Smiley Face Tricks magic three


Ask a question that leads to your thesis statement



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Ask a question that leads to your thesis statement.

Example: Is the United States still a country where the middle class thrives? Strong evidence suggests that the traditional American view of a successful middle class is fading. At the very least, the prospects for someone who stands in the economic middle have significantly changed since the 1970s. Twenty-five years ago middle-class people expected to own their own homes in the suburbs and send their children to college. Today, for many people, these expectations have become more like distant dreams. Two factors—a growing disparity in wages within the labor force and rising prices for real estate and goods—suggest that the middle class is a less comfortable place to be than it was for the previous generation.


  • Begin with a relevant anecdote that leads to your thesis statement.

Example: Doug was the star in my high school senior class. He captained the football team, dated the best looking girls, charmed the teachers, and managed to get A's and B's seemingly without studying. When he headed off to a big Midwestern university, we weren't surprised. But when he was home again a year later on academic probation, many of us wondered what could have happened. Doug told me candidly that his year at the university was far removed from anything he'd experienced in high school. Quite simply, his small, noncompetitive high school classes hadn't prepared him for a large, impersonal university where the professors didn't know his name, let alone his role as a big man on campus. I believe programs to help students like Doug make the transition from high school to college could help reduce the high failure rate among college freshmen.
More Ideas for Writing Introductions

The introduction is the first sentence of your essay and it plays the dual role of setting the theme of your essay and engaging the reader. Create Mystery or Intrigue in your Introduction. It is not necessary or recommended that your first sentence give away the subject matter. Raise questions in the minds of your reader to force them to read on. Appeal to their senses and emotions to make them relate to your subject matter.

Action Introduction

An Action Introduction takes the reader into the middle of an action sequence. By not building up to the story, it forces the reader to read on to find out not only the significance of this moment in time, but what led up to and followed it. It is perfect for short essays where space must be conserved or for narrative essays that begin with a story.


Examples:

I promised God I would eat all my peas, but He didn’t care. A confused eleven-year-old girl, I sat and listened to my father pace. With each heavy step echoing loudly throughout the silent house, my family’s anxiety and anticipation mounted while awaiting news of my grandfather's health. My heart racing, I watched the clock, amazed that time could crawl so slowly. Finally, the telephone interrupted the house’s solemn silence. I heard my father repeating the words "yes, yes, of course." He then hung up the receiver and announced my grandfather's death and cancer's victory.
This is the kind of introduction that will immediately intrigue your reader because it begins with a very unusual declaration. The image of a little girl eating peas and hoping to acquire God’s help is charming while hinting at the solemnity of the situation described.

Dialogue Introduction

Like the action introduction, the dialogue introduction brings the reader directly into the action, only this time in the form of dialogue. If you are writing about an influential figure in your life, you can mention a quote from this person that exemplifies the importance that he or she had on your life.


Examples:

"You must stop seeing that Russian girl," I ordered my brother when he returned home last summer from the University of Indianapolis. Echoing the prejudiced, ignorant sentiment that I had grown up with, I believed it was wrong to become seriously involved with a person who does not follow the Hindu religion and is not a member of the Indian race.

On the verge of losing consciousness, I asked myself: "Why am I doing this?" Why was I punishing my body? I had no answer; my mind blanked out from exhaustion and terror. I had no time to second-guess myself with a terrifying man leaning over my shoulder yelling: "You can break six minutes!" As flecks of spit flew from his mouth and landed on the handle bar of the ergometer, I longed to be finished with my first Saturday rowing practice and my first fifteen-hundred-meter "erg test."
The power of this introduction comes from its attention to detail. The question "Why am I doing this?" gains support from every horrible detail: the exhaustion, the terrifying man, and the specks of spit flying from his mouth! With such strong supporting evidence, the quotation takes on a life of its own. Your reader will find himself thinking, "Why would anyone do that? I’d like to find out…"

Overarching Societal Statements

This can be very effective if the statement is unique, but can be detrimental if your statement is debatable or unclear. Make sure that if you use this form of introduction that no member of the audience will take offense to it. That is unless you are trying to stir an audience.



Examples:

High school is a strange time. After three years of trying to develop an identity and friends in middle school, students are expected to mature immediately on the first day of ninth grade.
To this day, the United States remains driven by the American Dream, and we often hear of immigrants who come to this country to search for opportunities that their native countries lack. In these tales, immigrants succeed through hard work, dedication, and a little luck. As idealistic as the story may seem, I have been fortunate enough to experience its reality in the life of one very important man. His example has had great impact on my personal expectations and goals, and the manner in which I approach my own life.
Personal Introduction

The Personal Introduction takes the reader directly into your mind. It says, "This is what it is like to be me.


Examples:

At times, I think the world around me is crumbling to the ground, but it never does. Like most people, I face the crunches of deadlines and endless demands on my time, but I have never encountered the type of adversity that can crush people, that can drive people crazy, that can drive them to suicide.

I chuckle to myself every time I think about this. I am perceived as a mild-mannered, intelligent individual until I mention that I am involved in riflery.
Did the first sentence of this introduction confuse you? This was no doubt its intention. By creating a little mystery in the first sentence, the reader is forced to keep reading and keep wondering, "what is this kid’s secret?" until the final word, which pops in the reader’s mind, sort of like a gunshot: "riflery."

Question Introduction

Many essays begin with a question. While this is an easy way to begin an essay, the audience may perceive it as a "lazy introduction." No one wants to read an essay that begins with such tacky material as: "To be or not to be?" or "Are you looking for an applicant who has drive and determination? Well, I’m your guy." If you are going to use a question, make sure that it is an extremely compelling one and that your experiences provide answers.


