4: The Library
5: The Apology
9: Exam Prep
10: Plato Exam
12: Research 101
14: the Librarian
15: the Web
17: Joy of Research
20: Review the Plan:
22: Dr E's Grammar
23: Peer Review
24: Hit Parade
About the Exam
26: Mock Final
27: Exam Prep
Can you incorporate
try Hacker's exercises below to
strengthen your skill in citation
score on your research report will depend largely on your ability to
weave source information together skillfully, according to a well
planned outline. How to integrate sources is described in A Pocket
Style Manual at section 30 (Hacker 118-123). We've read it
before, but I believe that it will make much better sense to you now, if
you review it.
can clarify your grasp of this important subject by trying Hacker's
research exercises. From Hacker's
research exercises page, click on the area "MLA"
and then to the right click on "Integrating sources in MLA
papers." (There are two sets of exercises, a total of fifteen
questions.) You will be asked to sign in by providing your name and the
instructor's email. For
instructor's email here use firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lesson 19, we learned, if we didn't already know, that outlining is
useful both in the construction and in the analysis of reports. It was
suggested that useful outlines have at least three levels.
Thesis statement (the claim you are making)
Arguments (general statements used to support the thesis statement)
Evidence (specific sources, data, and facts used to support for
the writing process, a writer who takes the inductive or scientific
staircase starts on the ground floor, at level #3, and slowly climbs up
to level #2 and finally reaches the top, level #1. Evidence is grouped
into arguments, and arguments are summed up in a thesis statement.
should our outlines look like? Probably they should look similar to
outlines of existing articles that seem persuasive to us. In Lesson
19, we outlined a couple of sample writings to reveal the parts
from which they were made:
Dr. E's "Undeveloped Streamsides:
Corridors of Life" the thesis is that
streamsides should be preserved, and five arguments are gathered to
support the thesis: (1) streamsides are wildlife corridors, (2)
streamsides are biodiverse corridors, (3) streamsides are cleansers
of pollution, (4) streamsides are greenspace, and (5) a place like
Dryden Lake trail deserves protection. The evidence for arguments
one through four is provided by source citations. The evidence for
argument number five comes from personal experience which Dr. E
attempts to recreate in words. (She documents her personal
experience in photography, in her spectacular web
site on Dryden Lake trail.)
papers" on Diana Hacker's web site, Angela Daly's
"A Call to Action" presents the thesis that the use of
cell phones in automobiles should be regulated by state legislators.
Daly gives two arguments in support of her thesis: (1) drivers are
impaired by cell phone use, and (2) existing regulations are not
satisfactory to address this problem. Daly attempts to prove these
arguments by incorporating a variety of sources: newspaper and
internet articles, a cartoon, expert reports, scientific studies.
of course, neither of these papers is perfect. (No paper ever is.)
Outlining these articles puts us in a position to critique them on the
level of the thesis, or the arguments, or the evidence.
Dr. E's thesis that the protection of streamsides should be "a
priority . . . for every community" is a rather vague
generality, as is Daly's thesis that "[r]egulation is
needed." On her web site Hacker says that thesis statements
should be generalizations, but they should be both "limited in
scope (not too broad) and sharply focused (not too vague)."
Against most thesis statements, some kind of case almost always can
be made that they are too broad or too vague. (What do you mean by
"priority," Dr. E? Do you mean that communities should not
alter streamsides for flood control or to engineer safe bridges? And
what do you mean by "regulation," Daly? Will it be illegal
to have a phone in a car? Will police be exempt? What about
ambulances? What about volunteer fire fighters' vehicles?)
analyzing academic papers, we can almost always find that additional
arguments would have strengthened a writer's case, or that
counter-arguments should have been addressed. In Daly's paper, for
example, a state legislator might object that cell phone regulation
should be undertaken at the federal level, not the state level,
because what driver can cope with fifty different cell phone laws in
the USA! Legislators also might object that truck drivers have used
CB radios in their rigs for many years. Strong arguments always
anticipate objections; whenever you construct arguments, try to
imagine that some disagreeable pain-in-the-butt like Socrates is
going to contest each and every argument that you make. Do some
thinking against your arguments to foresee objections; then blunt
the attacks that might be made against your arguments.
analysis here goes to the number and quality of sources that support
each argument. Are the citations academic or popular? recent or old?
etc. We been through these factors of "good" and
"bad" sources several times before. A three-level outline
quickly reveals where the stronger and weaker arguments lie. In Dr.
E's sample paper, for example, the argument that streamsides should
be protected to preserve "greenspace" is supported by only
one reference. In my experience, greenspace protection is advocated
by some environmental groups, but it is an aesthetic consideration
that to date has no scientific basis. (That is, science has not
shown that people are better off when their world is both green and
spacious.) Because greenspace is not well defined, the concept
terrifies not only developers but also farmers and others who
routinely work with the land.
academic writing can be outlined, and the analysis of outlines very
often has something practical to teach us as readers and as
The snowmobile wars at Yellowstone
papers" on Hacker's web site, two "argument
papers" are included on the subject of snowmobiles. Aaron Lund's
"Preserving Yellowstone's Winter Wilderness" argues that
Yellowstone National Park should be closed to snowmobiles. Rekha
Sanghvi's "Preserving Winter Access: Snowmobiles in Yellowstone
National Park" argues that snowmobiling should be allowed under
regulations proposed by the Bush administration. Look at these papers in
terms of their thesis statements, arguments and proof.
don't know if Sanghvi's report was written in answer to Lund's, but it
reveals some of the problems in Lund's argument. For example, where Lund
objects that two-stroke snowmobile engines emit air and noise pollution,
Sanghvi points out that these engines will be banned under the proposed
Bush regulation, so Lund's pollution argument appears to be a red
herring. Remember red
herrings? We can use the three-level outline system to
reveal other problems in Lund's paper.
