There is nothing more that The Study Dude wants for you than to learn the arts of paraphrasing, objecting to naysayers, and organizing your reasons to support your claim.
Well, in these articles, as The Study Dude, I’ll try to give you the study tips you need to help make your learning easier. I’ll also give you straight and honest opinions and personal anecdotes?even the embarrassing ones that you wouldn’t ever dare read about from any other study tip guru.
The book The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams gives rise to part three of the Study Dude article. The book provides essential advice on the gamut of writing essays, researching, and citing. If you ever wondered about the nature of a thesis statement, for instance, this book will respond to all your musings and more.
What to Say to the Naysayer
When I wrote papers, I never inserted an opposing view. I might have hinted at data that didn’t go with the grain or that was anomalous, but I never actually entertained another author’s contradictory views. Why? No-one ever told me that responding to a naysayer makes for a stronger paper.
Recently, I interviewed authors Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein who wrote the book They Say; I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, and they exhort you to entertain all kinds of different views related to your topic, to enter a conversation. Yes, your views matter, and your views may put a different spin on a topic, so be sure to include your response to the naysayer’s views in your paper. Respond to those views as best as you can, with data, with secondary citations, with your own reasoning followed by evidence from the literature–with whatever evidence you can pull out of your opinion arsenal. But beware: a reason without eventual support or evidence from facts, data, or sources, is, in academic speak, a reason with little substance.
When Booth, Colomb, and Willliams, in their book The Craft of Research, supported the view that you should engage with the naysayers, I knew this little tidbit needed to be drawn to your attention. I knew this because I had once been oblivious to the value of responding to objections. As follows is what Booth, Colomb, and Williams say about responding to naysayers, whether they be from other authors or imagined from your readership:
- Try to bear in mind any way that your reader might object or offer an alternative perspective to your view. Address these objections and alternatives in your writing. By addressing the objections, you strengthen the ethos of your paper.
- Wait until after you’ve composed your key argument, your thesis and evidence before responding to perceived objections. This way, the objections don’t debilitate you in the drafting process.
- Readers will want to see a close fit between your research problem and solution. Readers will not want you to overstate your claim. If the reader can question your claim’s merit, you’ll want to either rewrite your claim or address that question in the context of your paper.
- Imagine as many questions as your reader could possibly pose against your claim and evidence, and address the biggest ones. Imagine that you present data to support your views and the reader wants some other form of data. For instance, say you provide a secondary quote and your reader wants something more statistical. If you can provide that additional support, your paper will climb in quality.
- If you think your reader won’t agree with your view, compile even more evidence.
- Pay attention to when the author you encounter takes an opposing, or at least different, view to yours. This opposing or differing view can help you strengthen your paper. If you both agree or disagree with a topic, but the views take somewhat different approaches, you can strengthen your paper by adding this alternative view.
- If you respond to naysayers, add to your response a claim, reasons supporting your view, evidence supporting your reasons, and even a warrant that logically connects the reasons with the claim.
- If your claim sucks, and you find on investigation it’s proven wrong by counterviews, one method to salvage your paper is to transform your claim into a hypothesis or a research question that you prove to be wrong.
How to Organize Your Reasons Supporting Your Claim
I had this cunning, yet delightful, professor who discovered the trick to organizing your paper so that your weakest point gets buried, almost unnoticed, in your paper, and your strongest points resonate. This crafty professor argued to use the formula where you start with a bang with your second best point, follow with your third best, and so on, until you get to the near end of the paper. Near the end, you insert your very worst, weakest point just before the final point, consisting of your very best argument. Now, I followed this formula, trying to mask my one weakest, most unsubstantiated point by following it with the concluding zinger– the very best point I could possibly muster. The zinger would dazzle the professor marking the paper, lending to amnesia concerning my weakest point. Rule of thumb: Baffle the professor. Yes, you heard it from the Study Dude.