Example:

Influence? Why is it that the people who influence us most influence us in ways that are not easily quantified? Through her work with abused children, my mother has shown me the heroism of selfless dedication to a worthy cause.


Quotation Introduction

Many writers are tempted to start their essay with a quote. You should try to resist this temptation, as most quotes will look forced. Readers will be turned off if it is apparent that you searched through a book of famous quotes and came up with a quote from some famous philosopher about whom you know nothing. The quotation introduction is most effective when the quote you choose is unusual, funny, or obscure, not too long, and from those to whom you are closest. Choose a quote with a meaning you plan to reveal to the reader as the essay progresses.


Examples:

John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." I see academics as a similar two-way interaction: in the classroom, I will do much more than take up valuable space. Because of the broad range of experiences I have had, my knowledge of many subjects is thorough. These experiences will help me perform well in any class, as I have learned how to use my time efficiently.
This is a risky quote with which to begin an essay. After all, it is difficult to imagine a more time-worn or oft-repeated statement. However, this introduction goes on to apply this quote in a relatively unique manner. The contrast between such a standard quotation and such an interesting application will likely catch your reader’s attention.
"Experience is what you receive when you don’t get what you want." I remembered my father’s words as I tried to postpone the coming massacre. Just as during the fall of the Roman Empire, my allies became enemies and my foes turned into partners. In fast and furious action with property changing hands again and again, I rested my fate on the words of one man, hoping he would rescue me from this dangerous tailspin. Do these experts realize the heartbreak they are inflicting on my young life? While the uncertainty of tomorrow’s attire is the most pressing concern for many seventeen-year-olds, I must worry about much greater issues! It is August 31, the market is down over 300 points and the value of my stock portfolio is falling fast.
Quoting a person with whom you enjoy a close relationship is generally preferable to quoting a famous source. This passage’s strength comes from the brief, understated role that the quote plays. The short statement introduces the rest of the paragraph and presents the fundamental point, and then the essay moves on to examine specific details. This is the ideal role of a quotation.

Conclusions

Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. While the body is often easier to write, it needs a frame around it. An introduction and conclusion frame your thoughts and bridge your ideas for the reader.

Just as your introduction acts as a bridge that transports your readers from their own lives into the "place" of your analysis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. Such a conclusion will help them see why all your analysis and information should matter to them after they put the paper down. Your conclusion is your chance to have the last word on the subject. The conclusion allows you to have the final say on the issues you have raised in your paper, to summarize your thoughts, to demonstrate the importance of your ideas, and to propel your reader to a new view of the subject. It is also your opportunity to make a good final impression and to end on a positive note. Your conclusion can go beyond the confines of the assignment. The conclusion pushes beyond the boundaries of the prompt and allows you to consider broader issues, make new connections, and elaborate on the significance of your findings. Your conclusion should make your readers glad they read your paper. Your conclusion gives your reader something to take away that will help them see things differently or appreciate your topic in personally relevant ways. It can suggest broader implications that will not only interest your reader, but also enrich your reader's life in some way. It is your gift to the reader.
Strategies for writing an effective conclusion

1. Answer the question "So What?": Show your readers why this paper was important. Show them that your paper was meaningful and useful.


2. Synthesize, don't summarize: Don't simply repeat things that were in your paper. They have read it. Show them how the points you made and the support and examples you used were not random, but fit together.
3. Redirect your readers: Give your reader something to think about, perhaps a way to use your paper in the "real" world. If your introduction went from general to specific, make your conclusion go from specific to general. Think globally.
3. Create a new meaning: You don't have to give new information to create a new meaning. By demonstrating how your ideas work together, you can create a new picture. Often the sum of the paper is worth more than its parts.
4. Echoing the introduction: Echoing your introduction can be a good strategy if it is meant to bring the reader full-circle. If you begin by describing a scenario, you can end with the same scenario as proof that your essay was helpful in creating a new understanding.

  • Example Introduction

From the parking lot, I could see the towers of the castle of the Magic Kingdom standing stately against the blue sky. To the right, the tall peak of The Matterhorn rose even higher. From the left, I could hear the jungle sounds of Adventure Land. As I entered the gate, Main Street stretched before me with its quaint shops evoking an old-fashioned small town so charming it could never have existed. I was entranced. Disneyland may have been built for children, but it brings out the child in adults.

  • Example Conclusion

I thought I would spend a few hours at Disneyland, but here I was at 1:00 A.M., closing time, leaving the front gates with the now dark towers of the Magic Kingdom behind me. I could see tired children, toddling along and struggling to keep their eyes open as best they could. Others slept in their parents' arms as we waited for the parking lot tram that would take us to our cars. My forty-year-old feet ached, and I felt a bit sad to think that in a couple of days I would be leaving California, my vacation over, to go back to my desk. But then I smiled to think that for at least a day I felt ten years old again.
5. Challenging the reader: By issuing a challenge to your readers, you are helping them to redirect the information in the paper, and they may apply it to their own lives.

  • Example

Though serving on a jury is not only a civic responsibility but also an interesting experience, many people still view jury duty as a chore that interrupts their jobs and the routine of their daily lives. However, juries are part of America's attempt to be a free and just society. Thus, jury duty challenges us to be interested and responsible citizens.

6. Looking to the future: Looking to the future can emphasize the importance of your paper or redirect the readers' thought process. It may help them apply the new information to their lives or see things more globally.

