4.10.10

Constructing an Argument


What is the job of the Introduction?
The academic introduction is often the most difficult aspect of the paper to craft because the writer needs to first 'hook' the reader and then work to connect the reader to the purpose of the paper as well as make clear why all of this matters. A traditional academic paper includes a thesis statement at the end of the introductory paragraph. The thesis is defined as, "The central idea of an essay," according to Bedford's Glossary of Literary Terms. "The thesis is a complete sentence (although sometimes it may require more than one sentence)that establishes the topic of the essay in clear, unambiguous language."

There are many ways to construct an introduction, but often writers will open with a general statement or idea that the reader can relate too and/or an idea that connects the topic of the paper to the context (the world around the idea that helps the reader better understand the issue). The writer then moves the reader from this general idea to the specific focus of the paper by crafting a thesis statement. More than just identifying the topic of the paper, the thesis makes an active claim that clearly indicates the point (or argument) made in the essay. Each of the following paragraphs in the essay should then directly support this claim. The thesis should point the reader in the right direction, make the path clear, but also be provocative enough to motivate the reader to embark on the journey. 

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As writers are still gaining clarity on their ideas through the process of writing their rough drafts, they employ a device called the Working ThesisThe Working Thesis may even be a question that the writer attempts to answer which helps to guide the direction of research and analysis. The thought process that goes into stringing together supporting paragraphs is the equivalent of the scientist testing the hypothesis. Factual evidence and logical analysis inform the writer's ideas about a topic even as these supporting paragraphs are being written, which is why it is very common for many writers to come up with an effective thesis only after they have written a complete draft. I often come up with my thesis after several revisions when I'm attempting to write my conclusion. 

The trick is identifying the thesis whenever and wherever it may first be written and then tweaking it to fulfill its job at the end of the introduction.   

Always revise the working thesis during revision by reflecting on the information integrated into the supporting paragraphs and why it matters. In an academic essay, the Thesis Statement is the most important sentence because it sets the tone and direction of the essay, and provides the reader with the controlling idea that holds the rest of the writing together.

One common mistake: not enough analysis. When writing about a topic they have recently learned about, students often work hard to explain this topic and can effectively support their ideas with evidence,  but many have a hard time connecting their ideas to why their exploration matters. Not only does the reader need to know—right up front—where they are headed, but they also need to know why this topic matters. How does this topic help the reader to better understand the meaning of the topic; moreover, how does this topic help the reader better understand the bigger problem associated with this topic and/or the world around us?

Another common mistake: inconsistent point of view. For academic essays point of view matters. The standard point of view is third person unless the paper is a personal narrative, which requires first person (I) narration.  In an effort to 'hook' readers, students often resort to using the second person (you, we, our), but this is usually a less then effective device, especially in an academic essay. Readers don't necessarily like to be addressed by the writer, and the familiar use of "you" tends to downplay the credibility of the writer, especially if the reader is not yet convinced by what the writer has to say. If I'm reading an essay and I come across a You, We, Our statement, then I sometimes feel a bit annoyed with the writer because at this point in the paper, the writer has switched from focusing on making a point and moved into an assumption that I am already on board with the argument—which may not be the case. Don't distract your readers with this reaction to your ideas—stick to a consistent third-person point of view. Very rarely, can a writer justify addressing the reader directly.


One more common mistake: not enough time reserved for revision. After the draft is written, the writer has a much clearer idea of the focus of the paper, but the writer is no where near done with the job of writing. Beginning writers often think the challenge of writing is found in getting to the end of the paper, but professional writers understand that this is only the tip of the iceberg. 

After the draft is complete, the writer should step away from the paper for a period of time, which necessitates careful planning and not procrastinating. The process of revision often begins with the writer reading back through the paper, only this time instead of reading it as a writer, they review the paper as a reader.

