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Problem Statements By Patti Poblete and Tristan Abbott.

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1 Problem Statements By Patti Poblete and Tristan Abbott

2 Presentation Overview Types of problem statements  Formal  Informal Kinds of knowledge  Terminology  Shared beliefs and mindsets  Canonical works Example problem statements

3 What is a Problem Statement? A problem statement is a move that a document makes to help the reader realize why that document is important. Problem statements can be: formal (e.g., thesis statements) informal (e.g., a sentence that tells readers how a new development or discovery will effect them)

4 Formal Problem Statements An example of a formal problem statement would be the thesis statement that should appear in the introduction of your document. For example: One of the problems faced by college admissions offices is whether to give precedence to applicants with strong test score or to applicants with a variety of extracurricular activities.

5 Formal Problem Statements When using formal problem statements be sure that they are specific. Be sure to state only what you: Will discuss in text Can support with evidence

6 Helping the Audience Understand Your Work To write strong problem statements, you need to know: What your readers already know about the topic of the document. How you will highlight the significance of your document.

7 Kinds of Knowledge You need to analyze your audience and gauge their knowledge of the following areas: terminology shared beliefs/mindsets canonical works

8 Terminology Specialized terminology refers to words or phrases that might not be easily understood by readers from different backgrounds. For example: When the applied linguist uses terms L1 and L2 to refer to a person’s first or second language. The next slide provides examples of how specialized terminology can be deployed in problem statements.

9 Terminology Written with special terminology only: School’s ESL instructors need to be especially mindful of the overlap between a student’s L1 and L2. Written with special terminology defined: Instructors who teach students learning English as a Second Language (ESL) should pay attention to the overlap between a student’s first language (L1) and English, the target language (L2).

10 Shared Beliefs and Mindsets The idea of shared beliefs and mindsets relates to the values an audience holds and how these can change the way that they interpret or understand the statements you make. Shared beliefs and mindsets often appear in the assumptions that underlie a text.

11 Shared Beliefs and Mindsets The next slide provides examples of how assumptions about beliefs and mindsets can affect how a person might read a text. The first quote assumes that the readers understand the terms related to autism and the needs of autistic patients. The second quote conveys the same information, but spells out those assumptions for an audience unfamiliar with discussions about autism.

12 Shared Beliefs and Mindsets Underlying assumptions about shared beliefs: “We believe this research could lead to a development of more specialized techniques for treating the autism spectrum.” States the underlying assumptions in specific terms: “…and such techniques are important because the autism spectrum encompasses a number of disorders, and right now there is not enough specialized treatment for each specific disorder.”

13 Canonical Research Canonical research refers to texts or theories that the majority of experts in a field accept as significant. For example: Einstein's theory of general relativity in physics Ferris’ and Trustcott’s competing views on error correction in second language writing The Pythagorean Theorem in geometry.

14 Canonical Research Assumes knowledge of a discipline specific canonical work: "Apply the Pythagorean theorem in order to calculate the distance between home plate and second base." Does not assume knowledge of a discipline specific canonical work: "Use the Pythagorean theorem (A 2 + B 2 = C 2, with C equaling the triangle's longest side and A and B equaling the other sides) to calculate the distance between home plate and second base. Remember, there are 90 feet between each base."

15 Examples of Problem Statements for a Variety of Audience The following slides provide two example problem statements. The first example, by Bao and Li, appeared in a materials sciences professional journal. The second example, by Danigelis, appeared through a popular media outlet (MSNBC). These examples will be used to show how problem statements differ depending on the context that they appear in.

16 “Toward Textile Energy Storage from Cotton T-Shirts” Written by Bao and Li (2012) Published in a professional journal, Advanced Materials. The journal is a peer-reviewed journal aimed at an audience familiar with current developments in materials science, which includes “the chemistry and physics of functional materials.” Their problem statement is found in the first paragraph of the article.

17 “Toward Textile Energy Storage from Cotton T-Shirts”: Problem Statement “The three-dimensional (3D) high-surface-area characteristic of such textiles facilitates the access of electrolytes, enabling high electrochemical performance of textile super-capacitors. However, the employment of organic surfactant for preparing CNT ‘ink’ is not environmentally benign. The other drawback is that the use of CNTs increases the cost of the device, which more or less deters their technological applications” (Bao & Li, 2012).

18 “Toward Textile Energy Storage from Cotton T-Shirts”: Field Specific Terminology “The three-dimensional (3D) high-surface-area characteristic of such textiles facilitates the access of electrolytes, enabling high electrochemical performance of textile super-capacitors. However, the employment of organic surfactant for preparing CNT ‘ink’ is not environmentally benign. The other drawback is that the use of CNTs increases the cost of the device, which more or less deters their technological applications” (Bao & Li, 2012).

19 “Toward Textile Energy Storage from Cotton T- Shirts”: Assuming Shared Beliefs/Mindsets “The three-dimensional (3D) high-surface-area characteristic of such textiles facilitates the access of electrolytes, enabling high electrochemical performance of textile super-capacitors. However, the employment of organic surfactant for preparing CNT ‘ink’ is not environmentally benign. The other drawback is that the use of CNTs increases the cost of the device, which more or less deters their technological applications” (Bao & Li, 2012).

20 “Toward Textile Energy Storage from Cotton T-Shirts”: References to Canonical Research “The three-dimensional (3D) high-surface-area characteristic of such textiles facilitates the access of electrolytes, enabling high electrochemical performance of textile super-capacitors. However, the employment of organic surfactant for preparing CNT “ink” is not environmentally benign. The other drawback is that the use of CNTs increases the cost of the device, which more or less deters their technological applications” (Bao & Li, 2012).

21 “Your cotton T-shirt could soon charge your phone” Written by Danigelis (2012) Published on a commercial tech blog, MSNBC’s Future of Tech This blog is maintained by MSNBC Tech contributors and commercial partners. Her problem statement is implicit and distributed across the first and fourth paragraphs of the blog entry.

22 “Your cotton T-shirt could soon charge your phone” In the Danigelis article, the problem statement is implicit rather than explicit, like in Bao & Li (2012): “One day, donning a T-shirt could mean you‘re also sporting a smart device charger.” (Danigelis, 2012). “The engineers had to make the cotton highly conductive so they tried several ‘recipes,’ Li said.” (Danigelis, 2012).

23 Recap: Problem Statements Problem statements can be either: formal, like a thesis statement Informal, like a explanatory sentence Their primary functions are to help the reader: see why your document is important help create raise awareness of an issue To write strong problem statements you should keep in mind: terminology shared beliefs and mindsets canonical works

24 Where to Go for More Help Visit the Purdue University Writing Lab in Heavilon Hall 226. Check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab: brief questions to our OWL Mail tutors:

25 References Bao, L. & Li X. (2012). Toward textile energy storage from cotton T-shirts. Advanced Materials 24(24), doi: / adma Danigelis, A. (2012, May 26). Your cotton T-shirt could soon charge your phone. [Future of Tech Blog Post]. Retrieved from: h/your-cotton-t-shirt-could-soon-charge-your-phone h/your-cotton-t-shirt-could-soon-charge-your-phone

26 The End


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