From Inquiry to S.O.F.T (TTH)

The goal in this exercise is to “Say One Fricking Thing” about your research findings. Remember that your point can be exploratory or argumentative and you might even play around with both types of points. To get started, we’ll use the Exercises in Chapter 4 to help turn our inquiry questions into tentative, working thesis statements.

Here’s the process:

1. Reply to this post with your current inquiry question. Tell us what kind of inquiry question it is. For example:

What should be done about the problem of smoking on campus? (Policy)

How do smoking bans on college campuses influence social relationships between smokers? (Relationship)

2. After completing Exercise 4.1 with a partner and fast writing about your experience on your own blog, comment here on your own reply and write down your point (the answer to “Dave’s” final question on p.145).

3. Finally, after we discuss refining questions and thesis statements, reply here again to your reply and complete exercise 4.2, using the templates (you can always break out of these later). At this point you may write down a few types of inquiry questions you’re thinking of using and you can generate a couple potential thesis statements out of them. Remember, this is always changing, but the important thing now is to practice and play with turning inquiry questions into thesis statements. For example:

Inquiry Question (Policy): What should be done about the problem of smoking on campus?

Thesis from a Question of Policy: In the debate over smoking on campus, I’m persuaded that the most important thing to do is set up designated smoking areas, rather than banning smoking altogether.

As usual, remember that this is partly a creative process. Keep your thinking open, expansive, and be aware that you might, as Ballenger points out on p.147, not get to your perfect point during this exercise. You may find out that “you’re still groping for a thesis” and may have to write an exploratory draft. Or, you may find that “[y]ou have no clue what might be the S.O.F.T.” and you have to do more research. Or, maybe you’ll know what your point is and you’ll be ready to start drafting that argumentative essay this week (Ballenger 147). Whatever the outcome, use it to gauge how much research and preparation you’ll have to do this week as you get ready to draft.


76 thoughts on “From Inquiry to S.O.F.T (TTH)

  1. Pingback: Preparing to Draft! | Jennifer Whetham's Summer Courses at Clark 2013

  2. Will

    Inquiry: Could the Mongols could have continued their conquest of central and Western Europe, assuming the great khan (Ogedei) had not died which caused them to abandon the European theater to return to Karakorum for the ceremonial election. (Hypothesis-testing)

    • My point is that despite the sophisticated organization and command structure the Mongols had, the prevalence of stone fortified structures in Central Europe, and the heavily forested terrain which would impede their predominantly cavalry army and tactics would have stopped the Mongols from defeating the Central and Western European powers.

      • Based on my research, the assumption that the Mongols could not have defeated the Central European powers assuming that they had not left Europe after the former Great Khan had died is true.

        Based on my research, had the Mongols not retreated from Eastern Europe when the Great Khan died, they could not have defeated the Central European powers due to logistical concerns and the tactical disadvantage the terrain of Central Europe would present. (too much?)

      • Hey Will! I love these historical/speculative types of arguments. Is this the kind of imagination that gives rise to historical fiction novels? (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer?) I think both of the thesis statements here are good working ones. I’ll be interested, though, to see how you craft an answer to the “so what” question at some point in your draft!

  3. Zachary Hipple: My current inquiry question is how does a low entropy “beginning” of our Universe lead to an asymmetrical arrow of time? (relationship)

    • I’m assuming this is a freewrite about what we just discussed. This was actually much more useful than talking with “Dave” which I began to do before we were paired up. I got about halfway through and realized that I was just asking myself questions that I already knew the answer to and having someone else to think on the topic for me was pretty nifty. It also helped that the person I was paired with was scientifically literate (not saying anything derogatory about my fellow classmates, I just don’t really know any of you. For all I know you could all have been a perfect match and I believe you are all capable of awesome critical thinking! 😀 ) My main point ended up being that to have an arrow of time develop in a universe, the beginning of that universe “must” be incredibly low entropy. There were some other interesting points raised, like describing light’s odd ability to travel through space without traveling through time through a mathematical description (sort of), but the main focus is why time moves from past to future in a semi-linear fashion and isn’t all over the place.

