Category Archives: Setting Up the Motive

Setting Up the Motive, Spring 2024

Characterizing the Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Dopamine and Noradrenaline During Flexible Associative Learning in Mouse Dorsal Cortex

In a Tortoiseshell

An abstract and brief introduction precede this excerpt. In these sections, I walk through some prior literature on the roles of dopamine and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters, in the brain. I show that there is a notable absence of research looking into the functions of these molecules in the outermost layers of the brain called cortex. There are further conflicting theories about whether these molecules have global, unified functions across the whole brain, or if their effects are specific to local regions. I also cover the basics of a model of associative learning in which a certain sensory cue is paired with a rewarding or punishing event, referred to below as stimulus-outcome relationships. 

Excerpt / Tristan Szapary

Specific Aims

Neuromodulators regulate circuit dynamics across the entire brain, though their role in cortex during learning remains poorly understood. This proposed study will characterize the spatiotemporal dynamics of dopamine and noradrenaline during visual and auditory associative learning in the mouse dorsal cortex. We hypothesize that both learning and the reversal will depend on dopamine to learn reward associations while noradrenaline will enable the mouse to update the new stimulus-outcome relationships during reversals for both reward and punishment. Additionally, we predict targeted release of dopamine and noradrenaline in auditory or visual sensory processing regions respective to the stimulus modality, exhibiting spatial heterogeneity.

Aim 1: Assess Learning in a Two-Modality Associative Learning Paradigm with Reversals. Mice will conduct a task in which visual or auditory stimuli are paired with a reward of water or a punishment of an air puff to their eye. The outcome associated with the rewarded and punished stimuli will then be reversed. This aim seeks to develop metrics based on behavioral responses like anticipatory lick rate and eyelid closure to quantify learning.

Aim 2: Comparing Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Dopamine During Visual and Auditory Associative Learning. Mice will be virally induced to express sensors of dopamine and conduct the learning and reversal trials in Aim 1 with cortex-wide mesoscopic imaging. In this aim, we will observe changes in dopamine (DA) activity as they correlate with learning and localize them to specific regions in the dorsal cortex to determine whether DA is heterogeneously released across modality and confirm that DA encodes reward prediction error, as hypothesized by numerous theories.

Aim 3: Comparing Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Noradrenaline During Visual and Auditory Associative Learning. In this aim, we will conduct a similar experiment as Aim 2 but in mice with induced sensors for noradrenaline, again looking for heterogeneous release patterns and testing the hypothesis that NA is involved in encoding novelty and uncertainty.

Author Commentary / Tristan Szapary

This excerpt is the entirety of the “Specific Aims” section of my Spring Junior Paper (JP) in the Neuroscience Department. Our spring JP is expected to take the form of a prospectus, in which we propose a potential experiment that we may conduct in the future, commonly as our thesis. The motivation for this structure is to introduce us to the process of pitching scientific ideas to a critical audience and convince them that it is worthwhile, which is a common occurrence when working in STEM academia as seen with grant proposals. A prospectus contains various sections that I was already familiar with like an abstract, introduction, and methods. Yet I had never heard of Specific Aims before, and after some research learned that the section is meant to convey the problem your research aims to solve, the motive of why such a problem matters, and the concrete objectives your research plans to achieve, all in no more than a page!

At first, this felt like a daunting task. The expectations of Specific Aims seemed to match that of the entire paper, asking me to combine my abstract, introduction, and methods and distill them into a fraction of their length. I decided it was best to focus on writing the other sections first, so I could solidify my understanding of what I wanted to study, why I wanted to study it, and how I planned on doing so, before tackling its summation. Breaking down my methods into section headers based on each of my experimental goals seamlessly turned into the organization of my three listed aims. Further, when I began writing this excerpt, I forced myself to be as concise as possible with my language and then went back to cut down even more extraneous words when I proofread. This added constraint was the only way to reach the one-page limit, but it also pushed me to sharpen my language so that each word was both necessary and sufficient to get my point across. I tried to limit the technical jargon in this excerpt to broaden its scope, but there were occasional moments where I relied on concepts that were touched on in the introduction. Nevertheless, I wrote the last sentences of Aims 2 and 3 to give some theoretical background on dopamine and norepinephrine so that any reader could infer that the former is related to reward and the latter to novelty. I also included a broad overview of my proposed experimental protocol in Aim 1. This way, a reader unaware of the methodological details could read these Specific Aims and still grasp the larger framework of my experiments and the most important objectives they seek to accomplish.

