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Providing Support for Your Thesis Help (page 3)

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Updated on Sep 6, 2011

Expert Opinion and Analysis

During a trial, lawyers often call upon expert witnesses to help them make their case. These witnesses were not involved in the crime, but they have expertise that can help the jurors determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Similarly, in many essays, and particularly in research papers, much of your support will come in the form of expert opinion and analysis. The experts you call upon can help you demonstrate the validity of your thesis.

You can collect expert opinion and analysis in two ways: by interviewing sources yourself (primary research) or by finding print or other recorded sources of expert opinion or analysis (secondary research). Sources of secondary research include the Internet, periodicals, journals, books, and transcripts.

The strength of expert opinion and analysis as evidence comes from the fact that your sources are experts. They've spend a great deal of time studying the issue or experiencing the phenomenon you're describing. In some cases, they know the issue far better that you or your readers do.

That's why you must give the credentials of any cited expert. It is not good to quote the author of Jane Austen: The Ultimate Readers' Guide on his opinions about Pride and Prejudice if you don't mention his book. This also helps avoid plagiarism. For another example, recall the flat tax essay. Its assertions could be supported with the following expert sources and their opinions:

  • Dr. Alan Auerbach, professor of Economics at the University of California of Berkeley and former chief economist at the Joint Committee on Taxation, estimates that the average family of four will have $3,000 more in income per year with a flat tax.
  • The Tax Foundation, a nonprofit tax think tank, estimates that America spends $140 billion complying with the current tax code—a cost that would be reduced 94% by instituting a flat tax.

Be certain to give enough identifying information about each expert source to convince your reader of the importance of his or her opinion.

Quotations from the Text

When your essay is about literature, much of your evidence will come from the text itself. For example, imagine that you've written the following thesis statement:

In his poem "Splinter," Carl Sandburg uses metaphor and sound to suggest loss.

To support your assertion, you will need to discuss the poem's content, structure, and style. But that's only part of the task. In addition to telling the readers why you think what you do about the poem, you also need to show them the evidence that led you to your conclusion. Thus, you can tell readers that the poem suggests loss by the repetition of the short i sound, known as a phonetic intensive, in line 4 (thin, splinter, singing). You can also explain how metaphor is used to emphasize the same theme, and show evidence by quoting the last line, which describes the voice of the last cricket by comparing it to a thin splinter.

      The voice of the last cricket
      across the first frost
      is one kind of good-by.
      It is so thin a splinter of singing.

A Word of Advice

When writing a college application essay, remember that regardless of the topic, the essay needs to reveal something personal about you. Writing an essay about your sister in response to the prompt "Indicate a person who has had a significant influence on you, and describe that influence" is fine. However, you need to avoid the common pitfall of that prompt, which is to write about the person, and not about yourself. The writer of the sister essay needs to relate her sister's story to herself, not simply explain why her sister is the person she admires most.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Providing Support for Your Thesis Practice.

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