Monday, September 3, 2012

Reading Response: "Helping Students Use Textual Sources Persuasively"

Writing About Writing (p. 67–85)
Reading Response
“Helping Students Use Textual Sources Persuasively” by Margaret Kantz

In ““Helping Students Use Textual Sources Persuasively,” Margaret Kantz attempts to explain to student writers how to use existing texts to construct a new original one.  Kantz argues that many undergraduate students cannot properly do this task because as writers they were never taught to analyze and synthesize material correctly, view facts as claims, or view writing assignments as a series of creative thoughts and drafts that lead to a final unique piece of work. Kantz describes actual student cases, uses personal experiences, introduces the concept of “rhetorical situation,” and cites several sources to support her argument about the ideal way to construct a research paper.

Synthesis Work:
Kantz’ article is similar to “Argument as Conversation” by Stuart Greene and “What Is It We Do When We Write Articles Like This One- and How Can We Get Students to Join Us?” by Michael Kleine in a few ways. Obviously, the topics revolve around research papers, the audiences are student writers, and the idea is to help the audience better understand the constructs of writing and help them advance as writers. Kantz’ article is also similar in the way that she views just “compiling facts” for papers as insufficient and in the way she views the process of writing as a creative one. The differences between this article and the others are the new information brought forth about the encoder, decoder, and reality and how she goes into detail about facts being claims- or a consensus of what is believed to be true. Kantz also talks more about the tasks involved in particular college assignments rather than just a general observation of any college writing assignment.

Before You Read Exercise:
Before I read, these were my standard definitions of the words fact, claim, opinion, and argument:
*    Fact- a verifiable piece of information.
*    Claim- an assertion that something is real or true
*    Opinion- a belief or inference held with confidence but not validated by evidence
*    Argument- inquiry-based part of an ongoing conversation on a topic, aimed to enhance understanding on the topic (thanks to Greene)

Questions for Discussion and Journaling:
1.     Kantz contends that facts and opinions are basically the same type of statement- they are both claims. A fact is a claim that an audience recognizes as being true without demanding evidence and only inquiring about clarification. An opinion is a claim that an audience wants proof for (p. 76). Kantz views an argument as the writers stand on a topic and the conversation between the writer, the reader, and the reality of the topic. From my understanding, Kantz views an argument in academia the essentially the same way Greene does.

2.     List of things Kantz says writers don’t know, misunderstand, don’t comprehend:

a.     Misunderstand sources because they read them as stories
b.     Do not know what the actual assignment is or what the teacher is looking for
c.     Expect sources to tell the truth
                                                        i.     Equate persuasive writing in this context with making things up
d.     Do not understand that facts are a kind of claim
e.     Do not read source texts as arguments
f.      Do not apply material to answer a question or address a problem
After reading her article, I do believe Kantz is correct. I personally apply to all of the things she says. Or, at least I have at on point in time. I understand now that not all sources tell the truth, facts are actually claims, and source texts are actually arguments of academia.
I do need to work on not reading my sources as stories, completely understanding what my teacher wants and what the actual assignment entails, and using my new knowledge to answer a question or problem.

Applying and Exploring Ideas:
3.     Prior to this class, it is unfortunate that I didn’t even know there was a relationship between creativity and research. Unfortunately, I have only viewed research as a “copy the ‘facts’” type of experience. I thought creativity was more geared for fictitious writing. However, now I see that research papers aren’t geared toward learning every detail about something for a test; they are geared toward discovery and problem solving. My previous ideas and Kantz’ ideas do not overlap at all! But my new ideas that have evolved since the beginning of this class do overlap with hers. Now I see that I can answer questions and solve problems with my research and I can dig into my sources a little better now. The only thing that I don’t really follow regarding to Kantz’ view on research, is how I am supposed to know what my actual assignment is and what my teacher is looking for if it is not discussed in detail? How am I supposed to improve my skills on knowing that? Is it my responsibility to converse with my teacher, or is it just unfortunate for me if my teacher does not address the assignment in detail?

Meta Moment:
Kantz is trying to analyze the concept of just “reporting facts” from textual sources. This conception of methodology behind writing a research paper should instead be “arguing about what the facts might be,” as the book states. It is useful to understand the claims and findings of Kantz because it can help a writer with their next paper. Instead of hunting for particular information in a variety of conflicting sources and just reporting them again, a writer should interact with the text and address conflicting sources in their analysis.

My Personal Thoughts:
            This article was a little more difficult to read than the others. Kantz kept jumping back and forth between the Shirley example, her personal experiences, and her advice or instructions: too jumpy for me to follow completely. However, the overall topic was helpful to me as a writer. Her information about facts and claims and the concept of rhetorical situation will help me in my upcoming assignments. Now I know that I can question my sources rather than just “copy” them. I do know exactly what Kantz is talking about when she mentions that the instructions and critiques from teachers are not always clear and concise. That has been a pet peeve of mine for as long as I can remember, and hopefully with my new strategies that I am learning, it won’t be an issue anymore.


  1. I like how you linked the past articles together with this one and show there similarities. You said you realize more that facts are only really claims, but does this change the way you will do future research? For me I know it makes me want to go out and prove a fact before ever using it in a paper. This also applies to the idea of "gathering" that Klein writes about. Instead of taking the "facts" that are really claims from a book, be a gatherer and go out to discover the information.

    1. I feel in the past, in Kleine's terms, I was more of hunter. However, now that I've been introduced to the "gathering" method and the concept of facts being claims, I believe my way of research will be much different from here on out.

  2. AE1: If a professor does not discuss a particular assignment, it is always useful to meet with him or her to flesh out the purpose.

    Your responses are very well developed, organized and explained. The paragraph about your new perspective about creativity seems to reinforce how you are introducing more "gathering." Keep up the exemplar work.

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