Thus far, Stage III has maintained attention to setting your work within a specific rhetorical situation, which may be based on your proposal and the analytical claims you made in your transcript analysis. You may be asking yourself, where do I go from here? If you refer back to the assignment descriptions provided in the Stage III Calendar, you’ll notice that I provide more explicit suggestions about the way the argumentative research paper could be constructed:
Argumentative Research Paper—Report on your research following MLA conventions
Ultimately, you will write an 8-10-page research paper, specifically directed toward an academic audience. Drawing on the sources you have been reading & analyzing, you’ll position yourself in relation to the topic or an issue you’ve been studying and build a case for understanding or action. The essay should not be an informative research report; it requires you to take an explicit position in relation to your topic, to analyze and complicate your topic, and to use your sources sparingly but strategically. You’ll practice using other sources—illustrating, authorizing, borrowing and extending—to forward your own ideas.
During Stage II you created a series of documents that should have positioned you within a specific “conversation” and started conducting primary research. For Stage III you will demonstrate how you’re entering the conversation; this time you will aim to provide a new perspective. Your contribution should stem from your primary research.
- recognize and attend to what your readers will need in terms of explanation/preparation/ contextualization. Make sure to, among other things,
- define key terms and concepts,
- carefully introduce your sources,
- anticipate confusion or resistance,
- use rhetorical appeals and strategies appropriate for your rhetorical situation and
- anticipate counter-arguments.
- argue a particular perspective; that is, be explicit about how your ideas fit into the ongoing debate/conversation—synthesize.
- provide a new perspective stemming from the primary research you take on, analyzing your data, demonstrating how it pertains to your topic and what it adds to the conversation.
Today we are going over a few notes from Joseph Harris’ book, Rewriting, specifically his chapters on Forwarding and Countering. As you read through these notes, what are the ideas you have about the way in which you will approach your argumentative research paper? Which moves have you engaged in already? How can you begin to synthesize your own ideas, with those of other primary and secondary sources?
Notes on Joe Harris’ Rewriting
“Learning a subject means acquiring a discourse, not just mastering a body of knowledge.” (35)
- discourse– a mode of organizing knowledge, ideas, or experience that is rooted in language and its concrete contexts (as history or institutions) <critical discourse>
“A dialogue is not a debate.” (36)
“One scholar will criticize the work of another less in the hope of having her rival recant than in persuading other readers to see the good sense of her (rather than his) views.” (36)
“In forwarding a text, you extend its uses; in countering a text, you note its limits.” (38)
“Remember, though, that when you forward an idea or passage from another text you need not simply to cite but to use it.” (39)
“You need somehow to make their work yours. Faced with the impossibility of rendering the whole of an image or performance in words, you can only instead point to what you see as its key moments or features.” (41)
- ideology– a) a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture b) a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture c) the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program.
“The text is not the object of his analysis so much as a tool for his thinking.” (42)
“The literate person, Pattison suggests, realizes that words never simply describe the world but rather always offer a particular view of it, and thus that we can use language to shape beliefs and events—for both good and ill.” (43)
“Sometimes [turning to another text for a key word or concept] occurs as a quick appeal to another writer as a voice of authority.” (44)
“You can call on other texts not simply to support but to advance your work as writer through borrowing a term or idea from another writer to use in thinking through your subject.” (45)
“writing tends to become more exciting as it moves outward – selecting, excerpting, commenting, and, sometimes, changing or inflecting the meanings of the texts it brings forward.” (46)
Complexities of Practice
“A problem with offering advice about writing, though, is that while you can isolate certain moves that writers make, they rarely make those moves in isolation.” (49)
“the aim of academic writing should not be simply to prove how smart you are but to add to what can be said about a subject … [thus,] to counter is not to nullify but to suggest a different way of thinking.” (56)
“the aim of countering is to open up new lines of inquiry … to develop a new line of thinking in response to the limits of other texts.” (57)
“you usually need to come to terms with his or her project, to offer a sense of its aims and strengths. To identify what a text fails to do, you need to be clear about what it achieves—or at least what it attempts. Otherwise your criticisms will seem flippant or unearned.” (57)
Arguing the other side
”attaching a positive value to something another writer denigrates or a negative value to what another writer applauds.” (60)
“you will often find that you need to uncover a term of value that a text has obscured or repressed before you can question it.” (60)
“the values and attitudes of our society are often insinuated in the very metaphors and turn of phrase, examples and images, stories and characters, that we are given to work with in writing… [t]hey often turn out to be connected to deep cultural beliefs about gender, race, sexuality, social class, and religion.” (63)
“But countering is not an exercise in political correctness; it is a move to examine what a text (or set of texts) leaves unmarked or unquestioned; to highlight the unseen” (63)
“when your aim is to counter not just the work of a single writer but to dissent from a view shared by a number of thinkers … you need first to show that a certain consensus exists, so you can then define your position against it.” (64)
“you need to counter something more like a shared line of thought. What you need to do in such cases is to show how this line proceeds from one point to the next, to restate the key moves or logic of the argument in your own words—and then to offer examples of writers making these same moves.” (64)
- Focus on positions more than phrasings: “Your job is not to correct the infelicities of a text but to respond to and rework the position it puts forward.” (68)
- Don’t guess at intent: “In countering you need to respond to the position taken, not to the person taking it.” (69)
- Be careful with modifiers: “You want the force of what you have to say to reside in your nouns and verbs, not in your descriptors.” (70)
- Stress what you bring to the discussion: “The point of countering is to push knowledge forward … The most civil way to counter another writer is to show how your response to her work opens up new forms of talk about her (and your) subject.” (70)
For homework you should keep exploring your options/goals as you read over a few chapter selections from They Say/I Say, adding to the reflection you’ve started writing in class today. How are these scholars helping you to frame academic arguments?