Feed on

Reblogged from: The Wesleyan Writing Blog. (Go to the original post…)

The Art of the Argumentative Thesis

It’s one of the maxims of writing an effective academic paper: thou shalt have an argumentative thesis. But what does “argumentative” really mean?

First, your thesis shouldn’t be so obvious that virtually any reader would agree with it without even having to read your paper.

“The Civil War was a tragic, transformative period in American history.”

Well, of course it was. No one’s saying otherwise! It may be comforting to select a thesis that you are confident you can argue, but if you err too far on the side of caution you will likely wind up with a dull, aimless paper. You should be able to envision a logical counter-argument to your thesis. If you can’t, then you should rethink your strategy.

Still, take care not to swing too far in the opposite direction. Some take “argumentative” to be synonymous with “provocative”; while provocation can be effective, needless provocation gets tiring.

“The American Civil War had only minor effects on the trajectory of American history.”

Huh. A stimulating statement to be sure, but can you prove it? Given that the vast majority of Civil War scholars would vehemently disagree with you (and, let’s face it, they probably know better than you do) it’s not worth taking on a topic that so brazenly cuts against the grain.

It might seem to you as though every topic worth discussing has already been written about and to some extent, this might be true; the challenge is to put your own spin on a frequently discussed topic, to add your voice to the broader conversation. Just because something has never been written about doesn’t mean it’s worth writing about now.

To make sure you are working with a balanced, yet still argumentative thesis, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can I envision a logical rebuttal to my thesis? On what grounds might someone disagree with the point I am trying to make?
  • How can I contribute to the academic dialogue surrounding this issue without repeating what other scholars have already said? How does my argument differ from other theses on this subject?

For instance:

“Although the American Civil War was a tumultuous, disruptive period in American history, the war itself did not affect the progression of American history as much as is often assumed. Rather, it was during the following years of reconstitution that the trajectory of American society truly shifted.”

This thesis, unlike the two above, is sufficiently argumentative because it:

A) Engages with scholarly work while putting its own spin on the issue (e.g. “did not affect the progression of American history as much as is often assumed“); and

B) Can be logically argued against (e.g., one could contend that without the war, reconstitution never would have taken place and thus the war was more transformative).

A recent article in The Hartford Courant explains how Wesleyan Professor of Chemistry Wilbur Olin Atwater developed the respiration calorimeter in 1896, an innovation that led to his quantification of the calorie and all that followed that discovery.

Atwater’s work verified, among other things, that humans are subject to the law of thermodynamics, something that was disputed by scientists in the late 1800s until his experiments yielded definitive proof.

Read the article here.

A recent article in The Hartford Courant discusses the work done this summer by Johann Varekamp, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and his Graduate Liberal Studies students to document more than 300 years of pollution in Wethersfield Cove.

The researchers found high levels of mercury, which was used extensively by industrial manufacturers until the early 20th century. The study resulted in a paper titled “Wethersfield Cove, Hartford, CT – A 300 Year Urban Pollution Record,” which Varekamp presented at the annual national meeting of the Geological Society of America (GSA) this month in Minneapolis.

Read the article here.


ESPN’s Front Row blog posted a writeup on GLS student (and ESPN’s Chief Technology Officer) Chuck Pagano entitled ESPN Front Row – Chuck Pagano, Stargazer.

The article profiles his responsibilities at ESPN, his passion for astronomy, and continues…

These days, however, he’s in the midst of astronomy studies at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., in the school’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program.

Pagano’s “the kind of student that the program loves to have,” said William Herbst, in his 31st year at Wesleyan and the school’s John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy.

“He’s a hobbyist, too, but he’s seriously into it.”

Read the full post here.


This Sunday’s Record Journal had a story on Karin Schwanbeck, a Graduate Liberal Studies alum (MALS 2008).

Karin and her husband Bill produced their first documentary, “Dollars and Deadlines,” in 2007. They have recently finished “Running on Empty: The Brain Drain in Local TV News,” an examination of what they say is a decline in in-depth news reporting. The 57-minute long documentary is available on YouTube at:


Join us on campus for the Russell House Writers Series, which begins Wednesday, September 14 at 8pm with Charles Bernstein.  For more information: http://www.wesleyan.edu/writing/community/writing-events.html?ref_homepage

Reblogged from: ptully.blogs.wesleyan.edu. (Go to the original post…)


Welcome to Wesleyan University!  Here are some links to useful pages about library resources and services.

Q:  What libraries make up Wesleyan University Library?

Wesleyan University Library is made up of three libraries.  Olin Library is the main campus library, located on at 252 Church Street between Clark Hall and the Public Affairs Center (commonly known as the PAC).   It houses collections in the humanities and social sciences, Scores & Recordings and the World Music Archives, and Special Collections & Archives.  The Reserve Desk/Office and Interlibrary Loan Office are also in Olin.


The Art Library is in the Davison Art Center at 301 High Street.  It contains collections in art, architecture and photography.  Reserve services for most art classes are also provided in the Art Library.  Susanne Javorski is the Art Librarian.



The Science Library (commonly known as SciLi, pronounced si’ li) is in the Exley Science Center at 265 Church Street.  It contains collections in the sciences.  It also houses the video collection and compact storage on the ground floor with print science journals and older materials in all subject areas.   Andrew Klein is the Science Librarian.


Q:  How do I get to the library’s website?

Just go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/library/.  The library’s website has links to our online catalog, online indexes and databases, available journals, reference sources, and other information and services.

Q:  Where can I go for a detailed list of library services and information for students?

