so, you can integrate it as simply as this, by just presenting the names of the writer, writers in this case, before the quote appears. There is a link on our website that shows a few different ways that you can introduce quotes. So you might want to check that page out, maybe we can get a copy of it in the Q&A box for you. But this is the simplest way, just name those writers before the quote appears.
Visual: Slide #24 opens “Ways to Use Evidence: Paraphrasing” with a description of paraphrasing and required elements listed. Melissa discusses this.
Audio: You can also choose to include evidence in the form of a paraphrase. And when you paraphrase, you capture the same information as the source, only this time you've put it in your own words. When you paraphrase, you have to use your own phrasing and wording. It cannot resemble the original. You couldn't say, use the same first four words and then change the next four, we want this presented fully in your own words. Even when you've presented the information in your own words, you still need a citation to show where that information came from. This is best practice because, first of all, it's a requirement in research writing, specifically in A.P.A., but it also gives credit to the person or people who did the research, that found that information. And that is just polite to give credit to that person.
Visual: A text box appears at the bottom of the slide with an example of a paraphrase.
Audio: So this is what it looks like. Here's a paraphrase. It's the same information. Adults, more often than younger students, are motivated to learn. And we know who did the research that proved this to us. So, in addition to it being A.P.A. standard for their style and in addition, you know what you're talking about because this citation shows that this is a valid fact and is rooted in research and it's not something that you just made up on the fly couple minutes before you turned the paper in. We want to make sure that the evidence is good and a citation is usually that little, like, cherry on top that shows us that the evidence is good.
Visual: Slide #25 opens “Why do we paraphrase?” It shows a photo of an adult student with a stack of book in front of her and she is reading from the top text. She has paper and a pencil next to the stack. To the left of the photo are three bullets with reasons for paraphrasing. Below the photo is a small text box with a link for the webinar on paraphrasing.
Audio: So, why paraphrase? A quote might seem easier. Sentence is already written for you. But a paraphrase can be powerful in many ways. And, first, is it helps you kind of work through your own ideas and it makes that piece of information blend seemlessly into your writing. You have proven to the reader that you understand the information because if you understand something, you can put it in your own words. It's easy to articulate things that you understand and are comfortable with and an expert on. It's harder to articulate things that you aren't so sure what's going on. So when you paraphrase, it shows that you really know what's going on, and it really also allows you to maintain and use your voice and your tone. If in the middle of a paragraph, you include a quote, your tone and your flow has been spliced with someone else's tone and flow. So, in these ways, a paraphrase can be a more powerful option to choose to include, although quotes have their own power and all of their own benefits and merit.
So, you want to take a look at what you're writing, what your purpose is, and then decide what the best option is. If you're going to quote or paraphrase. All right. I'm going to pause for a moment to see if there are any questions or things that I should address before we move on.
Visual: The question mark slide opens.
Audio: Beth: Thanks, Melissa. We've been something have great questions in the Q&A box. So keep those coming, everyone. A couple of questions here, kind of all rolled into one, we've had a couple of students asking about variations to the evidence plus analysis, kind of template that we've been talking about here. So, specifically whether you could include analysis before you include some evidence, if that might work? But also if you could include multiple sentences of evidence before you include analysis? So, just kind of shaking up that one sentence of evidence plus one sentence of analysis that we've been talking about so far. Do you have any suggestions on that? What would work, what might not work, what things to keep in mind? Does that question make sense?
Audio: Melissa: That does. And, you know, if you are particularly interested in something that you're working on in specific, this is where I would recommend making an appointment, in that appointment form, letting us know that you want to talk about and look at the inclusion of analysis to see how you're doing it in one specific assignment, that would be a great focus for an appointment. But, generally, for myself as a reader of academic writing, I do not mind if the analysis comes before the evidence as long as something also happens after it to transition us out of that quote or out of that paraphrase.
And I am thinking of this particularly in regards to the ends of paragraphs. Seeing a citation at the end of a paragraph often makes it feel incomplete. Where is it going? Can we wrap it up? Why is somebody else ending this paragraph? So, as long as the idea and evidence is packaged in some way, especially at the very end of a paragraph, at the completion of the thought, I don't think that including some analysis before a quote or paraphrase is incorrect, as long as we have something at the end. What's really important is that we have those pieces put together in a paragraph and a paragraph is often more than just a topic sentence, one piece of evidence, statement of analysis, and then ending it like we see in the MEAL plan. And on our blog, we have some posts about Ps, which is another way to format your paragraph, and that one has a visual that shows how evidence and analysis can be kind of juggled and mixed up in a paragraph and still work and still make sense. We also have the no tears plan on the blog.
