From Inquiry to S.O.F.T. (MW)

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.


78 thoughts on “From Inquiry to S.O.F.T. (MW)

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

      • There is a strong relationship between piracy and a closer community between musicians and fans. (relationship)

        In the debate over music piracy, I’m persuaded that the most important thing to do is to encourage it, as it will weaken the hold of the record companies’ influence on artistic image.(policy)

      • I like how you are holding your thumb to the pulse of the controversy here, Derek. I’m just wondering if your policy thesis is suggesting that fans break laws. If so, you might have to qualify that a little bit or see if there’s such a thing as conscientiously objecting or going directly through artists to avoid the illegal stuff. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts (esp. since I don’t know my way around the legal ramifications of piracy that well!).

      • Based on the debate over what to do to help children who have been effected by domestic violence, I am convinced that ______________ is the best way to help them.
        Based on studies into how to help children recover from the effects of domestic violence, I am persuaded that _____________is the most effect method.
        Based on the evidence that domestic violence often leads to more violence in the children who are exposed to it, I am convinced that _______________ needs to be done.

      • Great work, Kay! See how each incarnation of your working thesis statement can lead to a different focus when you return to the research? Choosing one almost makes it easier to know which sources will be the best to help you come to a viable solution that works for you!

  2. What should be done if the CIA was found guilty of killing JFK today? (Policy)
    How does the connection with the CIA and Kennedy play with his assassination? (Relationship)

      • Based on my research, the assumption that the CIA killed Kennedy for revenge appears to be true and something should be done to create a better system for inadequate government officials.

      • Getting better and better, Dawson! Now you just have to figure out two things: what exactly should be done AND when/how/why is it appropriate to make these changes now. Like we discussed, be looking for/thinking of relevant reasons why something happened 50 years ago should be grounds for making change now. Compelling argument if you can make it!

    • My point: Christianity encourages child abuse. (Is it really okay for it to be as simple as this? I don’t think it will make the quality of my paper suffer, but it seems a little too obvious…)

      • Based on my research, religions based off the bible need to change their practices and interpretations of scripture in order to quell the abuse it encourages towards children’s emotional, mental, and sexual health.

      • Yeah, yeah! This is a great example of what can happen when our points get more specific. Your point in the second part of the exercise was (you were right) way too simple and in fact, way too dangerous in the sense that the argument would be highly damaging in it’s un-provability (dangerous because it would make you look narrow and damaging because it’s almost slanderous in it’s generality). But yes – the working thesis works because it opens up a discussion and offers solutions, rather than making a (somewhat rogue) claim. Very nice.

    • Exploring the realities of pursuing a career in fine arts in today’s economy, mainly in the Portland area. If the economy attributes to a decline in the artistic community, independent artists will face more difficulty in achieving a stable income.
      (Basically, find out if the proverbial “starving artist” is a self fulfilling prophecy, or just a bubble of doubt waiting to be popped.)

      • There is a strong relationship between the economy and the success of the local art community because the very survival of an independent artist depends on a customers willingness to spend money.

      • I like where this is going, Marina. In a short amount of time you’ve moved beyond fact and into an exploration of how independent artists and the community are connected. As such, part of your draft may involve discussing the value of artists to a community as you explore (speculate? make a case for?) their interconnectedness. Yay!

  3. This is Shannon Porter’s Inquiry Question:

    How does religion play a role in women staying in abusive relationships?

    This is a question of value. Can be a relationship question as well.

      • As I read these two “points” I’m liking both of them. Your original “point” is great because it is really a thesis of policy, right? It’s specific and it outlines a plan of action. The working thesis, on the other hand, gives you a little more room to explore the topic (as opposed to argue for policy) and is definitely more controversial. I’m so interested to see where this heads!

    • H.P. Lovecraft’s work was all about his preservation of class and culture of what he believed to be the proper “Yankee Stock.” The decay of buildings and dissolution of society in his stories where in my opinion more horrifying to Lovecraft than any boogieman he ever wrote about.