For everything you ever wanted to know about Wesleyan University Library services for students, go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/library/services/undergrads.html

If you are a graduate student, go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/library/services/grad.html

Q:  How do I get to material that is on reserve for my class?

The library provides both physical and electronic reserves, available shortly before classes start.  To find print or other physical materials on reserve for your class, go to the Course Reserve search page.  You can search by instructor, course number, or course name.  Most physical reserve items are available at the Olin Library Reserve Desk on the first floor.  The Art Library has some reserve material for courses in the arts.

To find materials on electronic reserve, go to the E-Res page.   Again, you can search by instructor, course number, or course name.   Once you have entered the password your instructor gives you, you will come to a list of links to materials on electronic reserve.

Q: What kinds of primary sources are available at Wesleyan?

Wesleyan has a rich Special Collections & Archives department, including rare books, manuscript collections, university archives, and local history materials. These collections are frequently used by faculty across the disciplines for academic research and as integral parts of their course curricula. SC&A has a website that describes some of the holdings: http://www.wesleyan.edu/library/schome/ and the staff are glad to answer any questions you might have about your research needs or class visits. Contact them at sca@wesleyan.edu or call (860) 685-3864.

Q: Where can I find information about Wesleyan’s collections of images, video and audio recordings?

The Other tab on the library’s web site has links to information about many collections, including images, video, audio, data, archives, and our digital repository, WesScholar.  Many academic departments have departmental collections some of which are searchable using the Departmental Collections catalog.

Q:  What help does the library offer in finding and using research sources for papers and projects?

You can sign up for a Personal Research Session (PRS for short) with a librarian, who will work with you to find appropriate resources for your assignment.  Online Subject and Research Guides are also available with links to online resources specific to each discipline.

You can also come to the Olin Library Reference Desk on the first floor for in-person help, call the reference desk at x3873, or chat online using Reference Live Help.

Q:  How do I get material through interlibrary loan (ILL)?

To sign up for an ILL account, go to: https://wesleyan.hosts.atlas-sys.com/illiad/FirstTime.html

After filling out a brief form you will have an Illiad account and be able to submit online requests for material that neither the library nor the CTW Consortium provides access to locally.

Q:  What is the CTW Consortium?

The CTW Consortium consists of Connecticut College, Trinity College, and Wesleyan University, all liberal arts schools in Connecticut.   The libraries share an online catalog and collaborate on a number of system and collection-related initiatives.  We also share our collections, and students and faculty can request materials from other libraries in the consortium, which are shipped in 1-2 business days.   To do a search in the CTW catalog, go to:  http://ctwweb.wesleyan.edu:7003/

If Connecticut or Trinity have an item and Wesleyan does not, you can request the item by clicking on the Make a Request link in the record for the item.

Q: How do I get access to the library’s electronic resources from off-campus?

Students, faculty and current staff can get to most of the electronic resources the library licenses through the Wesleyan proxy server, by entering their Wesleyan email user name and password.

Q: How can I keep up with library news—changes in hours, improved services, new resources, and library events and exhibits?

You can find out what is going on at the library in a variety of ways.  WesLibNews is the library’s Twitter feed; we also have a Facebook page.  You can check the Of Note section of the library’s web page.  Or you can call us at 860-685-2660 or send an email: reference@wesleyan.edu.

We look forward to meeting and working with you.  Best wishes for the coming year!

Each Tuesday in July, at 7:30pm, the community is invited to the Goldsmith Family Cinema for a free screening of a classic film during the Film Studies department’s annual Summer Film Series.

7:30pm,  Goldsmith Family Cinema, Center for Film Studies
Free admission to the screenings and the gallery exhibition

July 5:     THE BIG SLEEP
July 19:    KEY LARGO
July 26:    DARK PASSAGE

Introduction by Marc Longenecker, Programming and Technical Manager, Film Studies

Rick Nicita Gallery Exhibition
“Just Whistle…the Films of Bogart and Bacall”
Open from 6:30pm to 7:30pm the evenings of the screenings

For More Information, please contact Joyce Heidorn, 860-685-2220

Student Art Exhibit Opening Night Reception
Thursday, June 16
5:30 – 7pm
ZILKHA GALLERY, Wesleyan University

The evening will include a summer reception and art exhibition, with talks by the Graduate Liberal Studies student artists. Refreshments will be served. Mix and mingle with faculty, current students, alumni and prospective students, and enjoy the artwork in this unusual space.

This event is free and open to the public – please bring your friends! RSVPs encouraged but not required. Call 860.685.2900 or send email to masters@wesleyan.edu.

5:30PM Reception begins
6:00PM Artist talks
6:30PM Information session for prospective students

About the art exhibition:
This show highlights the extraordinary work of four students who received their Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Wesleyan in May 2011:

Patricia Allen
Jeffrey Bishop
Thea Ciciotte
Howard el-Yasin

The exhibition includes oil paintings, graphite drawings, Japanese woodblock prints, and an interactive, participatory art project.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth published an opinion piece for CNN this past weekend on why the liberal arts matter.  In the piece, President Roth discusses his own background as a first-generation college graduate, and provides some examples of other Wesleyan alumni who have gone on to accomplish ground-breaking work that has benefited from the breadth of knowledge and understanding gained through their study of the liberal arts.  President Roth says that a national focus on science and math education is important, but must not exclude the other liberal arts. “We should think of education as a kind of intellectual cross-training that leads to many more things than at any one moment you could possibly know would be useful. The most powerful education generates further curiosity, new needs, experiences to meet those needs, more curiosity and so on.”

Read the full piece here.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Log in