60 Effectiveness in Writing CHAPTER 3: CONSTRUCTING CREDIBLE ARGUMENTS, READING CRITICALLY, AND WRITING EFFECTIVELY INTRODUCTION Lesson three emphasizes creating and supporting credible arguments. Convincing arguments most often utilize persuasive appeals, which will be discussed at length in this lesson. Argumentative fallacies will also be discussed, which will help you avoid committing these fallacies in your writing. By learning these persuasive appeals and fallacies, you will not only understand how to incorporate these appeals into a strong argument and how to avoid fallacies in your writing, but you will also strengthen your critical reading skills in order to help you find strong, academic research. Finally, this lesson will show you how to properly revise your work, create strong thesis statements, and introduce and conclude an essay in a thoughtful manner. PERSUASIVE APPEALS You are interviewing two contractors to do a renovation on your house. One arrives well-groomed and on time with a binder of references, photographs of previously completed jobs, and evidence of current licenses and certifications. The other contractor arrives looking slightly disheveled and ten minutes late, and he tells you that references can be provided, handwrites a list of addresses of previous jobs, and verbally confirms current licenses and certifications. Which contractor are you more likely to hire? Although both may have just as good references, experience, and credentials, you are more likely to hire the first contractor who arrived on time and looking professional with 61 Effectiveness in Writing full evidence of past work and qualifications. Similarly, readers are more likely to believe an argument when it is logically presented in a way that makes the audience trust the author as a respectful and knowledgeable person. Even if two arguments are exactly the same in terms of the reasons and conclusion presented, the argument that carries the most appeal will be most convincing. What makes an argument appealing then? Aristotle long ago identified three appeals: • Pathos • Ethos • Logos PATHOS An appeal to pathos (emotions) relies on the audience’s emotions and feelings. As children, the first type of persuasive appeal we encounter is an appeal to pathos, such as “If you don’t go to the ceremony, you will break your mother’s heart” or “Behave or you will receive a spanking.” The first is an appeal to love and the second an appeal to fear. Such appeals to emotions seem manipulative, and they are when used alone instead of to supplement an argument that also carries logical appeal. For instance, in an argument supporting a ban on smoking in public places, a writer might present statistics that demonstrate the serious negative health effects of second-hand smoke. Those effects will appeal to people’s emotions—their fear—but those effects also provide logical reasons to support the argument. Effectiveness in Writing 62 Stephen E. Lucas, in “The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence,” for instance, evaluates Thomas Jefferson’s use of such emotional appeals by noting the emotional content of Jefferson’s word choices: Whereas the first twenty-two grievances describe the king’s acts with such temperate verbs as “refused,” “called together,” “dissolved,” “endeavored,” “made,” “erected,” “kept,” and “affected,” the war grievances use emotionally charged verbs such as “plundered,” “ravaged,” “burnt,” and “destroyed.” Such word choices were used to create more support for the revolution by targeting people in America who had not yet experienced the economic and political difficulties by emotionally depicting these struggles and thus creating an appeal to people’s anger and resentment (Lucas). ETHOS An appeal to ethos (ethics) relies on the credibility of the author. Essentially, audiences trust writers who appear to be ethical, trustworthy, and know what they are talking about. A writer demonstrates ethics by being fair and objective, even while presenting an argument on an issue. While a biased writer might misrepresent or ignore relevant opinions or facts about an issue that oppose the writer’s argument, an ethical writer will fairly present such opinions and facts even if the writer disagrees with these opinions or about what the facts mean. By presenting and discussing such opposing facts or opinions, the ethical writer demonstrates that the issue has been fairly, objectively, and fully considered, making audiences more likely to trust the conclusions reached. For example, a writer arguing against the use of the death penalty might mention the reasons proponents have for supporting the death penalty, such as the need for retribution 63 Effectiveness in Writing and deterrence. By mentioning such opposing arguments, the writer demonstrates awareness of the complexities of the issue and shows due respect to others who have good reasons for supporting the death penalty. The writer can then go on to discuss the flaws or limitations of such arguments or offer compromises or concessions in support of the argument against the death penalty. As a result, the writer’s argument against the death penalty is more persuasive, even for those who support the death penalty, because the writer has demonstrated fairness and extensive knowledge about the issue. Demonstrating knowledge about an issue builds the writer’s credibility and overall appeal to ethos. In a nutshell, audiences trust writers who demonstrate experience in what they are writing about. A writer can demonstrate knowledge by revealing personal background, educational accomplishments, or professional experience. For example, investors reading a proposed business plan for a new restaurant will be more likely to be persuaded to invest in that restaurant if that business plan includes details of the owners’ past history working in other restaurants. Writers might not have personal experience with a topic, which is often the case in student essays. In such situations, writers build credibility by using good sources that themselves have credibility in the topic! (See the discussion of evaluating sources in Lesson 2.) When using research, establish the credibility of the sources the first time a source is used by mentioning the author’s experiences or background in the topic, such as by mentioning the author’s education, professional experience, or publication(s) relating to the subject matter. For example: Weak: John Smith argues the recession is “temporary at best.” Effectiveness in Writing 64 Strong: 1. John Smith, Harvard economist, argues the recession is “temporary at best.” 2. John Smith, author of “The New Economy,” argues the recession is “temporary at best.” 3. John Smith in The Economist argues the recession is “temporary at best.” The weak example carries no appeal because the reader has no idea who John Smith is. It could be the writer’s neighbor for all the reader knows! However, in each of the strong examples, John Smith’s opinion about the recession carries more credibility because the first mentions his experience as an economist, the second mentions the title of his publication on the economy, and the third mentions the title of the professional economics publication where he published. (Titles of publications can establish credibility because it’s assumed that if someone has published on a topic, then that person has researched and become knowledgeable about that topic. This assumption only holds true, however, if the sources have been evaluated successfully by the writer!) In the strong examples, the experience and authority of the author encourages the audience to trust him as a reliable source with a trustworthy opinion about economic subject matter. The writer who uses this source likewise establishes credibility on the subject even though the writer may not have any professional or educational experience in economics. By using credible sources and demonstrating their credibility, the writer builds credibility with the audience as someone who has researched the topic thoroughly and become wellinformed and knowledgeable, even though the writer may not have direct personal or professional experience in the subject matter. A writer can further demonstrate trustworthiness through word choice. People trust others who seem to be similar. Avoid “you” because it distances the audience from the 65 Effectiveness in Writing writer, making the audience feel separate from rather than connected with the writer. For example: Weak: You should not underestimate this problem. Strong: This problem should not be underestimated. We should not underestimate this problem. The weak example seems more of an order and implies that it is only the reader that needs to not underestimate the problem. The strong examples are more objective about what we all should do. Thus, using “we” and “us” instead of “you” or “I” can build a sense of community or bond between the writer and audience. For example: Weak: The first thing you need to do is find out which websites your children are using. Strong: The first thing we need to do is find out which websites our children are using. The weak example sounds a bit accusatory toward “you” in the audience while the strong example sounds more inclusive as if the solution requires a communal effort. Audiences respond to such inclusiveness. Using the Declaration of Independence as an example again, Lucas notes Jefferson’s distinction between the British “them” and the collective “we” of the colonists, acting as one force and entity, in such statements as “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” The result, as Lucas summarizes, is that Jefferson: Effectiveness in