The process of crafting my Specific Aims sections was in itself a writing exercise of efficient orientation. It asks you to boil down many pages of research into its bare bones and strike a careful balance between the specificity of your experimental objective with the broad scope of your problem in question. 

Editor Commentary / Molly Taylor

In independent work, Princeton undergraduates are asked to produce original research that contributes to scholarship in their discipline. Beyond generating a well-motivated research question, we must also determine how to answer it. In the “specific aims” section of his thesis research proposal, submitted as junior independent work for the neuroscience department, Tristan explicitly connects his motive to his methodology. 

The specific aims section begins with a succinct restatement of Tristan’s motive: to characterize the spatiotemporal dynamics of dopamine and noradrenaline during learning, which researchers do not understand well. This restatement is important in framing the study’s three specific aims, as it reminds the reader of what Tristan hopes to achieve before he explains how he will do it. Further, the hypothesis that follows the motivating question follows from the research presented in the preceding background section, allowing the reader to see how Tristan’s work builds on existing knowledge on dopamine and noradrenaline in the cortex—and how his proposed research will confirm or challenge it. 

Then, Tristan presents the three “specific aims” of his research with impressive concision. This section connects each element of his experimental design to its implication for the research question. While the full twenty-page proposal discusses the technical background and methodology in detail, this section succeeds in distilling the why and how of his research into fewer than 300 words. In a research proposal—with the goal of convincing an advisor of the merits of a project—this succinct overview is both persuasive and helpful, in the sense that it frames, at a high level, the more in-depth sections of the paper.  

Relatively few writing assignments at Princeton require a research proposal, and not all disciplines require a methodology as explicit as neuroscience. Still, Tristan’s work is a reminder that, regardless of the subject, it is important to be able to articulate the motivation behind the methodology, whether that methodology is a lab procedure or a close reading.

Setting Up the Motive, Spring 2024

Decoding the Evolutionary Pathways of Transmissible Cancers in Tasmanian Devils

Excerpt / Peyton Smith

Cancer is a ubiquitous disease among multicellular eukaryotic organisms. However, the uncontrolled growth of cancerous cell lines is usually constrained within an individual organism. On rare occasions, cancerous cells can acquire the ability to transmit between individual organisms. Such is the case with Devil Facial Tumor (DFT). DFT is a transmissible cancer nearly 100% fatal for Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) and has contributed to an overall 80% decline in the Tasmanian Devil population over the past 20 years.1 Though the emergence of transmissible cancer was thought to be rare, scientists discovered a second lineage of DFT in 2015.2 A new paper by Stammnitz et al. in Science explores the evolutionary histories of these two tumor lineages that threaten the Tasmanian Devil with extinction.3

Transmissible cancer has been documented a mere handful of times in nature. The most well-studied form, Canine Transmissible Venereal Tumor (CTVT), is sexually transmitted in domesticated dogs (Canis lupus familiaris). CTVT has been documented for over 200 years, can be found all over the world and originated thousands of years ago from a single founder.4 Transmissible cancer has also been observed in invertebrates. A disseminated leukemia-like neoplasia was first observed in soft-shelled clams (Mya arenaria), a marine bivalve, in the 1970s and was found to be a transmissible tumor in 2015.5 

Unlike these other tumors, Devil Face tumor has been thought to have emerged relatively recently. The first strain of DFT was first observed in 1996, discovered in 2006 to be a transmissible cell line and has since rapidly spread through Tasmania.2,6 The swiftness of DFT’s emergence compared to the other well-studied transmissible cancer CTVT puzzled scientists and plagued conservationists. The Tasmanian Devil’s face-biting behavior (while mating and feeding) and vagile nature partly explained DFT’s massive spread.4 Yet, scientists’ intrigue intensified with the discovery of a second strain of DFT (DFT2), visually indistinctive from the first, in 2015. Unlike the original strain (DFT1) that lacks sex chromosomes, DFT2 bears a Y chromosome providing strong evidence for an independent emergence.2 Transmissible cancer, the ultimate “Perfect Storm” thought to have only evolved in a select few organisms, somehow emerged twice in a single host. This discovery led scientists to hypothesize that transmissible cancer could occur more frequently in nature than previously expected and/or that Tasmanian Devils are particularly susceptible to developing transmissible cancers. 