So when you're thinking of your paragraph in terms of these pieces, the specific order can be mixed up, but we do want to make sure that every piece of evidence has some analysis attached to it so that no evidence is standing alone. So, when you ask about multiple pieces of evidence being presented in a row, I think if you have two pieces of evidence that say something very similar and you bridge them, so, for example, I could say, according to Smith, here's this information. Similarly, you know, Jones said this. If I kind of package that into one piece of evidence, even though it's two sources, I don't think there's anything offensive about that presentation. Again, as long as the analysis occurs of that evidence. I would never want to see two quotes back to back because at that point it's too many people kind of talking. It would be like a room full of experts just shouting. As the writer, you'd want to maintain some control introducing that quote, including it and wrapping it up before moving on to the next one. So that's the long answer.
The short answer, I think that evidence and analysis can appear in different orders and different structures to allow you to have your own style and voice, as long as the evidence is always paired with that analysis and try to wrap up paragraphs in your own point. Let's not end in a summary or a quote. So you want to be the person to have the final say. Does that help to answer that question, Beth?
Audio: Beth: Yeah, I think that's such a good point, Melissa. Sort of the idea that what we're saying here isn't sort of a formulaic 1 + 1 = 2 sort of thing. It's more about including the components and the elements and then incorporating them in a way that makes sense for the ideas and the argument that you're presenting but is also still clear for your reader. Is that a good -- does that sort of -- is that sort of helpful?
Audio: Melissa: That is.
Audio: Beth: I don't know.
Audio: Melissa: And, you know, if you are a writer who is, you know, still getting comfortable with including evidence, it might help to do the evidence analysis, evidence analysis, because that way you know you're covering everything, but if you feel very comfortable in your skills to present evidence and analysis, I think that you are able to present it in different ways without any loss of meaning or loss of critical thinking.
So, like so many things in writing, it's what you as a writer think is the best choice for the work you're presenting. And, of course, you have a whole staff at the Writing Center who can help you in paper appointments make some of these decisions or find new angles to look at your evidence from.
Audio: Beth: Agreed, Melissa. I definitely agree. I think you hit on something that is a common sort of discussion I have with students when thinking about scholarly writing, in that it can kind of feel constricting when you're new to scholarly, whatever term we want to use here, but there is a lot of freedom in the way that you sort of organize and present your argument. And I think that's sort of where the creativity comes in as writers.
Audio: Melissa: Definitely. I definitely agree with that. Is there anything else that we should look at before moving on?
Audio: Beth: Yeah. I'm just looking through. There was a question, we had a couple students asking about citations for that evidence when there's multiple sentences. And do you want to talk about how students should include citations for those sentences that might include multiple pieces of evidence from one source, kind of altogether?
Audio: Melissa: So, if you have -- you might have to help clarify this as I answer this one -- if you have one source and you are including multiple pieces of evidence from it that appear in more than one sentence, you want to make sure that you cite the source every time you use it. It sometimes can seem a bit like there's a lot of citing going on, but it's how we give credit where credit is due.
Now, another situation that might happen is you in one sentence include evidence that has appeared in many sources. And this happens because if something has been, you know, shown to exist once, it likely has been shown to exist in several different articles. So, when that happens, in your citation, you are going to list all of those sources you found that present the same information. So it will be name comma year semicolon and then the next source name comma year semicolon and so on until you have included all of those original articles that have shared that one piece of evidence. So, you could have one source, five pieces of evidence or you could have one piece of evidence from five sources. Does that help? Is that what we were looking for?
Audio: Beth: Yeah, definitely. That's really helpful, Melissa. Thank you. I think that's it for now.
Visual: the next slide opens “Organizing Arguments in Essays” with a photo of part of a computer keyboard that has a notebook and pen resting on top of it.
Audio: Melissa: Okay. Thank you. So, once you have your topic and your argument and then your reasons and then your evidence, you have to put all of this into an essay. And, so, we have to organize it. And organizing essays, this is one of my favorite topics, so I'm going to get excited about this one. Organizing arguments -- organizing any essay is where you decide what is going to go first, second, third. How the paragraphs are going to be ordered, as well as what information you're ordering within the paragraphs. We're not going to look at it at that micro of a level. We're going to look at paragraph blocking and organizing to present our arguments. And effective organization is important. If your paper jumps around, you're going to lose your reader. And once you lose your reader, they're not going to be persuaded to agree with you. And then your argument has completely fallen flat.
