Practicing the Sandwich Method

Practicing the Sandwich Method

Use what you have learned about claims and evidence and the “sandwich method” to complete this assignment.Using all the resources of this module, write a strong, detailed claim about the needs of a particular group of college students.
Then, using Google Scholar find and cite (MLA or APA) one source that supports your claim in a significant way.
Write one or two body paragraphs for the claim, using at least two pieces of evidence from your source. As you write, use the “sandwich method” to:
•introduce and give context to the evidence,
•paraphrase or quote the evidence, relate the evidence back to the overall claim, explaining its connection.
Formatting Guidelines:
•Font should be 12 point Calibri, Times New Roman, or Arial
•Text should be single-spaced with 0 points before and after lines
•Margins should be set at one inch
•Name, Course, Instructor, and Assignment should appear in the top left corner.
•A title should be centered and bolded at the top of the paper.

 

 

 

Practicing the Sandwich Method

Use what you have learned about claims and evidence and the “sandwich method” to complete this assignment.

Using all the resources of this module, write a strong, detailed claim about the needs of a particular group of college students.

Then, using Google Scholar find and cite (MLA or APA) one source that supports your claim in a significant way.

Write one or two body paragraphs for the claim, using at least two pieces of evidence from your source. As you write, use the “sandwich method” to:

  • introduce and give context to the evidence,
  • paraphrase or quote the evidence, relate the evidence back to the overall claim, explaining its connection.

Formatting Guidelines:

  • Font should be 12 point Calibri, Times New Roman, or Arial
  • Text should be single-spaced with 0 points before and after lines
  • Margins should be set at one inch
  • Name, Course, Instructor, and Assignment should appear in the top left corner.
  • A title should be centered and bolded at the top of the paper.

 

 

Staking Your Claim

Ben has been working on an essay about linguistic changes from Old French to Modern French. He thinks he has a strong thesis: that Old French and Modern French share some of the same linguistic traits. However, when he submits an early draft to his professor, she returns it with the note “weak claim.” Ben is baffled. The class learned from the professor that the two languages share some of the same linguistic traits. Where did he go wrong?

Notice that Ben’s claim is correct—it’s just not strong. Sometimes called a thesis statement, the main claim you make in your essay will affect how you approach almost every aspect of your research and writing process. Before you get too far, it’s important to make sure you’re working with a strong claim.

 

What’s the difference between a weak claim and a strong claim? A weak claim is too broad, too subjective, or is based on common knowledge. Ben’s proposed claim is weak because everyone in the class already agrees with it and knows about the subject. It is unlikely that a paper written about this topic would present any new information to his audience. He would also find it difficult to build an argument and support that argument because he will not be able to find sources that present  opposing viewpoints or introduce any complicating factors. Simply put, Ben’s claim would lead to something more like an encyclopedia article in which a topic is explained but no claim is made rather than a research paper in which a claim is made and evidence is used to support it.

 

In contrast, a strong claim is narrow enough that all of the relevant points you would need to make to support that claim can fit within the page length and schedule parameters of the assignment. It is not subjective, which means that it is not simply your opinion about a particular topic. You can find both primary and secondary resources that support your claim. It is not based on common knowledge. Not everyone in your audience will know enough about your field of research in order to draw the same conclusions you make. Instead, your essay will present new ideas that can inform your audience and change the way they think about a particular subject.

You might choose to leave your claim broad at the very beginning of your research process, but you should aim to revise it early in the process. This is a good option because you can modify your claim as you go depending on the evidence that you find. In fact, the process of creating a claim might go something like this:

 

  • Ask questions. Start by asking yourself what you already know about a topic and what you would like to find out about the topic. This can lead to a research question.

A research question is a question that will guide you as you research. It sets general parameters for your project. Ben’s interest in the development of Modern French might lead him to ask about when, how, and why a particular construction or general convention was introduced into the language.

 

  • Construct a hypothesis. What are some possible answers to your research question? Remember, you are proposing these answers before you have completed your research, so your hypothesis does not need to be correct. This is simply a way for you to start thinking about the possible claims your paper might make. Again, this is about setting parameters. Constructing one or several hypotheses can help you decide which types of sources you are looking for.