Further research into marine bivalves in 2016 found neoplasia in three additional species, similar to the discovery of DFT2, attributable to multiple independent transmissible lineages.7 This insight increased support for the notion that transmissible cancer could arise more regularly than previously expected and that certain species may be predisposed to developing transmissible cancer. Still, the genetic and mutational pathways that these cancers shared to become transmissible remained unclear. 

Author Commentary / Peyton Smith 

I wrote this piece for my fall JP in the department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Our Junior Independent work task is uniquely short in comparison to other Princeton Junior Papers; Instead of emphasizing experimental design and analysis, our assignment instead focuses on conducting background research and refining our scientific writing. Consequently, we were instructed to write a short review of a recent paper for a larger audience that contextualizes the paper.

I found this paper on Transmissible Tasmanian Devil Cancer while browsing through the archives of Science and became instantly curious about the system after reading the abstract. I began informally looking up information about transmissible cancers, Tasmanian Devils, and the researchers behind the project. After seeing the rich background and context behind this 2023 paper, I knew that I had to cover it in my fall JP.

Yet with this glut of information (all of which I found very interesting), how was I supposed to approach actually presenting the paper? I could have approached the research from a conservationist perspective, highlighting the threat to Tasmanian Devil’s survival as a species posed by these cancer lineages. I could have also come from an epidemiological standpoint and explicated the difficulty in predicting and preventing the spread of this novel disease. Ultimately, I chose the angle that most aligned with the central question in the back of my mind: How can cancers even become transmissible? I then focused on the hypotheses and research surrounding this central question. That meant I didn’t limit myself to Tasmanian devils as a part of my literature review but delved into transmissible cancers in other species.

Still, these other angles naturally emerge throughout my paper as necessary to fully orient the reader to this system. When I first presented my topic to my EEB junior tutorial with my fellow students and advisor, my peers and professor were similarly curious about the system and asked many questions. At the time, I didn’t have answers to some of these questions, as I hadn’t yet finished my background research; once I began drafting my JP, however, I tried my best to integrate answers to their questions and curiosity into my writing to orient those who may be first encountering Tasmanian Devil transmissible cancer.

Scientific papers generally orient to a small audience, which can reduce the amount of people who are able to appreciate the interesting and consequential scientific work conducted in paper. Hence, I appreciate the purpose of this task which deemphasized methods in favor of exploring the paper’s implications. In science writing, it can feel as if there is a continuous trade-off between accessibility and detail, yet a coherent background motivated by a concise question can be appreciated and understood by anyone.

Editor Commentary / Molly Taylor

Finding a topic for junior independent work, or any open-ended writing assignment, is a daunting task. Peyton’s process is particularly instructive: after reading widely, she decided to analyze the study that stuck with her. In her scientific review, the junior paper of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Peyton establishes the significance of her chosen study in the context of transmissible cancer research. Her work illustrates how a strong scholarly motive—and an intriguing paper topic—follow from personal motive. 

Written for a public audience, the review first orients the reader with a concise introduction to transmissible cancer and Devil Facial Tumor (DFT). Rather than providing a highly technical definition, Peyton presents DFT to non-specialist readers by explaining why it matters. The first paragraph references its global impact (“DFT… has contributed to an overall 80% decline in the Tasmanian Devil population), as well as the surprise it poses to scientists (“Though the emergence of transmissible cancer was thought to be rare, scientists discovered a second lineage of DFT in 2015”). By infusing orientation with motive, the first paragraph conveys to readers why understanding research on DFT is important. 

The following paragraphs present a chronological account of research on transmissible cancer, covering the tumors before DFT, the puzzle of DFT’s swift emergence, and theories on DFT.  This section succinctly establishes the scholarly motive of Steinmetz et. al, who look to identify the mechanisms of DFT emergence. It is also accessible and compelling to readers. Peyton only uses technical terms when necessary and, after doing so, explains their significance in plain language. For example, after discussing the difference in chromosomes between the two DFT strains, Peyton ensures readers understand its implication: “Transmissible cancer, the ultimate ‘Perfect Storm’ thought to have only evolved in a select few organisms, somehow emerged twice in a single host.” Further, by including details such as DFT “puzzled scientists and plagued researchers”, and that “scientists’ intrigue intensified” upon the discovery of a second strain, Peyton invites readers to embrace the mystery of DFT. 