Visual: Slide #28 opens “Essential Elements: 5 Paragraph Essay” and shows a chart with the sections of the essay on the left with a description of each section on the right. Melissa discusses each section in detail.
Audio: So, we're going to take a look at a sample outline. This is like a graphic organizer for an essay. And I want you to note that we have five paragraphs here. And we have five paragraphs here because it fits, it's an easy way to think about essays. However, as you know, your essays are going to vary in length, so, don't feel like every argument has to appear in this way. That total number of body paragraphs is going to vary depending on what it is you're working on.
So we always begin with an introduction. Which is where we're going to introduce the topic. Sometimes you can present the opposing side right in the introduction. Sometimes I think this fits into body paragraph 1 or the last body paragraph before you conclude. So, where you choose to put the opposing side, again, is a stylistic choice that you have as a writer. I think it works best beginning or end, so that it's not interrupting the argument by appearing in the middle. After the introduction, which includes that background information, definitions, the topic, and then your thesis, we get into the body paragraphs. And each body paragraph should present one claim or one reason or a subpoint related to a reason.
So you remember my childhood obesity essay had two reasons. It had negative effects on health and it had negative effects on academics. Now, that's not a two-paragraph essay. So, I would break my reason down further into smaller claims. But we want to focus just one claim at a time. This gives us as the writer time and space to present all of that evidence and all of the analysis and wrap it up for the reader.
If you try to include multiple claims in a paragraph, you don't really have that same time or space to dig deep. So, one claim at a time. Once you get through your entire argument, you will wrap up by repeating the thesis, the main points, telling us why it's important, significant, it's your last chance to talk to the reader, so you want to make sure that what you put in the conclusion is powerful and meaningful.
Visual: Slide #29 opens and continues the previous information. This slide has a similar graphic with detail about the body paragraphs and a disclaimer that the number of body paragraphs depends on the paper’s length and the thesis.
Audio: Now, when you choose your paragraphs, like I said, please remember that the number of body paragraphs you have, as well as the order, which we'll look at next, is going to depend on your length and your thesis. Some essays will have three body paragraphs. Some might have seven. I've seen discussion posts that are argumentative in nature that only have two body paragraphs. So, just remember that the number of body paragraphs varies according to the assignment.
Visual: Slide #30 opens “Organizing Claims” and has three stacked text boxes superimposed on an inverted triangle. The text boxes describe information going from general to specific as Melissa discusses. An arrow points down to the left of the text boxes.
Audio: When you have your set of claims or your reasons, those subpoints related to your reasons, you have to choose which one's going to go in paragraph 1, which one's going to go in paragraph 2, which one you're going to save until the end.
And, so, a really traditional and recommended way to organize these claims is to start with the most general or broad one or even if you have additional background information, present that first. If you have too much background information to fit into your introduction paragraph, go ahead and do your first body paragraph focused on that background info. Then organize your claim starting off with the most general or broad or sometimes I even like to say easy to agree with, the most comfortable or well-known, broadest one of your claims. And the reason for this is because it's going to ease the reader in to where you're going. Also, a good way to organize things is to start with the broad and then get a little bit more specific. If you start with the specific example and then back out, which can be effective in some writing situations, it's going to feel kind of backwards in terms of an argument because you'll have to get narrow and then broad and then narrow and broad. And that might be a little bit too much movement of ideas for a reader.
In an argument, it really helps for you to open up with something that is broad, easy to understand, general, easy to agree with, and then get more specific and also more powerful or important. I think if you save your reason with the most impact for the ending, it's a great way to organize your argument. And that's because the reader is going to be most likely to remember the last things -- [ audio cut out ]
Audio: Beth: Hi, Melissa. Can you hear me? It looks like we might have lost audio for you. Can you hear me, Melissa? Sorry, everyone, it looks like we lost Melissa. She'll be joining us. She'll be coming back in. So give us just a second as we bring her back here. In the meantime, please feel free, if you have any questions, that you'd like to add in the Q&A box, we have five minutes left in our session, as Melissa's going to wrap up talking about organizing our claims and our arguments here. As she's coming back in, in the meantime, one thing I did want to address, a question about abstracts. A student asked if an abstract is also generally organized from broad to narrow. Usually it is, although an abstract is a section of a paper, if you're not familiar with abstracts, it's an overview of the entire paper.
