A Variety of Descriptive Formats
Recognizing Structure: An AnalogyTo a casual observer, a tennis match consists of one person serving the ball, another returning it .over and over again. To someone who sees no structure, the game is simply a series of disconnected events. To someone who understands a tennis game, play is divided into games, games into sets, and sets into matches. The game has a structure. We make sense of the game as a whole by understanding each action within the overall structure of the match as a whole. Winning a point, for instance, has different implications at different parts of the game. Winning a point may be a minor occurrence early in the game, or match point at the end of the game.
Just as a tennis match involves more than exchanging serves, a text consists of more than simply a series of assertions. The notion of discussion, itself, suggests a starting point and a journey to other ideas. Let's say an essay starts:
We hold this truth to be self-evident, that all people are created equal.Where could the discussion go from here?
Different authors will choose to follow different lines of argument and different paths for the discussion to different conclusions. To fully understand the discussion as a whole, to understand the remarks within the context and in relationship to each other, we must be aware of the direction the discussion takes.
Whatever a text may say, however a text may be
organized, readers assume that the material upon the page is the realization of
a plan. If a text is well written, there is a logical structure to the
argument. There is a clear beginning and end, a clear starting point on which
reader and writer can agree, and a clear conclusion developed and supported by
the earlier material. There is a clear intent and purpose to the remarks and
the overall organization. We know where the author is going, and can watch as
the text progresses to a seemingly inevitable conclusion.
A Variety Of Descriptive FormatsWhat a text "does" can be described in a variety of ways. Different models and terminologies view the structure of texts differently. Some models overlap one another, and aspects of a variety of models can be brought to bear to capture insights about any single text.
Here we look at five models.
All of these models have a common purpose: to describe the flow of discussion and/or
indicate how arguments are advanced. In practice, you should draw on as many
models as you can to describe the structure of a presentation.
NOTE: We should note one additional factor. We can often describe one remark in a variety of ways. Just as a person may, at the same time, be a son, father, and brother to different people, or a politician may hold views to the right of one politician and to the left of another politician, so a single sentence can be described in a variety of ways.
A sentence may be a reason, an explanation, or a description in relationship
to different remarks. This is one reason for having a number of descriptive
models. To truly describe something we often have to describe if from a variety
of perspectives and in a variety of different relationships to other things.
A SOLUTION is a mixture of two or more substances dispersed as molecules, atoms or ions rather than as larger aggregates. If we mix sand and water, the sand grains are dispersed in the water; since the grains are much larger than molecules, we call this mixture a suspension, not a solution. After a while, the sand will settle to the bottom by gravity. Imagine doing this experiment with finer and finer grains. When the grains are small enough, they will not sink to the bottom, not matter how long you wait. We now have a colloidal dispersion. Though we cannot see the individual grains, the mixture appears cloudy in a strong beam of light (Tyndall effect). If, however, we stir sugar with water, the grains disappear and the result is a liquid that does not scatter light any more than water itself. This is a true solution, with individual sugar molecules dispersed among the water molecules.What have we here?
A SOLUTION is a mixture of two or more substances dispersed as molecules, atoms or ions rather than as larger aggregates.The passage opens with a definition of solution. Note that a solution is not simply a mixture of
two or more substances
two or more substances dispersed as molecules, atoms or ionsWe must note the complete noun phrase.
The passage continues:
If we mix sand and water,We recognize the beginning of a hypothetical experiment, presumably as part of an explanation
the sand grains are dispersed in the water;further description of experiment.
since the grains are much larger than molecules,reason
we call this mixture a suspension, not a solution.An alternative situation and alternative definition of a suspension
After a while, the sand will settle to the bottom by gravity.continuing description of hypothetical experiment
Imagine doing this experiment with finer and finer grains.continuing description of hypothetical experiment
When the grains are small enough, they will not sink to the bottom, not matter how long you wait.same experiment, different size particles.
We now have a colloidal dispersion.and third definition: colloidal dispersion.
Though we cannot see the individual grains, the mixture appears cloudy in a strong beam of light (Tyndall effect).further description of colloidal dispersion.
If, however, we stir sugar with water,additional change in experiment
the grains disappear and the result is a liquid that does not scatter light any more than water itself. This is a true solution, with individual sugar molecules dispersed among the water molecules.
final explication of a solution, emphasizing the size of the dispersed material as molecules.
A critical, self-aware reader thus reads on two dimensions: both what the text
says and what it does. Indeed, each feeds the other recognition. Each is
impossible without the other.
To make a case a writer must construct an argument, piece together examples and illustrations and justifications and explanations and conclusions. It's not only what we say, it's also what we do. As we've seen above, many ideas are conveyed not by stating them so much as by the reader inferring them from the relationships of ideas within the discussion.
When we know exactly what we want to say, we simply go out and say it. Other times, we have to assemble our evidence and our thoughts. We weigh which remarks should come first, and what additional evidence and arguments are essential to our conclusion. However we start, after some initial writing all writers must become readers. We must realize not only what we have said, but what we have done. And we must evaluate how what we have done will get us where we want to go. What additional ingredients are required? What other aspects must be considered? What misunderstandings must be prevented? This process is facilitated by two concepts: the notion of structure, and the notion of doing as well as saying.
The models for describing texts suggest other ways of outlining a text. We can outline not only shifts in topic, but also shifts in tactics, as when we shift from introduction to explanation to argument as with the rhetorical model. We can outline in terms of tactics of enticing, addressing, and convincing the reader as with the role model. We can outline in terms of similarities, differences, and logical implications as with the relationships model. And we can mix the various models.
Finally, we can outline not only from beginning to end, but also in terms of patterns running throughout a text. We can outline the various viewpoints to be evaluated or the various participants to be discussed to make sure we hit all the required bases throughout the discussion.
The better the writing, the more the sentences clearly follow from, and lead,
to one another. Writers can lead their reader and assure their own structure by
making sure to include transition and relationship words. A sign of poorer
writing is independent, disconnected thoughtsand with that assertions
that are not supported by details, reasons or examples.
Descriptive Formats: Ways to Describe a Discussion