Chapter 9: Towards the Well-Researched Paper
In Chapter 7, we began the process of building an initial two-storey thesis statement based on our own argument. We will revisit this thesis in a moment, but you may remember that it already seemed quite long and complex. However, we are not yet done. We have chosen our key pieces of evidence, and we have formulated an analytical argument based on our interpretation of this evidence. Now we need to move on to the third and most essential step: stating the significance of this interpretation.
First, however, let’s review what we’ve got so far. If you recall, our prompt asks us to focus on ONE protest movement and ONE social media as we consider how the Internet affects power dynamics between governments and citizens . We have been asked to consider certain questions:
- What power dynamics does the Internet create between governments and citizens?
- What is the role of the Internet in affecting the balance between governments and citizens?
- In what ways are these technologies conducive to balancing or unbalancing these power dynamics?
- Are these technologies useful or harmful?
As a comprehensive answer to these questions would probably involve thousands of pages of writing, we have narrowed the prompt down and, as it asks us to do, focused on a single protest movement (Occupy Wall Street) and its use of a single form of social media (Facebook). However, Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook page contains a lot of information. We have thus narrowed our focus down further by choosing one day (August 6th, 2016) and examining the activity on the page pertaining to that day’s post.
Our exploration of the evidence we have found via this examination has allowed us to come up with the following working two-storey thesis:
First storey: Occupy Wall Street’s Facebook page showcases that users of the page have a difficult and often frustrating time discussing, and perhaps linking, global events to events and concerns that are more local, and perhaps personal, to them. This is demonstrated by the comments under the post “From #Ferguson to #Gaza #BLM,” wherein discussion of the event leads to participants calling each other names like “idiots” and angry confusion over how the Black Lives Matters is related to the Middle East (ex. The post “What the hell does BLM have to do with geopolitics in the Middle East?”).
Second storey: Such interaction on the page demonstrates that while Facebook pages do provide a useful tool for distributing information and bringing large communities together, users often end up using inflammatory, escalating or insulting language that stunts potential deeper discussions of the complex topics posted.
What we have so far is as follows:
- First storey: In our specific examination of the Facebook page, we have noticed something interesting about the way people are using the page. We have focused on the comments of one particular post that is fairly typical of the posts on this page: a post we can use to represent something larger than itself, as other posts (and comments) on the page operate in similar ways. We have therefore given ourselves access to specific evidence that we will eventually use to develop conclusions with a wider application. We are going to answer the questions in the prompt, but if we jump to broad answers too soon, we risk ignoring the evidence at hand in favour of vague opinions or assumptions. We are instead focusing on the narrow evidence of our central example. It’s worth noting that this narrow evidence doesn’t speak directly to the issue raised by our prompt; therefore, leaping immediately to “This says X about government/citizen power dynamics” would be premature and leave our readers confused.
- Second storey: The evidence alone is not a thesis. It is interesting, but why is it interesting? What does it tell us? In our second storey, we take our specific evidence and interpret it. It is important to note that not everyone who gathers this evidence will interpret it in the same way. Others might see other aspects of the evidence as more important or decide that it has a different meaning. However, these others will still be focusing closely on the evidence.
This will not be our essay’s final thesis. We are, at this stage, just beginning our examination of the evidence. As we continue to think about it and to incorporate secondary research, which we will discuss below, our thesis will develop and become more complex.
At this stage, we should pause for a moment and evaluate what we have so far. As we have discussed, editing must take place throughout the essay-writing process, not simply at the end.