So, it talks about the main, you know, background or topic of the paper, as well as the thesis statement, as well as the main points of the paper. So, the abstract is organized a little bit differently, in that it sort of follows the organization of the paper itself. And when we think about organizing from broad to narrow, if we do that in the paper itself, then our abstract would also be formatted that way or organized that way as well.
And then, similarly, I also want to note that our introductions are often organized from broad to narrow as well. And we don't have time to really get into introductions too detailed in this session, but I did want to just mention that as well, that introductions are usually organized this way, and if you have more questions about introductions, I do encourage you to look at our webinar archive for the webinar about introductions or the introduction section of the Writing Center's website, too, those are two great places to go.
Great. Looks like we have Melissa back here. Melissa, can you hear us okay?
Audio: Melissa: I can hear you. Thank you so much. And I apologize for that. One of the parts of meeting virtually is sometimes the room just kicks you out.
Audio: Beth: No problem. No problem. I was just going over sort of detail about abstracts and introductions, kind of following the same sort of organization. So, I will leave it back to you.
Audio: Melissa: Okay. Thank you so much. So, as we were talking about before I completely disappeared on you guys, sorry about that, when you're organizing the claims into your body paragraphs, it's good to start with the most general or broad of those claims and to slowly get more specific as you move us through all the reasons and evidence that support your argument.
Visual: Slide #31 opens and shows examples of an essay’s organization. There are boxes on the left with labels for the introduction and body paragraphs with sample topics for each paragraph in the boxes to the right of each label. Melissa explains this in detail.
Audio: And, so, here is that sample where we are looking at my thesis statement about how childhood obesity has negative effects in terms of health and academic achievement and, so, here I have claims, and my first one is that it is prevalent. And that's a pretty broad claim. And it's easy to support. And it's easy to agree with because I can show you statistics. And then from there, we're going to move into some health concerns, including diabetes and then heart disease.
And then I'm going to move over to academic, which is lower grades, and I've chosen to do health claims first because they are easy to support and see and for you as the reader to get on board with before I get to one that might seem like more of a reach, and that is the very specific concern of lowering grades. And that's how I chose to organize this as a writer.
Visual: An arrow appears to the right of the example and points down to illustrate the broad to narrow flow.
Audio: So, the claims have started broad at the top and slowly get more specific as we move through.
Visual: The slide changes to show the prompt for the exercise that is omitted because of time constraints.
Audio: We have an exercise and I wonder, Beth, if we have time to complete this exercise or --
Audio: Beth: Yeah, I think we should just keep moving on, Melissa. I had offered for everyone that we would maybe stick around a couple minutes after the hour, if that's okay with you, too, just to kind of wrap up.
Audio: Melissa: Oh, sure.
Audio: Beth: Great.
Audio: Melissa: Yes, we can definitely do that.
Visual: The slide changes to “Correct and most logical order of ideas:” and has an example of how to logically order paragraphs. Each text box is numbered and has a one-sentence topic for each paragraph of the essay example Melissa discusses.
Audio: So we'll just take a look at this other argument here. And this is one about how online communication plays a vital role in the academic setting. So we're going to start with that broadest point, which is really just background information and that claim that online communication does play a vital role in the academic setting. And, so, my first body paragraph is going to talk about how students can take courses online and I'll prove that they can do that. And then from there, I'd want to move slightly more specific to looking at how it creates a community and then I'd get even more specific by looking at Walden. So I'm moving from online education in general to Walden specifically. And then my most powerful specific and important claim, which is that students can come to understand different perspectives and ideas and have a broad-minded way of looking at the world. So, I'm going to start with the general online experience for students in general and then look at it through Walden and end with my most powerful claim. Have any questions come in regarding organization?
Visual: The question mark slide appears.
Audio: Beth: Not so far, Melissa. So I think we can keep pressing on.
Visual: The next slide “Revising Arguments” opens and shows a photo of a trash can full of crumpled paper.
Audio: Melissa: Okay. All right. Well, I will only have a couple minutes of information covering how to revise our arguments that we'll touch on quickly before we wrap up tonight.
Visual: Slide #36 opens “Revising Arguments Throughout the Writing Process” and has four bullet points on how and when to revise that Melissa discusses.
Audio: And when you have finished creating that argument, you want to stop and you want to make sure that the essay you have created is presenting your argument in a strong way. And this is the focus of your revision of an argument.
