Motive begins with a question or a problem. This can be in the form of a gap in the evidence, a puzzling passage, or a new phenomenon. Thus, motive is the driving force behind an essay’s line of inquiry or argument. It is the question to which the author hopes to provide an answer.
Without a strong motive, it is difficult for readers to grasp the reason for a certain paper’s existence. Even the most brilliant points can seem meaningless without an understanding of the posed question. Even then, motive must extend beyond just this initial question. The motive of a paper has to be compelling enough to imbue readers with a sense of that paper’s significance. It ultimately helps answer the question, “Why does it all matter?” It helps readers understand not only why a paper was written but also why they should care that the paper was written at all.
In this section of 2017’s issue of Tortoise, we learn that, in asking the right questions and providing the necessary context, Sam Rob ’18’s paper about farming at Princeton brings to light larger environmental issues at work in the world. Similarly, Pragya Malik ’19’s paper demonstrates broader societal trends that could influence elections beyond the tumultuous 2016 cycle through her discussion of the generational divide governing the demographics of Hillary Clinton’s supporters. These compelling ideas and their implications ultimately owe their existence to motive.