Evaluation & Research - Things to Remember for Essay #3
Documentation - Non-Scholarly Sources - Scholarly Sources
Evaluation & Research
The main differences between the evaluation and research essays are that the research essay requires 1) a more rigorous use of peer-reviewed sources, 2) a stronger consideration of counter-arguments, and 3) a more developed original argument of your own.
In regard to 3, even the topic for the research essay is more original: for the evaluative essay all students write on the same topic (although everyone will argue it differently), yet for the research essay you pick one of the many possible topics (see Week 14 for the list of topics) and then you narrow the topic down, thus creating your own specific topic.
You may recall that in the Evaluation section I made the following distinction between level 2 and level 3 evaluation:
Level 2. You can evaluate by using a contextual strategy, that is, by seeing the argument in light of other ideas, arguments, sources, or theories.
Level 3: Integrated Framework or Theory. You can evaluate by creating an integrated framework, interpretation, or theory to explain the success or failure of the original argument. Try bringing in an idea or theory from Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Biology, History, Gender Studies, or Media Studies. Or, try coming up with your own theory (this will be good practice for your final research essay). You don't have to use this third level of integrated framework, yet if you're a confident writer and a strong critical thinker this is a worthwhile challenge.
The research essay follows from level 3, yet even more strongly: you must come up with your own integrated framework or theory to explain the effect of the Net. This isn't always as difficult as it sounds, since you can always bring in a theory from a scholarly field and apply it. In this case, make sure that the application of the theory you use is original. This application then becomes your theory. For instance, you could borrow a theory (from psychology, sociology, gender studies, cultural studies, media studies, etc.) and apply this theory — in your own terms — to the effect of the Net.
Also recall that in the Evaluation section I noted that outside sources are increasingly important:
NOTE: For essays # 2 and # 3 you must use outside sources and you must document these according to APA or MLA conventions. For bibliographical information and format, see the EAA sections or Purdue University’s OWL interactive site — the general “Research and Citation” section (screen grab below) is at https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/purdue_owl.html -- and the address for APA is https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_style_introduction.html. I strongly suggest familiarizing yourself with documentation format immediately, so that you’ll be sure to collect the necessary type of information as you go along. The "Using Research" and "Conducting research" sections are very helpful in this regard.
Take another good look at the Purdue site. Pay particular attention to the sections that explain what plagiarism is and how to avoid it — and to the sections on how to evaluate information:
Here is a clear, helpful video on 10 steps for writing a research paper:
Things to Remember for Essay #3
Remember to present an argument, rather than a summary or a series of observations. In order to make sure that you have an argument, you must either 1) analyze something that's not obvious to an educated reader, or 2) enter a debate in which there's more than one side. If there's a strong counter-argument, then you know that you have an argument.
Remember not to merely list points, and not to merely list pros and cons. If you're merely explaining a situation or process, then you're writing an exposition paper, not an argument paper. If you're merely listing pros and cons, then you're not arguing that one side's more important or significant than another. Remember to weigh the issue, to take a stand, and to show evidence of original thought.
If you find that you're writing an exposition paper -- that is, a paper explaining the specifics of something that's already fairly agreed-upon -- then you may want to try making your topic comparative in some way.
To turn exposition into argument, you might compare a particular effect of the Net in different genders, age groups, places, cultures, or religions. For instance, if you find that you're explaining what we already know about the effect of the Net on family cohesion, break down your topic further and compare the effect on families in males versus females, in family members of different ages, in Canada versus Italy, in individualistic cultures versus collective cultures, in Hindus versus Muslims, etc. This could lead you into interesting realms of gender, culture, etc. and you may find that the effect isn't nearly as straightforward as you thought. This is perfect -- because you will need to do more research to figure it out, and you will need to come up with an argument of your own.
The topics require you to make a final judgment on the overall effect of the Net. Avoid merely listing instances of positive and negative effects. Instead, compare these effects and conclude what the overall effect is on your target group.
Avoid the Obvious
Everyone knows that the Net supplies easier access to information, more information, and more points of view than previous media, yet the question here is, How is a given population (or given populations) affected in a specific area by the diverse information and points of view offered by the interactive, amorphous medium of the Web? How is the medium changing the way we think, feel, behave, interact, etc.?
Subordinate research to your argument. Don’t catalogue or parade the research of others so that it makes your argument for you. Rather, use the research of others to back up and give context to your own argument. Make sure that your thesis, and your analysis and judgment, constitute the core of the paper.
In general, refer to sources about eight to ten times in the body of your essay. The exact number depends on the depth and completeness of the references. In general, you should be taking into serious consideration, and quoting from, the equivalent of four or five ten-page academic articles. There is no fixed number of sources you should use; the number depends on their depth and length, and on the extent you make use of them. For instance, a book with in-depth coverage may be more helpful to your argument than several articles. Yet be careful not to use only one book written by a single author (such as Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows); compare the author’s point of view with the ideas of other authors. You need to come up with your own argument, and this may not be easy if you are overly influenced by one author or by one point of view.
