Presentation on theme: "Notes on Writing a Critique From the UNB Writing Centre."— Presentation transcript:
Notes on Writing a Critique From the UNB Writing Centre
Topics 1. Thesis statements (key judgements and their basis in a single sentence) 2. Presenting and citing evidence (and the dangers of plagiarism) 3. Validity markers (hedges, emphatics, and attributors) 4. Conciseness 5. Revision and final editing
Drafting Thesis Statements O “A short statement conveying an explicit judgment concerning a limited topic and based on suitable evidence” O It is what the paper discovers or demonstrates
Purpose: Writer’s POV O A check on the research/writing process O The touchstone against which all else will be judged
Purpose: Reader’s POV O Informs the reader of the key findings O Not a simple statement of accepted fact O Not an “opinion” O A judgment based on evidence O Single-sentence “executive summary” O Similar to requirements on some grant applications
2. Effective Thesis statements Ineffective O Pets are a source of joy and love. (boring) O In clinical terms, the pet/owner relationship can be viewed from many angles. (ambiguous) O This essay will be about pets. (too obvious) O In my opinion, I think pets are a source of joy. (about the writer) Better In the majority of pet- owning households in the UK, pets either replace or supplement human children in the social order of the home.
Thesis Statements Aim: This paper explored the misconceptions about the role of natural selection in the development of effective human pathogens evident in the 2011 film Contagion. Thesis: Contagion unrealistically compresses the time required for an animal pathogen to become a highly transmissible human-adapted virus, reducing a process that typically takes years to a mere 48 hours.
Try a short quiz.... O Judge whether each example is a thesis statement O Note what makes it a thesis statement (if it is one) O Indicate what is missing (if it is not)
Thesis Statements 1. In the 2007 film I Am Legend, most of the world’s population is killed by an engineered retrovirus that mutates to become an airborne disease. This is a statement of fact (if it’s true), not an inference from evidence A thesis may be supported by obvious statements of fact, but it usually involves evaluation of some kind
Thesis Statements 2. I believe the progress of the zoonose in Contagion to be too rapid to be credible. This is certainly a definite judgement, but it is presented as an opinion (“I believe”) The thesis is presumably “the zoonose in Contagion develops too rapidly to be believable” Even better: explain why
Thesis Statements 3. Because the Motaba virus depicted in Outbreak (1997) produces symptoms in a matter of hours, has an extreme case-fatality rate (100%), and shifts modes of transmission (from fluid-borne to airborne) within days, it is a highly improbable invention. This is certainly a definite judgement, and the basis for it is specified Any comment on “because”?
Finding Thesis Statements O Often indirectly expressed O Special concerns discourage direct statements O Research method determines extent/strength of statement O Partly a result of format, partly a way of maintaining objectivity O Typically, you must infer the thesis by examining several parts of the paper
Qualifying Your Thesis O be open about limitations, inconsistencies O never draw unjustified conclusions O use appropriate validity markers
Document Sources Rigorously Close work with sources is crucial—record every source as you use it (hard to find later!) Two basic techniques: 1. Quotations (block/embedded) 2. Paraphrase with citation In scientific and technical fields, #2 is the overwhelming choice.
Block Quotations Dr. Mears explains the factors in determining the rate of infection of an epidemic: What we need to determine is this; for every person who gets sick, how many other people are they likely to infect? So, for seasonal flu that's usually about one. Smallpox on the other hand, it's over three. Now, before we had a vaccine, polio spread at a rate between four and six. Now, we call that number the R-not. R stands for the reproductive rate of the virus.... How fast it multiplies depends on a variety of factors; the incubation period, how long a person is contagious. Sometimes people can be contagious without even having symptoms, you need to know that too. And we need to know how big the population of people susceptible to the virus might be. (Soderbergh 2011) 123 words— my goodness!