      • My main point is that the arrow of time is easiest to develop when the universe is finite in time (there is a beginning, doesn’t require an end).

    • Potential thesis from a question of relationship: There is a strong relationship between the formation of the arrow of time and the fact that our universe formed from an incredibly low entropy beginning (big bang).

      • You are blowing my mind with this. All I can do is assume that this is a controversial thesis because it has the words “big bang” attached to it! Maybe you can explain to me at some point why this is controversial and why you’re making a judgment here. Or, maybe I can just read all about it in your rough draft 🙂

    • Freewrite:

      We went over my inquiry question and my thesis will be that women would benefit from pregnancy education classes prior to pregnancy. It has been made clear that no matter how prepared you are for pregnancy though, you can never REALLY be prepared for it! Every pregnancy is different, so for women who have been there and done that, what they experienced during their last pregnancy might be completely different from their current pregnancy. I for one have experienced a whole new range of problems and experiences with this pregnancy than with my first two. My first one I was completely clueless because I had not planned on getting pregnant, and I wished I knew what was happening to me BEFORE it happened. The second time around I had an idea of what to expect, and for the most part I knew what was happening when it happened. This time around is completely different in that it is a lot more uncomfortable and I have to undergo a procedure I had only read about but never dreamed I would HAVE to have. So in terms of being prepared, having the option to have a pregnancy and fetal development class offered in colleges or even high schools as a science class (and not part of a specific degree) would benefit women (and men) by letting them know what can and most likely will happen during pregnancy if and when they become pregnant.

      • My POINT: My point is that pregnancy is a very complicated “procedure”, and women are never prepared for what they experience, so having the availability of educational classes prior to becoming pregnant (aside from internet research) is extremely helpful in preparing them as much as possible for what to expect. Most “educational” classes don’t start until closer to the end of the pregnancy and mostly focus on labor, delivery, nursing and newborn care. So having the option of “fetal development” and “what happens during pregnancy” can be very helpful.

      • Thesis statement building:

        Based on my research, women in general experience a lot more during pregnancy than they were prepared for, so women would benefit from prenatal classes in highschool or college to better prepare them for what can and most likely will happen during pregnancy.

      • Nice working thesis, Heather. Good stuff. Think a little, too, about why what you’re writing here is controversial (and also think whether or not men can benefit from this type of education). Since you’re suggesting some kind of policy, start to imagine what your critics would say and harness some research that will help you address their objections (e.g. “teaching young men and women about pregnancy in high school will only encourage sex and pregnancy in young people” or “it’s a women’s responsibility to find out about this herself and we shouldn’t spend tax dollars on it – it’s a waste of money!”). Imagining those types of counterarguments might help you to build your own solid argument. Go get ’em!

      • The reasons for the high divorce rate are: societal shifts, economic changes, and problematic individual circumstances.

      • There is a strong relationship between society’s common beliefs, the economy, and individual circumstances on the divorce rate.

      • Good start, Siarra. But I would challenge your working thesis here. Is it controversial or common knowledge that beliefs, money, and humanness tend to mess up relationships? I mean, I would guess those things to be true. So what makes this controversial or why are you saying something original that no one has said before? Do you believe that one of these things is more predominant than the others and should be be doing something about it? Or, because these are such big hurtles, what does it mean for marriage? What are your predictions? Even if the economy recovers, will our “societal beliefs” change or will we somehow evolve better “individual circumstances” and save marriage? Or will those things outweigh a better economy? Or, if we keep headed down this road, what are the effects?

        See where I’m going with this? Pushing you to a unique and original point where you’re adding to, not just echoing, the current conversation. Rock on!

  4. Are people in serious relationships staying together longer when they met online and have high match results compared to people who met offline?
    hypothesis question
    Rachael Heath

    • Ashley Paulsen
      What are the ways to get youth involved in government?