But what does revision mean?
One of the first tasks is to make sure each paragraph stays tightly focused on the controlling idea. If a paragraphs drift off the topic, then the writer needs to decide if this new information is worth developing, or not. Often, what a writer decides to leave out is as important as what they decide to leave in the paper. Many times, inexperienced writers don't want to 'cut,' because they are too attached to their own writing. After all, that paragraph took valuable time to write! But what a professional writer knows is that often it takes many badly crafted paragraphs to get to a good paragraph. Professional writers develop a very critical eye as they read through their own work and mercilessly hack away or reconstruct less than effective sentences and paragraphs. One way I trick myself into 'letting go' of my own writing, especially when I decide that an entire paragraph or section is off topic, is to open a new Word document and title it Cuts. As I read through my paper, I will cut sentences and sometimes entire sections of my paper and place them in this new document. I may decide to incorporate the information, or parts of the information, later in the process of revision. After all, that one sentence that stood out, might later provide the perfect transition into a new idea. Never just throw away this information because you never know when you might need it! But equally important is to not let badly crafted or confusing sentences pass on into your final draft. This process of writing and re-reading your paper is why you need a rough draft and TIME to refine your ideas.
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The Body of the Essay

Don't forget your TEA paragraphs and Quote Sandwiches! Using the topic, evidence and analysis format helps you to focus your ideas, connect your ideas to the text and link textual evidence with your analysis. The TEA paragraph doesn't always utilize a quotation as evidence, but rather the TEA format does work to develop a topic (T) and provide an example, explanation, facts and/or anecdote (E) that serves to develop the topic as well as analysis (A) that tells us why this T / E matters.

The quote sandwich does incorporate either direct or indirect quotations which means that signal phrases need to be used in order to introduce and attribute the quotation. Both the TEA and Quote Sandwich paragraphs should incorporate a MLA Citation whenever the information incorporated comes from an outside source. See the Annotated Bibliography page for a link to an online reference site (on Instructor Knapp's Blog) or use your Pocket Reference book for proper citation information and examples.
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Essential Elements of Rhetoric for Writers

Understanding the Rhetorical Triangle helps writers to better formulate their ideas to suit their audience and achieve their purpose. Rhetoric can be defined as any purposeful communication that involves an audience, author and text; however, text cannot be narrowly defined to words on the page because any communication—speeches, sculptures, and television advertisements—inherently sends a message and therefore should be considered 'rhetoric.' Rhetoricians point out that before human populations conversed in writing, rhetoric existed. Cicero, the ancient Roman orator and writer, described rhetoric as ‘the art by which discourse is adapted to its end.’ Linguists link the word to ancient Greece where a rhetor was an orator or speaker.

If you understand the basics of rhetoric, then you can more effectively communicate your purpose to the audience.
  • Figuring out the purpose of your message becomes central to successful communication. 

As a student the Rhetorical Triangle comes into play on every assignment. Questions you need to answer before writing include: What is the purpose of my writing? Who is the audience? How will I best shape my language and text to get my point across to this audience? 

The Rhetorical Triangle


Understanding the dynamic between author, audience and text/message helps writers to shape their work appropriately; however, there are other methodologies that improve the quality and increase the impact of the message.  Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and teacher who lived from 384-322 BCE, determined that emotional appeals greatly improved the author's ability to get a point across. Human beings are emotional creatures, so it only makes sense that appealing to the emotions of the audience would increase the potency of a message. Aristotle classified these appeals to emotion into three primary categories:

Rhetoric Glog

Logos:  Rational or Logical Appeals.  Appeal to logical reasoning ability of the audience through use of facts, case studies, statistics, experiments, logical reasoning, analogies, anecdotes, authority voices, etc.  Are writer’s claims reasonable?  Is there sufficient evidence to support those claims?  Does the speaker make logical conclusions?  Does he/she talk about counter-arguments, other opinions or points of view?

Pathos:  Emotional Appeals.  Appeal to beliefs/feelings of the audience.  An appeal of pathos can move an audience to anger or tears as a means of persuasion.  May attempt to invoke particular emotions such as fear, envy, patriotism, lust, etc.   Or, an appeal of pathos may stem from shared values between the author and the audience, or from an argument that caters to an audience’s beliefs.  
   
