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Totally Write!

Research: Camera Camera

July 19, 2014

Hi again. Hope you’re all well, coping with the heat, coping with the pestilence of tiger mosquitoes I keep hearing about, and generally staying out of any trouble you can’t handle with a smile.

At the close of the humongous last post, I promised I’d show you how to do the introduction for the comparison paper we’d been using as an example in our discussion of basic research ideas.

Some reminders are in order. First, this is a basic college paper we’re talking about, and not a Ph.D. dissertation. Ideal length will be five or six typed, double-spaced pages. This shouldn’t be a problem, unless you have one of those old-time, really strange instructors who insist on a fixed word limit from which you’re not to deviate. I don’t like fixed-limit papers, and I have some very unkind things to say about them (and about those who assign them). I won’t bore you with the details, unless somebody writes in and asks for them (like that’ll happen…not).

Research: Camera CameraNext, many students have this whole hang-up they’ve learned in high school. Somebody taught them “the five-paragraph essay,” and they cling to that no matter what. There will be an intro, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. No deviations. No other possibilities. When confronted with a task that requires a different approach, these students frequently lock up and have no idea how to proceed. If that’s you, don’t worry: in “the five paragraph essay,” just replace the word “five” with “multiple”; then replace the word “paragraph” with “unit.” As long as you remember that a unit can be more than one paragraph, and that an essay can have more than three areas of discussion (body units), you’ll be fine. Beyond that, the normal rules and principles apply. Simple.

Next, remember what the introductory unit in a paper is supposed to do. You want to create the context, identify the target audience so that they feel all warm and fuzzy that you’re speaking to them, and create some motivation for them to read your thesis. The thesis itself, which could be a single sentence or several sentences, expresses the arguable assertion that forms the basis of your paper — a point or points, the validity of which your audience will accept IF you demonstrate it by discussion, evidence and analysis that leads to the conclusion you want your readers to reach. The “path statement” — my own terminology — consists of one or more sentences that reveal clearly how you intend to handle your presentation in the rest of the paper.

You also have to remember that the essay in an English composition class is a particular form of test. You don’t have to worry about being “right,” as long as you address the components of the test properly. Nobody is really going to care which camera you ultimately choose, but they do care about the quality of the arguments you make and the presentation you create in reaching that conclusion. They also care about the way the paper is organized, the research you’ve done, the way you use the research, and the way you document it. Finally, they care — a lot — about grammar, spelling, punctuation, coherence, clarity, usage.

Right — you want to see what an acceptable introductory unit (which, in this case, will indeed be a single paragraph) might look like. Here you go:

         The many hiking trails of the Cote d’Azur’s less “polished” areas provide the region’s university students with opportunities for both low-cost exercise, and appreciation of the scenic beauty of the countryside. Many of these students are also potential registrants in local post-secondary photojournalism and photography programs, and they are keenly interested in using their hiking opportunities to develop basic digital photography skills. Naturally, they require cameras, but they are also budget-conscious. A review of the current crop of mid-priced digital cameras reveals that the optimum price range for best value is between €300 – €400. In this range, two recommended options are the [Camera #1] and the [Camera #2]. For students desiring the best range of features for price relative to their needs as beginning digital photographers, [Camera #2] is arguably the better choice. One may demonstrate this by comparing these two cameras with respect to their performance and attributes in the areas of image resolution and software compatibility, lens quality and durability, and metering accuracy.

The part that’s bolded and underlined is the thesis, the arguable assertion; the part that’s just underlined is the path statement. You’ve provided the context for the discussion, identified the readers you’re targeting, and given them a reason to read by promising to provide meaningful information that will help them with a purchase decision. Your arguable assertion speaks to your selection of the better option in the comparison. Your path statement tells the reader exactly what areas of comparison will form the basis of your evaluation. It also reveals what you won’t talk about: everything not specifically covered by the language of your path statement. I’ve used a bit more length for this example than is really necessary, but I want you to see clearly the relationship between the contextual details, audience identification, and presentation of the thesis and path statement.

Oh…by the way, don’t get hung on on the areas of comparison I chose. I’m not a professional photographer; I’m just explaining (to you, not the essay’s intended audience) the principles of “introduction construction” in an essay involving a bit of research. You’ll also notice that I indented the first line of the paragraph. In an essay, never — ever — use block format unless you’re specifically told that it’s okay. Y’all bin warned.

So there you go. Next time, assuming I’m still extant, I’ll talk a bit about how you should actually integrate your research materials into the body of your paper in an academically appropriate way. In the meantime, it’s Saturday.

Get outta here..:)

by Steve. Find out more about Steve here.