What do we mean by an original, arguable claim? Ah, That’s pretty difficult to describe. Here’s what it’s not:
1. General in nature
A professor of mine used to put it plainly: do not reinvent the wheel. If it’s been said a million times, is evident in nature, and does not further the academic conversation . . . leave it be.
2. A direct reflection of your scholarly research
If you do not have your claim already formulated, it’s easy to fall into the trap of allowing the research to argue for you! Strong essays have their claim already in hand and set out to find the research that can bend to their will, rather than the other way around. And: you need not exhaust yourself searching for the exact statement. After all, if you find it, you need to drop your argument. It’s been done!
3. Devoid of theoretical perspective
Consider first your original, super-cool argument, then choose the most effective tone. Logic? Ethics? Passion?
4. Written in the first person
Just don’t–personal narratives are long over.
5. Unsupported by textual evidence
Without direct quotes, your argument asks the reader to just trust you and your interpretation of a scene or the scholarship. Paraphrasing should always be minimal. These quotations are called textual evidence: they are the support beams of your argument. That being said: always, always contextualize your quotes before moving on. They cannot do the work for you! 🙂
6. Outside of MLA standards
All quotes need to be situated in a larger sentence–even block quotes! Quotations that stand alone (SAQs) are MLA faux pas and injure the flow of your work. Block quotes must be introduced and do not have quotation marks around them, such as:
Dr. Privett-Duren tried to send out help on a Sunday. As she typed,
she hoped that the students would read it–but knew that, as weekends
usually went, there was very little hope in that area. (Privett-Duren)
See? It was simply too long to include on the text line, but is still part of a larger sentence. Psst: I am now contextualizing this quote. 🙂
I’m including a hyperlink HERE to an amazing source on this subject from Harvard University. As we craft along, remember that writing is a process and that revisions are what makes the result worthwhile. You can do this! (And if you feel as though you can’t, call me.)
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