Crafting Scholarly Arguments

Argument = Claim + Evidence + Interpretation + Analysis

In this class you are practicing making an effective argument about what you have discovered about your primary and/or secondary source materials in the course of your research. Primary sources are the materials that you are examining in the course of your research. Primary sources are products of their time (or reflections on a particular time) and can include a wide range of materials; newspapers, experiments, literature, art, films, recordings, marketing campaigns, historical documents ranging from personal diaries to government documents, and many other materials can serve as primary sources. Secondary sources are written by other scholars and they help you understand your primary sources by: 1) analyzing and discussing the same or similar kinds of primary sources, and/or 2) providing theories, concepts, insights and other models of thinking about your primary sources. In your essay assignment, you will be writing an argument that explains your overarching interpretation of the assigned secondary source readings from class.

 

You are expected to provide evidence and analysis to support your argument. You should make a claim or series of claims (the argument) about your sources (the evidence), and to explain what aspects of the evidence make you think your claim is valid (the analysis).  In order for readers to understand *why* you believe this evidence supports your claim(s), you need to lead your reader through the logic behind the claims you make. You cannot assume that your reader will agree with you or automatically come to the same conclusions that you did when presented with the evidence. Therefore, you should build a structure of successive claims based on your interpretation of the evidence; in other words, your overall argument is supported by and explained through individual claims, which are themselves supported by evidence, all of which are logically arranged to persuade your reader that your conclusions are valid. Your analysis can contain summaries of the primary and secondary sources, their aspects and historical context, but, most importantly, your analysis *must* explain to your reader *why* and *how* your interpretation of this evidence supports your claim.

 

To perform a focused interpretation and analysis of your evidence, you will choose a category of analysis. A category of analysis is the lens through which you will consider your research question. This lens can refer both to broad categories (such as race, class, gender, ethnicity, or technology), and to narrow categories (such as “representations of men in advertisements in womens’ magazines”). The more focused your category of analysis, the easier it is to organize your argument and decide what to put in and what to take out of your paper. Organizing your paper around a category of analysis will help you think and write specifically about the various factors involved in your observations and interpretations of your evidence, which will help you provide your reader with a focused, clear, cohesive argument about your evidence instead of a general overview of disconnected observations.

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