Write down what you’ve chosen as your two best pieces of evidence that you feel most clearly support the author’s complex argument. For each of those pieces of evidence, write one sentence explaining why you chose that piece of evidence, and what portion of the author’s argument that specific piece of evidence is supporting.
Now that you have two pieces of evidence and justification for why you are using those specific pieces of evidence, you are ready to move to the next stage of pre-writing and draft an observational paragraph. The goal of an observational paragraph is to
- Explain why you’ve chosen each piece of evidence
- Link your two pieces of evidence together
- Explain how that evidence supports a specific complex argument that the author is making within the text.
This is not your thesis, but, rather, a pre-writing activity that is meant to be an initial gathering of ideas that you will begin to shape into a more concrete close reading in the coming chapters. Do not worry about getting it all “correct” or “perfect.” Just get your ideas out and be willing to edit! While this paragraph will not be your exact thesis, it will contain elements that you can use later to write a strong thesis statement that proposes your analysis of the author’s complex argument.
When linking evidence into the author’s complex argument you should consider:
- How does the author’s specific language in the evidence I’ve chosen speak to the argumentative position the author is taking? In a basic way, consider whether the words that the author is choosing pointing towards a negative or positive attitude towards their general subject?
- Why has the author made the deliberate choice to use the words that you have chosen as specific evidence? What do those words mean? Why would the author choose those words and not an alternative?
- In what ways is the evidence that I have chosen a small compact example of the larger argument the author is making? In other words, how does the small specific piece of evidence chosen expand out to the author’s larger complex argument?
Let’s begin with an example and, after you read it, you can use it as a model to write your own observational paragraph. Here is an observational paragraph using 2 key pieces of evidence found in an analysis of an essay by David Bollier entitled,“The Plot to Privatize Common Knowledge.” You can read the article below, if you wish, for context.
Though he is quick to clarify that he “straight-up” believes in copyrights and patents, Bollier is also equally quick to establish his claim that contemporary corporations have converted these property rights and claims into “crude, anti-social instruments of control and avarice.” He very clearly establishes a binary between these greedy corporations rushing to privatize, manage, and outright own songs, words and even prefixes, and the public who seek only to share “fundamental knowledge” for the sake of the “common good.” Through continued use of this contrast, Bollier makes certain his readers cannot miss what is really at stake in this quest to manage “creations of the mind”: an “over-patenting” of thought to the point where the average person can no longer access freely the accumulated wisdom of humanity.
Looking back over the list of data we gathered when examining Bollier’s essay in Video 1.2, you will probably notice that this paragraph is based on the observations of the binary between corporations and the public, and the abusive use of patents by corporations being characterized as “anti-social instruments of control.” Using this information, and the brief sentence description as to why we chose the evidence that we did, we were able to draft an observational paragraph in which we begin to propose what Bollier is really doing here.
Give it a Try
Go back to the list of evidence you gathered as you were reading Charles’ Justice’s “The Ultimate Communication App”; it may also be useful to rewatch Video 1.3. After this, write a observational paragraph of your own based on your annotation and observations of Charles Justice’s “The Ultimate Communication App.” Select the two pieces of evidence you believe best point to the author’s complex argument and explain what makes those two pieces of evidence the strongest. From there, construct one to two sentences in which you link those two pieces of evidence to what you have identified as Justice’s complex argument.
Again, you are still in the pre-writing phase and you do not need to worry about your observational paragraph being completely polished. It is important at this stage to sift through all the evidence you’ve collected, choose what you think are the strongest two pieces and begin to analyze the author’s complex argument. You can revise this observational paragraph later, but for now, it is important to write a first draft.