Chapter 9: Towards the Well-Researched Paper
Now take a look at our outline all at once. This is what we’ve got:
Introduction: Present and contextualize the initial complex thesis.
Paragraph 1 (First Storey): Examine and discuss the comments in terms of their statistical make-up (i.e., what proportion of the comments are dedicated to local problems, and what might that tell us?).
Paragraphs 2 & 3 (First Storey): Examine and discuss particular key comments (those related, in this case, to the name calling or questions/confusion linking Black Lives Matter to the Middle East) in terms of their specific content and phrasing.
Paragraph 4 (First Storey): In contrast to the comments discussed above, examine the elements in the comments section that break away—or appear to try to break away—from local concerns in order to deal with larger implication.
[Research-Related Considerations: Examine and discuss the evidence above in terms of external research on the larger problem you are exploring.]
Paragraph 5 (Second Storey): Discuss the function of this particular post as an information distributor and community unifier by concentrating on the identities (where apparent) and/or stated aims of the commenters. Are they treating it primarily as a source of information? A place where a wider community can come together? Something else?
Paragraph 6 (Second Storey): Explain the patterns you have found in the comments as an effect of the social space itself. If many of the comments seem insular, why might they be so? If the broader community seems disunified, what in the post and/or the comment section is allowing the insularity of the sub-communities within the larger community to remain?
Paragraph 7 (Second Storey): Draw in elements that seem not to fit. Not all the comments are insular. How are those that are not insular treated by the group? Are they ignored? Do they contribute to the conversation? Do they ever come from the same people who post the insular comments, or do they originate from a distinct sub-community?
Paragraph 8 (Second Storey): Discuss the effect of the online community’s structure in light of the idea of the Facebook page’s purpose. Do the patterns you have found confirm or deny the “usefulness” of the page? What, in this context, does “usefulness” mean? Is the word itself becoming inadequate (i.e., too vague and general) for your purposes?
[Research-Related Considerations: Apply broader secondary perspectives to this specific example in order to gain insight into what it demonstrates.]
Paragraph 9 (Third Storey): Draw conclusions from your evidence as it relates to the page itself. Moving on from the idea of “usefulness” in paragraph 8, discuss what “use” the comments have (they allow users to connect over local issues) and what “use” they fail to have (they de-emphasize larger issues, which are obscured by the localization of user concerns).
Paragraph 10 (Third Storey): In light of this concept, return to the idea of social media as an influencer of government policy. Is there a disconnect? What does it mean? Does this disconnect seem rooted in the structure of the page, the identities of the users, the culture that has formed around this particular form of social media, or something else? How do you know? And…?
Paragraph 11 (Third Storey): Zoom in on a possible reason for the disconnect: the tendency of social media’s reach to reveal the rhetoric being used within in-groups. Turn this, potentially, into a call to action regarding future use of social media in social and political activism.
[Research-Related Considerations: While it’s unlikely you will introduce new research at this point, you may use this section to return to some of the research you have cited previously to emphasize its significance or repeat it in light of the more complex conclusions you have reached.]
Conclusion: Bring the elements of your argument together in such a way that you can present their implications.
As we move from the development of our initial three-storey thesis to the drafting of our essay, the outline can, as Chapter 4 points out, serve as a bridge between the two stages. However, it can also show us areas of our argument that currently seem vague or repetitive: areas that may need more support and development. In the next section, we will be discussing what the outline can mean in terms of the incorporation of research into your paper.