The Craft of Research
by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, et al.
Read chapters 7–10 from Part III: Making an Argument.
Use the tag “R2” when you post your assessment of the text’s message and the questions it raises.
The Craft of Research
by Wayne Booth, Gregory Colomb, et al.
Read chapters 7–10 from Part III: Making an Argument.
Use the tag “R2” when you post your assessment of the text’s message and the questions it raises.
Chapter 7 starts with a good few lines about conversation and research. “In a research report, you make a claim, back it with reasons based on evidence, acknowledge and respond to other views, and sometimes explain your principles of reasoning.” The readings go on to discuss the “thickening” (p.139) of an argument. The readings claim that the argument audience perceives the ethos of the reading, which the book claims is the “invisible sixth element in every argument you write” (p. 139). According to Chapter 9, the author writes that the support is based on reasons and evidence (p. 155). The section on reason (p. 156) shows an example for the logical relationships between the sections of an argument.
Chapter 3 goes on to report and emphasize that there are different levels of evidence (e.g. first hand, second hand, etc.). One of the major issues in data collection not discussed in the article is the trustworthiness of any data (and what is missed during any data collection). In chapter 10 the author discusses acknowledgements and responses. The authors encourage readers to improve their research by anticipating questions about their arguments: (1) the intrinsic soundness, and (2) consider alternatives. The author recommends a few support anticipations: different kinds of evidence, accurate, precise enough, current, representative, authoritative, and more evidence. The readings also encourage authors to decide what they need to acknowledge. Near the end of Chapter 10 (p.159) the author states, “Experienced researchers and teachers understand that truth is always complicated, usually ambiguous, always contestable.” This statement is epic and very rarely understood.
This week's chapters 7–10 from The Craft of Research in the section “Making an Argument” was all about advice in making a claim and supporting it.
Chapter 7 introduces us into how to arguments in research. The authors ask to see argument as a conversation with readers, which is basically a breakdown of the logic of making an argument and compares it to the same assembly of making an argument in a research report. The authors post that for every argument, research or not, is build out of the answers to give questions in that conversation, and questions we have to ask ourselves:
What is my claim?
What reasons support my claim?
What evidence supports my reasons?
Do I acknowledge alternatives/complications/ objections, and how do I respond? What principle makes my reasons relevant to my claim? (This is called a principle warrant.)
I found this logic clear and this sort of breakdown helpful.
This chapter also showed how important it is to acknowledge and respond to anticipated questions and objections. This is tricky, because it involves the research to imagine those questions in the first place. However, they emphasize that it is crucial to your argument because "acknowledging anticipating questions helps readers trust your argument."
I found the last tip particularly helpful: "when you learn to make one kind of argument, don’t assume that you can apply it to every new claim. Seek out alternative methods, formulate not only multiple solutions but multiple ways of supporting them, ask whether others would approach your problem differently."
Chapter 8 is all about the clarity and significance of making our claim that answers our research questions and which will basically serve as the main point of our reports.
In order to assemble your argument, you must answer these 3 questions:
1. What kind of claim should I make?
2. Is it specific enough?
3. Will readers think it is significant enough to need an argument supporting it?
The reading also emphasizes the importance of clarifying the kind of argument are you making, whether its conceptual or practical. It warns not to try to “inflate the importance of a conceptual claim by tacking on a practical action, at least not early in your report.” Rather if you do want to suggest a practical application of your conceptual claim, the place to do that is in the conclusion. This is because you can offer it as an action worth considering without having to develop a case for it. The importance of evaluating your claim from the reader’s point of view is emphasized and how it should be both specific and significant and how to exactly do so.
I particularly appreciated the advice in predicting what readers might ask:"imagine your reader is someone like yourself." Then ask these questions: "What did you think before you began your research? How much has your claim changed what you now think? What do you understand now that you didn’t before"? That’s the best way to prepare for readers to answer the the questions, "But Why should I care?"
The chapter also discussed using "hedges" to limit certainty which I think is good advice.