  • Example

Without well-qualified teachers, schools are little more than buildings and equipment. If higher-paying careers continue to attract the best and the brightest students, there will not only be a shortage of teachers, but the teachers available may not have the best qualifications. Our youth will suffer. And when youth suffers, the future suffers.
7. Posing questions: Posing questions, either to your readers or in general, may help your readers gain a new perspective on the topic, which they may not have held before reading your conclusion. It may also bring your main ideas together to create a new meaning.

  • Example

Campaign advertisements should help us understand the candidate's qualifications and positions on he issues. Instead, most tell us what a boob or knave the opposing candidate is, or they present general images of the candidate as a family person or God-fearing American. Do such advertisements contribute to creating an informed electorate or a people who choose political leaders the same way they choose soft drinks and soap?

Strategies to avoid

1. Beginning with an unnecessary, overused phrase such as "in conclusion," "in summary," or "in closing." Although these phrases can work in speeches, they come across as wooden and trite in writing.

2. Stating the thesis for the very first time in the conclusion.

3. Introducing a new idea or subtopic in your conclusion.

4. Ending with a rephrased thesis statement without any substantive changes.

5. Making sentimental, emotional appeals that are out of character with the rest of an analytical paper.

6. Including evidence (quotations, statistics, etc.) that should be in the body of the paper.


Four kinds of ineffective conclusions

1. The "That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It" Conclusion. This conclusion just restates the thesis and is usually painfully short. It does not push the ideas forward. People write this kind of conclusion when they can't think of anything else to say. Example: In conclusion, Frederick Douglass was, as we have seen, a pioneer in American education, proving that education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

2. The "America the Beautiful"/"I Am Woman"/"We Shall Overcome" Conclusion. This kind of conclusion usually draws on emotion to make its appeal, but while this emotion and even sentimentality may be very heartfelt, it is usually out of character with the rest of an analytical paper. A more sophisticated commentary, rather than emotional praise, would be a more fitting tribute to the topic. Example

Because of the efforts of fine Americans like Frederick Douglass, countless others have seen the shining beacon of light that is education. His example was a torch that lit the way for others. Frederick Douglass was truly an American hero.

3. The "Grab Bag" Conclusion. This kind of conclusion includes extra information that the writer found or thought of but couldn't integrate into the main paper. You may find it hard to leave out details that you discovered after hours of research and thought, but adding random facts and bits of evidence at the end of an otherwise-well-organized essay can just create confusion. Example: In addition to being an educational pioneer, Frederick Douglass provides an interesting case study for masculinity in the American South. He also offers historians an interesting glimpse into slave resistance when he confronts Covey, the overseer. His relationships with female relatives reveal the importance of family in the slave community.
What is a thesis? A thesis statement declares what you believe and what you intend to prove. A good thesis statement makes the difference between a thoughtful research project and a simple retelling of facts. A good tentative thesis will help you focus your search for information. But don't rush! You must do a lot of background reading before you know enough about a subject to identify key or essential questions. You may not know how you stand on an issue until you have examined the evidence. You will likely begin your research with a working, preliminary or tentative thesis which you will continue to refine until you are certain of where the evidence leads. The thesis statement is typically located at the end of your opening paragraph. (The opening paragraph serves to set the context for the thesis.)

Remember, your reader will be looking for your thesis. Make it clear, strong, and easy to find.


Attributes of a good thesis:

It should be contestable, proposing an arguable point with which people could reasonably disagree. A strong thesis is provocative; it takes a stand and justifies the discussion you will present.


It tackles a subject that could be adequately covered in the format of the project assigned.
It is specific and focused. A strong thesis proves a point without discussing “everything about …” Instead of music, think "American jazz in the 1930s" and your argument about it.
It clearly asserts your own conclusion based on evidence. Note: Be flexible. The evidence may lead you to a conclusion you didn't think you'd reach. It is perfectly okay to change your thesis!
It provides the reader with a map to guide him/her through your work.
It anticipates and refutes the counter-arguments
It avoids vague language (like "it seems").
It avoids the first person. ("I believe," "In my opinion")
It should pass the So what? or Who cares? test (Would your most honest friend ask why he should care or respond with "but everyone knows that"?) For instance, "people should avoid driving under the influence of alcohol," would be unlikely to evoke any opposition.
Simple equations for a thesis might look something like this:

Specific topic + Attitude/Angle/Argument = Thesis

What you plan to argue + How you plan to argue it = Thesis
How do you know if you have a solid tentative thesis?

Try these five tests:

Does the thesis inspire a reasonable reader to ask, "How?" or Why?"

Would a reasonable reader NOT respond with "Duh!" or "So what?" or "Gee, no kidding!" or "Who cares?"

Does the thesis avoid general phrasing and/or sweeping words such as "all" or "none" or "every"?

Does the thesis lead the reader toward the topic sentences (the subtopics needed to prove the thesis)?

Can the thesis be adequately developed in the required length of the paper or project?



Guide to Literary Analysis Writing

INTRODUCTION: the first paragraph in your essay. It begins creatively in order to catch your reader’s interest, provides essential background about the literary work, and prepares the reader for your thesis. The introduction must include the author and title of the work as well as an explanation of the theme to be discussed. The thesis goes in this paragraph usually at the end. Because the thesis sometimes sounds tacked on, make special attempts to link it to the sentence that precedes it by building on a key word or idea.
CREATIVE OPENING: the beginning sentences of the introduction that catches the reader’s interest. Ways of beginning creatively include the following:
1) A meaningful piece of dialogue between two characters

Ex. It is another thing. You [Frederic Henry] cannot know about it unless you have it.” “ Well,” I said. “If I ever get it I will tell you [priest].” (Hemingway 72). With these words, the priest in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms sends the hero, Frederic, in search of the ambiguous “it” in his life.
2) A meaningful quotation (from the work or another source)

Ex. “To be, or not to be, that is the question” {3.1.57}. This familiar statement expresses the young prince’s moral dilemma in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.
3) A universal idea.