Reviewing a scientific study for a general audience is not easy, but the success of Peyton’s piece can be attributed to her thorough research, clarity in orienting, and enthusiasm for the topic. Just as Peyton was curious about transmissible cancer, it turns out, other researchers were too—allowing for not only a rich scholarly motive but also a global motive that leaves readers finding themselves just as fascinated by DFT. 

Setting Up the Motive, Spring 2024

Official German Prudery? Sexual Morality and Illegitimacy in the Third Reich

In a Tortoiseshell

The following excerpt is from my final research paper for HIS429: Fascism and Antifascism in Global History. For this assignment, students were granted the freedom to research any aspect of fascist or antifascist history they found interesting and compelling. We were tasked with locating primary source documents related to our subject of interest and developing and defending an argument based on our research and analysis of the sources. The critical question our papers were meant to address was “What is it about this historical subject that you can teach the rest of us? That the rest of us are likely to miss without you, and your research, illuminating for us?”

Excerpt / Alexa Marsh

Nazi Germany has long been characterized as intensely anti-sex. Repulsed by the perverse progressivism and decadence of the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich’s sexual politics constituted a reactionary backlash against the prior regime’s aura of openness and toleration of sexual liberties. Its repressive reprisal promised to reverse the depravity of the Weimar age and restore a sense of restraint, respectability, and Christian morality to the German nation. The Nazis’ glorification of the virtuous Aryan family, insistence on stoical restraint and unwavering discipline, and aggressive persecution of sexual “deviants” are cited as evidence not only of the regime’s severe sexual repression, but its quasi-pathological obsession with sexual propriety. George Mosse attributed the regime’s desire to “transcend sexuality” and transform the body into a symbol of national purity to Nazism’s ideological emphasis on self-discipline and its appeals to bourgeois respectability.1 Other historians have ascribed the regime’s supposed sex hostility to “official German prudery” and the National Socialists’ deep “fear of sexuality.”2 This representation has so dominated the discourse on the Third Reich’s sexual politics that the association between Nazism and sexual repression now appears almost “intuitively obvious.”3 But while the regime’s virulent chauvinism and animosity toward homosexuality demonstrate its repudiation of sexual toleration, the narrative of sexual propriety and prudishness disregards the centrality of sexuality to the Nazi political program. Far from repressing sexuality, the Third Reich redefined who had the right to sexual expression, and rejecting bourgeois conventions, devised a new social morality that functionalized sexuality for the national agenda.

The interwar years in Europe were marked by acute demographic declines. The loss of life and prolonged spousal separations of the First World War provoked plummeting birth rates that exacerbated national angsts about military insecurity and economic instability. Across Europe, western democracies passed pronatalist policies and endorsed a maternal politics that afforded mothers greater welfare benefits and social protections.4 Although falling rates of fertility were a continental phenomenon, Germany was among the nations that experienced the most severe reductions in childbirths. The German population grew by ten million between 1919 and 1933, but natality continued to decline even as the number of marriages increased.5 In 1933, the German birth rate fell to an unprecedented low of less than one million births.6 Aggravating anxieties about such stumbling birth rates were somber prognoses from German statisticians who cautioned that the continuation of a two-child system would lead to the extinction of the German people within the next three centuries.7 As demographer Friedrich Burgdörfer warned, reversing Germany’s demographic decline was critical because “a Volk without youth would be a Volk without hope, a Volk without a future.”8 For the Third Reich, demographic downturn represented more than a menace to German military might or the regime’s economic durability. Population stagnancy represented feebleness and infirmity, and it tarnished the regime’s resolution for national regeneration, virility, and vigor.9 And most significantly, unlike the demographic realpolitik of its democratic neighbors, the German brand of procreation politics was distinct: it was harnessed for eugenic ambitions. Falling fertility constituted an existential threat to the longevity of the racial state. Boosting the birth rate thus became a major preoccupation for the regime, and the bureaucratic regulation of intimacy, a national imperative. Wielding the power of the modern welfare state to manipulate maternity and police fertility, the regime exploited sexuality for its ethno-nationalist project of reproductive engineering. And far from harboring a preoccupation with sexual propriety, in administering its pronatalist politics, the Third Reich repudiated bourgeois and Christian conventions and contrived an alternative sexual morality that encouraged German procreation outside marital and familial institutions.The regime’s systematic persecution of those deemed sexually deviant—Communists, Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, prostitutes, and “over-sexed” women10—is undoubtedly a testament to its determined abrogation of the toleration of Weimar progressivism. However, interpreting the Third Reich’s victimization of sexual outcasts as evidence of the National Socialists’ prudish sexual suppression misunderstands how the regime manipulated the discourse on sexual morality to advance both anti- and pro-sexual projects. Instead of extinguishing the sexually permissive proclivities of the Weimar rule, the Nazis hijacked the language of chastity and conservatism to demonize the sexually perverse “other” and reconceive sexual liberalization as a Germanic prerogative and ethical duty. Thus, the Nazis did not strive at all costs to render their movement congruent with middle-class respectability, as scholars such as Mosse have suggested. The political deployment of moral purity coexisted with party rhetoric that empowered heteronormative sexual activity among the racially pure. The regime appropriated Christian canons and bourgeois beliefs to disparage “perverse” national enemies while simultaneously repudiating Christian standards of sexual propriety as an obstruction to the regime’s reproductive ambitions and endeavoring to rid the German public of restrictive socio-sexual mores. Nazi officials sought, in the words of Himmler, to “break through the small and holier-than-thou civil judgment” that was impeding the regime’s population program and endangering the endurance of the racial state.11