Ethos:  Ethical Appeals.    Appeal based on the character, persona, and/or position of the speaker.  This kind of appeals give the audience a sense of the author as competent/fair/an authority figure.  Such an appeal may highlight the author’s trustworthiness, credibility, reliability, expert testimony, reliable sources, fairness, celebrity, etc.


Examples of Rhetorical Strategies Classified by Appeal:
          
Pathos: startling facts and/or situations, personal experience, narrative, description, cause and effect

Logos: explanation, definition, quotations, evidence, citations, expert testimony, research, interviews, statistics, facts, exemplification (examples), process, classification.

Ethos: personal experience, research (quality of), education, background, career, diction (appropriate language), correct punctuation, grammar, spelling, attention to form.



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Argumentative Thesis Statements

In an argumentative paper, you are making a claim about a topic and justifying this claim with reasons and evidence.  According to the editors at Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, "This claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation." However, this claim should be a statement that people could possibly disagree with because the goal of your paper is to convince your audience that your claim is true based on your presentation of your reasons and evidence. In an analysis paper an argumentative thesis statement and effective introductory paragraph will include: 

  • a connection to the general or big picture issue that your paper addresses. Often this  connection serves as the opening statement as is designed to "hook" in the reader
  • a brief/summary/description of the context (and/or issues or counterpoints) surrounding the topic of your paper (often this is decided by your knowledge of this subject and how it fits into the discourse community surrounding this subject)w
  • a clear purpose that conveys to the reader why this topic matters
  • the claim you are making (including the critical perspective or stance that you are taking in your paper)
  • often the introduction will also include an indication of the evidence that will be used to support this claim. However, the introduction is not typically the place for supporting details, but rather identification of topics that will be addressed (developed) in support of the claim (Although a detailed scene or scenario are effective means of hooking the reader and "showing" why the topic matters)

Sample Op-Ed
Stanford Daily


Verbs for Making a Claim:
shows
suggests
illustrates
exemplifies
argues
asserts
believes
claims
emphasizes
insists
observes
reminds us
reports


Verbs for Expressing Agreement:
acknowledge
admire
agree
endorse
extol
praise
support
sympathize with

Verbs for Disagreeing:
contend
contradict
deny
refute
reject
renounce
repudiate


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What is an academic Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is a sentence (or sentences) that expresses the main ideas of your paper, the main message you intend to convey.

General Thesis Statement Tips
  • A thesis statement generally consists of two parts: your topic, and then the analysis, explanation or claim (assertion) that you're making on the topic
  • A thesis statement focuses your discussion of your topic—it should cover only what you want to discuss in your paper, and then be supported throughout the paper with specific evidence
  • Generally, a thesis statement appears at the end of the first paragraph of an essay, so that readers will have a clear idea of what to expect as they read
  • You can think of your thesis as a map or a guide both for yourself and your audience
  • As you write and revise your paper, it's okay to change your thesis statement—sometimes you don't discover what you really want to say about a topic until you've started (or finished) writing! Just make sure that your "final" thesis statement accurately shows what will happen in your paper.
  • Be sure to address the "so what" aspect of your argument/thesis. The "so what?" question asks you to link your argument to some larger matter that readers already deem important. A good test to see if you have taken care of this very important aspect of the thesis is to ask yourself: why does this topic matter? Your thesis needs  to answer this question and make clear to the reader that you, the writer, thinks this issue matters. Hint: The writer needs to really believe that this topic matters in order to write a paper that convinces the reader that the topic matters. If your topic doesn't matter to you, then pick another topic.
  • Because is a powerful word to use in your thesis statement, especially if you are unfamiliar with writing arguments. The format would be: Insert topic of your paper is important because____________________.
According to "They Say, I Say," by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, writers don't just make isolated "claims" about a topic, rather they acknowledge the ongoing discussion about the topic and acknowledge that they are not the first to consider this idea. The authors write, "Effective persuasive writers do more than make well-supported claims... they also map those claims relative to the claims of others..." (Graff and Birkenstein xix). If you are new to argument and/or academic writing, templates can really help you set up your controlling idea.

