Three Steps to a Delicious Argument!
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of creating a cogent and effective argument is the incorporation of on-topic evidence that leads to relevant analysis. One way to address this problem is through the process of "sandwiching," literally placing evidence such as a direct quote or statistical data between sentences containing a claim and analysis:
The claim or argument statement can be simple or complex depending on what you want to prove and the evidence you have at your disposal. Let's take an example from a student paper on the expression of anger in Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club:
The Joy Luck Club only shows the reader examples of muted anger between generations raised exclusively in China; emotions are left hidden due to the pressures of society and remain unexpressed and "swallowed" like sorrow.
The next step, evidence, can be any sort of relevant material to support your claim such as quoted material from a text, statistical data from a study, personal interviews, field observations, or even pictures, movies, or sound. Evidence should always be imbedded in a sentence that serves to continue, in some way, the claim you have made and should never simply stand alone. Let's go back to our example to see how this might develop:
Chinese girls, at least those represented in the novel, were taught that they would be taken away by ghosts, especially if they were "strong willed girls who were disobedient" (Tan, 33).
Finally comes the hard part -- analysis. Simply put, you want to take time after each introduction of evidence to look more closely at the material and "unpack" it, meaning to look at the components of the material and relate that significance to your claim and, if applicable, the larger thesis of the paper. Also, analysis gives the paper writer a chance to ask further questions and transition into different subject matter relevant to making their argument:
In this way, the novel depicts Chinese women before immigration to the United States as held back from displaying angry, defiant emotion for fear it might be construed as "disobedient" 'to elders in the family or society. Yet, does this mean that Chinese girls could not feel anger at all or, for that matter, have other emotional responses toward anyone?
Now it's your turn to make a delicious sandwich! Take your thesis from the fairy tale thesis activity and turn it into the first layer in your sandwich by making it a simple claim (pick out a piece of the argument you want to prove and make it into a short sentence -- it is easier than it sounds). Then, use a specific example from the subject (whether it be film, TV show, or even fairy tale) and use that as your evidence. Note: this will not necessarily be a direct quote in this case, but more likely a paraphrase of an event you recall, etc. Lastly, take some time to connect the first two layers together in an analysis section. Let's take an example from the fairy tale thesis sheet on Jan Brady and complete the sandwich process:
Claim: Jan's lack of identity as a middle child is best reflected in her self-identification as an underachiever in comparison to her sister Marcia.
Evidence: Jan takes down and hides all of Marcia's trophies displayed on the dresser in the room they share because they remind her of her own lack of achievement.
Analysis: Indeed, Jan's fixation on the physical objects that serve to manifest Marcia's status as the "ideal" American girl show both her feeling of inferiority over a lack of accumulated awards as well as her general lack of experience in comparison to Marcia.
Good luck and enjoy your sandwich!
Kyle Livie Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley ©1998 UC Regents