Thesis: recreational snowmobiles should be banned from Yellowstone
I. Snowmobiles create both air and noise pollution
1. Cart (an environmental writer): park rangers have to wear
respirators in snowmobile kiosks
2. Bluewater: two-stroke engines discharge "up to"
one-third of their fuel unburned
3. Bluewater: CO levels at Park entrances violate air quality
4. Bluewater: 12 snowmobiles traveling together can be heard
"as far as" two miles away.
5: Johnson (travel writer): certain areas in the park are never free of
"constant hum" of snowmobiles
6: "Snowmobile" editorial: less-polluting snowmobiles are
too expensive and are not now required to be used.
II. Use of snowmobiles in the park strains the budget of the Park
1. "Yellowstone coalition": the environmental impact statement
has cost $250,000 already
2. "Snowmobile" editorial: implementing the "new
plan" will cost $1 million by Park Service estimate.
3. "Yellowstone coalition": rangers issued 338 citations
for illegal snowmobiling in 2002.
4. (uncited) Joy riders speed, stray off course, and chase animals.
5. (uncited) Park rangers signed up to preserve natural resources,
not to police the joyriders.
III. People have other means to access Yellowstone in winter
1: (uncited) snowcoaches are available, and one road is plowed.
IV. People have other places to snowmobile
1: (uncited) There are plenty of trails around West Yellowstone.
2. Johnson (travel writer): Big Sky Trail is 110 miles, and
Continental Divide Trail is 360-miles.
report is well written and well-organized from a purely technical point
of view, which probably is why it was selected to appear among the
"model papers" on Hacker's web site, but if we analyze its
three-level outline we can find some rather serious flaws in its
the arguments (supposing that they are true) support the claim?
If air and noise pollution are a major problem, why not ban cars,
RV's, four wheelers and other vehicles which enter Yellowstone in
very much larger numbers than snowmobiles? If the Park Service
budget is a problem, why not charge snowmobile access fees to cover
the costs? If snowmobiling is banned, won't Park Service personnel
still have to police the ban? If people access Yellowstone in winter
via snow-coaches instead of snowmobiles, won't the additional
snow-coach traffic generate air and noise pollution? If people can
snowmobile outside of Yellowstone, why should they be banned inside
it? There are quite a few objections like these that can lodged
against Lund's arguments. His paper would be strengthened
considerably if he anticipated more of the objections or if he
modified his thesis to square with the evidence.
the evidence prove that the arguments are true? The biggest
problem in Lund's paper is the research. A glance at the works cited
list shows that no academic or professional sources have been
consulted. Instead, Lund has chosen to rely on literature provided
by advocacy groups, a travel column, and a newspaper editorial.
Where are the experts? (Are they all on the other side of the
issue?) Lund claims that the environmental group Bluewater has cited
scientific research in opposition to snowmobiles, but instead of
reading and summarizing that research for himself, Lund relies on
Bluewater's characterization of it. Lund also reveals that an
environmental impact statement (EIS) has been prepared on this topic
of snowmobile access in Yellowstone, but rather than citing any of
the evidence or conclusions of the EIS, Lund instead uses the EIS
only as a red
herring, to focus on the "problem" of how much
the EIS has cost taxpayers. (The EIS would have included the
scientific studies of noise and air pollution that Lund should have
consulted.) It's always a mistake in research to settle for
secondary or popular sources when primary and expert sources are
of the student "model papers" on Yellowstone could have been
researched much more thoroughly, and better proof could have been
offered for both positions. Sanghvi's paper may be as biased by
commercial interests as Lund's paper is biased by environmentalist ones.
Notice that snowmobile manufacturers and Yellowstone guides will benefit
from the Bush administration's proposed reform. Not only will
recreational snowmobiles still be allowed in Yellowstone, but they will
be restricted to the new expensive four-stroke models (so users will
have to upgrade machines), and winter employment will be created for
Yellowstone guides because all snowmobilers will have to hire a guide.
Economically speaking, there is nothing wrong with regulation that
benefits the snowmobile or guide industry, but because there are
financial stakes in the outcome of the regulatory process at
Yellowstone, we should expect to find that economically biased arguments
have entered the debate. Always read between the lines and try to figure
what the writer's personal self-interested agenda may be.
outlining is a discipline that can be used to analyze the arguments and
evidence in any piece of academic or persuasive writing. Outlining helps
us to understand and evaluate others' writings as well as our own
writing plans. Try making an outline whenever you are reading any book,
essay, or article that you will need to respond to. Use it in research
journal writing, for example, to thorough dissect an important source.
a final check before you write your research report, review your plan:
Is your proposed thesis statement narrowly defined and clear?
Do your proposed arguments support the thesis statement? What are
the significant counter-arguments that could be made against your
position, and can they be addressed?
Are each of your proposed arguments well supported by evidence? Have
you used the best evidence available, including the strongest
sources? What significant evidence could be used to oppose your
argument, and can it be addressed?
(due in Lesson 22): Continue work on
your draft research report, as assigned in Lesson
cartoon from the Defenders Environmental Network web site.<www.defenders.
corner.html> Can cartoons ever make valid arguments?
bison-snowmobile herd at Yellowstone.