Stearns

“Why do we argue? Life's so fragile, a successful virus clinging to a speck of mud, suspended in endless nothing.” –Alan Moore

Wed, Jan 15th–Senior Comp

on January 14, 2014

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Time is ticking. We are working our way to finishing our Curiosity Essays. Here’s what I’d like to accomplish. In one hour, I’d like to see at least one paragraph from your essay that:

  • Integrates a quote (set-up, quote, parenthetical)
  • Explains something
  • Interprets something

One site I found online explains this so well that I want to quote it here:

4. Thou shalt make an argument.

Unfortunately, many undergraduate research papers are really no more than glorified book reports. You know the drill: Check out ten books (in English) from the library, skim through three of them, note down a few facts or mark some pages, combine the information in your own words, and there you have it.

This will not do. Your paper must not only assemble evidence—facts about the world—but it must weave together these facts so that they form an argument that answers the research question. There are no once-and-for-all answers in any scholarly field, but there are better and worse arguments. The better ones have powerful evidence based on reliable sources, are ordered and logical in the presentation of evidence, and reach a clear and focused conclusion that answers the question posed at the beginning of the paper. In addition, good arguments also consider competing claims: What other counter-arguments have been put forward (or could be put forward) to counter your points? How would you respond to them? In fact, consideration of counter-arguments is often a good way to begin your paper. How have scholars normally accounted for a particular event or trend? What are the weaknesses of their accounts? What evidence might be marshaled to suggest an alternative explanation? How does your account differ from the conventional wisdom?

Here are some more resources for this:

  1. Bed Martin has a sample research paper with helpful notes to show you how to format and organize your work.
  2. Dr. Jerz has more advice and examples.
  3. ProQuest has a good research checklist.
  4. Finally…See this example from here as a model.
Some groups have argued that state traffic laws make legislation regulating cell phone use unnecessary. Sadly, this is not true. Laws on traffic safety vary from state to state, and drivers distracted by cell phones can get off with light punishment even when they cause fatal accidents. For example, although the midshipman mentioned earlier was charged with vehicular manslaughter for the deaths of John and Carole Hall, the judge was unable to issue a verdict of guilty. Under Maryland law, he could only find the defendant guilty of negligent driving and impose a $500 fine (Layton C1). Such a light sentence is not unusual. The driver who killed Morgan Pena in Pennsylvania received two tickets and a $50 fine—and retained his driving privileges (Pena). In Georgia, a young woman distracted by her phone ran down and killed a two-year-old; her sentence was ninety days in boot camp and five hundred hours of community service (Ippolito J1). The families of the victims are understandably distressed by laws that lead to such light sentences.

 


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