Although the formula seemingly cut some slack in my own mind, nowhere in the literature do any of the authors espouse this professor’s strategy. He’s a lone wolf. In the long run, I’m not sure his strategy reflected as well on my grades as I might have thought. The wiser course of action involves ensuring that all of your points shine.
Booth, Colomb, and Williams suggest the following advice on organizing your paper:
- You can structure your paper from the simplest reasons to the most complex or the shortest reasons to the longest ones. Readers like to ease into the material.
- Another structural form involves moving from the most familiar reasons to the more confounding ones.
- You can also structure from least controversial to most controversial to warm up readers for your zingers.
- You can structure your paper in order of relevance, from most to least or least to most relevant.
- Another structure involves starting with an overview and following it with specifics.
- You can start your paper with the easy stuff and conclude with the most complex.
- Lastly, you can do the traditional chronological order.
How to Properly Cite and Paraphrase
Being a computing science student for the last while, I had almost forgotten how to introduce paraphrases and citations in essays such that originality entered the equation. Also, I struggled with how to write up an outline that was stacked with quote after quote into some sort of logical structure. I knew that I preceded each quote with some commentary of my own, but, in hindsight and years later, I could hardly remember the nature of the commentary. And how did I insert my own views in between quotes to stamp out my originality?
In last week’s article, I showed how Booth, Colomb, and Williams revealed how you could take a claim where you state your position and then follow your claim with the word “because” followed by your reason(s) for your position. This structure formed your thesis, although you strengthened your thesis if you also addressed an objection at the beginning in the form of “Although…”
This week, I came to understand that whatever followed the “because”, or the reasons, constitutes much of your originality. Of course, those reasons needs to be supported by a lot of evidence in the form of data, facts, and sources later on, but the way you synthesize all that evidence in the form of your reason counts for originality.
For instance, the claim that Socrates reflected the ancient Greek ambivalence toward women’s worth could be followed by your “because…” statement. What follows the “because” are your reasons. This “because” statement would not typically contain any quotes or support just yet. This “because” statement would just state your own reasoning in plain English–no citations. This “because” statement marks your synthesis. Later, you will devote an entire section to each of your “because” reasons, providing ample support in the form of facts, data, and primary, secondary, and tertiary citations.
Also, your commentary preceding citations could also contain a lot of originality and synthesis. By ensuring your own voice?your own reasoning?gets inserted in the writing, you avoid the pitfall of making a patchwork of citations (Booth, Colomb, & Williams, 2008).
What follows includes Booth, Colomb, and William’s take on how to properly cite and paraphrase:
- Some disciplines emphasize direct quotes while other emphasize paraphrasing.
- Paraphrase when you can clarify or simplify a quote better than the author can.
- Use direct quotations when the author is an authority or when the author writes exceptionally well.
- Always use direct quotations when you are about to pounce upon and tear apart the author’s views. This way, you give an accurate portrayal of the author’s position.
- Don’t write quote after quote?patchwork?without your own words introducing and/or explaining each quote.
- Try to precede the quote with the words “The author says…” or something similar. Even better is to “introduce a quotation with a sentence that interprets or characterizes it” (p. 189).
- Use square brackets to insert your own words inside a direct quotation or a block quote.
- Better than just a sentence before a quote is making a claim and providing one or more reasons that characterize the quote. Don’t expect readers to naturally make the connection between your quote and your own reasoning for including it. Spell it out.
- Use lots of citations. Don’t hesitate to cite someone’s work. Citations look great on your paper, so be overly generous with ensuring other author’s contributions get recognized at every instance. Just ensure that you insert your own words to introduce quotes, your own synthesis, as described above. Your own interpretations comprise your original contribution.
So, there’s nothing to fear. The Study Dude is determined to make right for you all the wrongs I made in grad school?one A+ at a time.
Booth, Wayne C., Colomb, Gregory G., & Williams, Joseph M. The Craft of Research. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.