Bulk Quotation O Not only is this overkill, but it fails to emphasize the key details O Natural/Scripted dialogue is rarely an efficient means of conveying information O Need we read the whole passage for this?
Embedded Quotation/Paraphrase As Dr. Mears explains, key factors in the spread of infection include the reproduction rate of the virus, its incubation period, the duration of asymptomatic infection, and susceptibility of the population (Soderbergh 2011). 31 words— more efficient & emphatic
CSE Name-Year System O Sources are identified in the body of the paper by parenthetical references O At the end of the paper, a reference list, arranged alphabetically, provides full publication details
Reference List Entry Soderbergh, S (dir.). Contagion. US: Warner Bros., 2011. 106 min.
Embedded Quotation Dr. Mears also mentions the importance of determining how large “the population of people susceptible to the virus might be” (Soderbergh 2011). Use quotation marks even for short phrases... otherwise....
Plagiarism O Probably widespread O CBC ‘s “Ideas” program suggested that nearly all students plagiarize (2009) O Unnecessary: Simply QUOTE
Bradley vs. Wegman O2O2006: Edward Wegman (George Mason University) wrote a highly technical report critical of the use of statistics in current climate science (attacking Thomas Bradley among others) O2O2010: Thomas Bradley (University of Massachusetts) alleged that Wegman reproduced sections of a textbook he wrote without quoting—and he was right! OHOHowever, as Steven McIntyre pointed out, Bradley’s textbook contains plagiarism....
Bradley & Fritts Once the regression coefficients have been calculated, the eigenvectors incorporated in the regression equation are mathematically transformed into a new set of n coefficients corresponding to the original (intercorrelated) set of n variables. These new coefficients are termed weights or elements of the response function and are analogous to the stepwise regression coefficients discussed earlier.... (Bradley, 1985, p. 346) Once the regression coefficients for the selected set of orthogonal variables have been calculated, they may be mathematically transformed into a new set of coefficients which correspond to the original correlated set of variables. These new coefficients (sometimes referred to as weights or elements of the response function) are analogous to the stepwise regression coefficients described in the previous section.... (Fritts, 1976, p. 353)
Bradley & Fritts Once the regression coefficients have been calculated, the eigenvectors incorporated in the regression equation are mathematically transformed into a new set of n coefficients corresponding to the original (intercorrelated) set of n variables. These new coefficients are termed weights or elements of the response function and are analogous to the stepwise regression coefficients discussed earlier.... (Bradley, 1985, p. 346) Once the regression coefficients for the selected set of orthogonal variables have been calculated, they may be mathematically transformed into a new set of coefficients which correspond to the original correlated set of variables. These new coefficients (sometimes referred to as weights or elements of the response function) are analogous to the stepwise regression coefficients described in the previous section.... (Fritts, 1976, p. 353) Quibbles: “are termed” vs. “referred to” “discussed earlier” vs. “described in the previous section” SAME order of ideas EXACTLY 42/55 words (76% PLAGIARISED!
Do Cheaters Prosper? O Moral of the story: document your sources RIGOROUSLY, or the debate will be about plagiarism and nothing more O Plagiarism Roll of (Dis)Honour: Stephen E. Ambrose, Civil War historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, biographer of the Kennedy clan David Rotor & Douglas Tipple, Public Works Dept. consultants 30 Carleton University engineering students (2002)
3. Validity Markers O easy part: the key findings O remember to use appropriate qualifications in your conclusions (and thesis statement) O validity markers indicate the strength/source of conclusions
Validity Markers a. hedges: perhaps, may, might, often, usually, apparently, seemingly b. emphatics (boosters): clearly, undoubtedly, it is obvious that, of course c. attributors: “according to Wilson (1999)”
Contagion unrealistically compresses the time required for an animal pathogen to become a highly transmissible human- adapted virus, reducing a process that typically takes years to a mere 48 hours.
Would “impossible” be too strong? Was the transmissibility be “extremely”? Are there sufficiently few exceptions to justify “typically”? How does “mere” affect the tone?
