Week 1 Discussion Guide: Thursday
Our main business today will be the start of the "Product Purchase Recommendation" paper (draft due next Friday; final draft due the following Friday--see the syllabus for dates). Click on this link to go to the assignment description. To help you gather your research data in ways that address your best readers' needs, we will discuss a research tool that you may not be aware of, a way to organize data that I call "The Grid." Writing tools like "The Grid" can help us organize and analyze data from our research for the Product Purchase Recommendation and similar complex academic writing projects.
First we will need to discuss the component parts of argument: "claim," "support," and "reasoning" (terms borrowed from Toulmin logic). The sequence, claim+support+reasoning, is extremely important to academic prose, but many student writers, in their haste to express what is on their minds, leave out one or more of the steps, or do not logically connect them to each other, or to other similar sequences in an order that makes sense to their readers. "Support" comes in various kinds, but the writer's best internal source of support is the use of evidence from the best quality sources. High quality sources help you present to readers what classical Greek rhetoricians called "an ethical persona," one of three elements speakers and writers can use to persuade their audiences. Because source quality plays such an important role in constructing scholarly authority, we will pay special attention to ways to test source quality (click here!). Be prepared to discuss the tests. You, as a source, also must construct and protect your own ethical persona. Do not sound like you are representing a single product--represent your best readers' needs and concerns.
Another part of readers' perception of writers' ethical persona comes from their perception of the writers' "reasonableness," a sense that the writers have considered all relevant facts and others' reasoning about those facts. "Reasonableness," from the writers' perspective, often appears in the form of rebuttals of previous writers' faulty conclusions, and concessions which point out previous writers' correct conclusions. Both are important ways of addressing your "best reader's" concerns. The concept of a paper's "best reader" will be very important to our discovery of what to write and how to write it, so you should read with great care the page linked to the previous hyperlink. Which organizational strategy should you probably use for the Product Purchase Recommendation Paper? How should you organize your emerging source evidence to make sense of its meaning in terms your best readers would understand? To see an article published by professional market researchers for college food service companies who want to know first year students' preferences for food bought outside the meal plan, click on the article Web address below.
Amanda Wilson, Deborah Fowler, Jingxue Jessica Yuan, & Ben K. Goh, "Food service preferences of first-year college students," The Bulletin, 80:1 (January 2012), Web, available at: http://www.acui.org/publications/bulletin/article.aspx?issue=36078&id=17291 This article is an example of professional market research to determine the most important concerns of potential customers (i.e., "best readers"). You don't have to be statistically precise about your PPR's best readers, but you do have to know what issues and features they think are important about your product. If you do not know that, you are basically trusting to luck when trying to persuade them. If you do, you will know what they want to know and in what order to tell them.
For tips about email conferencing, email etiquette, and about how to define your PPR topic more clearly click here. Learning to use email to communicate with professional colleagues (vs. to amuse or annoy one's friends) is another crucial thing English 105 students have to accomplish. It is not listed in the College Writing Proficiency criteria, but then neither were "knowing the English alphabet" or "being able to leave a coherent and efficient voicemail message." They weren't mentioned because the Goucher faculty assumed all three were necessary to the accomplishment of the rest. If you have questions about them, please contact me. It's my job to answer those questions.
Click here for answers to the format questions on the diagnostic quiz.