      • Yes! Feeling ready to start writing? As you go, don’t feel that you need to stick with the thesis template for your point. You can be a little more expansive if you wish. After all, that’s what literary studies folks do 🙂

  4. Hallah Skora
    English 102 MW
    Inquiry question
    Would a change in the zero tolerance policy in regard to opiates in the United States benefit this country in terms of reduced crime, lowered unemployment rates, reduced overdose related deaths, and minimization of the spread of injection drug use related diseases; and would the viewing of addiction as a mental disorder that should be treated medically, rather than punished legally help in the achievement of these goals?

    • Our system in America for battling addiction is severely flawed, opiate dependency often begins in the medical field and it should be treated as a medical condition rather than a criminal one.

      • My purpose for this paper is to inform people of the various ways in which opiate dependency is being successfully contained in other countries and to convince people that a change of our policy is necessary if we are to successfully reduce addiction, disease, and crime in America.

      • The pattern in successful foreign policies that reduce the effect of opiate dependents on society that is most significant to changing America’s policies is the the prevalence of tolerance and medical treatment to combat addiction, disease, and crime.

        In the debate over changing American policies to accept opiate dependency as a disease instead of a criminal pass-time, I am persuaded that education, tolerance, acceptance, and medical aid are the most important practices to encourage in order to reduce the spread of addiction, disease, and crime.

        Based on studies and programs carried out in various countries around the world, the evidence shows that it is more effective to promote safe drug-using practices and offer medical assistance to combat addiction instead of prosecuting drug users and supporting an environment of suspicion and intolerance, in the attempt to slow the proliferation of opiate dependency, the spread of disease, and the perpetuation of drug related crimes.

      • Great sophistication here. I say “sophistication” because what I think you’re doing here is more intentional that just having a lot to write about in one paper. I really like the first two thesis attempts here and I think that you might be able to get away with tackling something this expansive. You’ll find out when you draft. If it’s too much, we can always trim. Good work!

  5. Chanel Perez-

    Inquiry Question: How much privacy does the public have with modern day technology?

    (Policy question) What can the public do to secure their person information so that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands?

      • Thesis statement: The public is unconsciously aware of how much personal information they themselves release in to the internet via social media sites, apps, etc.

        Thesis statement: The public people are allowing themselves to become victims with modern day technology.

      • Good start, Chanel! I’d say the working thesis statements you have here might be begging to have the “so what” question we discussed in class today answered. While I image your draft will discuss the ramifications/effects of releasing so much information into the world, will you suggest something for us to do about it? Will you suggest broader policy? Will you imagine what effects this will have on culture – national, regional, global? Will you meditate on whether or not this is actually a bad thing? Over the next couple of days, as you begin to draft, let that “so what” question marinate in the back of your brain. It might be the extra kick you’re looking for!

    • 2. There are distinct differences in design (web design included) in what appeals to men and what appeals to women. My purpose for this paper is a personal one: if I plan on going on to a career involved in designing web pages, in a overwhelmingly male dominated world, my femininity can have a negative impact. If I can be aware of the differences, I can consciously design for mass appeal (or specified appeal, if necessary).

      Alyssa Galvan

    • (relationship) There is a strong relationship between a web designer’s gender and the audience who finds it appealing.
      (policy) Web designers should be aware of the differences between designing for men versus designing for women in order to create more mass appeal.
      (value) Based on recent studies regarding web design, the evidence suggests that there are major differences between what is appealing to specific gendered viewers.

      • Oh my my, Alyssa! I think it’s time we take this baby one step further. I have lots of questions for you – beginning with this: do you think we’re reinforcing gender stereotypes through design? Why do you think that different genders (as opposed to sexes?) find different things appealing? Is it because of socialization? Are there populations that could potentially be isolated if we only consider two genders? Is it up to designers to radicalize how we think about gender divisions? You get the picture: you could really open this up if you start questioning how this appeal is created in the first place and thinking about the power that artists/designers/marketers have in reinforcing gender roles (that may not serve us as a culture?). What do you think? Feel like digging into cultural assumptions? Possible?