Diction O Writing Apprenticeship: expansiveness and dilation have been emphasized over precision and economy Now it is time to choose O The right words and O Words your audience knows.
Complex Diction O What do people REALLY think of overly complex diction? O D. Oppenheimer, Stanford U (2003): O people who use unnecessarily complicated language are viewed as less intelligent than people who use more familiar language Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems With Using Long Words Needlessly
Ready ‑ Made Phrases O Like Frankenstein's monster, "ready ‑ made" writing is stitched together out of dead parts. O Avoid phrases that “sound appropriate” O Use only words you need—and your audience understands
Novelty & Vocabulary O “make it new” is not the always best advice for selecting words O Accuracy and familiarity (of individual words, not phrases) are crucial O The evil comes from overly familiar phrases and unnecessarily obscure words
Basic Inflation Based on the fact that Due to the fact that Exhibit a tendency to For the purpose of For the reason that In spite of the fact that Because Tend to For Because Although
Other Types of Repetition Redundant Adjectives/Adverbs O future plans O consensus of opinion O especially unique O potential hazard O final outcome
Positive Advice O Find the VERB in the nominalization, and build the sentence around it O Strong verbs make clear sentences (and usually shorter ones, too!)
Where Does It Come From? O Most of these choices are the result of “length anxiety” O From early grades, length is the measure of achievement O Students learn to pad—to be honest, we teach them—and the habit becomes engrained O Editors then try to take it all out again
5. Revision & Editing O Do the little errors matter?
Minor Grammatical Errors O Grammatical howlers, frequently merely conventional or formal errors O Many do not impair the effectiveness of the communication O How important are they?
Although the newly-developed vaccine was suppose to protect the bulk of the population, it failed because of the rapid mutation of the virus. suppose to
Grammatical Bugbears O Cannot be ignored (“use to,” “should of,” “in regards to”) O Will always overshadow genuine achievement to some degree O Technology cannot yet save us--
General Principles O Keep track of your purpose and test each paragraph and sentence against it O Keep your audience in mind and write for them, not at them O Critique your own writing in relation to that purpose and audience O Have someone else read your writing
Five Revision Rules 1. Stick to the point O delete any irrelevant information, however interesting O you may be able to place it in the appendix O removing extra information makes what remains clearer
2. Say what you mean O reading out loud helps O having another person read it helps more O never repeat a phrase you have read elsewhere unless you understand it thoroughly (the other writer may be wrong)
3. Keep forward momentum O repeat key words as necessary so that a clear argument develops O use appropriate connectives to ensure clear progress (example)
Identify the connectives In saturated air (100% relative humidity), the worms lost about 20% of their initial body weight during the first 20 hours but were then able to prevent further dehydration. In contrast, worms maintained in air of 70-80% relative humidity experienced a much faster rate of dehydration, losing 63% of their total body water content in 24 hours. As a consequence of this rapid dehydration, most worms died within the 24- hour period.
4. Indicate interpretations O Signal all interpretations clearly The difference in infection rates is evident in Table 1. What IS the difference?
4. Indicate interpretations O Signal all interpretations clearly Clearly, the motaba virus is far more infectious than ebola, on which it was based (Table 1).
5. Avoid overlap & repetition O Be concise.... Although the film repeatedly emphasized their expertise, the CDC team seemed unaware of actual treatments for EHF. One such treatment the team overlooked was based on blood transfusions from convalescent patients.
5. Avoid overlap & repetition O Be concise.... In spite of their supposed expertise, the CDC team seemed unaware of such treatments for EHF as blood transfusions from convalescent patients.
6. Bonus Rule: Make Back- ups! O Most common error: saving OVER existing document O Difficult to reverse O Practice saving with a new name so this never happens
Slideshow (and More) go.unb.ca/wss “Writing Answers” Title: “Notes on Writing a Critique”