 

  • Narrow the topic based on what you find as you research. If you have chosen good sources, you will be learning things about your topic that you did not already know. This new information can help you better define your own area of interest and thesis claim.

 

By learning about some components of strong and weak claims, you’ll be able to construct one that helps to serve your essay best, leaving your readers certain of your expertise and position.

 

Strong Claims

Like Ben, many writers early in their college careers create descriptive claims, rather than argumentative claims. Ben’s thesis states a fact that he learned in class—not a position he’s going to argue. Think of your essay as a place where you are convincing the reader to believe what you’re telling her, not a place where you’re just telling her about a topic

 

In addition, good theses are specific. Notice that in Ben’s original claim, he uses the word “some.” This signals to readers that the following essay probably won’t be focused enough to be convincing. One word that signals both argumentation and description is “because.” If Ben’s thesis claimed that the two languages shared linguistic roots because of a particular reason (which experts do, or could, debate), the statement would be much stronger

.

Just because the claim is argumentative, though, doesn’t mean that you should ignore facts that support counterclaims. In fact, acknowledging counterclaims and even incorporating aspects of them into your own argument can strengthen your essay. Even when you do present multiple sides of an issue, having a strong claim that you support with evidence will help your readers make connections between your thesis statement and your supporting evidence.

 

Weak Claims

As we’ve seen, strong claims are:

  • Argumentative (not simply descriptive, and not based on opinion or common knowledge)
  • Specific
  • Supported by the entire essay

On the other hand, weaker claims tend to be:

  • Descriptive or too subjective
  • Vague
  • Unrelated to major portions of the essay

 

 

A strong claim can be supported with evidence. If you’re not sure whether yours could be, challenge yourself to name three reliable sources you could consult to back up your claim and three reliable sources that offer counterclaims. Would it be necessary to narrow your claim to do so? If yes, then you could make your claim less opinion/description-based and more evidence-based.

Reasoning isn’t the same as evidence: “Hitler was bad because he committed genocide” isn’t nearly as strong a claim as

“Hitler’s genocide paved the way for numerous atrocities of the twentieth century because they used methods and techniques developed by the Third Reich.” To back up the second statement, we could research what those methods and techniques were, and how Hitler and later dictators used them. On the other hand, his first statement is self-evident and not possible to argue against. Look out for adjective use (descriptive terms) in your claims—their presence indicates that your claim may be more opinion- than evidence-based.

Incorporating Claims

Once you’ve written your main claim, or thesis statement, you’ll want to look at the evidence you’ve found to support that claim. Organizing that evidence will help you envision the different paragraphs into which you might divide your paper.

Note that even though each of your paragraphs will have a topic sentence relating to the main claim of the paper, these sentences won’t be as argumentative as the main claim. Instead, they’ll be statements summarizing the evidence that shows one part of your claim is valid.

 

Claims and Evidence

Looking for Clues Adanna skimmed through several primary and secondary sources before writing her main claim, or thesis argument, for her upcoming essay on the Supreme Court’s role in closing the wage gap between genders. Now that she has her thesis (

The Supreme Court must act more aggressively to close the wage gap by agreeing to hear more cases concerning the issue and passing down strong decisions that make it clear that they support equal pay), she’s ready to back up her argument with evidence.

Evidence is information that supports your thesis. Writers use many different kinds of evidence to create their arguments.

In fact, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself as you research is “What argument does the evidence itself suggest?” By approaching both researching and writing as a process, you can use the evidence you find in primary and secondary sources to help you create and modify your main claim. This will make the writing process easier in the long run because you won’t find yourself trying to support a claim that does not align with what you have found in your research.

Strong Evidence

Strong evidence is information that clearly supports your argument. Your argument, in turn, should be a response both to what you’ve found while conducting research and to the assignment prompt. The kinds of evidence that you use will depend heavily on the nature of your assignment and course. For example:

  • The professor may have assigned a topic that she wishes you to add nuance to your argument. An example of this type of assignment prompt is one that asks you to consider the role of female characters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The prompt gives you a broad topic, and you are expected to make a much narrower claim based on this topic.
  • The professor may not have assigned a topic, but she expects you to reference three books as evidence. However, since the course is a European History course, you know your topic should somehow relate to this subject.
  • The professor has provided a list of topics that work with the assigned reading, but she encourages you to create your own topic and consult additional sources. This can provide you with a general concept of what types of topics and claims the professor is looking for, but you are left to create your own claim within the assignment parameters.