Ex. The terrifying scenes a soldier experiences on the front probably follow him throughout his life—if he manages to survive the war.
4) A rich, vivid description of the setting

Ex. Sleepy Maycomb, like other Southern towns, suffers considerably during the Great Depression. Poverty reaches from the privileged families, like the Finches, to the Negroes and “white trash” Ewells, who live on the outskirts of town. Harper Lee paints a vivid picture of life in this humid Alabama town where tempers and bigotry explode into conflict.
5) An analogy or metaphor

Ex. Life is like a box of chocolates: we never know what we’re going to get. This element of uncertainty plays a major role in many dramas. For example, in Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet have no idea what tragedies lie ahead when they fall so passionately and impetuously in love.
THESIS: a statement that provides the subject and overall opinion of your essay. For a literary analysis your thesis should (1) relate to the theme of the work and (2) suggest how this theme is revealed by the author. A good thesis may also suggest the organization of the paper.
Ex. Through Paul’s experience behind the lines, at a Russian prisoner of war camp, and especially under bombardment in the trenches, Erich Maria Remarque realistically shows how war dehumanizes a man.
Sometimes a thesis becomes too cumbersome to fit into one sentence. In such cases, you may express the thesis as two sentences.
Ex. In a Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens shows the process by which a wasted life can be redeemed. Sidney Carton, through his love for Lucie Manette, is transformed from a hopeless, bitter man into a hero whose life and death have meaning.

BODY: the support paragraphs of your essay. These paragraphs contain supporting examples (evidence) and analysis/explanation (elaboration) for your topic sentences/support theses. Each paragraph in the body includes (1) a topic sentence/claim, (2) integrated evidence and elaboration, and (3) a concluding sentence. In its simplest form, each body paragraph is organized as follows:
1. topic sentence / claim

2. lead-in to evidence

3. evidence (evidence from text)

4. elaboration (2-3 sentences of explanation, elaboration, insight—tell us what the evidence proves)

5. transition and lead-in to next piece of evidence

6. evidence (evidence from text)

7. elaboration (2-3 sentences of explanation, elaboration, insight—tell us what the evidence proves)

8. concluding or clincher sentence


TOPIC SENTENCE/CLAIM: the first sentence of a body or support paragraph. It identifies one aspect of the thesis and states a primary reason why the thesis is true.
Ex: The role of the beast represents evil inside of all humans, revealing the overpowering immoral and wicked side of mankind.

Ex: Throughout the poem Poe uses references to Greek mythology to create the idea of death.
EVIDENCE: a specific example from the work used to provide evidence for your topic sentence/claim. Evidence can be a combination of paraphrase and direct quotation from the work.
Ex: When Carlton and Darnay first meet at the tavern, Carlton tells him, “I care for no man on this earth, and no man cares for me” (Dickens 105).
ELABORATION: your explanation and interpretation of the evidence. Elaboration tells the reader what the author of the text means or how the evidence proves the topic sentence/support thesis. Elaboration may include interpretation, analysis, argument, insight, and/or reflection. (Helpful hint: In your body paragraph, you should have twice as much elaboration as evidence. In other words, for every sentence of evidence, you should have at least two sentences of elaboration.)
Ex: Carlton makes this statement as if he were excusing his rude behavior to Darnay. Carton, however, is only pretending to be polite, perhaps to amuse himself. With this seemingly off-the- cuff remark, Carton reveals a deeper cynicism and his emotional isolation.

TRANSITIONS: words or phrases that connect or “hook” one idea to the next, both between and within paragraphs. Transition devices include using connecting words as well as repeating key words or using synonyms.
Ex: Another example… Finally, in the climax… Later in the story… In contrast to this behavior…Not only…but also… Furthermore…

LEAD-IN: phrase or sentence that prepares the reader for evidence by introducing the speaker, setting, and/or situation.

Ex. Later, however, when the confident Sidney Carton returns alone to his home, his alienation and unhappiness become apparent: “Climbing into a high chamber in a well of houses, he threw himself down in his clothes on a neglected bed, and its pillow was wet with wasted tears” (Dickens 211).
CONCLUDING SENTENCE (CLINCHER/WARRANT): last sentence of the body paragraph. It concludes the paragraph by tying the evidence and elaboration back to the major thesis.
Ex. Thus, before Carton experiences love, he is able to convince himself that the world has no meaning.
CONLUSION: last paragraph in your essay. This paragraph should begin by echoing your thesis without repeating the words verbatim. Then, the conclusion should broaden from the thesis statements to answer the “so what?” question your reader may have after reading your essay. The conclusion should do one or more of the following:
1. Reflect on how your essay topic relates to the book as a whole

2. Evaluate how successful the author is in achieving his or her goal or message

3. Give a personal statement about the topic

4. Make predictions

5. Connect back to your creative opening

6. Give your opinion of the novel’s value or significance


PLAGIARISM/ACADEMIC HONESTY: Plagiarism is the act of using another person’s ideas or expressions in your writing without acknowledging the source. You are plagiarizing if you do the following:
1. Use someone else’s ideas or examples without giving credit
2. Use a slightly changed statement as your own, putting your own words here and there and not giving credit
3. Fail to use quotation marks around exact sentences, phrases, or even words that belong to another person
Plagiarism in student writing is often unintentional. You have probably done a report or research paper at some time in your education in which you chose a topic, checked out several sources, and copied several sentences or paragraphs form each source. You might have been unaware that you were committing plagiarism. However, as a high school student writing an essay or research paper, you must be aware that anytime you use someone else’s thought, words, or phraseology without giving him or her credit in your paper constitutes plagiarism. Your paper will be credible only if you thoroughly document your sources.

