"Appropriateness of Support"

        Everyone begins college as a novice or apprentice in her/his chosen field of study.  This poses gave difficulties for writers who want to use support their readers will perceive as "appropriate."  Like other uses of that adjective, what is appropriate in college-level writing is socially determined.  Think of it as a kind of intellectual "etiquette."  When you were younger, you had to be taught your culture's rules for meeting people for the first time, entering a room filled with strangers, driving, or eating in others' company.  Learning the standards of appropriate support for ideas is just another level in your learning about how this culture is constructed (and how it constructs us!).  H. P. Grice, a philosopher of language, constructed four "maxims" to describe the rules by which humans operate ordinary natural language (vs. machine languages like HTML).  Think about Grice's maxims before you decide your paper is appropriately supported:

I. Quantity: 1. What you tell your reader should be as informative as your reader currently needs it to be.  2. What you tell your reader should not be more than your reader currently needs it to be.

II. Quality: Tell the truth. 1. Do not say things you believe to be false. 2. Do not say things for which you lack adequate evidence

III. Relation: Be relevant.

IV. Manner: Be perspicuous. 1. Avoid obscurity.  2. Avoid ambiguity. 3. Be brief. 4. Be orderly.

Paraphrased from "Logic and Conversation," in The Logic of Grammar, ed. Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman (Encino, Cal.: Dickenson, 1975), pp. 64-75.


        Because "appropriateness" is a cultural construct, and discipline-specific, as well, I can give you only the most general help in your first semester of college.  Like most etiquette rules, those of appropriate support in college writing can be learned best by observation.  Look analytically at what has worked before.  If you instructors offer sample papers to illustrate successful writing for their courses, read those papers and look for clues in the manner in which they ask for readers' belief in their theses.  In general, you will find these "writing gestures" are rewarded: