Assert-Cite-Explain



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“Assert-Cite-Explain” Paragraphs

Most body paragraphs in a history essay are built around a core set of moves:



Assertion: An arguable claim about the past; a statement that could be disagreed with—that requires further proof.
Citation: Quoted text supporting the assertion.
Explanation: Analysis of how the words prove the assertion.
The relationship between the first two of these elements is clear enough: debatable assertions demand evidence if they are to be believed. The sticking point in some writing is the third step—explanation. Writers often assume it is clear HOW the quotation proves the assertion, when in fact their reader needs them to connect the dots. Quotations do not speak for themselves; so always explain after you quote.





  • To do this, point back to the words in the citation, re-quoting them if need be.

Example:
Assertion: By setting up Cain as the favored over his brother, the Bible sets in motion the rivalry that ends in Abel’s death.
Citation: “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying ‘I have produced a man with the help of the LORD.’ Next she bore his brother Abel.”
Explanation: Introducing Cain as a “man” who was born with God’s help suggests that “his brother” is an afterthought, a child not explicitly blessed by God.


Notice how the writer points back to key words like “man” and “his brother.” By re-quoting or paraphrasing the key bits of the citation, the writer directs the reader to the “smoking gun” in their evidence.


From ACE to Paragraphs

By explaining your quotations, you draw out further implications of the evidence and open the door to debate. Here are a few examples of how you might build on the basic ACE structure to develop a longer paragraph


Note: when changing an ACE card into a paragraph, make sure the topic sentence indicates both your assertion and the specific topic of this paragraph. In this example, the original assertion is in bold, and the paragraph topic is underlined.
The Double Punch (ACE paragraph featuring TWO citations).


A



By setting up Cain as the favored brother, the Bible sets in motion

C

E

C

E

the rivalry that ends in Abel’s death. After giving birth to Cain, Eve declares, “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD,” whereas the text dryly announces that “next she bore his brother Abel.” Introducing Cain as a “man” born with God’s help suggests that “his brother” is a mere afterthought—a child not explicitly blessed by God. This leads to violent rivalry when Abel essentially upstages Cain’s birthright. When Cain brings “an offering of the fruit of the ground,” Abel immediately one ups him, offering “the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions.” Because Cain’s offering came first, he was unable to “one up” his brother as Abel did. This may be the first example in history of the younger sibling saying, “anything you can do, I can do better!”

The Counterargument (Acknowledging, and refuting, a skeptic’s objection after the explanation).

A



By setting up Cain as the favored brother, the Bible sets in motion

C

E

Skeptic

E

the rivalry that ends in Abel’s death. After giving birth to Cain, Eve declares, “I have produced a man with the help of the LORD,” whereas the text dryly announces that “next she bore his brother Abel.” Introducing Cain as a “man” born with God’s help suggests that “his brother” is a mere afterthought—a child not explicitly blessed by God. This leads to violent rivalry when Abel essentially upstages Cain’s birthright. It could be argued that Cain deserved to lose his privileged spot, since his sacrifice was not as special as Abel’s “firstlings…the fat portions.” However, I think this objection overlooks the fact that Cain’s offering came first. The text doesn’t say there’s anything wrong with Cain’s offering; it’s just that Abel, as the second-comer, was able to upstage his older brother.


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