#23 APR 06

Brevity and Clarity of Claims

Thank you for your detailed question, MyStudent.

Your first two paragraphs are a good start, but I wonder if you could say just as much in a couple of sentences. Please consider that this paragraph of yours:

BEFORE: For my research essay I will be examining how one state has a higher murder rate compared to the neighboring state who has considerably less strict gun laws. Throughout the past few years some states have become more stern in terms of gun laws as a result to lower the murder rate. Other states have remained to keep their laws the same because thats what they deem traditional. Statistics provided by, has revealed that the murder rate of Chicago, Illinois compared to St. Louis, Missouri is much higher due to the fact that Chicago, Illinois was at the top of the list and St. Louis, Missouri was two spots away from the bottom of the list. Based off this evidence it leaves people to wonder if states enforce strict gun laws why is their murder rate is so much higher than states who have gun laws that are not as strict?

can be rendered much more simply and clearly as:

AFTER: According to statistics provided by, Chicago, Illinois, has a much higher murder rate than Saint Louis, Missouri, despite tougher gun laws in Illinois.

And your second paragraph:

BEFORE: During the process of my research I was able to discover that in Chicago,Illinois that most gun related crimes have been committed with guns outside that city or state. This means people are bringing guns from other states into Illinois to commit crimes. Another report showed that the gun laws of Missouri could be argued to be one of the weakest gun laws. This was discovered in the article when the author stated how the regulations in Missouri are similar to other mid west and deep south states, claiming them to be lenient. However even though these laws are lenient they still have lower murder rates in comparison to states with strict gun laws. A noticeably difference between the two states would be within Missouri, their gun laws have remained the same due to their traditional views. Missouri’s traditional views of allowing people to easily obtained guns would eliminate one of Illinois problems. The ongoing problem in Illinois is most gun related crimes are committed with guns outside of that state. If Illinois where to lessen their gun laws people would not need to bring guns outside the state.

is easier to follow when trimmed to this:

AFTER: My research indicates that guns from states like neighboring Illinois are used in most Chicago gun crimes. If Missouri’s gun laws, which have always been lenient compared to Illinois’ laws, were stricter, it might be easier to control the murder rate in Chicago.

Once you eliminate all the needless language, you can easily see the bones of your argument, MyStudent, and evaluate its strengths. It becomes obvious that you need to be more specific about the actual laws, whether the out-of-state guns do in fact come from Illinois, whether the murder rates in both cities are actually related to gun laws, etc. Those questions are obscured until your claims are laid out simply and clearly.

#24 APR 06

Don’t Describe; Purposefully Summarize

The Essential Content of the Article: This article goes in depth about Chicago’s gun laws stating if they are in fact the strictest gun laws or not. Throughout the article it uses quotes from people such as the Chicago police officers and Donald Trump. Later in the article it uses a table and pictures of shootings within Chicago since 2010 to help support their claim.

You manage to DESCRIBE the article without saying what claims it actually makes, MyStudent. Do the authors conclude that Chicago’s laws are the strictest or not? What crucial information does the chart supply? Etc.

The Essential Content of the Article: This article reveals each fact in terms of gun laws in Missouri. This article informs the reader about the different gun laws Missouri has within its state borders and how some of the gun laws in Missouri are similar to other mid west and deep south states.

Again, your DESCRIPTION entirely evades the question it should answer: What is the Essential Content?

Don’t do this

The study examines the behaviors in Professor Hodges’ composition class and compares it to the behaviors of every other writing course at the college. It puts all the data into a useful chart that makes it easy to compare both student behaviors and the professor’s own behavior so that readers will be able to see how they acted in several categories including tardiness.

Do this

The study concludes that while Professor Hodges is always early to class compared to other professors in the Writing Arts department, his students are more often late.

#25 APR 06

Proofs that Don’t Prove

High school essay writers can grab any statistic that seems to support a thesis and use it as proof despite obvious logic flaws that prevent it from even supporting their conclusions. College writers are held to a higher standard.

Logic must meet the facts to force a logical conclusion.

Example 1

The material at the website you cited as a source does not prove what you say it proves. It quotes “use” statistics, but makes its comparisons to “drug offenses.”

  • 5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites
  • African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.

Do you see the problem in the highlights, MyStudent? I want you to be able to prove your thesis if it’s true, but this doesn’t do it. If African Americans represent 12% of the population USING, but 59% of those incarcerated for USING, you have a case. Otherwise . . . you need a better statistic.

This example is part of the larger problem you’ll have . . . one I hope you will solve. This will illustrate:

Males make up 49% of the US population, yet they account for 98% of inmates convicted of rape.

You would laugh me out of the debate if I tried to present that as evidence of the justice system’s prejudice against men. Imagine the same standard of evidence applied to your argument.

Suppose, to be more honest about it, I cited this statistical comparison:

Males make up 98% of rapists, yet they account for 98% of inmates convicted of rape.

Your challenge: How do you demonstrate that the percentage of African Americans arrested and convicted of drug offenses is wildly disproportionate to the percentage of African Americans committing drug offenses?