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Analytical Essay: thesis-building, analyzing & incorporating sources

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Amanda Goldrick-Jones

on 23 October 2013

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Transcript of Analytical Essay: thesis-building, analyzing & incorporating sources

Analytical Essay: thesis-building; analyzing & incorporating sources
So what? Why ask? What's my
A motivating question makes it less daunting to RESEARCH the evidence or data to help you develop your paper.
Plagiarism: "using the words
or ideas
of another person as if they were your own, and without giving proper credit to the sources you have used."
Create an organizational plan
A thesis serves as a road map for your paper. Use it to create an
or use an outline to refine your thesis.

For example--
Because [X]
stress management programs can help students cope with pressure,
[therefore Y]
we should pilot a program that focuses specifically on first-year students and the pressures they experience.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/22964099@N05/2204059683/
Unlike a simple claim

People in their 20s are under more stress than any other age group.

a formal thesis statement incorporates logical relationships:

of Y
Z, X needs our attention
Even though
Z is the case, X needs attention
of Y

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lac-bac/7639138098/
Chris Lund. Canada. National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque. Library and Archives Canada, e010949025 /
Here's a very basic outline:
Students in their early twenties are very susceptible to stress
they must manage many conflicting demands on their time. A stress management program would help students deal with these pressures.
1. What is stress? What are major sources of stress for younger students?
2. How are these students coping?
3. What is a stress management program?
4. What are some options for ensuring the program is helping students?
How would students benefit? How would the university benefit? What should the next step be?

TIP: Don’t just read a source for "information." Read critically to assess the arguments. Depending on the assignment, you may need to EVALUATE the source by examining ...
Narrow broad terms: try the "ladder of abstraction"
Image credit: http://srjcwritingcenter.com/images/ladder.jpg
"Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492."

Does this sentence need a citation?
According to recent research involving DNA samples from 500-year-old bones, it has been claimed that Christopher Columbus is buried in the cathedral in Seville, Spain and not in the Dominican Republic (Associated Press, 2006).

Why does this sentence on the same topic need a citation?
The ORIGINAL passage:

Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes (Lester, 1976, pp. 46-47).
Here are 3 attempts to incorporate ideas from a source. Which is NOT legitimate, and why?

Students often use too many direct quotations when they take notes, resulting in too many of them in the final research paper. In fact, probably only about 10% of the final copy should consist of directly quoted material. So it is important to limit the amount of source material copied while taking notes.

In research papers, students often quote excessively, failing to keep quoted material down to a desirable level. Since the problem usually originates during note taking, it is essential to minimize the material recorded verbatim (Lester, 1976).


Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources to help minimize the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester, 1976).
Levels of Abstraction: explanation and examples

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/telemax/3304139364/

Assessing Arguments
If the argument is strong, why?
Could it be better or differently supported?
Are there gaps, leaps, or inconsistencies in the argument?
Is the method of analysis problematic?
Could the evidence be interpreted differently?
Are the conclusions warranted by the evidence presented?
Are there any unspoken assumptions?
What might an opposing argument be?
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/harshlight/944936147/
Reaching for an interpretation
The non-critical thinker/reader recognizes what a text says and restates it. The critical thinker/reader goes two steps further by
Reflecting on what the text

Is it offering examples? 
Appealing for sympathy? 
Making a contrast to clarify a point?
Inferring what the text, as a whole,  

Approaching Critical Thinking
Ask questions:
“How does this text work?”
“How is it argued?”
“How is the evidence (the facts, examples, etc.) used and interpreted?”
“How does the text reach its conclusions?”
Some Practical Strategies:
(especially introductions and conclusions) and
strategically choose
where to focus.
--those places in a text where authors explain analytical moves, the concepts they use, how they use them, & how they arrive at conclusions.
Look for
larger patterns
that give purpose, order, and meaning to examples (e.g. opening sentences).
Put texts into proper
. When choosing part of a text for your own paper, be aware of how that part fits into the argument from which it is taken.
Introduce quotations and paraphrases
reporting verbs
Ask focused and RESEARCHABLE questions to guide your search for evidence
Look for
key words or concepts
. . . repeated, general, resonant, located in priority sections of your readings

Priority sections often include ABSTRACTS, INTRODUCTIONS, topic sentences of paragraphs, CONCLUSIONS

Look for other clues: titles, headings, author/site information
Make Your Sources “Speak”

Start by
what the source is saying and
the most significant points.

Then move beyond the "information" stage by
(interpreting) the source. What does it mean? Why does a certain point draw your attention? What makes you draw a particular conclusion from a source?
Strategies for Writing Analytically
Engage in "conversation" with your sources
Don’t simply put source ideas together in a daisy-chain of quotes or paraphrases.

Instead, incorporate quotations and paraphrases within your own thinking, creating a new synthesis. Use sources to help you think your own way through an issue or problem.
More help!
Citation styles (MLA, Chicago):
Describing what authors are doing:
Writing consultations:
"Direct quotation"
reproduces the original text word-for-word, including punctuation
uses a narrow segment of the source
uses quotation marks
must be attributed to the original author
Paraphrase or Direct Quote?
Do quote
: make sure that you have a good reason to include a direct quotation

use quotations to make your argument
“stack” your quotes: i.e. one after another

substitutes your words for the authors’ while retaining the original ideas
takes a broader segment of the source and condenses it slightly
must be attributed to the original source.
TIP: Use paraphrase when you want to . . .
• convey a source’s overall approach or position
• provide “the gist” of a passage, argument, or chapter

or combine the arguments/positions of two or more sources
To refer critically and analytically to your sources (which also helps avoid plagiarism), use
"reporting" verbs
This University of Toronto site offers a useful explanation with examples:
Did you know ...
most academic writers rely mainly on
Direct quotes may comprise only 10-12% of a paper's content!
Try this resource for more info and examples of how/when to use quotations:

Not sure how to use key words to find sources?
Try this tutorial:
Quick Tips for Researching Your Topic
Strategies for Building a "Working Thesis"
Strategies for Engaging Analytically with Your Sources
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