Persuasive /Argumentative Writing

Goal: Share your view with a reader willing to consider it. You will express your view clearly and vigorously. In the end you will help your reader see and understand one more view of reality. You are writing a persuasive piece of writing in which you will state your opinion about a topic. In stating your opinion you are stating the truth as you see it, but remember to keep your reader’s/audience’s point of view in mind as well. To persuade your reader to see your viewpoint you need to learn how to organize a persuasive piece of writing.
I. Introduction

Your opening statement must clearly state your position and the topic of the paper or set up your position that is clearly stated later in your essay. You must evaluate your audience and argument to decide when you will clearly state your position. Different arguments call for different writing structures. BUT, YOU MUST KNOW YOUR POSITION BEFORE YOU START WRITING.


Do not start by saying that your view is ABSOLUTELY right and is the only way.

It is probably best to state what you think your reader thinks--as best you can infer it.

You do not need to state the other side to flatter your reader; you do this so that you show your audience that you are a well-rounded individual who realizes there are (at least) two sides to every issue.
II. The Argument

When trying to win over a reader who doesn’t share your view, you use argument. Not a loud disagreement.

Three common types of argument: Editorial, thoughtful articles, and other persuasive statements.

Argument is reasoning--Making statements that lead to a conclusion.

To support your argument you need evidence – anything that demonstrates what you are trying to say.
Evidence includes: facts, statistics, expert opinions, illustrations and examples, reported evidence and published research. Each piece of evidence must be cited correctly (in-text citations) and must be fully cited on the Works Cited page.
III. How to write an argument- you prove your thesis!

You assert the views you are going to defend.

This is called a proposition or thesis of your argument or claim.

It is a statement of what you believe.


IV. Types of argument

Rational appeal (Logos)



  • Conventional method of reasoning.

  • Supplies the reader with figures, facts and other evidence.

Emotional appeal (Pathos)

  • Writer may re-state what the reader already knows.

  • Appeal to the writers feeling.

  • Example: MLK Jr. did not share new information, but appealed to the emotional senses of the people.

Ethical appeal (Ethos)

  • Impressing your reader that you are a well-informed person of goodwill, good sense and good moral character, therefore believable.

  • You make a good appeal because you reason carefully, write well and have a lot of evidence to support your view.

  • Quote respected authorities.


V. How to Reason

The Claim: Statement that is proven by evidence which supports some aspect of your thesis. A claim MUST be connected to your thesis.

The Data: or evidence to prove something.

The Warrant: the assumption or principle that connects the data to the claim. The discussion piece, which clearly shows how, claims and date prove/support the thesis.

A common flaw in many arguments is that the warrant is not clear.

To be persuaded, a reader needs to understand your assumption and the thinking that follows from them.


VI. Organization (SUGGESTED ORGANIZATION FOR SOME ARGUMENTS)

At the beginning of your essay clearly state the proposition or claim you are going to defend.


The last sentence of your introductory paragraphs will be your THESIS. It is ONE very clear sentence that is what you intend to focus your ENTIRE paper around. If it does not connect to your thesis, support your thesis it does NOT go in the paper.
For every point give evidence, facts, figures, examples, and/or expert opinions.

  • This does not mean the paragraph is full of evidence only. The data supports your discussion. Make sure there is much more to the paragraphs than data/evidence. If your paragraph has no discussion, no transitions between evidences you will FAIL the paper.

  • Of course the evidences are cited correctly in your paper, and the full citation will be found on the Works Cited page.

Make sure statistics are up to date.
Tackle the opposition at the end of your essay: reason with your opponents.
In conclusion, briefly re-state your claims.

You do need to have a conversation that states your position and what you want to happen.


Do not forget other types if writing you have learned that will aid in your argument.


  • Descriptive writing, compare and contrast, narrative.


VII. Common mistakes --Also known as rhetorical fallacies.

Warrant, claim, and data do not support thesis.

Oversimplification.

Either/or reasoning: giving only two solutions.

No conversation in the text…only data.

Argument from doubtful or unidentifiable authority: “My Aunt Betty says…”

Closing paragraph is very “5 paragraph essayish.”

Argument against a person’s character: “Mayor Bob is sleeping with is secretary how can we listen to his pleas for a new nursing home.”

Arguing in a circle: “I am going to college because it is the right thing to do. Going to college is the right thing to do because it is expected of me. I am going to college to do the right thing.”

Do not feel you have to use all the evidence you collected. You will put your reader to sleep.

Use only the most powerful and persuasive bits of information.

What are fallacies?

Fallacies are defects that weaken arguments. By learning to look for them in your own and others' writing, you can strengthen your ability to evaluate the arguments you make, read, and hear. It is important to realize two things about fallacies: First, fallacious arguments are very, very common and can be quite persuasive, at least to the causal reader or listener. You can find dozens of examples of fallacious reasoning in newspapers, advertisements, and other sources. Second, it is sometimes hard to evaluate whether an argument is fallacious. An argument might be very weak, somewhat weak, somewhat strong, or very strong. An argument that has several stages or parts might have some strong sections and some weak ones. The goal of this handout, then, is not to teach you how to label arguments as fallacious or fallacy-free, but to help you look critically at your own arguments and move them away from the "weak" and toward the "strong" end of the continuum.

So what do fallacies look like?For each fallacy listed, there is a definition or explanation, an example, and a tip on how to avoid committing the fallacy in your own arguments.