Avoid using a source to merely repeat your point. Instead, make your point, and then use a source to explain or prove it further, or to provide a unique insight or striking articulation of it.
You can organize your paper the way you want (as long as you follow the basic essay structure we've been using so far), yet feel free to use the following organization: Introduction: explain the effect of media on your target group in the past (before the Net); end with a thesis statement that presents an argument about the nature of recent changes taking place. Body: argue how the Net affects your target group in the present. Conclusion: suggest possible changes the future may hold, based on past and present trends. Or, return to your opening scenario and present a final statement or insight about the nature of the change between past and present.
Narrow Your Topic
The topics (listed in the Schedule under Week 14) are general and need to be made more specific by you. Often several questions or topics are listed. You must pick one of these and then focus on something specific about the topic you chose. For instance, you can’t possibly write a 1200-word essay on the Net’s effect on literacy in general. There are far too many types of literacy, and too many groups of people to consider. You could, however, make an argument about literacy among elementary school students in North America or university students in China. Unless indicated otherwise, you can write about any location, people, or group in the world.
Compare to the Print Age
Compare the Net to Previous Media in the Print Age. Implicit in every question is a comparison with pre-Net media. The topics require you to reference the effect of pre-Net culture (books, magazines, radio, telephones, TV, video games, films, etc.) and then focus most of your argument on the effect of the Net. After every topic, simply add the question, How does this differ from watching TV and films, listening to the radio, playing video games, reading newspapers, magazines, books, etc.?
Focus on People, Not Technical Systems
Also note that the topics are not about information technology. Be careful not to take a question about the Web's effect on people and turn it into a discussion on advances in computational or networked systems. You may need to bring in some information about algorithms or networks, yet keep focused on the Web's effect on humans rather than on technical aspects of the Web.
Focus on Past to Present, Not Present to Future
Your paper should be focused on what one might call the Internet Age. Your paper should bring in some aspects of the shift from the Print Age to the Age of the Net, yet it should avoid looking into the future. It may suggest in the conclusion some possible outcomes in the future or some suggestions for the future, yet make sure not to write a paper that basically speculates or recommends. Make sure that the core of your paper is not suggesting something that will happen in the future or will make the future batter. The core of your paper must be on the effect of the Internet now -- and by extension, the difference between the effect of print, TV, etc. in the past and the effect of the Net in the present.
In Week 11, we'll look at the final essay topics and go over the essay requirements. One of the chief requirements is, of course, research -- and bibliographical documentation. On numerous occasions I have reminded you -- both in the course site and in class -- to find details about this in the Purdue University Online Writing Lab or OWL.
In the following paragraphs I'll focus on a topic we've been looking at since Week 3: Nicholas Carr's argument about the Internet. I'll focus here on documenting research that explores an alternative to Carr's concept of memory. I'll include screen grabs of OWL pages to remind you to go to this site for details on in-text citations and bibliographical entries.
If you decide to respond to Carr, you might want to look at his model of memory. The video below gives a cartoon version of this:
Another video (embedded below and among the research topics) gives the view of memory developed by the Portuguese neurologist Antonio Damasio. While this video is very rigorous, it isn't technically scholarly in that it doesn't identify sources or specific studies. Of course, feel free to use such sources -- or any source for that matter. Just make sure that for your final essay you also include scholarly sources as well (see above under "Sources" for the number of scholarly sources you'll need to include). Watching videos and reading popular books and articles is a very helpful way to generate ideas, yet you must also bring in scholarly sources.
To cite this video, look for bibliographical format in the Purdue University Online Writing Lab or OWL. The address for APA format is https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_style_introduction.html.
Following the OWL examples, you can cite and reference the video in the following ways:
Whereas Carr's view of memory suggests that a distraction can stop the formation of memory, Damasio ("How Memory Works," n.d.) suggests that many factors, in addition to degree of distraction or attention, come into play.
Damasio, A. How Memory Works [Youtube video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=kwo2WxM87-g
(Note that while reference lists usually indent the second line, this indent can become awkward when using different electronic platforms. I suggest not using an indent and adding a space between entries.)
While videos may be very helpful in generating ideas, you also need to bring in written sources which have detailed, contextualized arguments as well as documented sources. Here, for instance, is a page from an ebook version of Damasio's The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures (2018):
Following the OWL examples, cite and reference the ebook in the following ways:
Whereas Carr focuses on attention as the key factor in memory creation, Damasio (2018) expands the number of factors, so that memory is "related to elaborate images of every sensory sort, experienced in isolation or as part of the narratives that flow in our minds" (Expanding Minds chapter 6, A Note on Memory section 5, para. 3).
Damasio, A. (2018). The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures [iBooks version]. Retrieved from Apple.com. LCCN identifier: 2017019925; Ebook ISBN 9780307908766.