Here are a few examples of connecting your topic to the ongoing discussion and showing why this matters:

In discussions of C, one controversial issue has been ____________________. On the other hand, ____________________argues _____________________. On the other hand, _____________contends ________________. Others even maintain________________.  There are aspects of all three arguments that I agree with, but I also disagree with the idea that _____________________. 

When it comes to the topic of ________, most of us will readily agree that ____________. Where this agreement usually ends, however, is on the question of _______________. Whereas some are convinced that _____________, others maintain that____________.

Although X may seem trivial, it is in fact crucial in terms of today's concern over________________.

Ultimately, what is at stake here is______________________.

These findings have important implications for the broader issue of________________.
 
If X is right about__________________, then major consequences follow for_________________.

Although X may seem of concern to only a small group of_________________, it should in fact concern anyone who cares about____________________.
 


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Rhetorical Strategies: a writer's tool bag.



Rhetorical Strategies help writer's achieve their goals. If my goal is to teach you about Rhetorical Strategies, for example, then I most likely will use the strategy of definition. What is a Rhetorical Strategy? A rhetorical strategy is a pattern of writing used to convey a message. Rhetorical Strategies are the ways in which an author conveys his or her ideas.

Rhetorical Strategies are the patterns or modes of writing. 


Some of the more common Rhetorical Strategies are: definition, description, narration, process, cause and effect, classification and division. An argument is also a Rhetorical Strategy, but it is a more complex strategy and every sound argument will inevitably include a wide variety of individual strategies.

Exemplification is a very effective strategy. In fact, let me give you an example.

A plumber brings a supply of tools to every job because having a variety of tools increases the plumber's ability to fix the problem. In the same way, a writer needs to have a variety of tools readily available to convey his or her message. Rhetorical Strategies are a writer's tools. Some jobs require a writer to use one or two 'tools.' Other jobs (like creating an effective argument), require a whole tool box full of tools.


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Aristotle's Appeals and Rhetorical Strategies only help you to improve your writing if you understand the fundamentals of the Rhetorical Triangle; keeping your audience and purpose in mind as you write will help you to craft a highly effective message. 

While ethos, pathos and logos provide a solid framework for understanding the fundamental principals of persuasion, in order to write an effective argument writers 
must work hard to develop their ideas using a variety of writing modes. 
The following modes, or patterns of writing, are a writer's most useful tools:

Modes of Writing








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In their book Inventing Arguments, Mark Mauk and John Metz define rhetoric as "a process of recognizing and using the most effective strategies for influencing thought" (530). They attribute the earliest definition of rhetoric to Aristotle who first associated the term with persuasion:  "Aristotle defined rhetoric as the ability in each particular case to see the available means of persuasion" (Mauk and Metz 530). Moreover, they explain that rhetoric is not only "a tool for changing people's minds," but also the study of: 



  1. belief and persuasion 
  2. the relationship between language and belief
  3. how cultural traditions shape everyday language

Teaching the basics of rhetoric offers students a sound framework for thinking critically because they begin to see writing and communication as active interplay between reader and writer that can be influenced by time, place, audience and purpose. Once they understand that the writer's job is to send a message and the reader's job is to make meaning of this message, then they begin to see how a text is not a static object, but rather a text is 'situated' between reader and writer and that situation is highly dependent on a set of variables that are re-defined by the circumstances surrounding each reading.  
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Looping not launching
Often students get side-tracked by their own ideas or personal examples and launch off into a topic that takes the reader too far away from the text being analyzed. When responding to a prompt or writing a critical analysis of a text, writers need to make sure they continually loop from their ideas back to the ideas presented in the prompt and/or text. 



Think of the text as your friend.


Think about how you talk to a friend or a family member about a problem they are having. You listen to what that person wants to talk about and connect with them in a way that makes clear you understand and care about what they are saying. In order to do this, you might even explain an event or problem in your own life, or in the world, that is similar to the ideas and/or problems that your friend is talking about so that they know you really do understand. What you don't do is to ignore their problem and launch into your own issues without even acknowledging what they wanted to talk about—at least not if you are a good friend. 