  1. Mosse, George L. “Fascism and Sexuality” in Nationalism and Sexuality: Middle-Class Morality and Sexual Norms in Modern Europe. Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2020. ↩︎
  2. Herzog, Dagmar. Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany. Princeton University Press, 2005, pp. 15. ↩︎
  3. Herf, Jeffrey. “One-Dimensional Man” (review of Herbert Marcuse, War, Technology and Fascism), New Republic, 1 Feb. 1999, pp. 39. ↩︎
  4. Joshi, Vandana. “Maternalism, Race, Class and Citizenship: Aspects of Illegitimate Motherhood in Nazi Germany.” Journal of Contemporary History 46, no. 4 (2011): 832–53. ↩︎
  5. Thompson, Larry V. “Lebensborn and the Eugenics Policy of the Reichsführer-SS.” Central European History 4, no. 1 (1971): 54–77. ↩︎
  6. Ibid. ↩︎
  7. Carney, Amy. Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS. University of Toronto Press, 2018. /stable/10.3138/j.ctv2fjwqcz.7. ↩︎
  8. Ibid. ↩︎
  9. Thompson, “Lebensborn and the Eugenics Policy of the Reichsführer-SS.” ↩︎
  10. Ibid. ↩︎
  11. Carney, Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS, pp. 61. ↩︎

Author Commentary / Alexa Marsh 

I chose to research the regulation of reproductivity and sexuality in Nazi Germany. Examining the scholarly literature on the Third Reich’s sexual politics, I found that there was a general consensus among most historians regarding the regime’s attitude toward sex: that it was one defined by prudishness, discipline, and respectability, reflecting a propensity for propriety that bordered on pathological obsession. This narrative of the regime’s adherence to a strict set of religious and socio-sexual mores, however, seemed at odds with some of the Third Reich’s pronatalist policies that I had begun to research. Most antithetical to the image of a chastity-obsessed Nazi regime was the Lebensborn program, a state-sponsored initiative to increase the number of “racially pure” Aryan children by explicitly encouraging eugenically “fit” women to procreate outside the institution of marriage. 

In my paper, I seek to address the tension between the traditional understanding of the Third Reich’s sexual politics—as repressive, moralistic, and bourgeois—and the pronatalist initiatives and internal party communications that tell a different story about the regime’s stance on sexuality. This contradiction between the conventional narrative of the Nazi regime and the political realities and pronatalist rhetoric deployed by the Third Reich forms the crux of my paper. Analyzing primary sources that detail the aims of the Lebensborn program and correspondences between high-level Nazi officials describing the urgent need for a population politics that transcends obsolete religious and bourgeois sexual norms, I argue that contrary to the dominant depiction of a Third Reich that was repulsed by and repudiated sexual license and liberties, the regime instead sought to devise a new sexual morality and functionalize it for its ethno-nationalist agenda.

Editor Commentary / Grace Kim

Alexa responds to the relatively open-ended nature of her given prompt from an interesting direction: She approaches it as a teaching moment, as an opportunity to walk us through what she herself noticed and spent time thinking about so that we, too, may learn something new about the sexual politics of Nazi Germany upon reading her paper. 

