Before you Draft:
A Cautionary Tale: Make sure you document your research process. Don’t just photocopy or save items to a disk. Instead, begin to summarize them and take notes on them. Write down every single a-ha moment that you have, every connection you make. I love research, but I’m often a very inefficient researcher. I get caught up in reading more and more; I feel the rush of excitement as my sources converge in a dynamic conversation. But when I fail to document this conversation, I lose it. I forget the a-ha moments, I forget the reason I thought this or that source was just perfect. So, I research some more, re-reading the sources that brought the initial sparks. This process continues until I get something down on paper, which I always wish I had done earlier in the process.
Think Conversation: this assignment is about strategically selecting the 4+ sources that form the best conversation. This is a rhetorical choice: out of the 10+ sources that you may have consulted thus far, there are almost endless ways that a select 4-5 will dynamically interact.
The Draft Itself
Thesis: Your essay will have an argument, though it will be largely implied. That is, your thesis will not be as explicit as it certainly was in the Rhetorical Analysis. In the TIC essay, your thesis articulates how the sources you engage will advance, qualify, challenge and refine one another. Think of it as a conversational thesis as opposed to the argumentative thesis of your RA. As with the RA thesis, though, it should be an accurate mirror of your paper as a whole.
Overall Organization & TIC Fundamentals:
- Offer an introduction that frames the topic as an important problem or issue: you need to get us in board while giving us all the info we need to make sense of the conversation that follows. This portion can be 1-2 paragraphs long–much more significant / expanded than the intro moves you used to set up your conversational thesis.
- Summarize your four or five sources (these should include a credible mix sources: scholarly and mainstream, print and web-based, books and articles) using a fitting mix of objective and engaged summary. Introduce the individual authors and provide the most important and relevant details from their arguments. Include a mix of direct quoting and paraphrase. Make sure your quotes are well selected: choose to incorporate complex ideas that you can then frame and analyze for your reader; don’t quote a bunch of statistics that could just as easily be paraphrased. You might want to comment on the deficiencies or accomplishments of a certain source as well, engaging in brief moments of rhetorical analysis.
- Once you get beyond your first source, you should begin to synthesize your sources as well, placing them in conversation with one another. Show how one source contradicts, answers, extends, or helps to frame or contextualize another, for example. You are tracking an unfolding conversation so do your best to capture a sense of dynamism and development. As the TIC assignment sheet emphasizes, it’s all about moving beyond compare & contrast to more interesting and nuanced relationships amongst your sources.
- Transitions between paragraphs play a crucial role. They offer an opportunity to define the movement of your essay, to expertly guide the conversation. Refer to the OWL guide on transitions and transitional devices for more specific suggestions / strategies. Also note how Carr and Henig keep their respective conversations moving paragraph by paragraph and sentence by sentence.
- Quote integration will also be key. Remember to use critical summary to set up your quotes, include a range of signal phrases, and follow up after you’ve included the quote. Quotes don’t speak for themselves: it is up to you to control the conversation. Also, try to treat your sources as characters; give the reader a sense of who they are and what they do up front–it’s all about the ethos: both yours and theirs.
- As you work towards your conclusion, reflect on how these sources have influenced your thinking about your research question, perhaps suggesting a more pointed argumentative direction that you might take in your RBA. Use the final paragraph of your TIC to lay out a possible direction for your more argumentative extension of the RBA in the TIC. I often think of the final TIC paragraph as a launching pad for your RBA–the sooner you can begin to articulate your own more engaged contribution to this unfolding conversation, the better off you will be in the long run.
- Your TIC should include a dynamic variety of paragraphs: some paragraphs offer mostly summary; others will blend summary and analysis; others will summarize and synthesize. There is no set pattern: you must discover—and invent—what is most suitable for your topic and approach.