In a Tortoiseshell: This paper analyzes a 1982 personal essay written by Annie Dillard about the experience of watching a total solar eclipse. The author, Isabelle Laurenzi, observes a strong link between the structure of Dillard’s essay and the subject of Dillard’s recollection, thus arguing that the essay features an eclipse of its own. The excerpts below, taken from the paper’s introduction and body, balance a chronological organizational strategy with a thematic one, thereby showcasing the author’s excellent command over the structure of her essay. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: The discussion, done as well as it is in Ramie’s Molecular Biology Core Lab paper, is a very exciting part of the scientific manuscript because it weaves together specific results into a model with broad implications and opportunities for future research. A logical structure and informative subheadings make the discussion easy to follow, while grounding in published literature gives credibility to Ramie’s explanations.
In a Tortoiseshell: Effective figures, reporting, and use of research literature all come into play in Adrian Tasistro-Hart’s paper on deforestation and temperature trends in Brazil and Bolivia. Particularly strong is the author’s demarcation of evidence and analysis in the results and discussion sections.
In a Tortoiseshell: Katie Hanss’s paper about zooplankton makes us want to join her on the beach, as she masterfully handles her results and discussion. Not only does she identify trends, but she also speculates about them, puts them in context, and asks new questions that enhance our understanding of the data — and offer intrigue! Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: This excerpt comes from an English paper that analyzes “the differences between contemplation and action, or…the intellectual life and the physical” in the epic poem The Faerie Queen through a close reading of three passages. It is particularly strong on in its masterful use of evidence and textual analysis. Continue reading
In a Tortoiseshell: Demi’s essay on John Singer Sargent’s painting Mr. & Mrs. I.N. Phelps Stokes places the portrait in the context of its time to argue that the Stokes’ marriage defied Victorian social rules while embracing American values of independence and individuality. The excerpt below is from the essay’s body, which demonstrates excellent close reading of the painting and apt comparison to Sargent’s other paintings during the Victorian era.
We all know that a paper’s body goes between the introduction and conclusion. But actually crafting a strong body can be challenging — in that text lies the detail of our entire argument! There, we present evidence from our research and analyze how this evidence builds upon itself to support our overarching argument. We structure this evidence and analysis differently from discipline to discipline. But, regardless of the form it takes, that structure is critical to the success of the paper.
First comes the question of what evidence to include. In both technical and humanities papers, we identify a question or puzzle (motive); design our experiment or investigation around this question; and then use our findings as evidence for a thesis that answers our initial motive. In this section, we include papers from different disciplines that all marshal evidence and analysis to make a claim. Karen Jin’s paper on The Faerie Queen analyzes a few key lines of textual evidence from different scenes that address her initial question, and she uses this evidence to craft her thesis. Katie Hanss’s paper similarly presents findings based on her central question on zooplankton. She presents her data in its entirety, then locates key findings within the context of her experiment’s question and builds an argument from those. In both cases, the evidence we see is the result of their research; the thesis built from these results.
While a paper’s body always has evidence and analysis, the structure of this information varies across disciplines. Macro-structure, or the way we organize the body as a whole, is our first concern. In the humanities, we progress through our evidence to build to our thesis. In the sciences, clear sections delineate our structure: materials and methods, results, discussion, etc. In all fields, macro-structure logically leads the reader through research and findings to reach final destination of our argument.
Once we have macro-structure down, we turn to individual sections: micro-structure. In the humanities, each section or paragraph follows a repeating format. We introduce the topic or claim (in an argumentative fashion), provide evidence to support it, analyze and explain the evidence. Then we repeat in a new paragraph. Though the format remains the same, every section must build on the one before it to move the argument forward. Isabelle Laurenzi’s paper provides an excellent example of this type of progressive structure. She leads us step by step through her argument, every paragraph of her body building on the claims of the paragraphs before it, but never repeating the same step twice.
In the sciences, every smaller section has a distinct purpose. In the materials and methods section, we explain how we solved our initial problem. The results section is dedicated to what we found — evidence we collected via our methods. In the discussion section, we explain what our evidence proves. We can see some of this structure in Adrian Tasistro-Hart’s excerpt, which includes portions of his results and discussion sections. Adrian moves from detailing his findings (evidence) in the results section to showing implications of this evidence in his discussion (analysis and argumentation).
Within these sections, we present much of our evidence and analysis through figures (charts, tables, graphs, maps, etc). Both Adrian and Katie include figures as a form of evidence in their papers that translate into analysis in the discussion section. Figures and table present evidence (data) visually and make it easier for the audience to absorb. Figures can also analyze: The form in which data is displayed is in its own right an analysis. The data we choose to include, the way in which we display it, and the trends we choose to highlight are all choices that contextualize and give meaning to our raw data, and should further our argument.