Not Persuasive

Essay Section: Supporting Evidence (Analysis vs. Plot Summary)

Authors begin the task of writing with one of two motivations: either their purpose is 1) to inform or 2) to persuade. For example, think about “inform” in the same way that you might think about the roles of a newspaper or the television news. The writers of the urban section inform you about yesterday’s events–what happened last night, who died, and who killed who. On the other hand, the person on the television screen informs you of what happened “yesterday”; but also informs you about events that will take place “today.”

The main purpose of both the newspaper writer and news reporter is not to persuade you. Each individual may persuade you in some cases by making statements along the lines of “It is going to rain, so you might want to bring an umbrella.” However, both hardly say something to the effect of “It is going to rain. Bring an umbrella.” In other words, both the reporter and the newscaster don’t use directives to command your obedience.

When a writer constructs an argument, he or she establishes a goal to persuade the reader about a particular subject matter. This writer approaches the task with the belief that what he or she presents to you, as the reader, is true as he or she sees it; and that you must follow-up the read with some action. For example, a person who tells you about a party on 16th street is just informing you about the party and its location. However, a person who tells you about the location and says, “You must go. They will have food and drinks. And you can see John,” this person is persuading you. This person is saying that if you don’t go, you will miss out on something great. The effectiveness of this person’s persuasion is based upon your willingness to yield and the fact that you do yield.

The same line of thought applies to how you present the information of different authors within your paper, especially information about their claims, beliefs, and the recurring themes within the literary works. If you merely outline an author’s ideas, then you are informing the reader about what the author thinks concerning the subject matter you are exploring. However, if you outline each author’s ideas and point out where their arguments lack credibility, then you are persuading the readers about the author and the ideas each expresses within the context of their work. In essence, you are persuading the reader when you write that Author A is missing more elements than Author B; and when you persuade you also prove.

You inform the reader that Author A is missing elements by including in-text evidence within your analysis. This persuades the reader because the information is verifiable. The reader is willing to yield when he reads your assessment of Author A. In addition, when you provide the in-text evidence, the reader is willing to continue to yield. The reader has yielded completely when he or she returns to the text, reads it, retrieves the evidence you reference within your paper, and agrees with your statement about Author A. On the other hand, when you leave out important textual evidence and fill your paper with assumptions, then you have not persuaded the reader because your paper is missing these elements. In essence, because you lack verifiable information, a reader doesn’t yield to your point of view.

Developing a persuasive argument is no easy task, because there are factors that influence how you persuade the reader. The most important method for ensuring that you develop a persuasive argument is to validate all of your claims. You must “back up” whatever you believe in your paper. If you write, “The author believes all dogs are nice,” then you must include evidence of the author’s belief. The evidence you provide can’t center on this type of statement: “All dogs are nice, if they lick your face.” Nowhere in the author’s work is this belief.

Therefore, before you submit the final draft of your paper, check your assumptions. Revise any statement that doesn’t supply textual evidence. Add a quote or another qualifying statement. Permanently remove any statement for which you can’t provide proof.

For more related information, see also the comments “An interesting idea, but it doesn’t work in every example.” and “Proof?

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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