Stuart Greene, "Argument as Conversation: The Role of Inquiry in Writing a Researched Argument"

Summary:

Stuart Greene primarily introduces the idea of argumentation in daily life conversation by discussing that we confront an issue/topic that is open to dispute and have a lively discussion on what we feel/think about it. Stuart connects this same reasoning in writing an argumentative work. For example, when a person initiates an argument with somebody on the streets or a group of people in a parlor, he/she doesn’t just pop an issue out of thin air; rather he/she utilizes the reader’s questions/doubts onto a “heated debate.” Hence, the writer would pinpoint those areas of interest and research them allowing for the arguments to flow from one to another. In a more detailed study, Greene analyzes the various aspects that go into writing a researched argument:

1. The recent topics that people talk/debate about
2. Relevant Problems in society
3. Evidence that persuades/questions readers
4. The Stakes of the Argument

Once these ideas have been established, the writer would get a better sense of the actual issue and frame the essay into a solidified position that the reader can follow. Hence, by defining our argument on an issue (i.e. varying conflicting views in a group of people), the reader would have more of a responsive “action” towards it. To exemplify this type of effect, Stuart provides an example that conveys the main issue of the person’s understanding as a student and the main tactics that the student uses in writing his argumentative essay (i.e. the periodic reference to the two key frames of the issue: “transculturation” and “contact zone”). Through this type of description, research does add an important layer of not just discovery of information but also the use of it to shape the information in order to add a more conversational tone to it!

To start including our arguments in the scholarly realm, we must start to identify the context surrounding it. When we sit down to do research, you are doing what has already been done by others. We are essentially continuing a conversation that's already been going on for some time. In order to join such a conversation, it's better to understand the context that the conversation is in. To understand context, we first do certain research and read about other people's work – basically understanding what has been talked about before and building up on it. We would then extract three things from our research: an issue at hand, the situation surrounding it, and a question which we could try to answer. We must identify the tension between conflicting ideas, and put it under the scope of a certain situation – which includes the psychical context surrounding the issue. After completing this process, we can then frame our argument into answering a specific question which could facilitate our writing.

Essentially, framing is the process of describing the perspective from which a writer argues, similar to the way a photographer emphasizes certain parts of images. Greene's hope is that by teaching his readers about framing, they will be able to organize their thoughts and present an argument through some concept or viewpoint that helps get an argument across. In case the reader still does not understand, Greene slowly presents an example that clearly shows what "framing" in writing is.

Greene spends the rest of his piece literally guiding readers through his argument on why people should utilize framing and how they would benefit (he uses phrases such as "I would like you to think…" and "As you read this passage"). He cites his personal experiences as a writer as the reasons why people should listen to the following four reasons for using framing: 1) Naming a position, 2) Offering a definition and description of principle, 3) Specifying an argument, and 4) Organizing thoughts. He uses long passages from different writers along with questions to get readers to think about what framing is, how it works, and how it helps.

Quotations:

"The questions that your teacher raises and that you raise should be questions that are open to dispute and for which there are not prepackaged answers."

"Readers within an academic setting expect that you will advance a scholarly conversation and not reproduce others' ideas."

"If you see inquiry as a means of entering conversations, then you will understand research as a social process."

“…it is helpful to think of writing as a process of understanding conflicts, the claims others make, and the important questions to ask…”

“It is important to frame an issue in the context of some specific situation.”

“Through identifying what is at issue, you should begin to understand for whom it is an issue – who you are answering the question for.”

"Framing is a metaphor for describing the lens, or perspective, from which writers present their arguments."

"I would like you to think about framing as a strategy of critical inquiry when you read."

Response and Analysis

Greene's ideas about research are completely agreeable; rather than seeing it as a simple collection of data, research is better seen as a type of conversation with other people. By taking on this metaphorical perspective, our own research becomes very well facilitated. A report is much easier to start when we address the context that we are writing in. Greene's three-step method of addressing the context is also a very generic, but essential process. By finding the issue at hand – whether dynamic or not – the writer of the report can properly fit his ideas into one of the sides of the overarching conflict. The situation is also important for the writer to consider; it allows him to mold certain ideas in relation to the setting involved.

One issue with Greene's section about framing is that he spends the vast majority of those pages listing examples of framing in action. While Greene's breakdown of framing was helpful and detailed, the pages he dedicated to just long passages of other writers' work seemed unnecessary. By the end of the first two pages of Greene's explanations, readers already have a good idea of how framing works and why they should use it (since Greene already included examples). However, not only does Greene simply goes on to include 3-4 more examples, but he does not provide detailed breakdowns of those passages (a stark contrast from the beginning of the section). Readers may be left feeling incapable (since Greene thought it was necessary to include so many examples) or overwhelmed by the number of examples.

Lastly, answering a question can help the writer directly address the audience and create a direction for the writer to follow. Greene's ideas are extremely useful for most reports in the scholarly realm.

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