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Tutor profile: Philip C.

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Philip C.
College Writing Instructor and Research Librarian
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Questions

Subject: Writing

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Question:

How can the three principles of Aristotle's rhetorical triangle be applied to research writing?

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Philip C.
Answer:

The first principle, pathos, refers to emotional appeal. It should be relied on least on academic writing, but can have some use in the introduction of a paper when contextualizing the topic and its importance to the author or the world. Pathos is meant to illicit emotion in the reader. This is accomplished by considering your audience and what they care most about. The second principle, ethos, refers to the credibility of the speaker, in this case the author of the paper. Credibility can be established by discussing your expertise in the subject, by using sources honestly, citing sources correctly, and proofreading your paper. Credibility is like wearing a tie to a job interview. Whatever component in the paper that affects how your reader sees you is related to this principle. The third principle, logos, refers to the message itself. It starts with building sentences that are clear and concise and consider the reader, and then looking at the overall structure. Does the structure serve the topic? Are paragraphs constructed for easier reading? Looking at the use of sources is paramount. Have you integrated them seamlessly into your own text? Are they essential and do they support the point of the paragraph?

Subject: Library and Information Science

TutorMe
Question:

What steps on are involved in determining the relevance and credibility of a scientific paper for a research project?

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Philip C.
Answer:

First, consider the source. Look at the reputability of the journal. This can be done by assessing the funding source or institution that publishes it, by assessing the credentials of the editors, or perusing other articles published by the same journal. It also involves assessing the credentials of the authors of the paper, whether they have degrees or backgrounds in the topic. Consider any other publications the authors have. You can look at the article's citation history, in other words, how many other papers have cited it, and how those papers viewed the article you're evaluating. You should also look at the methods, specifically whether the sample size is sufficient to justify any finding. As for relevance, you can read the abstract to get a general sense if the article will apply to your topic. Often the article will have metadata, subject tags that give a clue to its applicability. If it still seems interesting, read on, focusing first on the introduction or overview and then skipping to the conclusion or discussion of results. For most undergraduate papers, this information along with a skim of the other sections will be all that's necessary. Another factor influencing relevance is the purpose of the paper, whether it's meant to narrow in precisely on a particular facet or if it's an overview article that gathers what's known about the topic already in a more general sense.

Subject: Literature

TutorMe
Question:

In The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale sees a scarlet letter cross the night sky. How does this scene bring into question the narrator's forthrightness or credibility as the novel progresses?

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Philip C.
Answer:

In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne presents views that are not his own through the intentional use of ambiguity, masking his opinions in through a chorus of voices or in a single character. Through use of point of view, the narrator casts a character or scene in two or more shades. When we hear a character’s words or thoughts, we believe them in as much as we trust the character. We are less likely to trust the character if the narrator gives us a reason not to. When Dimmesdale sees the letter ‘A,’ the narrator asserts that it is only seen through his jaundiced vision. The narrator does not state that a letter ‘A’ did cross the sky, only that Dimmesdale saw it. He further complicates the matter when he writes that when someone sees a revelation, it can only be the “symptom of a highly disordered mental state” created when a man is so tortured by a secret pain that he has “extended his egotism over the whole expanse of nature, until the firmament itself should appear no more fitting a page for his soul’s history and fate." The narrator implies strongly that Dimmesdale projected his own guilt onto a larger canvas.

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