ENGLISH 101.  ACADEMIC WRITING
Lesson 4: The Library



 

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Instructions for Lesson 4

    1. To get started with thinking about research, read Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual, pages 100-111, and view TC3 Librarian Barbara Kobritz' tutorial on evidence.
    2. Read this page. 
    3. In class we will get started on Library Assignment #1 which is due in Lesson 5. We will visit the library's computer lab to begin orientation to electronic research.
    4. Don't forget your positive daily thoughts about academic success and your goals!

 

 


sample
class discussion
for Lesson 4

 


Lessons 

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 

Diana Hacker, author of A Pocket Style Manual.
1. Hacker's
A Pocket Style Manual

Diana Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual is our rule book for Academic Writing. You can't play the game without the rules. Take a look at the manual, and notice notice its general layout:

The contents are nicely outlined inside the back cover, and there's a more extensive index, too, on the last pages.

The first hundred pages cover the mechanics of standard American English, including the rules of style (which Hacker calls "clarity"), grammar, punctuation and diction. These rules are tab numbered from 1 to 24b. When I see a violation of any of these rules in your writing, I will refer you to the number that you need to read and follow. For example, if I tell you that you have a have a Hacker #14 problem, you will look at tab number 14 in the manual (pages 48-50) and read about sentence fragments. After you read a tab, if you remain unsure about the rule, ask me for further clarification, and I will be happy to explain. Once a violation has been pointed out to you, I expect you to learn the rule and to practice it in your writing assignments.

The manual's second hundred pages give the rules of citation, in three different academic formats: MLA, APA and Chicago. The rules of the MLA (Modern Language Association of America) apply in English 101, as we saw in Lesson 2 when we looked at the 2003 Final Exam. The APA citation rules are used in much science and most social science writing, and the Chicago citation rules are used mainly in history writing. You may need to learn APA or Chicago for other college courses, but the job will be easy if you have kept Hacker's book for reference. APA and Chicago are very similar to the MLA that you soon will know from this course.

If you have been unable to get a copy of Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual (4th edition), please notify Dr. G immediately, so that we can resolve the problem. This book is essential to your ability to pass this course.

Hacker's companion web site for A Pocket Style Manual contains additional information about all of the subjects in the book. If the book is not clear on some point, or if you want further information, check out the web site for further help. When you sign in to the web site, you will be asked for your instructor's email; use gutchess@englishare.net.

Probable site of Plato's Academy.

2. The Library:
house of wisdom? house of lies?

We don't know much about the physical campus of Plato's Academy. The Romans who destroyed it were so thorough that there is nothing left to excavate, and there is even some disagreement over the exact location of the site. We do know that the main building was what we today call a "library" (that is, a place of books; from Latin "liber," meaning book). Of course, Plato had no books, at least no books like ours, because he lived about eighteen centuries before Gutenberg's book-making machine, and about five centuries before the codexes that Romans called libri. (A codex is a set of sewn up manuscript pages, bound between covers. Codex technology was largely responsible for the great burst of literature in the first and second centuries CE--but that's a story for another day.). 

So Plato didn't know the word "library." He housed his collection of scrolls and manuscripts in a "museum"--that is, a temple of the Muses. The goddess Muses personified all of the different kinds of music that traditionally had been played and sung in Greek, including songs that had been recited from memory long before the introduction of writing. This group included, among others, heroic poetry (personified by the Muse Calliope), history (Clio), tragedy (Melpomene), comedy (Thalia), astronomy (Urania), religious hymn (Polyhymnia), love song (Erato), dance (Terpsichore), and instrumental (Euterpe). Plato was a music buff and probably collected manuscripts related to many of these old song traditions, as well as writings in philosophy, government, mathematics and other up-to-date subjects.

Alexander the GreatThe document collection at the Academy led to bigger things. It inspired Plato's student Aristotle to gather manuscripts from everywhere in the known world and to assemble the contents into the first true encyclopedia of human knowledge. Moreover, Aristotle's massive project, in turn, prompted his most famous pupil, Alexander the Great, to endow the greatest literary collection in the ancient world, the renowned museum at Alexandria, Egypt. In its heyday the Alexandrian library held some 500,000 to 750,000 manuscripts. It became the primary model for modern libraries in the West. Nearly all academic collections today, even in colleges and universities having strong religious affiliations, feature diverse subjects and diverse points of view--in contrast to the much smaller, cult-centered libraries that had been the norm before Plato.