All three scenarios would require relying on different evidence. In the first case, your field of research is limited to a specific area of focus, while the second allows for the widest range of possible topics and sources, and the third provides some flexibility in both sources and topics.

Be aware of conventions in the field. For example, a biography might not be the best evidence for a research paper in a science class, while statistics might not be the best evidence for an artist’s statement in an art class. If you are uncertain about the appropriateness of a particular type of evidence, ask your instructor if it’s considered relevant in the subject. You can also look at other essays that have been written about similar topics and see what types of sources those writers included.

Generally, returning to your assigned readings can also provide you with a strong idea of what types of evidence your professor expects to see in your papers.

As you identify your evidence, make sure that you fully understand the information you have collected. Keep in mind things like context, genre, and the purpose for which the source was originally written. All of these can give you clues about how to best understand and use evidence from the source to support your own claim.

Be careful not to come to a source with strong expectations about what you will find. If you do this, you are likely to focus only on sections of the text that support your ideas and disregard equally important information that does not fit with your expectations. Writers are most likely to do this when they refuse to think of their main claim as a work in progress. If you hold too strongly to your main claim during the research process, you might find yourself in a tricky situation later on when you revisit your sources and realize you cannot find strong evidence to support your claim. Continually ask yourself: Does my claim match the evidence? If it does not, adapt your writing according to the evidence, not the claim.

Organizing your evidence as you read and investigate can also help you organize your paper later. Remember the double-entry journal technique? That is a good way to both identify specific evidence you may want to include in your essay and make notes about how that evidence supports, challenges, or changes your claim.

 

Claims and Evidence

Weak Evidence

As we’ve seen, strong evidence:

  • is appropriate to the assignment,
  • adheres to the standards of the field, and always acts in service of your claim, even if you are initially using it to explain a counterclaim.

 

In contrast, weak evidence doesn’t do those things. Even if you have a paragraph that you love, if it doesn’t make a point that supports your main claim, that’s not strong evidence. During the revision process, you can use a reverse outline to help you identify sections containing weak evidence.

 

There is an important distinction to make between evidence and reasoning. Reasoning (e.g., “The Supreme Court is supposed to help all people”) can help you find evidence, but it is not in itself evidence. A good way to identify reasoning is to ask what the source of the statement is. If it’s your opinion, tradition, someone else’s opinion (a non-expert or someone unrelated to the claim), or if it’s just a statement that seems obvious or correct, the statement is not evidence.

Incorporating Evidence

Distinguishing evidence from claims and reasoning is of vital importance as you write. With each piece of evidence you present, you should point out to your reader why this evidence is significant and what it shows in terms of your main claim.

Without these links to your claim, potential evidence is simply data or information. In other words, the information you collect during research only becomes evidence when you effectively incorporate it into your argument. Think of the way evidence is used in a courtroom. It’s never presented as simply a neutral occurrence or object. Instead, it is used in a context as one side or the other brings evidence forth to prove a point. The same should be true of evidence in your essay.

Turning Information into Evidence

Consider the following paragraph.

Plague outbreaks in Europe during the Middle Ages helped to shape many modern personal hygiene practices and taboos in American society today. Some historians think the plague killed one-third of the entire population of Europe, and others estimate that the death toll was even higher. Tamar Bennington writes, “Many of the hygiene practices we take for granted today were developed during and shortly after the plague outbreaks.” Alfred Knickerbocker says that 98% of Americans brush their teeth at least twice a day, and 38% brush their teeth three or more times a day.

Does anything about the structure of the above paragraph stand out to you? Does it include strong evidence to support the main claim, which is expressed in the first sentence? Many readers might find this paragraph jarring. It is not completely clear how one piece of information connects to the next, or how each of these statements works to support the overall claim of the paragraph. The content of each statement seems like it could be relevant to the topic, but they are given no context within the paragraph or within the overall thesis of the essay. That means that these statements provide information but are not being used successfully as evidence. In order to turn this information into evidence, it must be incorporated into the paragraph.