 Hasty generalization

Definition: Making assumptions about a whole group or range of cases based on a sample that is inadequate (usually because it is atypical or just too small). Stereotypes about people ("frat boys are drunkards," "grad students are nerdy," etc.) are a common example of the principle underlying hasty generalization.

Example: "My roommate said her philosophy class was hard, and the one I'm in is hard, too. All philosophy classes must be hard!" Two people's experiences are, in this case, not enough on which to base a conclusion.

Tip: Ask yourself what kind of "sample" you're using: Are you relying on the opinions or experiences of just a few people, or your own experience in just a few situations? If so, consider whether you need more evidence, or perhaps a less sweeping conclusion. (Notice that in the example, the more modest conclusion "Some philosophy classes are hard for some students" would not be a hasty generalization.)

Post hoc (also called false cause)

This fallacy gets its name from the Latin phrase "post hoc, ergo propter hoc," which translates as "after this, therefore because of this."

Definition: Assuming that because B comes after A, A caused B. Of course, sometimes one event really does cause another one that comes later--for example, if I register for a class, and my name later appears on the roll, it's true that the first event caused the one that came later. But sometimes two events that seem related in time aren't really related as cause and event. That is, correlation isn't the same thing as causation.

Examples: "President Jones raised taxes, and then the rate of violent crime went up. Jones is responsible for the rise in crime." The increase in taxes might or might not be one factor in the rising crime rates, but the argument hasn't shown us that one caused the other.

Tip: To avoid the post hoc fallacy, the arguer would need to give us some explanation of the process by which the tax increase is supposed to have produced higher crime rates. And that's what you should do to avoid committing this fallacy: If you say that A causes B, you should have something more to say about how A caused B than just that A came first and B came later!

Slippery slope



Definition: The arguer claims that a sort of chain reaction, usually ending in some dire consequence, will take place, but there's really not enough evidence for that assumption. The arguer asserts that if we take even one step onto the "slippery slope," we will end up sliding all the way to the bottom; he or she assumes we can't stop halfway down the hill.

Example: "Animal experimentation reduces our respect for life. If we don't respect life, we are likely to be more and more tolerant of violent acts like war and murder. Soon our society will become a battlefield in which everyone constantly fears for their lives. It will be the end of civilization. To prevent this terrible consequence, we should make animal experimentation illegal right now." Since animal experimentation has been legal for some time and civilization has not yet ended, it seems particularly clear that this chain of events won't necessarily take place. Even if we believe that experimenting on animals reduces respect for life, and loss of respect for life makes us more tolerant of violence, that may be the spot on the hillside at which things stop--we may not slide all the way down to the end of civilization. And so, we have not yet been given sufficient reason to accept the arguer's conclusion that we must make animal experimentation illegal right now.

Like post hoc, slippery slope can be a tricky fallacy to identify, since sometimes a chain of events really can be predicted to follow from a certain action. Here's an example that doesn't seem fallacious: "If I fail my swim test, I won't be able to graduate. If I don't graduate, I probably won't be able to get a good job, and I may very well end up doing temp work or flipping burgers for the next year."



Tip: Check your argument for chains of consequences, where you say "if A, then B, and if B, then C," and so forth. Make sure these chains are reasonable.


Weak analogy

Definition: Many arguments rely on an analogy between two or more objects, ideas, or situations. If the two things that are being compared aren't really alike in the relevant respects, the analogy is a weak one, and the argument that relies on it commits the fallacy of weak analogy.

Example: "Guns are like hammers--they're both tools with metal parts that could be used to kill someone. And yet it would be ridiculous to restrict the purchase of hammers--so restrictions on purchasing guns are equally ridiculous." While guns and hammers do share certain features, these features (having metal parts, being tools, and being potentially useful for violence) are not the ones at stake in deciding whether to restrict guns. Rather, we restrict guns because they can easily be used to kill large numbers of people at a distance. This is a feature hammers do not share--it'd be hard to kill a crowd with a hammer. Thus, the analogy is weak, and so is the argument based on it.

If you think about it, you can make an analogy of some kind between almost any two things in the world: "My paper is like a mud puddle because they both get bigger when it rains (I work more when I'm stuck inside) and they're both kind of murky." So the mere fact that you draw an analogy between two things doesn't prove much, by itself.

Arguments by analogy are often used in discussing abortion--arguers frequently compare fetuses with adult human beings, and then argue that treatment that would violate the rights of an adult human being also violates the rights of fetuses. Whether these arguments are good or not depends on the strength of the analogy: do adult humans and fetuses share the property that gives adult humans rights? If the property that matters is having a human genetic code or the potential for a life full of human experiences, adult humans and fetuses do share that property, so the argument and the analogy are strong; if the property is being self-aware, rational, or able to survive on one's own, adult humans and fetuses don't share it, and the analogy is weak.

Tip: Identify what properties are important to the claim you're making, and see whether the two things you're comparing both share those properties.

Appeal to false authority



Definition: Often we add strength to our arguments by referring to respected sources or authorities and explaining their positions on the issues we're discussing. If, however, we try to get readers to agree with us simply by impressing them with a famous name or by appealing to a supposed authority who really isn't much of an expert, we commit the fallacy of appeal to authority.

Example: "We should abolish the death penalty. Many respected people, such as actor Guy Handsome, have publicly stated their opposition to it." While Guy Handsome may be an authority on matters having to do with acting, there's no particular reason why anyone should be moved by his political opinions--he is probably no more of an authority on the death penalty than the person writing the paper.

