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Proving the Impossible: An Exercise in Early Research Paper Writing

Assignment Summary

Part 3--Explanation of Excerpt Discussion Topics

1. An example of a passage that relies totally on its source. Boo offers credibility, but the author possesses no voice. The need for identification of which "philosophical journal" means the signal phrase is not as effective as it could be.

2. The quote works within the author's logical structure (something that the former example lacks). But a faulty assumption is that Jones is correct. The reference to Jones carries little weight since we do not know who he is. Just because the author inserts something published is into his/her paper does not mean that the point is persuasive; the reader needs more than that to be convinced. No signal phrase. Opportunity for the author to realize two directions for researching or at least a logical construct, the "physical" and the "spiritual."

3. Notice the tone is that of common sense. What needs researching here is the vague reference to "a scientific sense." Questions for the author: what type of science? How can you find out about that science? What journals are published? Who are the authorities?

4. Formal diction. The tone is rational. The signal phrase lends authority because we respect researchers at major institutions. Vocabulary: he "states" instead of the inappropriate "says" or "talks about"÷see most grammar handbooks for varying the language of signal phrases (page 87 in Hacker's 1999 A Writer's Reference). Key weakness here is "associate."

5. Rhetorical appeal is the conversational tone. When is this appropriate and not? Effective and not? Humor is good: the "Daily Globe" argues the earth is flat. Statistics are very effective for persuading readers. Where can we find statistics? Internet resources?

6. What is the purpose of that vague and all-too-common type of first sentence? Appeal to audience: using "a college party" as a resource in trying to persuade college students. Multiple research directions: everyday observation and scientific explanation. How does one survey everyday observation? Where does one learn about the science of color?

Instructor's Comments

I have corrected most structural errors in the above excerpts for the sake of the sourcebook. However, I do not correct errors for classroom discussion for said reasons, except with citations÷so as to demonstrate their apparently elusive correct form.
genre argument and persuasion (researched argument), correctness and style
course WRT 102
activity type small group discussion, class discussion, collaborative writing, research
skills analysis, persuasion, thesis development, source documentation, transitions
duration 1 class
handouts: assignment sheet (html, Word), explanation of example texts (html, Word)
contributor: Peter Khost