Chapter nine is all about distinguishing two kinds of support for a claim: reasons and evidence. In addition, it discussed how to use reasons to organize our arguments and how to evaluate the quality of our evidence. It advised that "if readers think your reasons make consecutive sense, they will look for the evidence they rest on. If they don’t believe the evidence, they’ll reject the reasons, and with them the claim." The reading suggests to "storyboard out your reasons to outline the logical structure of your argument," which I find incredibly helpful. This chapter also discusses the importance of making sure you have sufficient evidence to support each reason. It warns that "readers will not accept a reason until they see it anchored in what they consider to be a bedrock of established fact."
I particularly appreciated the advice:"So as you read secondary sources, note the kind of evidence they cite, how they cite it, then do likewise. When in sociology, do as sociologists do."
This chapter is all about acknowledging and responding to other points of view. The authors suggest that when you create your core argument, imagine colleagues questioning your argument more sharply than you hope your readers will. I found the following advice, harsh, but helpful: "Read your argument as someone who has a stake in a different outcome—who wants you to be wrong. "
It breaks it down into two parts:
Part 1: First, question your problem
1. Why do you think there’s a problem at all? What are the costs or consequences in this situation?
2. Why have you defined the problem as you have? Is it conceptual or pragmatic? Maybe the problem involves not the issue you raise but another one.
Part 2: Question your solution
3. What kind of solution do you propose? Does it ask me to do something or to understand something? Does it match the problem exactly? Are they both practical or both conceptual?
4. Have you stated your claim too strongly? I can think of exceptions and limitations.
5a. Why is your conceptual answer better than others? It contradicts our well- established knowledge.
5b. Why is your practical solution better than others? It will cost too much, take too much time, or create new problems.
The reading also goes into common objections to evidence and how to avoid dismissing evidence because you think it's irrelevant/unreliable. I found the advice around acknowledging questions you cannot answer tangible and helpful.
Chs 7-10 cohesively lay out what a good research argument is (a lively “conversation in which you and your imagined readers cooperatively explore an issue that you both think is important to resolve” p108), approaches to planning, elements that make up a research argument, and step through details relating to each element. I like the point that reoccurs across these chapters as we read a research paper is the question, “Can I trust you?”
The writers show that we make claims and discuss them every day, however, here they describe just how rigorous and detailed this needs to be. The laying out of the components I found useful:
Together with the diagram on p117 showing the circular connections to these steps. They caution though that this is a simplistic overview – reasons need to each be backed up by their own reasons and evidence and perhaps backed up by a warrant as well. One takeaway for me is that building an argument for what I claim is more strategically focused and detailed than I have considered upto now.
Examples of different conceptual and practical claims (p123) is useful, as is the note on precise language. Like the last week’s reading, this is laid out as a stepped process with answers to one question leading to the next to the next (e.g. 3 of the 5 elements of claims are: 1) Although I acknowledge x, 2) I claim y 3) because of reason z.) The writers stress the need to include detailed information about the evidence and its uncontested reliability from an authoritative source, along with background, definitions and explanation about the issues.
The explanation about claims - actually not starting with a claim but with a problem I want to explore and solve is an interesting approach – and acknowledging the limits of your claim. Don’t overstate, be modest - put in those modifiers – hedges. I’m struck by Crick and Watson’s “wish to suggest” claim is so carefully stated.
And again, anticipating readers’ concerns is important and makes you more credible. Each field has its experts, ways of thinking, and standards that are appropriate to that field. Look at the issue from all angles, be candid about the questions you can’t answer, and end with questions to continue the conversation.
CH7-10 give useful guidelines on how to formulate your arguments in a convincing way, make significant claims without falling into the trap of complete certainty, strengthening your arguments with sufficient evidence, and acknowledging limitations of your arguments. Much like the first few chapters, it served as a succinct reminder of how to write good research arguments, bundling everything that we may have picked up in our past education and/or careers.
I especially appreciated the diagrams that were presented in chapter 7 of the core of a research argument: We can make a claim (an assertion that demands support) because of a reason (an assertion that supports a claim) based on evidence (data deployed to support a reason). We add acknowledgements to anticipated questions and objections to our argument, and add warrants to strengthen the connection between claim and reason. I also found the section on the vocabulary of acknowledgement and response very helpful--often times I find myself looking up synonyms to qualifiers I repeatedly use in research writing, but this book gives me a remedy to that habit.