Writing 66 reduces the psychic distance between the reader and the text and coaxes the reader into seeing the dispute with Great Britain through the eyes of the revolutionaries. As the drama of the Declaration unfolds, the reader is increasingly solicited to identify with Congress and “the good People of these Colonies,” to share their sense of victimage, to participate vicariously in their struggle, and ultimately to act with them in their heroic quest for freedom. Thus, Jefferson establishes credibility for the people authoring this declaration as seeking the best interest of all colonists, persuading the audience to seek independence together. LOGOS An appeal to logos (logic) relies on the sound logic of the argument. Although we often think of an “argument” as a debate or a heated discussion, in terms of logic, an argument is simply statements of reasons (premises) in support of a conclusion. An argument is considered “logical” if the reasons “add up” to the conclusion being true or probably true. For example: Reason: I am a human. Reason: Humans are mortal. Conclusion: I am mortal. In this argument, the reasons are true and the reasons being true necessitate that the conclusion must be true too. Therefore, the argument is logical. An argument is considered logical when the reasons are true AND the reasons being true necessitate the conclusion to be true or make the conclusion probably true. Again, two conditions must be met for a logical appeal to be successful: 1. reasons are proven to be true, AND 2. the reasons being true make the conclusion true, or probably true, too. 67 Effectiveness in Writing Why use “probably true?” Very few arguments can be proven with absolute certainty. For instance, if we hear a doorbell ring, we instinctually believe someone is at the door because internally we’ve built the following argument: Reason: I’ve heard the doorbell. Reason: A doorbell ringing means someone is at the door. Conclusion: Someone is at the door. If we get to the door and no one is there, we are temporarily surprised because the logical argument supporting our conclusion that someone is at the door has been proven wrong. The conclusion that “someone is at the door” that we believed to be certainly true from our internal argument was not actually true. However, although this conclusion was proven to be wrong, the argument was still logical! The argument really only proved that it is “probably” true that someone is at the door based on past experiences of people being at the door when doorbells have rung. Most scientific arguments are based on what is probably true based on past observations and experiences. For example, the belief that smoking causes cancer is based on observations of cancer rates among smokers compared to cancer rates among nonsmokers. Although not all smokers will develop cancer, the conclusion that smoking causes cancer is probably true based on the observations. The reason some debates, like abortion or capital punishment, seem to be endless is because both sides have logically appealing arguments. For example, one logical argument against legalized abortion might be: Reason: Abortion kills a fetus. Reason: A fetus is human. Reason: Killing of humans is murder. Effectiveness in Writing 68 Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is murder. One logical argument supporting legalized abortion might be: Reason: Abortion kills a fetus Reason: A fetus is not human. Reason: Only killing of humans is murder. Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is not murder. Both are valid arguments because if the reasons are true, then the conclusion must be necessarily true too. The burden in each argument is in proving whether or not the fetus is actually a human. Because proving this point is difficult to do with any certainty is just one reason why the abortion debate continues. A logical appeal is successfully made if the argument is valid and does the best possible job of proving that each reason is, in fact, true. As demonstrated in the abortion arguments with the debate about whether a fetus is or is not a human, some reasons used in arguments can not be proven to be certainly true, at least not for all audiences, which is why Rogerian and middle ground persuasive strategies have emerged. These strategies of argumentation purposefully seek to find an accommodation, compromise, or consensus while accepting that some aspects of the debate cannot be resolved. (See the discussion of Rogerian and middle ground argumentation strategies in Lessons 6 through 8.) To continue with the Declaration of Independence as an example, its argument logically supports the need for revolution by putting forth several reasons enumerated by Lucas: Proposition 1: All men are created equal. Proposition 2: They [all men, from proposition 1] are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. 69 Effectiveness in Writing Proposition 3: Among these [man’s unalienable rights, from proposition 2] are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Proposition 4: To secure these rights [man’s unalienable rights, from propositions 2 and 3] governments are instituted among men. Proposition 5: Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends [securing man’s unalienable rights, from propositions 2-4], it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. Each of these propositions is a general assumption or warrant (a debatable idea and not an observable fact). (See the discussion of warrants and assumptions used in Toulmin argumentation in Lesson 4.) Jefferson then goes on to provide evidence to demonstrate how the English government has violated these listed rights. If each proposition and the evidence about the English government’s violations are proven true to the audience, then the audience has no other choice than to accept the logical conclusion of the argument, which is that the American people must “alter” or “abolish” the English government of the colonies. EVALUATING APPEALS AND IDENTIFYING FALLACIOUS REASONING When evaluating an argument, the goal is to determine if the argument makes the conclusion probably true. To do that, determine if the reasons have been proven to be true and if them being true makes the conclusion probably true as well. An argument is called “valid” if the reasons being true make the conclusion true. An argument is called “logical” if it is a valid argument AND the reasons are, in fact, actually true. Illogical arguments that use all truthful reasons and conclusions are sometimes difficult to spot! The truthfulness of the conclusion makes us want to believe the validity of the argument. For example, consider this argument: Effectiveness in Writing 70 In a recent study, a group of 100 people were provided with weight training and nutritional guidance. After two months, significant weight loss was observed among the majority of the people, leading researchers to conclude that weight training and good nutrition are an important aspect of weight management. Because the conclusion is likely true (“weight training and good nutrition are an important aspect of weight management”) and we have no reason to doubt the reasons (the actual results of the study), we may want to claim the argument has a strong logical appeal. However, do the reasons of this argument (not our own observations or other research about weight management) prove the conclusion to be true? How do we know that it wasn’t weight training alone or nutritional guidance alone that caused the weight loss in this group of people? The conclusion insists that it was the two combined, but the same results might have been observed if either one or the other had been used, so the argument has a weak logical appeal even though all the statements made might be true. When evaluating arguments, look for such fallacies of reasoning. Sometimes these flaws are accidental; sometimes they are committed on purpose. It’s useful, then, to be familiar with a few common types of logical fallacies. NON SEQUITUR Non sequitur, literally meaning “it does not follow” in Latin, is a logical fallacy where the conclusion is not the logical next step from the reasons. For example: Surgeon General warnings should be removed from cigarettes because many people have lived to be in their 90s who have smoked for most of their lives. Remember, arguments often only prove that the conclusion is “probably” and not “certainly” true. The number of cases of lung cancer associated with smoking proves a causal 71 Effectiveness in Writing connection between the two. It does not follow that because some people die of other causes first that there is no connection between cancer and smoking. HASTY GENERALIZATION A hasty generalization reaches a conclusion based on too little evidence. Any type of stereotyping of a group of anything is using a hasty generalization. For example: I owned a Sony computer and it broke within the first week, so Sony products are simply not very well made. Just one example is not sufficient to prove the conclusion that all are the same way. Personal experience might provide a very good demonstration of an ethical appeal to show direct knowledge, but supplementing that personal experience with more evidence from a broader sample is necessary for the conclusion to be logically supported. SWEEPING GENERALIZATION A sweeping generalization oversimplifies a correlation. Essentially, such a fallacy ignores common exceptions. For example: Students are assessed by the quality of their work, so this assessment process should be a part of their learning. If students are allowed to retake tests, then their course grades will improve because they will learn from