Typical Stages in Academic Articles' Persuasion of Their Readers


What 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.

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? 

2)  INTRODUCTION, Stage 2: Tell me your thesis about the topic (your "news").  Why should I believe it? 

3)  BODY, "PRO": How should I understand this evidence?  

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? 

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? 

6)  CONCLUSION: Gosh, now that you've convinced me that it's true, what else can I do with it? 

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  Should the readers be worried that you use outdated sources, amateur sources, sources which leave out some important and well-known line of scholarly research on the subject?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.