Tip: There are two easy ways to avoid committing appeal to authority: First, make sure that the authorities you cite are experts on the subject you're discussing. Second, rather than just saying "Dr. Authority believes x, so we should believe it, too," try to explain the reasoning or evidence that the authority used to arrive at his or her opinion. That way, your readers have more to go on than a person's reputation. It also helps to choose authorities who are perceived as fairly neutral or reasonable, rather than people who will be perceived as biased.

Ad populum



Definition: The Latin name of this fallacy means "to the people." There are several versions of the ad populum fallacy, but what they all have in common is that in them, the arguer takes advantage of the desire most people have to be liked and to fit in with others and uses that desire to try to get the audience to accept his or her argument. One of the most common versions is the bandwagon fallacy, in which the arguer tries to convince the audience to do or believe something because everyone else (supposedly) does.

Example: "Gay marriages are just immoral. 70% of Americans think so!" While the opinion of most Americans might be relevant in determining what laws we should have, it certainly doesn't determine what is moral or immoral: There was a time where a substantial number of Americans were in favor of segregation, but their opinion was not evidence that segregation was moral. The arguer is trying to get us to agree with the conclusion by appealing to our desire to fit in with other Americans.

Tip: Make sure that you aren't recommending that your audience believe your conclusion because everyone else believes it, all the cool people believe it, people will like you better if you believe it, and so forth. Keep in mind that the popular opinion is not always the right one!

Ad hominem and tu quoque



Definitions: Like the appeal to authority and ad populum fallacies, the ad hominem ("against the person") and tu quoque ("you, too!") fallacies focus our attention on people rather than on arguments or evidence. In both of these arguments, the conclusion is usually "You shouldn't believe So-and-So's argument." The reason for not believing So-and-So is that So-and-So is either a bad person (ad hominem) or a hypocrite (tu quoque). In an ad hominem argument, the arguer attacks his or her opponent instead of the opponent's argument.

Examples: "Andrea Dworkin has written several books arguing that pornography harms women. But Dworkin is an ugly, bitter person, so you shouldn't listen to her." Dworkin's appearance and character, which the arguer has characterized so ungenerously, have nothing to do with the strength of her V argument, so using them as evidence is fallacious.

In a tu quoque argument, the arguer points out that the opponent has actually done the thing he or she is arguing against, and so the opponent's argument shouldn't be listened to. Here's an example: Imagine that your parents have explained to you why you shouldn't smoke, and they've given a lot of good reasons--the damage to your health, the cost, and so forth. You reply, "I won't accept your argument, because you used to smoke when you were my age. You did it, too!" The fact that your parents have done the thing they are condemning has no bearing on the premises they put forward in their argument (smoking harms your health and is very expensive), so your response is fallacious.



Tip: Be sure to stay focused on your opponents' reasoning, rather than on their personal character. (The exception to this is, of course, if you are making an argument about someone's character--if your conclusion is "Bill Clinton is an untrustworthy person," premises about his untrustworthy acts are relevant, not fallacious.)

Appeal to pity



Definition: The appeal to pity takes place when an arguer tries to get people to accept a conclusion by making them feel sorry for someone.

Examples: "I know the exam is graded based on performance, but you should give me an A. My cat has been sick, my car broke down, and I've had a cold, so it was really hard for me to study!" The conclusion here is "You should give me an A." But the criteria for getting an A have to do with learning and applying the material from the course; the principle the arguer wants us to accept (people who have a hard week deserve A's) is clearly unacceptable. The information the arguer has given might feel relevant and might even get the audience to consider the conclusion--but the information isn't logically relevant, and so the argument is fallacious. Here's another example: "It's wrong to tax corporations--think of all the money they give to charity, and of the costs they already pay to run their businesses!"

Tip: Make sure that you aren't simply trying to get your audience to agree with you by making them feel sorry for someone.

Appeal to ignorance



Definition: In the appeal to ignorance, the arguer basically says, "Look, there's no conclusive evidence on the issue at hand. Therefore, you should accept my conclusion on this issue."

Example: "People have been trying for centuries to prove that God exists. But no one has yet been able to prove it. Therefore, God does not exist." Here's an opposing argument that commits the same fallacy: "People have been trying for years to prove that God does not exist. But no one has yet been able to prove it. Therefore, God exists." In each case, the arguer tries to use the lack of evidence as support for a positive claim about the truth of a conclusion. There is one situation in which doing this is not fallacious: If qualified researchers have used well-thought-out methods to search for something for a long time, they haven't found it, and it's the kind of thing people ought to be able to find, then the fact that they haven't found it constitutes some evidence that it doesn't exist.

Tip: Look closely at arguments where you point out a lack of evidence and then draw a conclusion from that lack of evidence.

Straw man



Definition: One way of making our own arguments stronger is to anticipate and respond in advance to the arguments that an opponent might make. In the straw man fallacy, the arguer sets up a wimpy version of the opponent's position and tries to score points by knocking it down. But just as being able to knock down a straw man, or a scarecrow, isn't very impressive, defeating a watered-down version of your opponents' argument isn't very impressive either.

Example: "Feminists want to ban all pornography and punish everyone who reads it! But such harsh measures are surely inappropriate, so the feminists are wrong: porn and its readers should be left in peace." The feminist argument is made weak by being overstated--in fact, most feminists do not propose an outright "ban" on porn or any punishment for those who merely read it; often, they propose some restrictions on things like child porn, or propose to allow people who are hurt by porn to sue publishers and producers, not readers, for damages. So the arguer hasn't really scored any points; he or she has just committed a fallacy.

Tip: Be charitable to your opponents. State their arguments as strongly, accurately, and sympathetically as possible. If you can knock down even the best version of an opponent's argument, then you've really accomplished something.

Red herring



Definition: Partway through an argument, the arguer goes off on a tangent, raising a side issue that distracts the audience from what's really at stake. Often, the arguer never returns to the original issue.