When information is not effectively contextualized, readers are left to fend for themselves. It’s possible that they will draw the conclusions you mean for them to draw, but it’s also possible that they will either miss the link between the claim and the information or will misinterpret the link. For these reasons, relying on readers to interpret information on their own is rarely

a good way to build a strong case for a thesis. It is your job as the writer to help the reader understand how each statement fits into the overall topic of the essay. To do this, you have to make explicit, or easy-to-follow, connections between the different pieces of information and between the information and the claim it is meant to support. Voila! You just turned information into evidence.

 

Make a Sandwich!

Figuring out how to best incorporate information into your essay and effectively use it as evidence takes practice. There is, however, a technique you can use to help you get into the habit of successfully integrating evidence into your essay. You make an information sandwich.

 

Claims and Evidence

 

An information sandwich consists of three parts:

  1. An introduction to the piece of information: This often incudes an acknowledgement of the source of the information and might mention some of the most relevant credentials of the source’s author or authors.
  2. The information itself: This could be a direct quote, a paraphrase, or a summary.
  3. A follow-up: This should make explicit connections between other pieces of evidence and/or the main claim of the essay.

Here’s how that might look using the example paragraph above. Introductions and follow-ups have been italicized. Notice how much more clearly one idea flows into the next.

Plague outbreaks in Europe during the Middle Ages helped to shape many modern personal hygiene practices and taboos in American society today.

The social, cultural, and financial toll of the plague was staggering, even catastrophic, by any standards.

Some historians think the plague killed one-third of the entire population of Europe, and others estimate that the death toll was even higher.

Fear of catching the disease, along with common beliefs about how diseases were passed from one person to another, caused European societies to rapidly and drastically change the way they approached personal and social hygiene practices.

Tamar Bennington, a historian of the plague and author of the essay “What’s That Smell? The

Development of Modern Hygiene” writes

, “Many of the hygiene practices we take for granted today were developed during and shortly after the plague outbreaks.” Bennington considers several widely accepted hygiene practices in America and concludes that many of these are informed by medieval social anxieties resulting from plague outbreaks. In fact, some of the practices we consider necessary for the maintenance of good health do not actually have any significant health benefits.

On the other hand, some technologies and practices may have originated out of fear, but were later recognized as essential to maintaining good health, though the degree to which even these practices are implemented can overreach their actual usefulness.

For example, Alfred Knickerbocker, an expert on American culture, says that 98% of Americans brush their teeth at least twice a day, and 38% brush their teeth three or more times a day.

The practice of brushing your teeth as we think of it today actually evolved quite recently. However, social obsessions with practices like brushing your teeth have been prevalent since the days of the Black Death. Be creative with your introductions and follow-ups. You may notice that some of the introductions and follow-ups I included are fairly short, while others are several sentences long. Varying the way you incorporate evidence makes your writing more aesthetically pleasing. It also allows you to think more deeply about what kind of contextualization a piece of evidence actually requires in order to be effective. Some types of evidence will be more naturally and obviously supportive of your claim; these require less contextualization. Other types of evidence will require you to do to more work to show your reader how and why they are relevant to your main claim.

 

Claims and Evidence

Can I Use This?

Figuring out what sources are appropriate to include in an academic essay can be tricky. Some sources seem credible, or reliable, but upon closer inspection, they are not. Other sources are considered credible for some types of essays but not credible for others. Learning to spot suspicious sources takes practice, as does learning to spot the best types of sources for your particular essay. There are a few basic questions you can ask yourself to help you weed out unusable sources.

  • Who is the target audience for this text? Generally speaking, you want to look for sources that were written for academic or professional audiences. These sources are most likely to be reliable because they are most likely to be written and edited by experts in the field.
  • Where or by whom was the text published?

Most books you will come across during your research were likely published by reputable companies. If, however, you do not recognize the name of the publisher, a quick internet search can probably give you a good idea of whether the publishing company is well established. Well-established publishing companies put their materials through intense editorial and fact-checking processes so you can rely on the information in the book.

