Typical Stages in Academic Articles' Persuasion of Their Readers
your academic audience is asking from the other side of the page
If you can ask yourselves these questions and answer them at each new
stage of the paper, you'll probably anticipate
readers' most important concerns. This is not
a description of a "seven-paragraph formula" for writing papers. Each stage might require several paragraphs to complete.
Think of each stage as a logical move your readers are expecting based on their years
of reading academic prose. You may not be able to write the paper in this
order, but by the time it is done, it should unfold this way for your readres.
As you compose the paper, write what you can, filling in logical gaps until it does these jobs for its readers.
If you are in doubt, ask a Writing Center tutor or ask me.
This is not a description of a "seven-paragraph formula" for writing papers.
Each stage might require several paragraphs to complete. Think of each stage as a logical move your readers are expecting based on their years of reading academic prose. You may not be able to write the paper in this order, but by the time it is done, it should unfold this way for your readres. As you compose the paper, write what you can, filling in logical gaps until it does these jobs for its readers. If you are in doubt, ask a Writing Center tutor or ask me.
1) INTRODUCTION, Stage 1: What do well-informed people say about the topic are you working with and what do you want me to believe about it?
state your thesis in the context of expert debate, or explain why the topic has
been ignored and why we should pay attention to it. Usually, this is a pattern
in your primary source evidence, or a
break in a pattern of
2) INTRODUCTION, Stage 2: Tell me your thesis about the topic (your "news"). Why should I believe it?
me briefly your main evidence and reasoning--you will explain it more fully in
the body, but academic readers do not like to be kept in suspense about whether
they need to read your work.
3) BODY, "PRO": How should I understand this evidence?
explain the primary source evidence carefully, interpret the significance of the evidence by explaining what it implies,
what its consequences or causes seem to be, or what it tells us about the topic.
4) BODY, "CON": Is this the only or best way to understand this evidence? In what contrary ways might the significance of this evidence be understood? Is there evidence that does not fit the thesis you argue?
Answer: present the contrary
evidence or explanatory alternatives you can think of, or that other scholars have proposed--other
scholars' opinions often are introduced here if they've touched upon your
paper's topic. [Expert knowledge is built from debates about the evidence
and its significance, and nothing is discovered in isolation from this debate.]
5) BODY, REBUTTAL of "CON": Why should I prefer your interpretation of the evidence to those other ways of interpreting the evidence? How can we explain any evidence that violates the pattern you are describing?
Answer: compare the explanations and show how the
explanation you propose
handles the evidence more accurately than the others, explains more of it than
the others, explains the
evidence in ways that fit other similar patterns of evidence elsewhere, and/or
requires fewer unlikely hypotheses than the explanations offered by the
others. Remember that exceptions to rules often operate according to
sub-rules of their own, like when a character in a novel lies to all characters in all
scenes except one.
6) CONCLUSION: Gosh, now that you've convinced me that it's true, what else can I do with it?
Answer: consider in your conclusion what further consequences might also be true as a result of the readers' acceptance of your thesis--how will this explanation improve the way we understand other similar evidence?
7) WORKS CITED/REFERENCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY: How good are the sources you were using? Should the readers be worried that you use outdated sources, amateur sources, sources which leave out some important and well-known line of scholarly research on the subject? If your readers have not checked the sources as they encountered them in your paper's body, they certainly will check them when they are on the verge of being persuaded by the body and conclusion. Do not disappoint them at this stage or the best constructed argument in the world will fail.