each assessment. Although the conclusion might be true, the argument makes a sweeping generalization about how students learn. Tests might be just a small fraction of the overall course grade or students might better learn from non-testing assessments. The proposed solution is a sweeping generalization of the nature of tests and the way students learn. A blanket statement is a type of severe sweeping generalization. A blanket statement asserts that all or none of a specific group is a certain way. For example, “the only way to Effectiveness in Writing 72 increase employee productivity is to restrict access to some websites” or “students should never be allowed to drop out of high school.” If the reader can think of just one other way to increase employee productivity (such as allowing employees frequent breaks) or one single situation where a specific student should be allowed to drop out of high school (such as to get a GED and support a family), then the argument has been proven wrong. Some key words to avoid blanket statements are “never,” “none,” “no one,” “always,” “all,” “everyone,” and the like. Similarly, some nouns alone might indicate a blanket statement, such as “French women are promiscuous,” Avoid such words by being precise, using words like “frequently,” “occasionally,” “sometimes,” “many,” “some,” and other words that leave room for exceptions. FALSE ANALOGY A false analogy argues that since two things are similar in one way, then they must be similar in another way or all ways. For example: She did a great job of balancing the budget at that company, so we should elect her as mayor. Although companies and governments both have budgets, they have significant differences in purposes. Is balancing the budget the primary goal of a city mayor? The similarity between the company and government budget does not logically support that she will have the ability to be successful in the overall job of mayor. FALSE AUTHORITY A false authority is exactly as it sounds: using a source that is not a true authority on the matter. This is actually a common unintentional fallacy when a general information web source is used to support a claim rather than using a true authority on the matter. 73 Effectiveness in Writing For example, using Wikipedia to support a claim uses the false authority logical fallacy. It’s illogical to trust Wikipedia information any more than to trust a neighbor’s assertion on the same topic since anyone with an Internet connection can modify a Wikipedia article. Again, the information might be accurate, but being true is not the same thing as being logical. AD HOMINEM (ATTACK THE PERSON) Ad hominem, literally meaning “to the man” in Latin, is a fallacy that attacks a person rather than the ideas or argument of that person. We see a lot of this type of fallacious logic in the “mud slinging” campaigns of certain politicians. For example: That man couldn’t even keep his teenage daughter from getting pregnant, so you know he won’t be a good police commissioner. Is the politician’s family life in this case truly relevant to whether or not he’d be a good police commissioner? The person is being attacked rather than reasons provided for why he would not be a good police commissioner. BANDWAGON A bandwagon logical fallacy asserts that something should be believed because most people already believe it. For example: It should be legal to download movies because everyone is doing it and the companies know it’s being done on a regular basis. There may be many good arguments to support the free sharing of entertainment online, but the argument presented that it should be legal because everyone is doing it is illogical. Effectiveness in Writing 74 CIRCULAR REASONING (BEGGING THE QUESTION) Begging the question uses the premises of the argument as the conclusion. It uses circular reasoning to claim that something is true rather than demonstrating why or how it is true. Often the conclusion is simply a restatement of one or more of the reasons. For example: He could not be guilty of that crime because it’s just not in his nature. Why is it not in his nature? What about his nature makes it probably true that he could not be guilty? The reason leads to more questions that “beg” for the conclusion to be supported with actual reasons. FALSE DILEMMA False dilemma, also known as the either/or fallacy, poses a choice between two things without acknowledging any other alternatives. For example: How could anyone who cares about our country and its people oppose health care reform? Essentially only two options are presented here: (1) care about the country and its people or (2) oppose health care reform. The rhetorical question implies that people who care about the country and its people must support health care reform, omitting the option that some people might care about the country and its people and still oppose health care reform. Rhetorical questions should be carefully assessed and used to determine if the answer the reader is asked to provide is not part of a logical fallacy. 75 Effectiveness in Writing POST HOC ERGO PROPTER HOC Post hoc ergo propter hoc, literally meaning “after this therefore because of this” in Latin, assumes that there is a cause and effect relationship between two events because one occurred before the other. For example: The moment prayer was removed from schools, society has seen an increase in teenage pregnancy and violence on school campuses. School prayer should be reinstituted because it can help protect our children. Concluding that prayer is a solution to these teen problems is not logically supported by the argument. Many other changes in society and schools occurred in the same time period since school prayer was removed, so one or a combination of these changes may have contributed to these problems. Just because one event occurred before the other does not mean that the earlier event must have caused the later one. There needs to be more support for the conclusion to show the causal relationship. SLIPPERY SLOPE A slippery slope argues that one thing will automatically lead to another. There is usually some sort of causal connection between the two things, but this connection is usually just possible and not very probable. For example: Legalizing marijuana will lead to more crime and drug addiction. This argument is fallacious if no additional support is provided. Although more crime and drug addiction may be possible, this argument has not demonstrated that it is probable. RED HERRING The red herring fallacy introduces an unrelated topic that is usually controversial. For example: Effectiveness in Writing 76 Hitler forcibly aborted children to perform medical experiments, and we would be no better than he if we allowed aborted fetuses to be used for medical research. Bringing up Hitler is not relevant to the argument that seeks to determine whether or not research should be performed on aborted fetuses. Bringing up Hitler sidetracks the argument from the actual issue. USING PERSUASIVE APPEALS IN ACADEMIC ESSAYS The purpose of an argument is not to tell an audience what you believe, but to persuade the audience that your belief is a good one. When making an argument, the goal should be to persuade the audience using the rhetorical appeals of pathos, ethos, and logos. We’ve seen through the analysis of the Declaration of Independence how the rhetorical appeals can work together within the same argument. Jefferson built credibility through word choices that united the colonists while appealing to their emotions to supplement the logical argument that supported independence. Proving reasons to be true should be based on good use of research or personal observations and experiences. For example, if arguing that capital punishment should not be legal because it does not actually deter crime, it would be necessary to present credible research to prove crime is not significantly deterred by the death penalty. Some credible research asserts the opposite, that the death penalty does deter crime. Therefore, for the argument to be logically appealing, it would be necessary to discuss this competing research and prove that the research supporting the claim that the death penalty does not deter crime is more persuasive. Using research and addressing the opposition in a fair and objective way is making an ethical appeal (building credibility) while also serving to create the logical appeal of the argument. 