      • I’m rethinking my suggestion of using the word “them” 🙂 We’ll get that ironed out as drafting happens, don’t you worry. I really like where this is going, Alex, because you’re holding on to your original ideas, interest, and passions and exploring a topic that may just cause us to look a little differently at the world. And who can’t use that every once in a while?

      • In the debate over marijuana legalization, I’m persuaded that the most important thing to do is decriminalize/legalize marijuana rather than treat it as a criminal issue. (policy)

        Based on recent research, the evidence strongly suggests that treating drug addiction as a medical issue is more effective than treating it as a criminal issue. (Value — different topic kind of..)

      • Ah-ha! Jake! I can see you’ve been talking with Hallah. Good stuff. I’m leaning toward your second thesis attempt because, like I said before, the legalization/decriminalization thing still seems way too big – too sprawling, too overdone, too convoluted. The second one seems more manageable in a 10-page essay. I’ll be interested to hear what you’re now thinking in our meeting tomorrow (is it tomorrow or Wednesday at 12? I’ll email you…).

  6. My current inquiry question is: What leads to harassment in online games, and what can players and moderators do to improve a negative game community? (My focus is on the Policy, but this is also a Relationship question currently)

    • What’s my point?

      Online Harassment is clearly a problem and I feel that it should not be tolerated. The question I hope to answer remains what can players and moderators do to stop harassment in the online games we play?

      • Policy: In the debate over how to fight harassment in online games, I’m persuaded that the most important action is not to ignore or blindly punish harassment, but carefully moderate and report the behavior.

        Relationship: There is a strong relationship between toleration of harassment and the amount of toxic behavior in an online game community.

      • Hey Cody – yeah, I think you’re in that situation where your relationship question and relationship thesis are both begging the “so what” question we talked about today in class. The policy ones seem a little more sure of themselves – as if you already feel strongly about the solution and are just holding back in the relationship questions. Sometimes, when we argue for something, we need to explain the relationship (the correlation, the situation) and then we need to pipe up and say what should be done. That’s a fine, reasonable route to take. It’s argumentative more than exploratory, right? Good work here!

  7. How do I break the cycle of teenage pregnancy? ( Policy question) My Reason: In the hopes of breaking the cycle with in my home with my children. (Relationship question)

    • What’s my point

      Teenagers are already struggling with issues at home. As well as society as a whole. So what can I do as parents to get through to my kids? So I as parent could have a good relationship with my kids. As well as help my kids deal with things like bad influences, peer pressuring, the need to feel like they belonged, being exposed to bad role models on televisions. So my children could make healthy choices and break the cycle of teen pregnancy. which has been occurring with in my family for the past four generations.

      • In the debate over breaking the cycle of teen pregnancy, I’m persuaded that the most important thing to do is communicate with your child.

      • Yes! That template is really helping you focus, Christina. Now that you know that’s the direction you’re taking, you can (recursively) head back into the research to find studies and opinions that support your point and your experience. Nice work.

      • Oh yea! Like we discussed, go back and research that darn bill and see what dirt you can dig up. You might change your mind here, and that’s okay, but I really like to see this kind of focus – it gives you something to work toward both in the research and in the drafting. Even if you go on tangents and digress in the draft, you have made this once decision that will help you get it sorted out.

        As T.S. Eliot writes in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,

        Do I dare
        Disturb the universe?
        In a minute there is time
        For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

        Right on.

    • Yes, Milad! We’re getting closer and closer. I’d be interested to see the rest of this in-class assignment – your “point” after exercise 4.1 (the discussion) and your working thesis statements. You may have posted those to your blog instead of here – I’ll keep an eye out for that as I read blog 4 and your library blog. Always remember to follow the directions of the assignment as written in the instructions. They won’t steer you wrong!