The quality of the claim made is important--it is either a conceptual or practical claim, although I tend to agree that a conceptual claim should be followed by a practical one to make your topic and argument more valuable. Claims should be specific enough so that your argument can be strong and focused, and reasonable qualifications should be made to make yourself more credible to your audience.
I am slightly offended that they used Watson and Crick as an example for good writing and along with it good research--Rosalind Franklin made the discovery of the structure of DNA; Watson's method of getting evidence were based on unethical standards, and I don't like how they used this example in a book that is supposed to promote good research.
An argument in research is a unique kind of argument. However, what keeps it similar to other types of arguments is the need for some sort of conflict. When structuring an argument in research, it's helpful to think of a conversation. A researcher starts with a claim, then searches for reasons behind those claims, asks for evidence, looks for responses, and explores warrants. I like the concrete organizational pattern the book expressed in the results of research discussion—i.e., the results of questions are answers, the results of problems are solutions, and the results of arguments are claims. Language in research of any kind is important and not to be overlooked. Without language, lucid theory and conversation are stunted. For example, when analyzing the relationship between claims, reasons, and evidence, it's apt to say:
I have this claim BECAUSE OF these reasons BASED ON this evidence.
Those connecting phrases clarify the definition of reasons compared to evidence. To organize reasons, storyboarding adds logical flow to the argument. A piece of evidence must support each reason. Specificity is key when crafting a claim. In practice, I think this also helps focus the researcher from going down too many rabbit holes of data.
Not to be forgotten at the end of the research argument conversation, a warrant is the logical backing to your reasons. A claim and its associated reasons can be disputed on the basis of relevance. Warrants give the arguer a chance to explain the relevance between a claim and its reasons, often using specific instances that speak to a larger phenomenon.
The discussion of ethos "thickening" arguments is important because it forces the arguer to think critically about the way they're presenting their argument, rather than just the argument itself. I think a key component of this is to not misrepresent your evidence. As a researcher, we're often including reports of evidence, not primary evidence itself. Because we bridge the gap between the primary evidence and the report, we need to be extra careful in how we are framing the reports in our argument.
I feel as if it depends on what field a researcher is practicing data visualization in to determine what type of problem they're going to more frequently pose. I think, in our class's case, conceptual problems, like researchers in general, are more often used. However, I think in data journalism, practical problems with the solution of of action are more often used since the umbrella discipline (journalism) is quite different than academic research.
Chapters 7-10 of The Craft of Research lay out a strategy and road-map to crafting, supporting, and defending a compelling research argument that shares the claims we’re making and the solutions we’re proposing to the specific, meaningful research problem we established using the helpful methods the authors discussed in Part II. I think the authors’ framing of this argument as a conversation between the writer and their reader is an effective metaphor that explains what the five key elements of every argument are, underlines their importance in the narrative structure of an argument, and provides a useful framework for recalling these elements:
(1) Claim (an assertion that demands support): What do you want me to believe? What’s your point?
(2) Reasons (an assertion that supports a claim): Why do you say that? Why should I agree?
(3) Evidence (data deployed to support a reason, not always framed as an assertion): How do you know? Can you back it up?
(4) Acknowledgement and Response: But what about…?
(5) Warrant: How does that follow? What’s your logic? Can you explain your reasoning?
The distinction here between reasons and evidence is an important one, especially for our focus on Data Visualization. I find myself often jumping to data points and thinking about compelling way to visualize that data without taking a step back to think about the reason to which it provides a foundation – this data is a piece of a broader narrative and argument, not the argument itself. Like much of the first reading, seeing the structure of a claim being because of a reason being supported by evidence (p.114) seems so obvious and self-apparent, but having this explicit framework helps conceptualize approaching how to construct my argument and should help prevent my thoughts from spinning into disorganization.
I also found their focus on developing claims that were specific and significant insightful, as was their continued focus on how we can establish and maintain credibility with our readers through what they call "creating an ehos by thickening your argument" (p. 119). This is done by limiting the scope of our claims, acknowledging shortcomings and counterpoints, and establishing a respectable character in how we present our argument.