Yet, in spite of his manuscript collecting, Plato was not the usual sort of antiquarian who simply loves musty lore and quaint old books. He clearly saw that literature of the past and present could be, and often was, misinformed. Plato's Socrates--the world's earliest literary critic on record--regularly takes shots at poets for lying, for thinking incorrect thoughts, and for promoting immorality. In almost every dialogue, Socrates manages to work into the conversation some literary criticism or another. For example, as we already have seen in "Euthyphro," he disagrees with a poet named Stasinus who wrote a foolish verse that "where there is fear there is also reverence" ("Euthyphro" 12a). Also in this dialogue Socrates refuses to believe the old story of baby Zeus and his infant-eating father Kronos, a story told in the archaic poet Hesiod's Birth of the Gods, c. 700 BCE.

One of the foremost groups that prosecuted Socrates for impiety was the local poets' society whose members no doubt were angry about his criticisms. Apparently, they were unused to having critics scour through their works for fabrications and mistakes.

Plato's Socrates is a model for academics both in literacy (he reads) and in skepticism (he often finds fault with what he reads). He has genuine curiosity about science, philosophy, poetry, and mathematics, and yet he maintains a detached perspective on all subjects. He's interested in truth, not in books for their own sake. We can't go very far wrong in our own research if, like him, we search for truth, and nothing but the truth, never accepting anybody's claims about anything without the closest examination that we are capable of making. 

A darker side: the Academy on grants

Hermit Tarot Card, based on the figure of Diogenes the Cynic.The land on which to build the Academy was granted to Plato by the City of Athens. We don't know whether the city attached conditions to this grant, beyond the fact that Plato was required to run a cemetery association there, but we do know that the school developed an expertise in government consulting. It trained young people for careers in politics, and it may have helped to draw up city charters, constitutions, laws and perhaps other organizational documents for Greek city states. Apparently, Plato sometimes traveled to advise governments on leadership training and government administration. In any case his dialogues often reflect these political interests.

We can begin our practice of skepticism by questioning the Academy itself. Did truth or politics come first? Was there ever really a detached, objective search for truth at the Academy, or were these interests compromised by the political circumstances of the school and its leaders? Did the academics claim to pursue the truth while they in fact followed a hidden political agenda?

There's little question about worldly activities in academia today: education of students is one business, but consulting for government and industry is another. Much of the research that takes place in the modern academy is grant work, written by academics but funded by non-academics who have financial or other practical interests at stake in the outcomes of the research. For example, a pharmaceutical industry trade association might provide money to a university to write and publish a study on the costs of regulation in the pharmaceutical business. Or the same study might be funded by federal or state grant money, sponsored by a particular politician or group of politicians with ties to the industry or ties to its adversaries. In any case, what on its surface appears to be an independently researched academic study may in fact be propaganda in disguise.

Our job is a whole lot more complicated than looking up the answers. As we begin our search for truth, we cannot assume that any sources are unbiased, even if they appear to be academic or scholarly sources. Let's ask: who has paid for this research that we are reading? Why was it written? Many reputable researchers acknowledge their sources of financial support, but they are a minority. Can we trust any source when we don't know the motivation or money behind it?

Of course, bias occurs outside of academia, too. The next time that you are watching the "news" on CNN, but most of the stories seem to be about the lives of celebrities--especially movie stars and sports figures and pop singers and the same personalities who regularly appear on Larry King Live--remember that CNN is owned by Time-Warner, Inc., a media company in the entertainment business. The other major networks, like NBC (owned by General Electric), ABC (owned by Disney), CBS (owned by Viacom) and Fox (owned by NewsCorp), have similar ownership structures and similar businesses. The owners are conglomerates with news businesses (which tend to lose money) along side of other, larger and more profitable businesses, like film and TV entertainment studios. Their "news" programming obviously can be used to feed these other, more lucrative businesses. Moreover, it's not exactly in the corporate interests of these media giants to tangle with the President, members of Congress or bureaucrats who regulate and tax them.