77 Effectiveness in Writing Another way to build both an appeal to logos and ethos is to avoid logical fallacies. Obviously, doing so builds a logical appeal, but avoiding logical fallacies also builds credibility by demonstrating to the audience that the issue has been fairly considered and the writer has not taken any shortcuts by using logical fallacies. In an academic argument, emotional appeals are typically most effective as “hooks” in the introduction paragraph to grab the reader’s attention, making the reader see the importance of the issue. For instance, a few sentences telling a vivid short story describing a pet’s final moments before being euthanized in an animal shelter might make for an effective emotional appeal to begin an argument essay in support of no-kill shelters. However, emotional appeals through vivid language and examples can be used throughout an essay to supplement the logical appeal of the overall argument. Emotional appeals are typically best to motivate for an action rather than to persuade an audience to believe an idea. For instance, fear might be used to motivate someone to stop smoking due to the cancer risks. That would be an appropriate use of an emotional appeal to support a logical argument about the cancer risks associated with smoking. However, arguing that capital punishment should be used to prevent the possibility of your grandmother being murdered is an illogical use of an emotional appeal since the chances of that one person being murdered if capital punishment were abolished is not likely. Emotional appeals should supplement logical arguments; emotional appeals alone often result in logical fallacies. When considering how to use these appeals together, it might help to compare the persuasive appeal of an argument to a jury trial. The audience is the jury and each writer is a lawyer. Just as each lawyer presents a different logical explanation of the crime, puts forth evidence and witnesses, and uses emotions in opening and closing statements, the writer Effectiveness in Writing 78 presents a logical argument, uses credible research as evidence, and might provide emotional appeals in introduction and conclusion paragraphs. After presenting an argument, the audience might not be totally convinced that you are right, but the audience should at least be convinced that you are a credible person with a logical argument. To wrap up then, how can you make your argument most appealing to an academic or professional audience? Remember these key strategies: • Outline the logical argument by identifying its thesis and supporting reasons. Identify the thesis by identifying the conclusion of the argument that the paper is proving to be true. List the supporting reasons and make sure that they make the thesis the logical result. Perhaps focus one paragraph on proving each reason to be true. • Avoid logical fallacies! • Use good research to prove each reason to be true. The research should be persuasive for the target audience. For instance, if writing an academic paper about strategies for overcoming depression, use articles published in scholarly journals read by professional psychologists (such as The Journal of Clinical Psychology) instead of articles about depression published in USA Today or on WebMD. • Proofread and edit carefully. Credibility can be quickly lost, and can be difficult to recover, if there are many grammar, spelling, or formatting errors. Remember to edit carefully for precise word choice such as avoiding words like “all” or “none” if “most” or “few” are more accurate. READING CRITICALLY During lesson two, you read about the importance of seeking academic sources in writing. You were told to search for sources written by authoritative authors, who write without bias (favoring a particular side without a rational and justifiable reason). Using 79 Effectiveness in Writing academic sources and experts can help strengthen your writing, not only in this course, but in your future work as well. This section of the course will discuss how to read these academic sources in a critical and analytic manner. Often, college students approach written works as they would a biology or math textbook. They passively read the information and take the information at its surface value. However, when researching, it is important to get beneath the surface of a work, become an active reader, and understand the work at a deeper level. To be able to examine a work critically, you must understand that work. However, sometimes you will encounter works that are quite tricky, especially peer-reviewed essays. This sort of difficulty occurs because peer-reviewed articles present researched information about a topic and do not necessarily give quick bites of information, as we often see in newspapers. If you choose to use journal articles when researching, it is helpful to print up the work. Then, as you are working through the article, use annotations off to the side after each paragraph. These annotations can briefly summarize each of these paragraphs and help you understand the essay as a whole. Be sure to define any technical jargon: words that are specifically related to a certain specialized field or discipline. You may also want to write these definitions off to the side. Then, when you have completed reading the article, review your side annotations. After you understand the article and are able to summarize it, think about why an author wrote the essay. You must decide what the author’s motive is behind the work. Is the author simply listing information to the reader, or does the author want to persuade the reader to believe a certain way or feel a certain emotion about an issue? Then, go further. How does the author work to influence the reader to believe or feel a certain way? Does this author use facts (logos)? Is the author an expert in the field (ethos)? Does the author try to Effectiveness in Writing 80 make the reader feel a certain way through narration (pathos)? Are there argumentative fallacies that affect or hinder this author’s point? When you read a work critically, you not only think about “what” the essay says, you also must think about “why” the author wrote the essay and “how” the author tries to prove his/her point (thesis statement). Here’s an illustration. Please click on the following link: “In Japan, Nice Guys (and Girls) Finish Together.” Please note that you will have to enter your APUS login information. To summarize the article, Nicholas D. Kristof discusses his experiences with Japanese children at his son’s birthday party in 1998. He explains that the Japanese children were having difficulty playing some of the more competitive games at the party. Kristof then states the following thesis statement: “American kids are taught to be winners, to seize their opportunities and maybe the next kid’s as well. Japanese children are taught to be good citizens, to be team players, to obey rules, to be content to be a mosaic tile in some larger design.” He emphasizes this thesis with this: “The social and economic basis of modern Japan is egalitarianism, and that does not leave much room for either winners or losers. In Japan, winning isn’t everything, and it isn’t the only thing; in elementary schools it isn’t even a thing at all.” Kristof attempts to prove his thesis through four additional case studies—a discussion of his child’s sports day at a Japanese kindergarten, his experience with Japanese book reviewers, a personal interview with a Tokyo bank executive, and his wife’s birthing experience at a Japanese hospital. Basically, Kristof uses personal case studies (pathos) to prove his point. Would this article work as research for an argumentative essay? The year, of course, would be the main issue. It is an older work (1998). However, let’s say that you were tasked with researching Japanese children at the end of 20th century. Would this article work for that topic? Upon the initial reading, the article appears to make a compelling case. The 81 Effectiveness in Writing author writes in an intelligent manner and has clearly lived in Japan. Also, this article was published in a reputable newspaper: The New York Times. Now, think critically about the work. Why did Kristof write this essay? He wants to prove to the reader that Japanese school children are less competitive than American children. How does Kristof prove this? He does not use statistics, conduct social experiments, or consult sociologists. He writes an expository essay using a personal narrative. Usually, what will sway an audience will be facts, statistics, and experts. Personal narratives can be useful in isolation to add pathos to an essay. However, a work that focuses on personal narratives would not be a strong source in an academic research essay because the facts that an article like this presents has not been proven. Relying on articles like the example above to prove points within your research paper could possibly weaken your argument. This is why it is important to approach works with a critical eye when conducting research. Now, take a critical look at another essay. Please click on the following link: “Confidence in Mathematics and Algebra Achievement of Eighth-Grade Students in Japan: Findings from the TIMSS Assessment.” You will have to enter your APUS login information in order to read this article by J. Daniel House and James A. Telese. When you open this article, you will notice right away that this article appears to be denser than Kristof’s. This is where reading actively becomes even more essential and taking notations, as explained above, may be necessary. Essentially, House and Telese’s essay focuses on a similar theme as Kristof’s: Japan and education. Like Kristof, the authors write in an intelligent manner and appear to be quite knowledgeable about the subject. The source is reputable as well: Education, a peerreviewed journal. Now, think critically. Why did the authors write this article? The authors believe many Japanese students continue to perform well on mathematical assessments Effectiveness in Writing 82 because these students feel confident in their mathematical abilities. In order to prove this relationship between confidence in mathematical ability and test performance, the authors use statistical analysis by surveying over four thousand algebra students about their confidence levels. The authors then compare the results of the surveys to the students’ test scores and find that “students who showed high levels of algebra achievement indicated [in the survey] that they usually did well in mathematics and learned things quickly in mathematics” (House and Telese 253-4). In the article, the authors provide a table that specifies their findings (logos). The authors also explain how other researchers have discovered a similar relationship (ethos). Because House and Telese vary their methods of support and provide concrete