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What constitutes proof in a paper?... (stupid question)


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Ug. I go round and round on this. I hate writing. All the academic writing I've seen seems so obvious and stupid to me. When writing a persuasive paper, do you need statistics and quotes for proof? I know that sounds stupid, but I guess I have a hard time understanding why one can't have reasons rather than statistics and quotes and expert opinions? Or can one? For example, take Abbey, the 16yo who was hit by a rogue wave while trying to sail around the world. If I want to argue that it was ok for her to try despite her youth, I might offer as reasons that her boat had all the most modern equipment, that rogue waves are unpredictable and unavoidable, and that highways are more dangerous. Which of that is proof? I know you need points and proof, but what about reasons? I can see how you would do better to offer statistics to go with the highway reason, but what about the others?

-Nan

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I try to look at the statistics for support of the reasons which support the thesis statement. Statistics on their own aren't enough, and sometimes reasons do need to be substantiated to make for a strong argument. Does that make sense?

 

In other words, I'd use the basic essay format - intro paragraph with the final sentence the thesis statement in which the three reasons are given. Then each of the three supporting paragraphs begins with a sentence introducing the reason and is followed by examples and statistics, or other supporting evidence, as needed. The concluding paragraph should begin with a restatement of the thesis statement. Personally, I find this format can work for a lot of high school papers.

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Ug. I go round and round on this. I hate writing. All the academic writing I've seen seems so obvious and stupid to me. When writing a persuasive paper, do you need statistics and quotes for proof? I know that sounds stupid, but I guess I have a hard time understanding why one can't have reasons rather than statistics and quotes and expert opinions? Or can one? For example, take Abbey, the 16yo who was hit by a rogue wave while trying to sail around the world. If I want to argue that it was ok for her to try despite her youth, I might offer as reasons that her boat had all the most modern equipment, that rogue waves are unpredictable and unavoidable, and that highways are more dangerous. Which of that is proof? I know you need points and proof, but what about reasons? I can see how you would do better to offer statistics to go with the highway reason, but what about the others?

-Nan

 

You need facts for proof, though this varies widely depending upon what exactly you are writing. If it's an opinion column in a newspaper, that can be looser, whereas a proposal to a company for money expenditure requires a different, more specific set of facts. Also, depending on the length of the assignment and style of writing, you may choose to give more specific stats for just one or two of your points.

 

Let's look at your example:

 

--Her boat had all the most modern equipment. Facts to offer here are examples of that equipment and descriptions of its specific capability. How many examples you offer would be based on the required length of the assignment. A less formal, short opinion piece might only mention the $$ her parents spent on the boat.

 

----Rogue waves are unpredictable. Stats and quotes might be helpful here, or at least quotes. Or another option, for a less formal assignment, would be an anecdote.

 

--Highways are more dangerous. I would definitely include stats for this point in virtually any type of assignment. The stats are easy to find and compelling in and of themself.

 

For any of these, if it's a less formal, short assignment, you can get away with saying things like, "It's well known that . . . " without providing verifiable facts. That makes your argument weaker and easier to deconstruct, but is nevertheless an option for fitting your message into a shorter format. Newspapers are particularly prone to this.

 

For the average expository paper for a high school student, including facts (stats, quotes, etc.) is normal and expected.

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When I think of proof I think of results - data (before statistics) but drawing a cause and effect relationship to those data is a whole different ball game. A persuasive argument does not have to be about proof - many times it is based on emotion, using examples as "proof". If you ask yourself - "Why do I agree or disagree with that statement?" that will give you a good way to evaluate how someone did trying to persuade you on an issue.

 

And even if you cite the actual researcher and the actual paper it came from - that does not make the "proof" any more reliable than any other form of proof. The purpose of the paper is to persuade peers, using their data, that their hypothesis is valid. It does not in any way translate over to proof. And, at any time their paper and results can be completely discarded and often are - which is why data from one-three years ago is good, older data is not.

 

So - when writing a persuasive argument concentrate of both citing solid sources (it doesn't hurt to throw names and institutions around) AND connecting with the emotional side of the argument as well.

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The way I understand the persuasive essay, it has to have a thesis which is based on opinion and thus can be controversial. In other words: if something can be absolutely proven a fact, it is not an arguable thesis. You need to persuade your reader that your point of view is the correct one, and that is only possible if the reader could also adopt the opposite point of view.

 

A completely different assignment is a scientific report which is not supposed to persuade, but to prove - so there you would definitely need solid data, statistics, hard facts.