The practical piece of advice I found most helpful from this section was their proposed narrative storyboarding on page 133 – concisely articulating each reason on a notecard with supporting evidence underneath while adjusting the positioning of that reason to form a cohesive narrative. This is something I think could make a great in-class exercise once we’ve refined our arguments and claims a bit, and is something I will probably do at home more than once as I organize my thoughts.
The final sections that stuck out with me in this section are the passages about how “…facts are shaped by those who collect them and again by the intentions of those who use them” (p.136) and the discussions of knowing your audience (or readers). First, no data being completely and incorruptibly "raw data" is a topic we talk about a lot in this program and something that is so important for us to have top of mind as we compile research/data and share that information. We not only need to ensure evidence we're collecting is reliable and relevant, but that we're sharing that evidence in a way that retains the integrity of this data and is perceived in a way that communicates how it provides evidence to support the reason we're presenting. Finally, so much in this section was rightly focused on the reader – what questions they’ll have, what specificity is relevant to them, what sources they give credibility to, etc. We haven’t yet had explicit discussions or conversations about who our audience for this project. Investing more time up front on defining this aspect of our research and the resulting visualization will pay off dividends for all our projects. This is definitely something I’d like to devote class time to if possible – strategies for defining our audience, understanding their needs/questions, and researching/designing to meet those needs or answer those questions.
Chapter 7 -- Making Good Arguments: An Overview
It’s helpful to consider the early suggestions and proposed process of thoughtfully planning or “assembling” an argument. It would likely otherwise be my approach to build each argument piecemeal along the way, as more data is gathered, rather than fill-in a predetermined format in advance.
Structure for an argument:
Claim → reasons → evidence → acknowledge alternatives, respond → principles/warrants (relevance of reasons to claim)
A claim is the answer to my research question, or the solution to my problem. Claims are supported by reasons and evidence.
A reason is a statement that will allow readers to buy into the answer I have put forward to solve my research question or problem. (It directly supports my claim.)
Evidence is used to support the reason I put forward. (Reasons are based on evidence.)
Acknowledging alternatives is about preempting questions from readers and addressing counterexamples and potential disagreements in the structure of making my argument.
A warrant connects the reason(s) put forward to support the claim in terms of relevance.
Each element as described can have their own sub-argument structure which increases and argument’s complexity.
My ethos is the quality of my mind / my implied character!
Chapter 8 -- Making Claims
The biggest takeaway from this chapter is to make a claim specific, and to make it significant. “Vague claims lead to vague arguments” resonated with me, as did “the richer your working claim, the more complex your argument is likely to be.”
The authors return here to reiterate that the worst possible question for any research question/problem: Why should I care?
Note: qualifying clause (‘although’ / ‘even though’) for introduction; reason clause (‘because’) for conclusion
Chapter 9 -- Assembling Reasons and Evidence
The order of reasons is significant for the “logical structure” of the argument. (Note storyboarding approach to defining this outline.) Each reason put forward should have enough evidence attached to support it.
The argument needs to stand up to (or stand upon) the ‘foundational metaphors for evidence’ (solid, hard, bedrock, etc.) How will readers attempt to drill/frack through the reasons I’m using to backup my claims?
Evidence will (ideally) be constructed of facts, and “facts are shaped by those who collect them and again by the intentions of those who use them.” I have to convince all readers that my data is ‘solid’ and trustworthy. Acknowledge any shaping going on. Evidence needs to be: “accurate, precise, sufficient, representative, and authoritative.”
Chapter 10 -- Acknowledgements and Responses
This piece of the argument is all about preempting questions and interrogations from the reader about the ideas that I’m submitting.
Note intrinsic vs extrinsic soundness: quality and clarity of claim/reasons/evidence vs other potential ways of looking at the problem, what I’ve missed or what other people have said.
At every step of building an argument, no matter how complex, I should be interrogating my question and my proposed solution. What are all the possible objections and how would I address them, and should I?
Note “the vocabulary of acknowledgement and response.”