Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Craft of Research: Chapter 13 + Quick Tip

This chapter, more than others, admonishes you, the researcher, to think like a reader; in this case, the text details how to revise organization and argument. Generally (I learned this first during the training sessions for being a writing tutor), the order of revision should proceed from global (structure, coherence, etc.) to sentence-level (punctuation, mechanics, spelling, etc.). Two hints from the authors: start early, and take your time.

  1. Find the "outer frame of your paper: your introduction and conclusion, and a sentence in each that states your main claim." Where does each section begin? end? Underline topic sentences and write headings (these may or may not come out, depending on format). Do your introduction and conclusion agree? Adjust the claim sentence(s) in each accordingly.
  2. Find the "major sections and their points." Set off the section introductions and conclusions; mark secondary claims; make sure the points are NEVER in the middle of a section. "If you cannot perform each of these steps quickly, you have probably uncovered a problem with the organization of your paper" (emph. added). Taken together, the resultant sentences from steps 1 and 2 should make a sentence outline. Can you read the outline as a coherent paragraph?
  3. Elucidate how the themes weave together. Try to think from the viewpoint of Google, which operates by key word searching. Do those key words recur? What about the concepts? Secondary concepts? How do the primary and secondary concepts relate? Make section headings.
  4. Does it all add up? Practice explaining your paper (by a main-point outline only) to a willing audience ("friend, relative, or roommate").
  1. What is it? Look back at the outline (end of step 2, above) and see whether it lists your claims. Ignoring the primary evidence you wrote into the paper, skim for "the expression of your analysis, your evaluation, your judgment" (emph. orig.). The ignored and the not-ignored should balance each other almost equally.
  2. How good is it? Is your evidence satisfactory? Your qualifications? Does the paper read like a conversation as opposed to a contest? Do you still need to spell out warrants?
  3. Ask an audience to skim your paper just as you skimmed your sources. Can they get the gist and argument?
Quick Tip: titles and abstracts
  • Titles: have the format "[Catchy and relevant phrase]: [key terms]." An example, from the paper I wrote for freshman composition: "Your Truth or The Truth: The Role of Tolerant Exclusivism in Interfaith Dialogue." Due for revision, perhaps, but...
  • Abstracts: either 'context + problem + main point' or 'context + problem + launching point.' Ideal length: 100-150 words. Summaries are similar. Make key words prominent.

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