Loop don't Launch
So, in order to be a good friend you must: (1) comprehend what they are saying (2) connect their ideas with experiences that relate to your own life and/or your own observations about the world, or even facts you may know on the topic, all the while making sure they know you understand that what they are saying is important. The key to being a good friend is that you don't launch off into your own ideas and forget all about your friend and the issues at the heart of the discussion when you do this.


The same is true when writing an academic essay in response to a prompt or text. Your job is to connect to the prompt/text in a meaningful way. Just like when you are talking with your friend, the trick is to find the proper balance between the ideas presented in the prompt and your analysis and personal experience all the while making sure that your reader knows that you understand and value the topic.


To keep this balance, think of the prompt not as simply a launching off point for your own ideas, but rather think of your response as a process of looping from the topic of the text (or prompt) out to your analysis, and then back to the topic.


Just to clarify: after acknowledging the ideas in the prompt, it is okay to launch off into your personal connections with this topic—because making personal connections is one of the most effective ways of showing that you understand and care about a topic— but after reflecting personally always be careful to loop back to the topic addressed in the prompt—don't launch so far off the topic into your own reflection that your reader feels like you forgot about the prompt all together. 


Loop back to the prompt by making concrete connections to the topic introduced in the prompt throughout your essay. One way to do this is to reconnect through attribution using the author's name. For example, "Rose's point makes clear that..." or "Rose explains the importance of...." You can also use the language from the prompt throughout your essay to make sure you stay on track. You can also establish a pattern of reconnecting to the main idea expressed in the prompt in your topic and/or transitional sentences. Whatever method you use to support your claim, always make sure you don't forget to "listen" to your friend (the prompt) and continually looping back as you further develop your ideas. 
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Project: To complete a Rhetorical Analysis, you must examine how a piece of writing is constructed. Rather than exploring the content, a rhetorical analysis asks you to examine how the writer uses strategies to convey his/her message to the audience. By deconstructing a text in this way, students can better understand how the 'moves' a writer makes are connected to the purpose and the audience. Exploring how professional writers get their point across can help student writers gain more awareness of their own writing and, especially, how each paragraph works hard to convey meaning given a certain set of circumstances. These circumstances, or the rhetorical situation, play a major role in shaping both the message and the meaning. However, deconstructing a text in this way can also help READERS think more critically about what they have read. Since college writers must analyze, not just summarize, rhetorical analysis can be a great pre-writing activity for any essay that ask for critical reflection on a reading. 

In their textbook, Everything's an Argument, Andrea Lunsford and John J. Ruszkiewicz provide a great list of questions for conducting a Rhetorical Analysis. The following list of questions was adapted from their work:

  • What is the purpose of the argument? What does it hope to achieve?
  • Who is the audience of the argument?
  • What appeals does this argument use—emotional, logical, ethical?
  • What type or genre of argument is it?And how does the genre affect the argument?
  • Who is making the argument? What ethos does it create, and exactly how does it do so? What values attach to the ethos? How does it try to make the writer or creator seem trustworthy and/or credible?
  • What authorities and/or sources does the argument rely on?
  • What facts are used in the argument? What logic? What evidence? How is the evidence arranged and presented?
  • What claims are advanced in the argument? What issues are raised, and which one are ignored, or, perhaps, evaded?
  • What are the contexts—social, political, historical, cultural—for this argument? Whose interests does it serve? Who gains or loses by it?
  • What shape does the argument take?How is the argument organized or arranged? What media does the argument use?
  • How does the language or style of the argument work to persuade an audience?