evidence to back up their claim, the information provided within this essay could potentially be a valuable addition to a research paper. As shown above, using critical thinking when researching can improve the quality of your written work. By thinking critically about how a work proves its argument, and not merely skimming through and passively summarizing the work, you will be better able to recognize strong sources. Using strong sources, of course, will help improve your written arguments. Learning how to read critically will also help you with the critical evaluation essay as well. When you approach the essay you plan to discuss, make sure to think about why the author wrote this argument and how the author supports the argument. Do not fall into the trap of passively reading your chosen essay for information. Be an active reader and writer. Take your time to break down the article, and think about how each part works to prove the author’s point. If a piece does not work, think about what the argumentative fallacy could be. 83 Effectiveness in Writing REVISING YOUR WORK Reading critically will not only help you in understanding other essays, reading critically will also help you with your writing, especially when it comes to reviewing and revising your work. Passively reading your essay, and editing a word here and there, is simply the fine tuning. It is similar to frosting a cake that is not fully baked. Many students make the mistakes of getting bogged down with smaller technical issues (a comma splice, an incorrect use of a semi-colon), and they do not think about the effectiveness of the essay as a whole. When revising, there are actual steps that you can take in order to help your writing improve. Before you search for comma splices and run-on sentences, make sure that the content in your essay is as strong as it can be, that you have answered the assignment question, and that you have proven your thesis statement. Mark Christenson speaks to the importance of revision in his article “The Importance of Revision in Writing Composition.” Christenson states that when revising their own work, students not only learn how to become better writers. An honest appraisal of their own work will also help students learn more about their writing abilities, which will allow them to become more confident as writers. You can read more of his revision discussion by clicking on the following link and entering your APUS login information: “The Importance of Revision in Writing Composition.” You may want to read through this article to discover more about why you should to revise your work. Blum, Keller, and Tracy, in their essay “Commentary: Do Not Edit When You Need to Revise,” discuss the differences of editing small technical issues and conducting a full revision of a work. They explain why students should revise a work prior to editing a work. Using word processing programs allows students to “produce a document with a clean and Effectiveness in Writing 84 professional appearance.” However, this clean appearance masks content issues that might occur once the reader actually reads the essay. These content issues should be revised, prior to the editing and formatting process. To read more about the differences between revision and editing, as presented by these authors in this article, please click on the following link: “Commentary: Do Not Edit When You Need to Revise.” When beginning your revision, be sure to read through the assignment in its entirety. Then, read through your essay. Make sure that you actually completed the assignment correctly. Often, students become focused on writing the essay and forget to actually complete the assignment properly (making sure to answer the assignment question, having the adequate number of sources, keeping the appropriate focus). You must verify that you have completed all the components of the assignment in your essay. Next, check your thesis statement, and read it again. Make sure that your thesis statement not only has a topic, but that it also has a point (a claim). Sometimes students write thesis statements that state the topic of their research, but neglect to state what they plan to prove about this topic. Be sure that your thesis has both components. Remember that you are not writing a mystery novel. Reveal your exact point and claim within your thesis statement. The reader should know exactly what you plan to prove after completing your opening paragraph. Also, make sure your thesis statement is in fact a statement and not a question. The thesis statement should be the single, summary answer to your research question, not the original question itself. Finally, make sure that this thesis statement is at the bottom of your opening paragraph. At times, students try to place their thesis statement at the beginning of the introduction. However, when this is done, it can be tricky to continue the introduction. For example, some students who begin their essay with their thesis will 85 Effectiveness in Writing continue the introduction by discussing specific points too early. Specific information like this is best left for the body of an essay. After checking your thesis statement, read through each paragraph and make sure that the points presented in each paragraph work toward proving your thesis statement. If you find a paragraph that goes in another direction, you either need to remove that paragraph or rework your thesis, in light of what you have actually discussed in your essay. Do this with each body paragraph. Once you have decided that each paragraph works to prove your thesis statement, think about how you have organized these paragraphs. Is your essay organized in a logical manner? Does your essay transition properly from one paragraph to another? You may want to consider adding transitional phrases at the start of your paragraphs. This will help the reader to understand the connection between your thoughts, linking them in a seamless, coherent, and logical manner. Finally, sometimes it helps to arrange your paragraphs in order to end the body portion of your essay with your strongest body paragraph. This will ensure that your readers have the strongest persuasive point in mind as they conclude your essay. After you have organized your essay, take a look at the length of each paragraph in relation to the other. Are the paragraphs around the same size? That is, make sure that you do not have several shorter paragraphs and several longer paragraphs. Each paragraph should be around (not exactly, though) the same length. This will ensure your points are presented, more or less, evenly. Additionally, make sure you have a thorough introduction and conclusion. Once you have worked to organize your ideas as a whole, conduct a more detailed review of each individual paragraph. Does the paragraph start with a topic sentence that speaks to the overall point of the paragraph? Does each paragraph discuss one topic, and Effectiveness in Writing 86 does not shift topics midway through? Do you discuss the information presented in this paragraph in a bias-free manner? If not, you must adjust your discussion. Also, make sure to define all technical jargon as well (but there is no need to define well-known terms). Check that the paragraph ends with your thoughts and not with a quotation. Be sure to check all of your references, and back-up any specific points with an in-text citation. Only after you have examined your assignment details, your thesis, and your essay’s structure, should you begin editing by delving into the smaller technical issues with the grammar and the citation format. To help catch smaller technical errors, it is important to read each sentence in isolation from the others. Some writers find it helpful to read the essay from the bottom up. Start by reading the final sentence out loud to yourself. Then, move on to the second to last sentence and so on. Remember, to remove the first and second person references (no I, you, me, and so on). When writing formal academic essays, it is best to use third person. Make sure to review the MLA citation information as presented in the second lesson. When in doubt, always consult MLA documentation sites regarding the format of a citation. In a nutshell, when you revise your work, you should check for the following: 1. Check to make sure you have actually completed the assignment. 2. Check your thesis statement. It should have a topic, have a point, and be the final sentence of your opening paragraph. 3. Check to make sure that each paragraph works to prove the thesis. If a paragraph does not prove your thesis, remove it or adjust your thesis. 4. Check the organization of your essay and the size of your paragraphs. 5. Check that each paragraph focuses on one topic, and all information is cited correctly. 