      This was so helpful for me I got to work with Lindsey and she was so amazingly helpful. I have really been struggling to find a direction for my paper. I am super passionate about my topic I think is super important that more youth start getting involved in government and politics. I was really considering changing my topic because I could not figure out a definite direction for my paper. After talking to Lindsey and being talked out of changing my topic I have been able to figure out my direction. She helped me explore where all of my questions were leading to. I started with wanting to know what types of youth stay involved in government into their adult lives. What kind of activities are they involved in? It led to talking about when youth involvement peaks. Is there a reason we see spurts of youth involvement and then radical decreases? What can we do about it? What can we do to get youth involved in government at a younger age and keep them involved into their adult lives? So I guess the answer to what my point is, is there a way to get youth involved in politics sooner and keep them involved in to their adult lives?

      • The pattern in youth involvement in government that is most interesting is how it involvement shifts due to what is going on in the country at the time.

        Youth involvement in government seems to shift in this country due to very controvercial issues going on in the country at the time.

      • Hey Ashley – I love hearing that I’m “amazingly helpful”; it makes me happy to help get you on an exciting course for this draft! One thing, though, that I want to point out there is how your point and your thesis don’t exactly match up. Here’s the point you came to:

        [I]s there a way to get youth involved in politics sooner and keep them involved in to their adult lives?

        It’s a question of policy. But the thesis below is a hypothesis about changing involvement. Is there some way you could combine the two and make one big point – like because involvement shifts, we need to come up with a more solid way to ensure constant involvement? Keep working at that thesis as you draft – you might be able to write yourself into your point.

  5. ~Ethan Young~
    Question: What has caused the critical view of Nikola Tesla from his contemporaries evolved into an often exaggerated myths and misconceptions? (Relationship question)

    • Rofl… Bad grammar
      What has caused the critical view of Nikola Tesla from his contemporaries to evolve into often exaggerated myths and misconceptions?

      • Nikola Tesla’s philosophical approach, and far reaching insight into the future of his inventions was what caused his contemporaries criticism. But it is this very trait which makes Tesla so appealing in our modern day, as we see the fulfillment of his ideas and inventions.

      • Thesis statements:
        There is a strong relationship between Nikola Tesla’s work philosophy and the changing view on him, resulting in the propagation of many of the myths surrounding him.

        The pattern of myths surrounding Tesla make it obvious that they are a result of his former reputation, and his far reaching insight into the development of electricity and related fields.

      • Ethan! Remember what we talked about after class on Tuesday? I think you are doing the thing we said you should be doing in the “point” you make here, and not in the thesis. The “modern day” thing gets kind of lost – and you still have room to speculate as to why we “need” the myth of Tesla so much right now. In light of that, I’d actually say your “point” is the best working thesis here! Looking forward to reading your first draft (so I can learn about this stuff!).

  6. With the latest SOPA and PIPA legislation failing, what is the direction of digital copyright infringement policy in the United States?

    • Until there is a feasible way for users to get the media content they want how they want it, they will use the technology available to them to obtain these media’s illegally.

      • In the debate over digital copyrighted material, I believe the it is in the best interest of the media companies involved to set up a sharing system that they can control, moderate and profit from the commercial demographic they have tried to lawfully prosecute.

      • Very nice, Nick! I love how your working thesis automatically answers the “so what” question of your “point.” Instead of just saying that users will continue their illegal activity (which may be a somewhat controversial statement, but one that would be hard to really “prove”), you suggest what companies should do to meet the need AND help themselves. It’s so logical and rational and FAIR for users and for companies. I wonder (and you totally don’t have to answer this at all) if it would be fair to the artists? A student in another class is arguing that fans should illegally download to directly support the artists and bypass/undermine the companies. I told him he should think about the legal aspects of that view, but we’ll see where he lands. I’d like you to read each other’s stuff if you haven’t yet…

  7. Brad Osier

    My inquiry question is: Does gardening as a school curriculum positively impact children?
    This would be a hypothesis question because it’s asking if my question is true or not.