Example: "Grading this exam on a curve would be the most fair thing to do. After all, classes go more smoothly when the students and the professor are getting along well." Let's try our premise-conclusion outlining to see what's wrong with this argument:

Premise: Classes go more smoothly when the students and the professor are getting along well.

Conclusion: Grading this exam on a curve would be the most fair thing to do.

When we lay it out this way, it's pretty obvious that the arguer went off on a tangent--the fact that something helps people get along doesn't necessarily make it more fair; fairness and justice sometimes require us to do things that cause conflict. But the audience may feel like the issue of teachers and students agreeing is important and be distracted from the fact that the arguer has not given any evidence as to why a curve would be fair.



Tip: Try laying your premises and conclusion out in an outline-like form. How many issues do you see being raised in your argument? Can you explain how each premise supports the conclusion?

False dichotomy



Definition: In false dichotomy, the arguer sets up the situation so it looks like there are only two choices. The arguer then eliminates one of the choices, so it seems that we are left with only one option: the one the arguer wanted us to pick in the first place. But often there are really many different options, not just two--and if we thought about them all, we might not be so quick to pick the one the arguer recommends!

Example: "Caldwell Hall is in bad shape. Either we tear it down and put up a new building, or we continue to risk students' safety. Obviously we shouldn't risk anyone's safety, so we must tear the building down." The argument neglects to mention the possibility that we might repair the building or find some way to protect students from the risks in question--for example, if only a few rooms are in bad shape, perhaps we shouldn't hold classes in those rooms.

Tip: Examine your own arguments: If you're saying that we have to choose between just two options, is that really so? Or are there other alternatives you haven't mentioned? If there are other alternatives, don't just ignore them--explain why they, too, should be ruled out. Although there's no formal name for it, assuming that there are only three options, four options, etc. when really there are more is similar to false dichotomy and should also be avoided.

Begging the question



Definition: A complicated fallacy; it comes in several forms and can be harder to detect than many of the other fallacies we've discussed. Basically, an argument that begs the question asks the reader to simply accept the conclusion without providing real evidence; the argument either relies on a premise that says the same thing as the conclusion (which you might hear referred to as "being circular" or "circular reasoning"), or simply ignores an important (but questionable) assumption that the argument rests on. Sometimes people use the phrase "beg the question" as a sort of general criticism of arguments, to mean that an arguer hasn't given very good reasons for a conclusion, but that's not the meaning we're going to discuss here.

Examples: "Active euthanasia is morally acceptable. It is a decent, ethical thing to help another human being escape suffering through death." Let's lay this out in premise-conclusion form:

Premise: It is a decent, ethical thing to help another human being escape suffering through death.

Conclusion: Active euthanasia is morally acceptable.

If we "translate" the premise, we'll see that the arguer has really just said the same thing twice: "decent, ethical" means pretty much the same thing as "morally acceptable," and "help another human being escape suffering through death" means "active euthanasia." So the premise basically says, "active euthanasia is morally acceptable," just like the conclusion does! The arguer hasn't yet given us any real reasons why euthanasia is acceptable; instead, she has left us asking "well, really, why do you think active euthanasia is acceptable?" Her argument "begs" (that is, evades) the real question (think of "beg off").

Here's a second example of begging the question, in which a dubious premise which is needed to make the argument valid is completely ignored: "Murder is morally wrong. So active euthanasia is morally wrong." The premise that gets left out is "active euthanasia is murder." And that is a debatable premise--again, the argument "begs" or evades the question of whether active euthanasia is murder by simply not stating the premise. The arguer is hoping we'll just focus on the uncontroversial premise, "Murder is morally wrong," and not notice what is being assumed.

Tip: One way to try to avoid begging the question is to write out your premises and conclusion in a short, outline-like form. See if you notice any gaps, any steps that are required to move from one premise to the next or from the premises to the conclusion. Write down the statements that would fill those gaps. If the statements are controversial and you've just glossed over them, you might be begging the question. Next, check to see whether any of your premises basically says the same thing as the conclusion (but in other words). If so, you're begging the question. The moral of the story: You can't just assume or use as uncontroversial evidence the very thing you're trying to prove.

Equivocation



Definition: Equivocation is sliding between two or more different meanings of a single word or phrase that is important to the argument.

Example: "Giving money to charity is the right thing to do. So charities have a right to our money." The equivocation here is on the word "right": "right" can mean both something that is correct or good (as in "I got the right answers on the test") and something to which someone has a claim (as in "everyone has a right to life"). Sometimes an arguer will deliberately, sneakily equivocate, often on words like "freedom," "justice," "rights," and so forth; other times, the equivocation is a mistake or misunderstanding. Either way, it's important that you use the main terms of your argument consistently.

Tip: Identify the most important words and phrases in your argument and ask yourself whether they could have more than one meaning. If they could, be sure you aren't slipping and sliding between those meanings.

So how do I find fallacies in my own writing?

Here are some general tips for finding fallacies in your own arguments:


  • Pretend you disagree with the conclusion you're defending. What parts of the argument would now seem fishy to you? What parts would seem easiest to attack? Give special attention to strengthening those parts.

  • Learn which types of fallacies you're especially prone to, and be careful to check for them in your work. Be aware that broad claims need more proof than narrow ones. Claims that use sweeping words like "all," "no," "none," "every," "always," "never," "no one," and "everyone" are sometimes appropriate--but they require a lot more proof than less-sweeping claims that use words like "some," "many," "few," "sometimes," "usually," and so forth.

  • Double check your characterizations of others, especially your opponents, to be sure they are accurate and fair.




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