  8. Hello Lindsey,
    This is Andrea Brevik, my topic is on the affects of media on men. I have a bunch of research, evidence and article I have collected, I am still undecided on how my inquiry question and I will form the research paper. I believe my inquiry topic could be;
    #1; An interpretation question: This is the evidence I have collected and A, B, and C support it, therefore I believe that sexualized violence in the media is causing more sexual abuse. (example)
    #2; Hypothesis question; Because A,B, and C are on the rise, and evidence A, B and C prove that the sexualization of women on TV are causing more rape of women than in the past.
    #3 Question of Value; Is the media s portrayal of men making our society worse or better?
    #4;Relationship Question; How is the media affecting men in America, and how does it affect children and women and “sissy” men?

    • Well having just done some chatting with Alyssa, I believe I just figured it out: My inquiry question is leading/lending its self to becoming a value or relationship question.
      #1; A cause: Sexaulized, objectification and the violence played along with it by the media to support the sale of it’s products, has affected men, who by means of institutional privilege and power control the media, is detrimental to the very people who make it. Men are taught that sexualized violence is normal, okay and potentially “cool.”
      #2; Relationship; cause/effect: The stereotypical roles portrayed by men are dichotomizing men into sissy’s or tough guys, creating dominance over sissy men, women and children. In many incidences from sexual abuse to domestic violence, little boys are learning gender roles through the media, which are unhealthy, unachievable, and above all, fake. Chuck Norris. LOL!!!

      • Turning my inquiry questions into thesis statements;
        Cause Template:
        Based on men’s increasingly violent and sexualized criminal behavior, the evidence strongly suggests that media plays a higher dominance in shaping boys into men, then reality
        Relationship Template:There is a strong relationship between sexual assault and violence against women and the medias sexualized objectification of women.
        -but that’s about how it affects women…try again
        Template: There is a strong relationship between men and their stereotypical hero portrayal by the media and the rise of sexualized violence against women.
        that’s better….,but I could /can get it even more concise….So, for now, I am going with a relationship working thesis, though I still like to research, so as I discover more on how men are affected-things I haven’t heard, or things I thought I would be using, but either found more recent info which debunks the info I have or if I find something so fantastically in need of discussion, that I have to say it.
        Another relationship template: There is a strong correlation between the media and the average man’s self-perception and the goal of media and its affiliates, which is to make money.

      • What I love about this post is the transparency in thought – I think it’s important to see a record of how thinking can change based on conversation, self-criticism, and good old reasoning. Nice work. As you know, self-perception and sexualized violence are to different points – to different papers – in the way you have them written here. So…either combine or choose. And while you recursively do that, here’s a tidbit from our favorite Chuck:

        “Men are like steel. When they lose their temper, they lose their worth.”

        There ya have it.

  9. Muslim Brotherhood were dictatorship. People are angre at them so they shoudn’t lead Egypt. They shoud have been outide of the governments and have Egypt as a free country

    • Oh! Here it is. Good start with this thesis. The last sentence, especially, is the actual working thesis here. I’m wondering, though, is there something we can do to bring this argument into the present? What’s going on with the Muslim Brotherhood now that Morsi has been ousted? Is there something they should currently do to ensure that Egypt ends up a free country as opposed to a dictatorship?

      Also, don’t feel that you have to take these suggestions. I also think the compare/contrast essay we discussed today would be useful, too: to explore the differences between the Brotherhood in 2011 and 2013. Once you get that down, you could go on to make some policy statements, you know? Good focusing…

    • Anything that we eat or drink does affect our body, good or bad. But by drinking tea, our body will either continue benefiting from its taste/ingredients, or our bodies will become used to its rewards and be immune to it all.

      • Thesis for Questions: Based off from what I asked, I believe that tea is a wonderful beverage that one can benefit from. Either physically, spiritually, or mentally.

      • Thanks, Joann. I’m curious: what do you mean by “based on what I’ve asked?” Do you mean asked in the inquiry question or asked a living source? Like a few of your colleagues, I think this argument is begging the “so what” question. So…should we drink it more? Import it? (do we grow “tea” ingredients in the U.S. and if not, what trade laws affect it – have you looked into tea growing labor practices?). Support certain growers over others? Let’s make this a little more controversial….what’s so hotly contested about tea (get it? hotly? tea? that’s punny…). Good start – let me know if you need to chat to further these ideas.

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