87 Effectiveness in Writing 6. Check your grammar and the format of your citations. In addition to revising and editing your work, find a proofreader. Do not be afraid to share your writing. Your proofreader may suggest ideas with which you disagree. That’s fine. You do not have to take advantage of every suggestion. Almost invariably, however, your proofreader will discover an error of which you were unaware or make a suggestion that you had not considered. This is to be expected and is an important final step in the writing process. INTRODUCTIONS Earlier in this lesson, you learned about the importance of being able to read critically. Those critical reading skills are called into play the moment you begin to read the first paragraph of a piece. Without even being aware you make judgments about the article you are reading, as well as about its author. You decide if you like or trust or respect the author. You decide if this piece of writing is one you will continue to read and remember or one that you will put aside. In this process, you recognize the importance of the saying “You don’t have a second chance to make a first impression.” That is why introductions are so important. A good introduction creates a first impression, one that invites the reader to continue into the work, or one that discourages the reader from proceeding. A good introduction is often described as a “hook,” a tool used to reach and hold the reader’s interest. It is also described as a doorway, an entry into the author’s world, a place where the reader may learn new information, enjoy a positive literary experience, or possibly decide to pursue a specific course of action. Given the importance of the introduction, it is a good idea for you to take great care in its construction. Many students find the introduction very difficult to do and some writing instructors encourage students to write the introduction after other parts of the essay have Effectiveness in Writing 88 been completed. Guidelines offered in this lesson will help you take on the critical task of building a solid introduction that gets your readers inside your work. One of the important things you should do before you begin your introduction is to ensure that you have enough knowledge about your topic to write confidently about it. Students often struggle with a writing assignment simply because they do not possess enough detailed information about the topic to move beyond making general statements. Specificity is a sign of a good writer and that results from a broad and deep understanding of the topic. Making sure that you are comfortable with your topic before you begin is a wise first step. One good way to do this is to have a conversation with someone about the topic. Often discussing the topic will help you see unanswered questions, holes in data, jumps in logic, and information that isn’t closely related to your topic. Once you feel comfortable with your level of knowledge about the topic, you can begin to decide how you want to open the door for your reader. Take time to understand who your intended audience is, so that your introduction will most effectively meet the reader’s expectations. Ask yourself what the reader knows about your topic. Decide how much explanation you will need to provide initially to get your reader engaged. Ask yourself what the reader’s attitude toward the topic looks like. Is the reader neutral, supportive of or opposed to your topic? Is your topic emotionally charged, one that has proponents and opponents lined up firmly and vehemently? Arguments about issues such as gun control and abortion are difficult to develop effectively because both sides have such strong and widely disseminated views. If your topic and stance are quite controversial, you will want to make sure that your introduction sets the stage for calm, rationale discourse. After you have decided what your intended audience knows and feels about your topic and stance, you can begin to decide how to build your introduction. There are a 89 Effectiveness in Writing number of tested strategies for getting a reader into your argument. It’s helpful to look at examples. To see one good introduction, click on the following link: “The Struggle for Human Rights,” delivered by Eleanor Roosevelt on September 28, 1948, in Paris, France. Look carefully at this first paragraph. What techniques does Roosevelt use to get your interest, to invite you to hear her argument? What effect does she have on you by making an announcement of her topic, the preservation of human freedom, in the first sentence? How do you respond to the very simple language of the first sentence? What phrase does she repeat three times in this introductory paragraph? Why do you think she repeats this phrase? How is each use of the phrase different? Notice how she uses hyphens to set off three key words associated with the French Revolution (liberty, equality and fraternity). What is the impact of her announcing those three important nouns and then stating them? How do you respond to her pairing of the words freedom and tyranny? As you read through the entire speech, identify the points she makes to support her topic and stance. Does her introduction prepare you for what follows? Roosevelt’s simple language, use of repetition, and provision of vivid detailed reminders of recent events present a strong argument, one we are able to enter with ease because of her solid introduction. As you read different arguments this semester, you will find a variety of introductory strategies. One effective kind of introduction involves the use of a pithy quotation. Using a sharp, brief statement, often made by a famous person, gets the reader’s attention and initiates the relationship with the topic. One example of an introduction that uses a quotation can be found by clicking on the APUS Library. Find the book Closing Arguments: Clarence Darrow on Religion, Law, and Effectiveness in Writing 90 Society, published by the Ohio University Press in 2005. Go to chapter 3 “On Politics and Society,” and find the essay “Patriotism,” beginning on page 175. The author, Clarence Darrow, was one of the most important and well known defense attorneys in American history. Among the famous cases he defended was the Scopes monkey trial, about a teacher in Tennessee teaching the concept of evolution. The quotation Darrow selected to begin his essay on patriotism is from the writings of German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) who, in addition to serving in his country’s government, was also a novelist, dramatist, and scientist. Darrow published the essay in 1910, arguing for a movement away from narrow nationalism to the recognition that we are all connected in artistic, scientific, and moral pursuits. Carefully read Goethe’s quotation. What key point or points do you take from it? Do you agree with Goethe that art and science belong to the whole world? Do you accept Goethe’s stance that art and science can only be promoted through open exchange and sharing past knowledge? After you have read Darrow’s piece, answer these questions. How does the Darrow use Goethe’s quotation as a springboard to his topic and stance? What specific strategies does he use to tie the quotation together with his own work? Would the essay be weaker if the quotation were omitted? Quotations on various topics are easy to find. Visit the Summon search engine in the APUS Library. You will be asked to log in. Once you have logged in, type “quotations” in the Search box. You do not have to have quote marks around the word. Click “Book/eBook” on the left side to see a list of quotation resources in library. Select one of these sources. Examine its table of contents and browse through the work. Try finding a topic you like, either through the table of contents or index in the volume. If you can’t think of a topic, try 91 Effectiveness in Writing one of these: loyalty, perseverance, sunrise, or memory. Then explore the quotations listed for that topic. Think about what kind of argument essay you might write using one of the quotations as part of your introduction. Identify ways this quotation might support a stance you would take on the topic. Practice with a few quotations until you become comfortable with the process. Remember that after you find a quotation you like, it’s a good idea to gather information about the author so you can put the quotation in context. If you use a quotation in your essay, you must cite it properly. Another commonly used and powerful entry is to begin an essay with an anecdote, which is a brief story. This approach is effective because we love storytelling. Cultures have long passed on important information from one generation to another through stories or fables or parables. You can probably remember accounts your parents told you as you were growing up about children who ended up in trouble or were hurt because they did forbidden things like playing with matches or taking candy from strangers. Storytelling is something we like to do. In an argument essay, an anecdote can quickly engage the reader. Descriptive details and smooth narration of events can create a powerful word picture for the reader. From there the author can merge the story with the essay’s thesis statement and move into the body of the essay, knowing that the reader is already connected to the writer’s position. A powerful introduction using anecdote can be seen in Eric Zorn’s blog post, “Death Penalty and Deterrence—the Argument from Anecdote,” published in the Chicago Tribune on April 23, 2011. The post appeared after the governor of Illinois abolished the death penalty in the state. Effectiveness in Writing 92 What impacts do the introductory sentences have on you? Does the author get your interest? Is he successful in engaging you with his argument? How does Zorn’s introductory account of a crime connect with his stance that the risk of executing an innocent person far outweighs the death penalty’s deterrence of future crimes? Would the post be as effective if the anecdote were omitted? This blog post is especially appropriate for this section of the lesson because it speaks to the use of anecdotes in building an argument. Zorn says that data should rate higher than anecdotes when making public policy decisions such as the use of the death penalty. While the author makes a good point about the problem of using anecdotes as proof in an argument, he does in fact use the tool effectively to get the reader into his work. There are other good ways to get your reader