      • The big deal I see in gardening is that, across the board, our children’s diets are scary, and they aren’t doing so well in school anymore. There are statistics that show the U.S. is slacking in the number of children graduating, the plummeting test scores, and our separation our communities as a whole. The only thing increasing is our obesity and diabetes. Furthermore, those two problem areas are affecting our children more and more every year. Therefore, if school gardens are proving to increase the areas lacking –Math, writing, science, community, and good nutrition, it makes sense that getting back to the basics of gardening is a step in the right direction. A step to making our future… something worth looking forward to.

    • While studies have shown that implementing school gardening into the curriculum has made many improvements, what can we do to get more schools involved?


      While studies have shown that implementing school gardening into the curriculum has made many improvements, why aren’t more schools involved?

      While studies have shown that implementing school gardening into the curriculum has made many improvements, I feel as though more schools need to get involved sooner to get the next generation in motion.

      • Yeah – it’s the last one here. The working thesis statement that’s actually a statement, rather than a question. Good start. Have you been in contact with Ryan in the MW class? He’s thinking similar things that you discuss in your free write here – except he wants to change the farm bill. I’m not sure that will make kiddos more learned, but it might make them trimmer 🙂 Nice work!

  8. Joseph Rubino

    Since performance enhancing drugs have such wide spread effects in Major League Baseball, What can be done to reduce or eliminate those effects? (Policy)

    • My point is that the use of performance enhancing drugs should be eliminated from Major League Baseball by using more extensive testing with harsher penalties for violators.

      • In the debate over what should be done with steroid use in baseball, I am persuaded that the most important thing to do is initiate more drug testing and harsher penalties for drug policy violators.

      • POW! You got it. Nice work, Joey. This is like a model policy working thesis statement. You’re good…

    • “Based on everything you’ve learned so far, what’s your point?”

      Addiction is something that a good portion of people will always battle. Some people are fortunate to break free from the deadly grasp addiction can have and there are those that can not. My point is, I believe that addiction hijacks our personal choice right out from under us. If our brain is the place we go to make our decisions and that brain has been tainted by the poison of addiction, and is now considerably ill, would this not fall under the “disease” category? The part of our brain that helps us filter out the good and bad choices we make, will become useless when infected by addiction.

      • Based on the opinions of several medical professionals surrounding the relationship between addiction and the human brain, some believe that addiction is nothing but a personal choice, and others that believe addiction to be a genetic predisposition.

        In the debate over addiction being a disease or a choice, I’m persuaded that the most important thing to do is additional brain scans of current and recovering addicts as well as those whom have never indulged.
        Through ought most interviews I have read, the one consistency is that, once a certain part of the brain has been subjected to the toxins that most drugs provide, it becomes almost numb and unable to provide any form of decision making. The brain becomes “hijacked” by addiction.
        Based on my research, the assumption that addiction is a personal choice and not a disease is a popular debate among medical professionals and seems to be divided almost right down the middle.
        There is a strong divide in the medical profession regarding addiction and where it stems from.

      • Hey Christine! You do a great job here of outlining the debate that’s raging in neuroscience labs across the world (that might be an overstatement – but you get my enthusiasm, right?). What you need to do, however, is to take that last working thesis statement and revise it to pick a side (or if you’re not ready for an argument, you should lean into an exploratory essay by giving your readers a sense why the outcome to this debate is important and by showing them where the research is leaning – perhaps discussing the ramifications of that position). Good start, fo sho – but keep on truckin’. (the drafting process will surely help you figure out what you think!)

    • As it stands right now, I think GMOs are a bad thing. I’m not completely convinced that they should be totally abolished, but I do think there should be much stricter laws and regulations on the production and distribution of GMOs. As well as how much power seed companies can obtain over farmers from selling genetically modified food.

      • Thesis: In the debate concerning GMOs, I am persuaded that the most important thing to do is to implement stronger laws and regulations regarding creation and distribution of GMOs.
        Based on studies exploring whether or not GMOs are good, the evidence suggests that GMOs are bad and unpredictable compared to hybridization.