She invites us to follow the logic of her thinking, even if we may not be as familiar with the Third Reich’s sexual politics, by providing all of the necessary information that we need to know to understand the context (orienting!) leading up to her discovery of something unexpected, strange, and in her case, previously overlooked by other historians. She clearly and directly expresses what this interesting discovery is (motive!) by writing it out right before her thesis, cueing our attention to her complication of the existing scholarship through the “but”: “But while the regime’s virulent chauvinism and animosity toward homosexuality demonstrate its repudiation of sexual toleration, the narrative of sexual propriety and prudishness disregards the centrality of sexuality to the Nazi political program.” The keyword here is “disregards”—having studied both her primary sources on the “Nazi political program” and her scholarly sources on their “narrative of sexual propriety and prudishness,” she points out that those scholars have not been paying attention to the “centrality of sexuality.” 

Notice how she anticipates, throughout her orienting, the tension that takes force in the “but” that signals her motive. She acknowledges what other historians have already studied and argued about her topic: “Nazi Germany has long been characterized as,” “George Mosse attributed,” “other historians have ascribed,” “this representation has so dominated the discourse.” She lays down this scholarly road map as the foundation of her research, grounding her own ideas within the frame of her scholars’ work so that we can understand not only what she is responding to (scholarly conversation!) but how she is responding to it (motive and thesis!). 

Following the introduction paragraph, there are two paragraphs from different parts of her evidence-analysis, as an illustration of how motive connects to the main content of her paper. The second excerpted paragraph is one that comes immediately after her introduction. Rather than jumping straight into her own argument, she works her way towards her ideas by following the scholarly road map that she lays out for herself, and for us, in her introduction: Here, she continues the work of her scholarly conversation by presenting the evidence that further contextualizes and explains the focus of her scholars. This then gives her a solid basis for which she can delve into the argument of the final scholar who is entering the conversation—cue Alexa! The final excerpted paragraph is where Alexa shifts the focus towards her own, original argument. Much like how she sets-up and presents her motive in the introduction, she calls our attention towards her motive in the evidence-analysis through key words that convey the relationship between the scholars’ ideas and her ideas: “however,” “misunderstands,” “instead,” “did not… as scholars such as Mosse have suggested.”

As a whole, these three excerpted paragraphs exemplify how Alexa builds up to her motive, clearly presents it, and makes it flow into her evidence-analysis. Her excerpted paper models a skillful navigation of the scholarly conversation, where she does not work to merely prove that her scholars are correct but rather draws from their ideas to set-up a scholarly framework within which she can make a case for why she is correct. 

Setting Up the Motive, Spring 2024

Setting Up the Motive: Introduction, Orienting, Scholarly Conversation

When beginning their Writing Seminar, most first-year students have heard of ‘thesis’, ‘structure’ or ‘evidence.’ Few, though, have encountered ‘motive,’ which is often the most difficult concept to grasp. And for good reason: it has layers and moves, and, unlike the thesis, which appears in the introduction, or evidence, which appears in body paragraphs, motive appears everywhere. 

But what, exactly, is motive? For one, it is a starting point—it is the initial tension, puzzle or question you identify, and, ultimately, look to answer. It is also the space in which you enter the scholarly conversation, offering an idea that complicates, refines, or extends prior work. It tells your readers why your argument matters, and, at best, it also serves as a source of personal motivation to pursue the topic. If your thesis is the “what,” then your motive asks both “where” and “why.”

By presenting nine well-motivated papers across the disciplines, we hope that this issue of Tortoise sheds light on the most all-encompassing term of the Writing Lexicon. When understood, motive is a particularly empowering tool—it encourages us to pursue our curiosity, guides our analysis, and allows us to convey the originality of our ideas. Indeed, after developing a strong motive, everything else tends to follow.

Each section of this issue highlights a different section within an essay where motive should appear. In this section, we present three papers that brilliantly use motive to orient readers to their topic and introduce their scholarly contribution. First, Alexa Marsh sets up her exploration of the tension between the conventional narrative of the Nazi regime and the Third Reich’s pronatalist rhetoric utilized in reality. Then, Peyton Smith leverages motive to draw non-specialist readers into her discussion of research on a puzzling strain of transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils. Finally, Tristan Szapary articulates the connection between his motive and method in his senior thesis research proposal in the neuroscience department.

—  Molly Taylor ‘25 and Natalia Espinosa Dice ‘26