into your argument essay, including using intriguing statistics and asking rhetorical questions. Statistics, especially if they are surprising or impressive, can intrigue the reader and set the stage for the stance you will take. For example, this astounding statistic, taken from the Humane Society of the United States, could provide a powerful entry into an argument essay about the importance of spaying and neutering pets: “About 2.7 million cats and dogs—about one every eleven seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year.” The introductory paragraph could describe how long it would typically take to read the essay and how many animals would have been put down during that time. This rousing account could lead nicely into a reasoned discussion of the importance of spaying and neutering pets. Rhetorical questions are another way of engaging the reader right away. These are devices authors include to rouse curiosity. An answer is not really expected. Rhetorical questions are common in discourse and run the gamut from the popular and much copied 93 Effectiveness in Writing advertising copy “Got milk?” to Shylock’s famous lines from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice: Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? If you prick us, do we not bleed, if you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? When we read a rhetorical question (such as “How often do you blink in an hour?”) we tend to try to formulate an answer. For example, it is likely that you may have just estimated how many times you blink in an hour. When we read rhetorical questions, we become involved in the issue almost involuntarily. To see an illustration of an effective introduction using a rhetorical question, click on the following link: “The Real Language Crisis,” by Russell Berman, published in Academe 97.5, September/October 2011. Russell Berman’s argument, that higher education needs to more strongly emphasize the acquisition of second-languages to prevent American from being isolated from other nations, is introduced effectively through the use of a rhetorical question. Berman asks if higher education in America will provide the chance to understand others across the globe or will it collapse, in response to “isolationism and xenophobia.” Xenophobia is an unreasonable fear of strangers, foreigners, or those different from ourselves. Berman asks the reader to think about these two poles: listening to voices around the world or isolating ourselves in fear. How do you respond to his question? What kinds of possible responses form in your mind? Do you find yourself leaning toward one choice? Does the question effectively set the stage for the rest of Berman’s argument? Would removing the rhetorical question weaken his introduction? Effectiveness in Writing 94 There are other strategies that work well in introductions. Sometimes simply jumping in to your topic is the best way to get started. Sometimes it is a good idea to explain right away why a reader should care about your topic. Other times it is effective to provide a brief history of a topic in your introduction, providing background information for the reader. Whatever strategy you decide to use in your introduction, you will want the introduction to create context for the topic and encourage the reader to feel the need to read more about the topic. You will do this in your introduction, in part, with your thesis statement. As you build your introduction for the argument essay, it is recommended that you state your thesis statement clearly and include in that thesis both your topic and the stance you are going to take. This is explained in more detail below in the section on thesis statements. It is also recommended that your thesis statement be located at the end of your introduction. This allows you time to provide your reader some background information about the topic and to establish your credibility to write on this topic. Locating your thesis at the end of your introduction helps ensure that you will not begin to provide the detailed evidence to support your stance too soon, that you will save it for the body paragraphs that follow. In a nutshell, you should keep these things in mind when writing your introduction: 1. You should have a solid understanding of your topic so you can confidently discuss it in detail. 2. You should build your introduction so it “hooks” the reader’s attention and invites the reader to continue into your essay. 3. You should use an introduction that is appropriate for your topic and audience. 95 Effectiveness in Writing 4. You can choose from a number of approaches, including the use of quotation, anecdote, statistics, rhetorical question, background information, and a brief description of the topic and stance. 5. You should put your thesis statement at the end of your introduction, so it can smoothly guide your reader into the body of your argument. THESIS STATEMENTS Earlier in this lesson, in the section on revising your work, you were given guidance on the thesis statement. A thesis statement is a critical element of your essay, in that it is the core of your piece. It is what the essay is all about. It is more, however, than just an announcement of your main idea. A helpful way to think of a thesis statement is to visualize it as the hub of a spoked wheel. It hooks everything together. All paragraphs span out from this center; the essay rolls smoothly with the thesis as its hub. The thesis statement should be strong enough to hold the body paragraphs together. The thesis statement needs to have two key elements: a topic and a point (a stance). It isn’t enough to say that you will discuss the reintroduction of wolves in the western United States. You must also include in the thesis statement what your point will be about that reintroduction. You may include descriptive details about the reasons, process and results of reintroduction, but you should, in an argument essay, also have a point to prove. Your point may be that the reasons for its introduction were not based on sound evidence; your point may be that the process used for its reintroduction omitted key stakeholders; your point may be that the results of its reintroduction have been devastating to certain resources or citizens. You want to include both key elements, a topic and a point, in your thesis statement. Effectiveness in Writing 96 A good thesis statement is written as one complete sentence. It should not be a question. Frequently, when a student couches her thesis statement as a question, her actual thesis statement may be the answer to that question. For example, a student may say that this is her thesis statement: “Shouldn’t American parents demand that toy packaging be ecologically friendly?” If her essay goes on to demonstrate the environmental impacts of toy packaging and the ease with which such a change in packaging could be made, her actual thesis statement may in fact be “American parents should demand that toy packaging, which contributes significantly to environmental degradation, be ecologically friendly, a change that would have minimal impacts on toymakers’ profits.” It is a good idea to avoid phrasing your thesis statement as a compound (that is, twopart) sentence. Doing so often sends you, and therefore the reader, in two different directions. Here is an example of a proposed thesis statement, formatted as a compound sentence. “Uniforms should be required for all public middle school students and the clothing selected should be made in the United States of materials produced in this country.” Does the writer want to address the issue of uniforms as a way of improving learning conditions for middle school students or does the writer want to argue for providing business for American producers and manufacturers? The thesis statement seems to convey that its author is going to try to prove two different points. You should try to avoid this kind of two-pronged approach. Try to keep your thesis statement a clear, focused, simple declarative sentence. Work to ensure that your reader knows exactly what your topic is and what you are going to prove about that topic. Some students use general, sweeping statements as their thesis statements, a strategy that is not often successful. Examples of such generalizations might be “For centuries war has inflicted horrors on countries” or “Humans have suffered immensely 97 Effectiveness in Writing because of intense storms” or “Domestic abuse should be eliminated as it has become a serious problem in our nation.” It is much better to drill down into more specific detail for a powerful thesis statement. Other students build their thesis statements around a dictionary’s definition of a term. An example of this kind of thesis is “The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘discrimination’ as ‘a prejudiced or prejudicial outlook, action, or treatment’ and that accurately describes the kind of unfair treatment the homeless are currently experiencing in our community.” A definition can serve as a springboard for a good argument, particularly if the writer is going to provide solid evidence that sheds new light on a commonly accepted definition. In addition, definitions of terms that may be unknown to the reader are critical in some argument essays. But using a dictionary definition as the basis for your thesis statement is not recommended. Where is the best place to put a thesis statement? As indicated earlier, the preferred location for a thesis statement in an argument essay is at the end of the first paragraph. Beginning the paragraph with your thesis often leads to providing multiple details of support in that first paragraph, details that you will actually be covering more fully in subsequent body paragraphs. Should a thesis statement ever be invisible, that is, implied? Some writers can accomplish their goals by having an implied thesis statement, one that is not specifically spelled out, but one that forms in the reader’s mind, a result of carefully constructed logic and abundant detail. However, in the type of argument essays you are writing in this class and will typically write in other academic and professional settings, it is advisable to specifically state your thesis. Leave no doubt in the reader’s mind what your topic is and what stance you are taking. Effectiveness in Writing 98 Should a thesis statement ever be located at the end of an essay? Some writers can put their thesis statements at the end of an essay, often following a build-up of vivid details, delivering a powerful final punch to the work. Like an implied thesis statement, a thesis statement at the end of an essay may not be the most appropriate and effective choice for the essays you will be doing in your college and career writing, particularly in argument essays. In summary, you should keep these things in mind when writing your thesis statement: 1. Your thesis statement is the core of the essay. 