Module 2: constructing an academic argument [weeks 3, 4]
Competency II: To demonstrate an understanding of how to organize and develop an academic argument that is connected to foundational research.
WEEK 3 (9/14 - 9/20/2015)
Essential question(s): What are the components of a scholarly argument? What are the processes used to develop a scholarly argument? How does a scholarly essay differ from a research report?
We introduce this topic at the outset of the course because this is a primary focus of doctoral education: the ability to develop a logical, clear, coherent and persuasive argument.
For the purposes of this course, I am going to distinguish between two kinds of persuasive, scholarly writing: the scholarly essay, and the research document. They share certain elements: 1) explaining complicated ideas using clear, grammatically correct, uncluttered English; 2) advancing an argument that is clear and logical, and flows supportively from one point to the next; 3) using research to support an argument, and 4) observing a particular publishing standard, in our case APA format, and 5) draw conclusions that are original from the research.
Say then support. There is another important point that applies generally to all kinds of academic writing. For the most part, academic writing proceeds in the following manner: make a point, support it. While this sounds obvious, it differs from common speech or much of the blogging we read, in which we can simply expatiate with impunity, that is, bloviate without consequence. In other words, we can't just say something that sounds intelligent. We need to support what we say, by citing research, referencing others and/or showing how what we are saying builds on a previous argument.
But the essay and research report differ in terms of purpose and structure. Having pointed out the similarities between the essay and research report, let me spend a moment talking about their differences. Most scholarly essays you will write in graduate school involve developing an original thesis and then synthesizing and discussing the material of others in light of that thesis. In contrast, a research report involves documenting original research that you actually conduct yourself. As you will see, these two kinds of scholarly writing require slightly different organizational forms.
In this module we look at the scholarly essay. In a subsequent module, we consider the research document.
Organization vs. expression
There is a further division I want to make in our discussion of scholarly writing: organization vs. expression. I discussed organization above, and will address it in more depth later. Expression has to do with the art and science of producing quality, effective writing. The goal is to write in a clear and concise manner, while not losing one's voice. In the module on expression we actually look at writing on a sentence and paragraph level with the goal of improving clarity and concision. We analyze examples of poor writing for inspiration and guidance. Issues of expression are common to all organizational forms, including essays, research reports, and even fiction, though the rules change somewhat in the fictional world. Over the years I have found I can be most helpful to students if I split writing into organization and expression, and deal with them separately.
This module addresses the scholarly essay, the first organizational structure. In this module we look at how an essay is constructed from an organizational perspective and how it advances an argument.
The basic essay structure
Essays are built using a particular structure. There are variations in this structure to be sure. But in simple terms, most essays flow in basically the following manner:
Abstract. You present a paragraph summary of your topic and what you discovered about it.
The essay form is addressed in the materials you read this week.
This week you read two pieces, one about developing an argument, and an example of a well developed argument. Your reading of these pieces will serve as the basis of your Moodle discussion.
Some thoughts about Moodle conversations
Don't forget these basic guidelines about Moodle conversation:
WEEK 4 (9/21 - 9/27/2015)
Essential question(s): How do you adapt the processes of scholarly writing to your own work? How do you critique the work of your peers, as well as your own work, in terms of academic argument?
Having developed a meta-perspective of how to develop a scholarly argument, you now create one yourself.
Remember: good writing is rewriting. Do not hand in your first draft. Get used to the writing process: write, rest, reflect, rewrite. See the page on improving your writing if you want some guidance.
Post a 3-page paper (between 800 and 850 words, not including title page, abstract page or bibliography) about a media psychology related topic. Structure your essay as an academic argument, using the following organization:
Instructions for posting and responding to essays
Post your essay in Week 4 of our Moodle conversation. This will keep it separate from our discussion.
Due date for posting your essay: Thursday, September 24, 2015.
You should post your essay in Moodle by opening a new thread. All essays are due by Thursday night, midnight (PST). This leaves colleagues time to peer review work by Sunday.
Read and reply to at least one other paper posted by a peer. Be prepared to respond if the author posts a reply to your suggestions. Again, this needs to happen by Sunday.
Post your reply by: Sunday, September 27, 2015.
Carefully “curate” your own thread. Do so by providing a considered response to each review posted by your peers, and be prepared to follow up if the discussion continues.
All forum discussions must be concluded by Sunday night, midnight (PST).
Meta-perspective, self assessment
Provide a minimum one paragraph self-assessment/reflection. This should focus on what you learned and what you think your strengths and challenges are in terms of the content of this module. Please send this to me as a private email.