Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Basis and Elaboration (3)

Keep in mind that both empirical and theoretical statements can serve as the basis of your argument. I have been trying to emphasize the difference between brute facts and sublime ones in order to show what it means to use one kind as the basis of a particular paper or chapter that elaborates on the other.

In a longer work, like a book or a dissertation, you are able to elaborate on something in one chapter that you then use as your basis for another. Some writers forget this. Most commonly, they forget what they have accomplished in their theoretical chapters and therefore feel uncomfortable applying their (hard won) theoretical perspective to their empirical material.

I had pointed out that brute, empirical facts are often a "private" affair, while sublime, theoretical ones are open to public discussion. That's one of the reasons it can be a good idea to pivot your argument across the empirical/theoretical divide. It makes it clear to your reader what your contribution to their understanding of the world is—but also where they will have to trust you—and what "their" (i.e., the field's) contribution to your research is—and therefore where you're demonstrating your trust in "them".

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