      • If I had to choose, Paige, I’d say the first thesis is the stronger one. The reason why is that it sounds more “balanced” than the second one and you may have an easier time persuading your audience. I normally wouldn’t say this – I’d say go with the controversial one! – but this debate is becoming so highly polarized I think the best way to be heard might be to take the safer route. You know? Not that I’m not for upstarting revolutions or anything…(No Liberation Without Education!).

  9. Tiffany Simpson:
    What is the relationship between foster children with mental health issues and foster parent training for successful child placement?
    (Relationship Question)

      • It is proven that with successful completion of PCIT that the foster children behave better and have better home placement so it should be required that all foster parents undergo this training to be a certified foster parent,

    • In the debate over foster children with mental health/behavioral issues and foster parent training, im persuaded the most important thing to do is get funding for the training of foster parents.

      • Very nice, Tiffany! To be persuasive, you may have to do a little research into the sources of funding that are available. Should someone start a non-profit? Will there be state or federal monies available? What about private doners? Philanthropists? Revenue from sales of tobacco (I’m reaching here…)? I’m excited for this paper – I can see it forming in my head.

        By the way, you have been talking with David in the MW class on blogs, right? You guys are doing the same topic!

    • My point: I want to educate parents in teaching their kids for social situations so that people with Asperger’s Syndrome can find extremely successful jobs to match their extremely successful intelligence, while keeping a successful social environment. So that they don’t end up living in an addicted life in the virtual universes.

      • Thesis: Parents who are held responsible for their Asperger’s children need to include early social intervention to avoid the dangers of fixation in a virtual universe.

      • Very well stated, Jacob! Nice working thesis. You may have some explaining to do, however, about your position since the ties between fixation and virtual worlds aren’t 100% known. So, be ready to be persuasive!

    • Talking with “Dave” (Will)was a good experience for me. He had some good questions, and this helped me to better understand where I am in my project.I may want to revise my question to include the fact that making barrels was time-consuming and expensive. That was what put me onto the question in the first place, but I got caught up in “Why the shape?” instead of “Why go to the trouble and expense?”

    • For thousands of years barrels have been used to transport virtually everything that is used or consumed by humans, how can the time and effort required to create the shape of these barrels be justified?

      • Um…because we get to drink wine? 🙂 Two things: remember that thesis statements have to be statements, not questions. Readers don’t like being asked to think (some of them, anyway) – they’re looking to you, professor, for information. Second, how can we controversy this up? Where will you be making the judgement call a thesis/essay needs?

        Also, now that you’ve mentioned the 1000s of years thing, I’m automatically thinking of all the other things we’ve transported along with the barrels: animals, human chattel, gold – could we ask some more questions about the nature of commodity? Of trade? Of human tradition (i.e. everything else changes, why don’t barrels? What makes them so great? So useful? So necessary? And what does that say about us as a culture?).

        Keep this exploratory – I love that – but let’s shift toward some deeper questions. Wanna chat sometime?

  10. How does the Venezuelan government react to free speech in the XXI Century?
    What should be done about the violations of free speech in this country? (policy)
    What does the free speech mean to citizens in this country and how does the government react? (relationship)
    What do you think we should do about it? As this is a matter of constitutional principles I think what should be done is that the Congress react and step up to respect the civil rights in this country.

    • How does the Venezuelan government react to free speech in the XXI Century? Venezuelan government bans free speech when it is not convenient for their interests.
      Many journalists and human rights groups have made complaints and comments about this problem in Venezuela.
      What I read in the sources is that being a journalist is very risky and hard in Venezuela, even the bigger TV stations are fined and conditioned to continue working.
      I know see that in the US our constitutional rights are respected fully and we have our freedoms respected while in Venezuela, as other Hispanic countries, if you are not government friendly you are banned.
      Now I understand how Venezuelan citizens long for peace and being able to express what they think to live in a free country.

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