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The way I understand the persuasive essay, it has to have a thesis which is based on opinion and thus can be controversial. In other words: if something can be absolutely proven a fact, it is not an arguable thesis. You need to persuade your reader that your point of view is the correct one, and that is only possible if the reader could also adopt the opposite point of view.

 

A completely different assignment is a scientific report which is not supposed to persuade, but to prove - so there you would definitely need solid data, statistics, hard facts.

 

 

I would say this is correct. If you were doing a research paper, it could be just the facts. But if it's a persuasive essay you must clearly state your thesis - the intent to prove that your statement is true. And you could not strongly support your position without facts.

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Yes, but "hard facts" are pretty mushy when you are talking about something that happened to one person in the middle of an ocean. There are a few, like facts about this particular boat and facts about rogue waves in general. You might be able to argue that some of Abbey's actions are facts, if you are willing to take Abbey's word for it. The actions and observations of the rescuers and the family are probably facts. The rest is all either unknown things happening fast in an accident or the speculations of experts. Do you count Abbey as an expert or not? My son is doing so, since he is 16 and sails by himself and considers that Abbey has a whole lot of skills that he doesn't. His paper does have a thesis and more arguments than those that I posted.

 

I think I just didn't define the assignment well enough. How would you word the assignment to get a persuasive paper?

 

-Nan

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Hmm... No wonder I am having trouble with this. I can see that appealing to people's emotions is a common approach. And I can see that establishing that connection can be tricky. It obviously is just as mushy as I thought it was. No wonder writing programs don't do a good job of explaining this.

Thank you.

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Could you set it up as an opinion paper? I think all of us have had opinions on whether she should have been allowed to sail, and with this type of paper, facts or statistics wouldn't be necessary. He could still refer to information contained in the two articles for support. I think it's a great topic to write about. :)

 

ETA: Here's a link on how the opinion essay could be set up. http://www.suite101.com/content/how-to-write-an-opinion-essay-a104337

Honestly, before looking it up, I didn't know there was a formal title of opinion essay. lol

Edited by Teachin'Mine
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Ug. I go round and round on this. I hate writing. All the academic writing I've seen seems so obvious and stupid to me. When writing a persuasive paper, do you need statistics and quotes for proof? I know that sounds stupid, but I guess I have a hard time understanding why one can't have reasons rather than statistics and quotes and expert opinions? Or can one? For example, take Abbey, the 16yo who was hit by a rogue wave while trying to sail around the world. If I want to argue that it was ok for her to try despite her youth, I might offer as reasons that her boat had all the most modern equipment, that rogue waves are unpredictable and unavoidable, and that highways are more dangerous. Which of that is proof? I know you need points and proof, but what about reasons? I can see how you would do better to offer statistics to go with the highway reason, but what about the others?

-Nan

 

Proof = evidence that *supports your thesis*. . .

 

Any evidence/proof is OK. (Thinking of it as evidence, not proof, is more helpful, IMHO)

 

So, in your above example, I'd just tweak it a bit. . .

 

Your thesis/argument is that:

 

"it was ok for her to try despite her youth"

 

Your three pieces of proof you mentioned, I would tweak thusly:

 

her boat had all the most modern equipment --> 'She was well equipped in a boat w/the most modern equipment and was as knowledgable and skillful in using the equipment as any older sailor.'

 

rogue waves are unpredictable and unavoidable --> 'Rogue waves are unpredictable and unavoidable, and no sailor can truly be prepared to overcome them, no matter their age or experience.'

 

highways are more dangerous --> 'Driving on the highways is more dangerous than sailing the seas, but we routinely allow 16 yos to drive without restriction'.

 

If you are developing this into a standard 5para essay format, you'd then take EACH of those three 'proofs' above and develop it into its own paragraph with supporting proofs of its own. . .

 

So, for example. . .

 

'Driving on the highways is more dangerous than sailing the seas, but we routinely allow 16 yos to drive without restriction'.

 

3 evidence/proofs for this point might be (invented, not real, lol):

 

1) general proof/argument -- 'Since the invention of the automobile, teens have been allowed to drive on the roads with little restrictions, despite the inherent dangers of the road.'

 

2) statistic -- 'US DOT statistics show that 1 teen is killed on the highways for every 30,000 miles driven by teens, whereas US Sailing Association reports that over 1,000,000 miles are sailed by teens each year, but on average only one dies sailing.'

 

3) another vague thought/proof -- 'Teen driving not only poses more risk of death or injury than sailing, but teen driving also promotes to premature dating, the separationg of a teen from their families, early sexual activity, and alcohol abuse. On the other hand, sailing provides the spirted teen with a healthy outdoor activity that challenges their minds and bodies without introducing the negative elements of the culture of cars.

 

HTH

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