Under these circumstances, how objective is our "news"? Do Americans, if they are informed from sources such as these, really know what's going on in the world? What did they know about Iraq or Mogadishu? Do they really know what's going on inside corporate America? What did they know about Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, or Arthur Andersen?

One of the most obvious uses of language is to deceive. All of us have experienced broken promises, lies, and various forms of false talk in our everyday lives. There is little reason to suppose that words become true when they happen to be issued from a printing press, even a university printing press. Always question the biases that possibly could underlie and distort what you read.

In primary and secondary education, reading skill is simply the ability to understand what the words are saying. In higher education, however, the goal is to learn to read between the lines--that is, to see with insight beyond what the words are saying, to evaluate their truthfulness and importance. In your search for truth in your reading, always ask:

What could have been the writer's motives for producing these words? How can we verify that the writer's claims are true?

So many books. . .3. Practical tips
on academic research
What's likely to be a good source? 
What's likely not to be a good source?

As a general rule, when you write a paper for an academic audience, stick to academic sources if you can.  Keep away from newspapers and popular magazines. Insofar as you can, look in academic journals instead. Avoid publications that are stuffed with advertising. Avoid publications that have clear political, commercial, social or religious agendas (unless you are writing specifically about or for these same groups). For example, if you're researching a drug therapy, don't trust the literature of the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug, and don't trust the literature of that company's competitors, either. Always try to assess the bias or self-interest that might distort anything that you read. Think like Socrates: BE SKEPTICAL.

Look at the writer's education and professional credentials, too. In general, academic readers are going to pay more attention to other academics than to non-academics. In assessing sources, ask: what are the writer's academic degrees, honors, teaching positions or research fellowships, and prior scholarly or scientific publications? Is the writer's educational background relevant to the subject matter that the writer is discussing? (A PhD in philosophy, for example, isn't necessarily expert in genetics or terrorism or anything else outside the field of philosophy.)

Similarly, avoid books from popular publishing houses, when you can. Few best sellers carry any academic weight at all. Look for books published by academic publishers: Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, Cornell University Press, and the like. (Some of these titles will be too technical to understand, of course.) Books from reputable government printing offices and professional organizations (other than political lobbying organizations) generally are acceptable , but some of these can be highly controversial (United Nations publications, for example). Similarly, in journals and magazines, make use of those periodicals that are connected to a school or that at least have academic editors. In some media, such as newspapers, there are almost no academic alternatives, so you may be stuck with non-academic sources. 

Always look for books and articles that are well documented with footnotes or endnotes or works cited references. In general, avoid books and articles that do not clearly identify the author's sources of information. Of course, expert scholars sometimes write popular books that skim over the finer points of research to elaborate on the broader points of interest for the general public. These kinds of books may have few or no citations identifying the author's sources, so you have to trust that what the author has to say is true or reasonable. Few authors deserve such trust. 

Look for longer articles and books, not the shortest articles that you can find. Length is an indicator of depth.

When using on-line sources, stick to those that are listed or catalogued in your academic library's databases. If you have to expand into a general search online, however, avoid web pages with dot-com addresses. Use sites with dot-edu addresses instead, but understand that these edu pages do not have the authority of academic print sources. The reason for their second-class status is that almost anyone connected with a school can post a page on the school's web site, but printed journals and books must pass the scrutiny of academic peer review and professional editors. A few academics (especially among older faculty) still don't use the web and are dour about those who do use it. I am a frequent traveler and well aware that the internet is the Misinformation Stupor Highway.

Consult academic librarians --that is, librarians working in college and university libraries. They can be very helpful in steering research and pointing out reputable sources. It's their job, and they are experts in it. I highly recommend consulting with one or more librarians at the beginning of any research project. Their advice can save you a great deal of frustrating search time.

When in doubt about the legitimacy or value of a source, the best choice always is to ask your instructor. Most teachers will be very happy to help guide your research by suggesting where to search and what to avoid. Some will give different advice than you find this page, and they of course will be right (for that course).

Library Assignment #1. (to be completed by Lesson 5)

1. Using your web browser, from the TC3 homepage, go to the TC3 Library Gateway, <http://www.tc3.edu/library/>

2. Click "Find Articles and Databases" to enter the library's online database collection. Then click "Databases" to enter the list of links to databases. Then click "ProQuest" and, when prompted, enter your TC3 16-digit student identification number. Students without an ID card should be able to look up their ID numbers (if any) online in IQ Web at the
TC3 IQ Web Home Page. If you have problems gaining access to ProQuest, please email librarian Dave Lewis: lewisd@sunytccc.edu. If all else fails, call or email Dr. G.

