Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Craft of Research: Quick Tip sandwich

First Quick Tip: two frequent causes of failed arguments.
  • Evidence is not the right type for the field in which you are writing - e.g. direct quotations (often used in humanities papers) are usually a bad idea for an engineering essay (which would be much more likely to use quantitative data).
  • You oversimplify. Remember to include alternate possible explanations - at least consider them. No argument is as simple as it sounds.
Prologue to Part 4 (drafting!) is, as usual, about planning. Characteristics that should be reflected in that plan:
  • Audience! How much do you know about them? Work that information in.
  • Character: Are you "passionately committed," or are you "dispassionate"?
  • Question! Read chapter 4 for details.
  • Main point/claim/thesis + some sub-points. These don't have to be complete, but have an idea of them.
  • Order of parts in your paper: either for a standard form (for a particular discipline or genre) or another logical sequence.
Recommendations for drafting in general:
  • Allow for non-linear progress. Nobody sits down and spits out a whole first draft.
  • Start early! This leaves "time for dead ends, restarts, new ideas, further research, and revision - especially revision..."
  • Once drafting, get your ideas out rapidly. If you, like me, are a perfectionist about matters such as spelling and forms of sentences, turn off the monitor or write with your eyes closed.
  • Test your argument and organization, and whatever else you think of, on potential, informed audience members.
  • Write as you go.
Quick Tip 2: Outlining. Two main types: topical (subject phrases - good for early stages) and point-based (explains your arguments and sub-arguments more thoroughly). The authors recommend as a useful outline (to be done after drafting) a combination of point and topical.

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