So, first, you want to make sure that everything you have presented is related to your thesis. So keep your thesis in mind. Go through that essay paragraph by paragraph and say, does this sentence relate to my thesis? Does this quote relate to my thesis? Is this paraphrase, analysis, is everything I'm saying related to the thesis? Now, not just the topic, but the thesis that argument, in particular, does everything relate to it. Don't be afraid to find new evidence if you need more research, just because you feel that you have completed the research part of the writing process doesn't mean that you can't go back and find new evidence as you work.
And also if, as you're researching and writing, if your argument or opinion on the topic changes a little bit, it's okay for you to go back and change the thesis. You want to always have the thesis and the body match.
Visual: Text boxes with tips for the first two bullet points appear to the right.
Audio: So sometimes that means the thesis will change a little bit throughout the writing process. And I have these tips that aren't popping up as I talk. There we go. So, sometimes a thesis statement will change. It doesn't always have to stay the same way.
Visual: A text box with a tip appears to the right of the last bullet with a hyperlink for the MEAL plan.
Audio: You also want to make sure that at all points, and we talked about this earlier, that your evidence is paired with analysis. Doesn't necessarily have to follow that formula of evidence analysis, evidence analysis, but all evidence somehow has to be analyzed at some point. And, you know, we're always talking about the MEAL plan, and if the MEAL plan sounds unfamiliar to you, you'll definitely want to check that out.
Visual: Slide #37 opens and continues the topic of revising arguments. It has a text box at the top describing the purpose of outlining with an arrow pointing to another text box below that describes reverse outlining. “Reverse Outlining” is hyperlinked. Melissa discusses reverse outlining in detail.
Audio: Now, when you are checking your argument, you can also do a reverse outline. Now, when you start writing, you might create an outline to structure what you'll talk about to organize. Get those claims in order. But when you're done, you can also create an outline. And this will help you check to make sure that you stayed on track with what it is you want to present. So, to reverse outline, you're going to copy that thesis down. And then you're going to go through paragraph by paragraph and copy your topic sentences with the main idea of each paragraph, you'll create a list of those. So paragraph 1, topic sentence; paragraph 2, topic sentence and then you'll have the list, and you can go back and look at that list to make sure that all those topic sentences are forwarding the thesis.
It should actually look quite similar to your outline and if you've gotten too far off track or something seems to be out of order in the reverse outline, it's going to point out for you where to go to correct that in the essay itself. All right.
Visual: The layout changes so that the PowerPoint slide is at the bottom right in a medium-sized pod, the captioning and files pods are stacked in the top right with the Q&A pod alongside them. The main pod now shows the post webinar quiz pod. The final slide has contact information for future questions and hyperlinks for other helpful webinars.
Audio: And that brings us to the end of this webinar. And I am glad to stick around and answer verbally any questions that may have come in. You are also free to send us questions at any time to that e-mail address. And I'm going to fire up Twitter on my phone in just a minute here to continue the conversation. And you're more than welcome to also join me in that with the #WCwebinars and before you go, I would like to you participate in another quiz, similar to the one you did when you came in, and with that, I'm going hand it back over to Beth to wrap us up.
Audio: Beth: Thanks so much, Melissa. Thanks, everyone, for sticking around just a couple minutes here. I just opened the quiz. And we encourage you to take that quiz to test your knowledge, see how much you've learned from this session, and we are going to keep the webinar open just for a couple minutes here, since we had that quick interruption, we want to make sure we get all of your questions answered and that you have a chance to test your knowledge via this quiz. So, I see some of you have already started. Keep at it.
I think what we'll do, Melissa, is we'll take just a minute of silence here to let everyone take a look at that quiz and then we will kind of wrap up with last thoughts and any last questions. So we will be back in just a minute here. Let's say at 6:05.
Audio: Beth: All right. I see a couple of people are finishing up. Keep going with that quiz. And I don't see any other questions. So I did want to ask, Melissa, do you have any last thoughts for everyone today? Oops. It looks like we might have lost Melissa again. Sorry about that, everyone. Well, I'm sure what Melissa would say, thank you so much for attending, thanks for coming, everyone. If you have any questions about the quiz or any questions about arguments, thesis statements, paraphrasing, anything that Melissa talked about today, please make sure to e-mail us.
We're going to go ahead and close the webinar here. So if there are any last questions that we didn't get to, be sure to e-mail us with those questions and we'd be happy to help. And thank you, everyone. Have a wonderful evening. We're going to go ahead and close out the quiz and close out the webinar here.