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Choose main point


Decide on your main point

Introduction

Identifying a contribution is the whole purpose of this process.

The goal of this technique is to identify your contribution by explore making contributions at the different milestones of the argument.

Background

Knowledge

Contributions

Your community has formed around an issue and it would like to resolve that issue but has not achieved its goal.  A contribution is to provide new line of argument that helps your community resolve its issue.

Progress

Your community has a certain amount of knowledge needed to address an issue.  You can make progress either by adding currently unknown information or by showing that information thought to be settled is actually problematic.


Newness = accountability + freshness

For a line of argument to be new, it must both be accountable and fresh.

Freshness means means making progress beyond the givens by providing a fresh line of argument that your community hasn't heard

Accountability means knowing the givens of the issue including the progress previous authors have made.  Just like it is impolite to barge into a conversation and start speaking, communities do not like when would-be-authors do not build off the current conversation and current sense of progress.

Find the main point in your new line of argument

The goal of this technique is to locate your main point at one of the milestones of the argument, either seeing the issue, defining the problem, or choosing a solution.

Main point at Seeing the issue

To locate the main point at seeing the issue, you first list the givens including the name of the approach, previous authors and potential positions, and general names of most common problem cases.Next ask: "Do my conclusions give me a reason to define a new approach?  Do they give me a dramatically expanded set of problem cases through which to see the issue?"  If you can answer yes to either, you will have found something fresh to say.


Always try to place your main point at seeing the issue first because it is a milestone where you enlarge the issue, which is one of the most valued contributions.   Locating your point at "seeing the issue" is an opportunity to make the most radical change in your community because you help it make progress by teaching the community about the true dimensions of the issue through which they must progress.  

To find ways to enlarge the issue, use your conclusions to explore for new analogies or frameworks that can be applied to the issue.

Main point at Choosing a solution

If you can locate the main point at seeing the issue, you should next try at choosing a solution.

Start by enumerating the solutions that have already been proposed, then explore whether your conclusions allow you to go beyond them.


Before you decide to place your point at choosing a solution, make sure that (a) there is widespread agreement at "defining the problem" and (b) make sure you have a great deal fresh to say about the positive and negative effects of previous solutions and the one you propose.

Main point at Defining the problem

While placing your point at seeing the issue may be too hard, and choosing a solution too easy, you can try defining the problem if the others fail.  It's hard to rule out define the problem for the main point but also hard to rule in, so try this one last.

List the problem definitions that have been given to you.

Then formulate a problem definition that goes beyond the givens.  

Make sure your fresh solution and fresh problem definition are coordinated.  Your solution should eliminate either the X or the Y in your problem definition.


How

Steps

To find the main point of your argument:

1. Try to locate the main point at seeing the issue

  • list the givens including including the name of the approach, previous authors and potential positions, and general names of most common problem cases.
  • Ask: "Do my conclusions give me a reason to define a new approach?  Do they give me a dramatically expanded set of problem cases through which to see the issue?"  
  • If you can answer yes to either, you will have found something fresh to say.

2. Try to locate the main point at choosing the solution

  • enumerating the solutions that have already been proposed, then explore whether your conclusions allow you to go beyond them.
  • before locating your point here make sure that 
    • there is widespread agreement at "defining the problem"
    • you have a great deal fresh to say about the positive and negative effects of previous solutions and the one you propose.

3. Try to locate your main point at defining the problem:

  • list the problem definitions that have been given to you.
  • formulate a problem definition that goes beyond the givens.  
  • make sure your fresh solution and fresh problem definition are coordinated.  Your solution should eliminate either the X or the Y in your problem definition.

Critique

Deliverables

A main point for your argument

References

Kaufer, D. S., Geisler, C., & Neuwirth, C. M. (1989). Arguing from sources: Exploring issues through reading and writing. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (p. 230-239).