Remember, every argument is unique and not all of the above question will apply to each situation. Discuss and log the most effective methodologies employed by the author. Were you persuaded? Why or why not? 
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About conclusions
Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. While the body is often easier to write, it needs a frame around it. An introduction and conclusion frame your thoughts and bridge your ideas for the reader.
Just as your introduction acts as a bridge that transports your readers from their own lives into the "place" of your analysis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. Such a conclusion will help them see why all your analysis and information should matter to them after they put the paper down.
Your conclusion is your chance to have the last word on the subject. The conclusion allows you to have the final say on the issues you have raised in your paper, to summarize your thoughts, to demonstrate the importance of your ideas, and to propel your reader to a new view of the subject. It is also your opportunity to make a good final impression and to end on a positive note.
Your conclusion can go beyond the confines of the assignment. The conclusion pushes beyond the boundaries of the prompt and allows you to consider broader issues, make new connections, and elaborate on the significance of your findings.
Your conclusion should make your readers glad they read your paper. Your conclusion gives your reader something to take away that will help them see things differently or appreciate your topic in personally relevant ways. It can suggest broader implications that will not only interest your reader, but also enrich your reader's life in some way. It is your gift to the reader.


Strategies for writing an effective conclusion
One or more of the following strategies may help you write an effective conclusion.
  • Play the "So What" Game. If you're stuck and feel like your conclusion isn't saying anything new or interesting, ask a friend to read it with you. Whenever you make a statement from your conclusion, ask the friend to say, "So what?" or "Why should anybody care?" Then ponder that question and answer it. Here's how it might go:

You: Basically, I'm just saying that education was important to Douglass.
Friend: So what?
You: Well, it was important because it was a key to him feeling like a free and equal citizen.
Friend: Why should anybody care?
You: That's important because plantation owners tried to keep slaves from being educated so that they could maintain control. When Douglass obtained an education, he undermined that control personally.
You can also use this strategy on your own, asking yourself "So What?" as you develop your ideas or your draft.


More Tips:
  • Return to the theme or themes in the introduction. This strategy brings the reader full circle. For example, if you begin by describing a scenario, you can end with the same scenario as proof that your essay is helpful in creating a new understanding. You may also refer to the introductory paragraph by using key words or parallel concepts and images that you also used in the introduction.
  • Synthesize, don't summarize: Include a brief summary of the paper's main points, but don't simply repeat things that were in your paper. Instead, show your reader how the points you made and the support and examples you used fit together. Pull it all together.
  • Include a provocative insight or quotation from the research or reading you did for your paper.
  • Propose a course of action, a solution to an issue, or questions for further study. This can redirect your reader's thought process and help her to apply your info and ideas to her own life or to see the broader implications.
  • Point to broader implications. For example, if your paper examines the Greensboro sit-ins or another event in the Civil Rights Movement, you could point out its impact on the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. A paper about the style of writer Virginia Woolf could point to her influence on other writers or on later feminists.

Strategies to avoid
  • Beginning with an unnecessary, overused phrase such as "in conclusion," "in summary," or "in closing." Although these phrases can work in speeches, they come across as wooden and trite (Ms. Knapp says not trite, platitudinous!) in writing.
  • Stating the thesis for the very first time in the conclusion.
  • Introducing a new idea or subtopic in your conclusion.
  • Ending with a rephrased thesis statement without any substantive changes.
  • Making sentimental, emotional appeals that are out of character with the rest of an analytical paper.
  • Including evidence (quotations, statistics, etc.) that should be in the body of the paper.
Source: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Writing Center http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/conclusions.html



Literary Interviews
Today you will conduct in-class literary interviews with a peer partner. Please record the answers to the interview on a separate sheet of paper with your name at the top. Title the paper Literary Interview. These papers will be collected for participation points and returned on Thursday.

Directions: Working in pairs you will take turns interviewing each other about your research paper. 
  1. What have you decided to write about in your Formal Paper?
  2. Why did you pick this topic? What aspect of this topic connects with your world or the world in general?
  3. What claim do you work to support in your paper?  (Remember a claim should be debatable/arguable)
  4. Why does this topic matter? 
  5. Who do you know in your life who should read this paper? Why?
  6. Who is the audience for this paper? Try to target a specific audience.
  7. What research did you read and what support were you able to incorporate from this reaearch? What research do you still need to find that would help you to support your claim?
  8. What one action would you get your audience to take if you could? Why would this make a difference?
  9. What part of the writing process do you find most challenging? Why?
  10. What do you still need to work on in the paper and/or what aspect do you need to spend more time researching? 
  11. Interviewer, please ask a question of your choosing about the topic of the paper.
  

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