3. Search ProQuest to find a good, credible article that addresses one of the following general questions:
    
1.   Is the use of torture ever justified?
     2.   How can poverty be reduced?
     3.   How reliable are voting machines?
     4.   Why is the rate of imprisonment higher in the US than in
            other countries?
     5.   Does Islam teach that nonbelievers should be tolerated?
     6.   What are the effects of commercial advertising on the diets of
           young children?
     7.   How does outsourcing of jobs to overseas workers affect
           the US economy?
     8.   How large is the global reserve of fossil fuels?
     9.   What, if any, are the public health benefits of music?
    10.  What is the purpose or function of sleep?
    11.  What causes Alzheimer's disease?
    12.  What influence does Socrates have today?

4. Open your word processor. In your own words, summarize the article that you have selected. Write at least one paragraph (let's say 4-6 sentences--but write more, several paragraphs, if you wish). Try to be thorough, objective and unbiased in describing precisely what the article says. Use MLA citation format, if you happen to know it; for example, begin your summary by mentioning the author's name.

5. Below the summary that you have written, add at least one additional paragraph in which you try to evaluate the credibility and research value of the source that you have summarized. What indicates that the source is trustworthy or reliable? What indicates that it may be untrustworthy or unreliable? How well does this source answer the research question that you have chosen?

6. Below your summary and evaluation paragraphs, paste a copy of the ProQuest source article, including the ProQuest header information that appears before the text.


7. Submit your completed exercise electronically to Dr. G through the SUNY Learning Network web site on or before the due date for Lesson 5.


MORE HELP: see attached page for more help on how to search.  

This assignment is worth a maximum of three points toward your course grade: 
     one point for the quality of the source you have chosen
                                        --is it academic? how sound is it? 
     one point for your summary--how thorough is it? how accurate?
     one point for your evaluation of credibility
                                        --how persuasive is your reasoning?
    

Reading Assignment: For Lesson 5
The reading for Lesson 5 is "The Apology" (from Plato's Five Dialogues), Socrates' defense speech at his trial.
As you will see, Socrates does not apologize for anything. The word "Apology" is merely the classical term for a defense speech. Plato's dialogue is the defense speech that Socrates delivered at his trial. 

Remember that for Lesson 10, we will be writing an in-class essay on the character of Socrates. Of the four dialogues that we will read, the Apology is the richest in terms of its content about Socrates' character. In it, Socrates explains his career, his goals, his motivation.

As you read, read actively! Be sure to highlight and note the important things that Socrates says about himself. 



Left: author
Diana Hacker
.
Keep her book as long as you continue taking college courses. It will be very useful in and beyond English 101.

 

"
Standard English" is the label we attach to the kind of writing that is accepted in academia. It differs from all forms of spoken English. Most mistakes in "standard English" sound fine to the ear. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: the probable site of Plato's Academy (outside of Athens) as it appears today, a little rubble with some contemporary litter strewn over it. Plato formally chartered this ground from the city as a cemetery association, and eventually he was buried here, and many other famous academicians after him died and were buried here, too, but the graveyard was desecrated almost 1500 years ago so that we hardly can imagine that this place once was considered sacred or heroic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Great Al, a student of a student of a student of Socrates. In his empire literacy and scholarship reached levels that would not be surpassed until the Renaissance, almost 2000 years later.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Left: the cynic Diogenes (cir. 412 - 323 BCE), a Socratic follower, is said to have spent his life vainly searching for an honest man. Ironically, a false image of him now has been affixed to the Torot card of "The Hermit." The historical Diogenes apparently would have nothing to do with the Academy but preferred instead to preach to the inner city poor. His reputation was tarred by academics who wrote that he did not believe in civilization but fornicated and relieved himself in public like a dog. We do not have Diogenes' writings today, so we don't know what he said about his rival teachers, but he must have struck a nerve!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How well can a democracy function when the people get their knowledge from tabloids and sound bites?

 

 

 

 

LEARN TO READ BETWEEN THE LINES!


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