Articles from academic and professional journals are credible sources for the same reason—these journals have editors and fact-checkers who make sure information contained in the journal is accurate and well researched.

Ask your instructor or a librarian for help identifying journals that are appropriate to your topic.

Online sources are trickier to evaluate. Unless your instructor has told you otherwise, avoid material found on more informal platforms like blogs. Sources that are published on any wiki platform are also most likely not appropriate sources to include in academic essays. Material posted on blogs and wikis do not usually go through an editorial process. That means that no one has checked whether the information included in the post or article is accurate. However, sources on well-established academic, professional, and government websites are usually reliable. These have most likely gone through an editorial process.

Who wrote the text? Is the writer an expert in the field? This might require you to do a little digging. Conduct an internet search to look for institutions like schools, businesses, and government departments with which the author is associated. Also look for other publications by the author. Has he or she written about this topic or similar topics before? Were those texts published by reputable sources?

  • Does the text follow standard academic or professional conventions? Are there many spelling mistakes or typos?

Does the formatting look strange? These are signs that a text did not go through an editorial process.

  • Did the author conduct appropriate research? Does he or she include references? Just as you must back up your claims with proof from other sources, other academic and professional writers are expected to do this too. If substantial or important claims are not backed up with evidence, the text is likely not going to be considered credible enough to include in an academic essay.
  • Does it seem like the author is trying to make his or her sources say something they don’t actually say? Is there a noticeable agenda or bias driving the text? This is another way of evaluating whether an author followed acceptable standards of academic integrity. While it is often necessary to make an argument for one view or opinion over another, there should be significant evidence that the author carefully considered other viewpoints and opinions.

Digging Deeper

The above questions can help guide you through the evaluation process when you are looking at expository essays, like research and analytical essays. They are less helpful, however, when you are thinking about appropriate primary sources to use because these sources often do not come in formats that adhere to the guidelines mentioned above. Consider, for example, a statistical study of various languages used in America. This source will not offer a variety of viewpoints, but that does not disqualify it as a credible source. However, if the survey is published by an unknown person or group, or if it makes huge claims based on a very small sampling, it is likely not credible. Other types of sources can be even trickier to evaluate. What if you want to write about T.S. Eliot’s friendship with Gertrude Stein? You may decide that letters written by Eliot and Stein, along with letters authored by some of their friends, provide valuable information that you want to include in your essay. These letters may contain spelling errors, will likely show biases, and won’t include any references to other sources to support claims. These criteria do not align with the genre of the personal letter, so they cannot be used to evaluate a letter. However, some of the questions listed in the previous section do still apply. For example, if you find a letter sharing strong opinions about T.S. Eliot’s

 

Claims and Evidence personality but can find no evidence that the author of the letter personally knew Eliot, the source is not reliable. This person would not be considered an expert on Eliot’s personality. Evaluating sources requires a researcher to develop some detective skills. Sometimes you will need to verify that an author is a credible person to be writing on a particular subject. Other times, you may need to look up a publication to see if it seems legitimate. This requires you to do a little background research on your sources. It also requires you to make judgement calls. For example, if you are writing an essay critiquing the hiring practices of a large company, you may come across materials produced by their public relations team. That team is in charge of making sure that the company maintains a good public image. Because of this, the materials they provide are likely to be biased. However, this may not mean you can’t use any information they publish. They are experts on the company, but they also have a stake in how that company is represented. You will need to use your judgment to decide what information is and is not usable. Likewise, someone who worked for the company for twenty years and was recently fired could also be considered an expert on certain aspects of company policy and practice, but she is also likely biased against the company for letting her go. Again, you would need to use your judgment to decide if anything she has written, perhaps as part of an editorial in a national newspaper, can be included in your essay.

If you choose to include a potentially inappropriate source in your essay, don’t be surprised if you lose some points for practicing faulty research methods. If you have attempted to evaluate a source and are still not sure if it is considered credible, or appropriate to use in an essay, consult your instructor. Writing instructors understand that it can sometimes be difficult to decide if a source meets the standards necessary to be used in an academic essay. They know that it takes practice to develop the skills necessary for evaluating sources, and they are there to help you acquire and master these skills.

However, it is your job to use your instructor’s knowledge about research practices as a resource.

 

 

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