This section will help you figure out which components may come from your professor, which you have to think about, which you have to write, and which you have to find in your sources.

Here, again, are the components we’ll cover:

  • The research question you (or your professor) want to answer
  • Your claim or thesis.
  • One or more reasons for your thesis.
  • Evidence for each reason.
  • Others’ objections, counterarguments, or alternative solutions.
  • Your acknowledgment of others’ objections, counterarguments, or alternative solutions.
  • Your response to others’ objections, counterarguments, or alternative solutions.

The Question You Want to Answer

Sometimes your professor will give you the research question, but probably more often he or she will expect you to develop your own from an assigned topic. You will learn how to develop research questions in another section. Though vitally important, they are often not stated in essays or term papers but are usually stated in reports of original studies, such as theses, dissertations, and journal articles.

Examples: Research Questions
  • How do some animals’ bones help control their weight?
  • Did the death of his beloved daughter have any effect on the writings of Mark Twain?

Your Claim or Thesis

You write the claim or thesis, it doesn’t come directly from a resource. Instead, it is the conclusion you come to in answer to your research question after you’ve read/listened to/viewed some sources. So it is a statement, not a question or a hypothesis that you plan to prove or disprove with your research.

After you’ve read/listened to/viewed more sources, you may need to change your thesis. That happens all the time–not because you did anything wrong but because you learned more.

Examples: Revised Thesis
  • Bone cells monitor whether more or less weight is pressing down on the skeleton and send biochemical signals to appetite centers in their brains to turn appetite down or up, accordingly.
  • Mark Twain wrote more urgently and with less humor during the four years immediately after the death of his daughter.

One or More Reasons

You write what you believe makes your claim or thesis (the answer to your research question) true. That’s your reason or reasons. Each reason is a summary statement of evidence you found in your research. The kinds of evidence considered convincing vary by discipline, so you will be looking at different resources, depending on your discipline. How many reasons you need depends on how complex your thesis and subject matter are, what you found in your sources, and how long your essay or term paper must be. It’s always a good idea to write your reasons in a way that is easy for your audience to understand and be persuaded by.

Examples: Reasons
  • Animals, including humans, have a biological tendency to regain any weight that they lose and lose any weight that they gain, seemingly in an effort to maintain whatever weight they have sustained for some time. Skeletons are logical places where any gains or losses could be noted, and recent studies seem to show that osteocytes (a kind of bone cell) are involved in whether appetites go up or down after weight gain or loss.
  • My content analysis and a comparison of publication rates four years before and after Mark Twain’s daughter died indicate that his writing was more urgent and less humorous for four years after. It is reasonable to conclude that her death caused that change.

Evidence for Each Reason

You write this also. This is the evidence you summarized earlier to support each of the reasons that your thesis is true. You will be directly quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing your sources to make the case that your answer to your research question is correct, or at least reasonable.

Examples: Evidence for Reasons
  • Report the results of studies about osteocytes’ possible effect on weight gain or loss.
  • Report the results of your comparison of writing content and publication rate before and after Twain’s daughter’s death.

Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions

Do any of your sources not agree with your thesis? You’ll have to bring those up in your term paper. In addition, put yourself in your readers’ shoes. What might they not find logical in your argument? In other words, which reason(s) and corresponding evidence might they find lacking? Did you find clues to what these could be in your resources? Or maybe you can imagine them thinking some aspect of what you think is evidence doesn’t make sense.

Examples: Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions
  • Imagine that some readers might think: The hormone leptin is released by fat cells when they are added to animals’ bodies so it is leptin that tells appetite centers to turn down when weight is gained.
  • Imagine that some readers might think: Computerized content analysis tools are sort of blunt instruments and shouldn’t be used to analyze Twain’s work.

Your Acknowledgement of Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions

So what will you write to bring up each of those objections, counterarguments, and alternative solutions? Some examples:

  • I can imagine skeptics wanting to point out…
  • Perhaps some readers would say…
  • I think those who come from XYZ would differ with me…

It all depends on what objections, counterarguments, and alternative solutions your audience or your imagination come up with.

Examples: Acknowledgement of Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions
  • Some readers may point out that the hormone leptin, which is released by fat cells, signals appetite centers to lower the appetite when weight is gained.
  • Readers may think that a computerized content analysis tool cannot do justice to the subtleties of the text.

Response to Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions

You must write your response to each objection, counterargument, or alternative solution brought up or that you’ve thought of. You’re likely to have found clues for what to say in your sources. The reason you have to include this is that you can’t very easily convince your audience until you show them how your claim stacks up against the opinions and reasoning of other people who don’t at the moment agree with you.

Examples: Response to Others’ Objections, Counterarguments, or Alternative Solutions
  • But leptin must not be the entire system since many animals do keep on the new weight.
  • Unlike other content tools, the XYZ Content Analysis Measure is able to take into account an author’s tone.

License

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Critical Thinking in Academic Research by Cindy Gruwell and Robin Ewing is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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