20. Review your plan

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Instructions for Lesson 20

1. Read this page.

2. Also read, from "model papers" on Hacker's web site, Aaron Lund's "Preserving Yellowstone's Winter Wilderness" and Rekha Sanghvi's "Preserving Winter Access: Snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park."

3. Read Student A's "Prenatal Gene Therapy" and Student B's "Stem Cell Research/Cloning." These draft research reports are representative (not the best or worst) of those that Dr. G' has received in English 101 at TC3.

4. Submit your research report outline (assigned in Lesson 19).




Left: organizing sources the natural way.


Module 1

1: Orientation  
2: Goals   

Module 2

  3: Euthyphro  
     4: The Library
 5: The Apology   
    6: Citation   
    7: Crito
    8: Phaedo  
    9: Exam Prep   
10: Plato Exam

Module 3

11: Research Project 
12: Research 101   
13: Books   
14: the Librarian   
15: the Web   
16: conferences  
17: Joy of Research 
18: Reasoning 

Module 4

19: Outlines 
20: Review the Plan:
21: Language 
22: Dr E's Grammar
23: Peer Review  
24: Hit Parade 

Module 5

25: About the Exam
26: Mock Final 
27: Exam Prep
28: Graduation 


1. Can you incorporate sources well?
try Hacker's exercises below to strengthen your skill in citation

Your 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.

You 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 gutchess@englishare.net.

2. Review the plan

In 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.

1. Thesis statement (the claim you are making)

2. Arguments (general statements used to support the thesis statement)

3. Evidence (specific sources, data, and facts used to support for each argument)

In 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.

What 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:

In 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.)

From the "model 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.

But 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.

Thesis: 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?)

Arguments: 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.

Evidence: 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.

All academic writing can be outlined, and the analysis of outlines very often has something practical to teach us as readers and as writers. 

3. The snowmobile wars at Yellowstone

Among the "model 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.

I 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.

Lund Thesis: recreational snowmobiles should be banned from Yellowstone National Park

Argument I. Snowmobiles create both air and noise pollution

Evidence 1. Cart (an environmental writer): park rangers have to wear respirators in snowmobile kiosks

Evidence 2. Bluewater: two-stroke engines discharge "up to" one-third of their fuel unburned

Evidence 3. Bluewater: CO levels at Park entrances violate air quality standards

Evidence 4. Bluewater: 12 snowmobiles traveling together can be heard "as far as" two miles away.

Evidence 5: Johnson (travel writer): certain areas in the park are never free of "constant hum" of snowmobiles

Evidence 6: "Snowmobile" editorial: less-polluting snowmobiles are too expensive and are not now required to be used.

Argument II. Use of snowmobiles in the park strains the budget of the Park Service.

Evidence 1. "Yellowstone coalition": the environmental impact statement has cost $250,000 already

Evidence 2. "Snowmobile" editorial: implementing the "new plan" will cost $1 million by Park Service estimate.

Evidence 3. "Yellowstone coalition": rangers issued 338 citations for illegal snowmobiling in 2002.

Evidence 4. (uncited) Joy riders speed, stray off course, and chase animals.

Evidence 5. (uncited) Park rangers signed up to preserve natural resources, not to police the joyriders.

Argument III. People have other means to access Yellowstone in winter

Evidence 1: (uncited) snowcoaches are available, and one road is plowed.

Argument IV. People have other places to snowmobile

Evidence 1: (uncited) There are plenty of trails around West Yellowstone.

Evidence 2. Johnson (travel writer): Big Sky Trail is 110 miles, and Continental Divide Trail is 360-miles.

Lund's 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 persuasiveness.

Do 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.

Does 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 available.

Both 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.

4. Bottom line

Three-level 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.

For a final check before you write your research report, review your plan:

1. Is your proposed thesis statement narrowly defined and clear?

2. 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?

3. 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?

Assignment (due in Lesson 22): Continue work on your draft research report, as assigned in Lesson 18








































































Left: cartoon from the Defenders Environmental Network web site.<www.defenders. org/den/cartoons/
> Can cartoons ever make valid arguments?






































































Left: bison-snowmobile herd at Yellowstone.
















gutchess@englishare.net                    Academic writing home page                    Gary Gutchess 2003