2. You should include two elements in your thesis statement: the topic and your point (stance). 3. The thesis statement should be a single, declarative sentence, not a question. 4. You should avoid using broad generalizations or dictionary definitions as thesis statements. 5. You should put your thesis statement at the end of your introduction, so it can smoothly guide your reader into the body of your argument. WRITING CONCLUSIONS Writing a good conclusion is as important a task as writing a good introduction. This is your last chance to connect with the reader, to have your final bit of conversation together. Readers will take a memorable conclusion with them, possibly carrying that bit of prose long after the essay was read. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression and you only have one chance to make a lasting impression as you finish your essay. Carefully planning and constructing your conclusion so that it reinforces your thesis statement is critical. 99 Effectiveness in Writing It will be important that your conclusion has a sense of finality to it. The reader needs to know that you are finished, that you’ve said what you have to say. You don’t want to leave the reader hanging, wondering “Is there a final page missing?” Some teachers may suggest that, to create this sense of finality, you end by taking your reader back to where you started. That approach can be effective. It can also seem a bit contrived, so if you use this circular movement, do so carefully. Give your reader a fresh view, not just a reiteration of the information you presented at the beginning. Readers like a sense of completion. They like the feel of having worked through an argument with the author, reaching a satisfying end to the trek. It’s much like the feeling one may have after reading a good mystery or watching a high quality movie. Things make sense; ends are tied up neatly; the ending feels just right. What are some good ways to end your argument essay? Not surprisingly many of these ways are similar to methods used for introductions. Anecdotes, quotations and statistics could be used effectively to wrap up your argument, as could rhetorical questions. The guidance set forth about these items in the section of the lesson about introductions would also apply to their use in conclusions. You may want to use the conclusion to summarize your key points, but don’t just stop there. It’s a good idea to synthesize, rather than summarize. Give your reader something more than just a repetition of assertions you made earlier. What does it mean to synthesize information? To understand the term, it’s helpful to think about what you do when you analyze something: you break it down into component parts. When you synthesize information, you do almost the opposite. Instead of breaking something down into parts, you put parts together to create something new. You combine pieces of information, pieces that are often dissimilar from each other, and you meld them into a coherent whole. When you Effectiveness in Writing 100 think about a synthesizer in a musical sound system, you think about a piece of equipment that merges differing tones to make a pleasing bit of music. That is what you do when you provide synthesis at the end of your argument. You help the reader see the disparate pieces of information that you provided as a unified, satisfying bit of discourse. Many good writers use the conclusion of an argument to challenge the reader, maybe to make the reader move out of a comfort zone. This challenge may take the form of thinking differently about a topic or it may take the form of a call to action. The argument may be so persuasive that the reader will, in fact, follow directions in the conclusion to contact public officials or to change personal habits of resource consumption. It may be effective for a writer to issue a warning to the reader, a cautionary projection about what consequences may occur if action is not taken. Such a warning should be issued in an understated, calm way. A reader would not want to feel that “the sky is falling!” after reading your argument. Projecting your reader into the future, into the possible consequences of a situation that is not changed, is a way to help the reader answer the “So what?” question about an argument. You should, throughout your argument, be providing detailed evidence about why this issue should matter to the reader. You should be stressing the importance of your topic and stance through the body of your essay. Your conclusion is one more opportunity to tell your reader how important this issue is. This is your final chance to make a lasting mark in your reader’s memory, something she will carry with her after she has finished reading your work. To summarize, these are points you should keep in mind when writing your conclusion: 1. Your conclusion needs to create a sense of completion. 101 Effectiveness in Writing 2. Techniques like anecdotes, quotations, statistics, and rhetorical questions work well for conclusions. 3. You should synthesize, that is pull together, rather than just summarize points you have presented. 4. You may want to set forth possible consequences of the situation you have been exploring. This may even take the form of a warning. 5. You may challenge the reader or make a call to action. 6. Your conclusion should answer the “So what?” question, convincing the reader of the importance of your topic and stance. 7. You should avoid weaker endings, such as broad general statements. 8. You should leave a final vivid impression on your reader. CONCLUSION This completes lesson three. This is a longer lesson; however, make sure to fully understand the concepts that were explained to you, for the material presented in this lesson will help you create stronger arguments. Next time you read an essay (including your own work), consider how the author opened the essay and the author’s thesis statement. Also, think about the persuasive appeals that author used (if any) and if the author committed any argumentative fallacies. Did the author effectively revise the argument, and did that author conclude in a thoughtful manner? Approaching written arguments in an active, critical manner will help improve your writing and reading skills. QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER 1. How can utilizing the persuasive appeals improve your arguments? 2. What argumentative errors should you be aware of when researching a topic? 3. How can reading critically improve your writing? Effectiveness in Writing 102 4. Why is it important to revise a work before editing it? 5. What are some of the components of an effective introduction and conclusion? 103 Effectiveness in Writing Works Cited Berman, Russell. “The Real Language Crisis.” Academe 97.5. Sept./Oct. 2011: 30-34. ProQuest. Web. 1 Jan. 2012. Blum, E. Joan , M. Martin, E. Keller, and J. Tracy. “Commentary: Do Not Edit When You Need To Revise.” Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly (n.d.): Regional Business News. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. Christiansen, Mark. “The Importance Of Revision In Writing Composition.” Education Digest 56.2 (1990): 70-72. Academic Search Premier. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. Darrow, Clarence. “Patriotism.” Closing Arguments: Clarence Darrow on Religion, Law, and Society. Athens, OH, USA: Ohio University Press, 2005. 183. Web. 1 Jan 2012. House, J. Daniel, and James A. Telese. “Confidence in Mathematics and Algebra Achievement of Eighth-Grade Students in Japan: Findings from the TIMSS 2011 Assessment.” Education 135.2 (2014): 252-256. Education Research Complete. Web. 13 July 2016. Humane Society of the United States. Pet Overpopulation. Web. 1 Jan. 2012. Kristof, Nicholas D. “Correspondence/Uncompetitive in Tokyo; In Japan, Nice Guys (And Girls) Finish Together.” New York Times 12 Apr. 1998: 7. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Nov. 2011. Lucas, Stephen E. “The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence.” National Archives, 1989. Web. 4 Dec. 2011 . Roosevelt, Eleanor. “The Struggle for Human Rights.” Paris, France. 28 Sept. 1948. Web. 1 Jan. 2012. Effectiveness in Writing 104 Zorn, Eric. “Death Penalty and Deterrence—the Argument from Anecdote.” Change of Subject. Chicago Tribune. 23 Apr. 2011. Web. 1 Jan. 2012.
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