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RAD 240 Assignment Playbook

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Introduction

This course requires several research assignments that use elements of research (such as outlines and thesis statements), as well as the full APA style format (with things such as title pages and abstracts).  This playbook contains information that can help you with these assignments. To navigate the playbook, use the tabs below.  

Assignment sections

For your assignments this semester you will need to use the APA format, from the format of the entire paper to your References list at the end.  Use the APA style playbook to format citations (in the body of the essay and on the References list), and see the documents below for more information. 

The thesis statement, located at or near the end of the introductory paragraph of your paper,states your point of view of the topic, and it serves as a summary of the argument you will make in the rest of your paper.   It tells the reader not only what your topic is, but what you will discuss in reference to your topic, and what conclusions you will defend.

The thesis statement “asserts, controls, and structures the entire argument”  (Writing Center).  It is the thread that makes your paper consistent and meaningful. Without a good thesis, your paper comes across as weak, unfocused, even confusing.

A good thesis will

  • Make a claim
    • This means that you must develop an interesting point of view  that you can defend
    • This perspective or point of view must be more than just an observation; it must define your perspective and make a claim about it
  • Control the entire argument and the entire paper
    • Your thesis statement determines what you are required to say in your paper, and what you cannot say
    • Each paragraph in your paper exists to support your thesis, and must be related to your thesis
    • Paragraphs that do not support your thesis are superfluous and make your paper seem confused, disjointed, unfocused, and weak
    • If you have paragraphs that do not directly support your thesis, you should either remove the paragraphs or rewrite the thesis
  • Provide structure for your argument
    • Your thesis statement signals to the reader what your argument will be and how it will be presented
    • Your thesis statement must be clear, focused, and unambiguous

How to build a thesis statement

Once you have your topic and your perspective about it, you can build your thesis. You will need your claim and your reasons for your claim. To find reasons, ask yourself why your claim is valid.

Example 1

Claim: An MRI is a better and less risky procedure than a CT scan.

Reason(s): MRIs produce accurate, detailed pictures of bodily structures. There is no radiation exposure with an MRI. 

Thesis statement:  While computerized tomography is an excellent way to image structures, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can be a more desirable and less risky imaging procedure because the MRI produces accurate, more detailed pictures of bodily structures, and does not subject the patient to radiation exposure. 

Example 2

Claim: The benefits of radiography exceed the risks associated with the procedure. 

Reason(s):  Individuals who need medical attention need answers quickly. Radiography can help doctors diagnose and manage a condition quickly and effectively.

Thesis statement:  Even though there are risks to radiography (such as developing radiation-induced cancer or cataracts later in life, or causing a teratogenic defect in an embryo), radiography can greatly benefit patients who are in need of medical attention by helping doctors diagnose and manage a condition quickly and effectively. 

*Note: Stating a fact followed by "because...." is NOT a thesis. The following are NOT thesis statements:  

  • Many people don't like spicy food because it makes them sick.
  • Some medical professionals undervalue radiography because they think it is not accurate. 

These are just facts followed by what may be a reason for the fact.  They are not claims, so they do not constitute a thesis statement. 


Sources:

Lunsford, A., Brody, M., Ede, L., Moss, B., Papper, C.C., & Walters, K. (2016). Everyone's an author: With readings (2nd ed.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

The Writing Center at Piedmont Virginia Community College

 

What is an outline?

An outline is a plan, a kind of map of your essay. It lists the points you will make, in the order you will make them.

Before you create an outline, you have to think about what you want to say, what points you will make, and in what order.  This means you have to organize your ideas and put them in a sequence that will make sense to the reader. 

Types of outlines

  • There are two types of outlines
    • A topic outline lists words or phrases
    • A sentence outline lists complete sentences  (a complete sentence is one that has a subject, a verb, and a predicate)
  • Outlines can be arranged in two styles
    • Alphanumeric -- this means letters and numbers are used
    • Decimal -- this means decimals are used (1.0, 1.1, 1.2, 2.0....)

Topic outline

The topic outline lists information as words or phrases. The words and phrases represent the topics you will cover.

Example

Thesis: College athletes should receive a salary, because they are entertainers who also bring money and recognition to their schools.

I. Overview of college athletics
II. Why a salary?
    A. Entertainment
    B. Money
    C. School recognition

 

Sentence outline

A sentence outline lists full sentences. A full sentence has a subject, a verb, and a predicate. Each sentence in a sentence outline is the first sentence of a paragraph as it will appear in the paper, and it shows exactly what you will say.

Example

Thesis: College athletes should receive a salary, because they are entertainers who also bring money and recognition to their schools.

I. College athletics, also called college sports, are competitive sports played at the university level.
II. While college athletes may not be professional, they do provide advantages to their institutions.
    A. College athletes provide the same level of entertainment as professional athletes.
    B. College athletes help bring tuition  money to their schools.
    C. College athletes bring recognition to their schools, making them known across the country.

 

Creating an outline

To create an outline:

  1. Place your thesis statement at the top.
  2. List the major points that support your thesis. Label them in Roman Numerals (I, II, III, etc.).
  3. List supporting ideas or arguments for each major point. Label them in capital letters (A, B, C, etc.).
  4. If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting idea until your outline is fully developed. Label them 1, 2, 3, etc., and then a, b, c, etc.

Example of a topic outline

Thesis: Federal regulations need to foster laws that will help protect wetlands, restore those that have been destroyed, and take measures to improve the damage from overdevelopment.

I. Nature's ecosystem

   A. Loss of wetlands nationally

   B. Loss of wetlands in Illinois

      1. More flooding and poorer water quality

      2. Lost ability to prevent floods, clean water and store water

II. Dramatic floods

   A. Cost in dollars and lives

      1. 13 deaths between 1988 and 1998

      2. Cost of $39 million per year

   B. Great Midwestern Flood of 1993

      1. Lost wetlands in IL

      2. Devastation in some states

   C. Flood Prevention

      1. Plants and Soils

      2. Floodplain overflow

III. Wetland laws

   A. Inadequately informed legislators

      1. Watersheds

      2. Interconnections in natural water systems

   B. Water purification

IV. Need to save wetlands

   A. New federal definition

   B. Re-education about interconnectedness

      1. Ecology at every grade level

      2. Education for politicians and developers

      3. Choices in schools and people's lives


Example taken from The Bedford Guide for College Writers (9th ed).

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE NEW APA STYLE MANUAL (7TH EDITION) DOES NOT REQUIRE AN ABSTRACT FOR STUDENT PAPERS.

An abstract is a short paragraph (15-300 words) that provides a quick overview of an essay or report and the way it is organized. It  is a concise summary of the entire essay or paper, and presents the thesis and the key points. Note that the abstract is an overview of the work, not a proposal, so you should avoid beginning the abstract with expressions such as "This paper will examine..." or "In this essay I will prove that..."

Example (153 words)

The HIV virus is currently destroying all facets of African life. It therefore is imperative that a new holistic form of health education and accessible treatment be implemented in African public health policy which improves dissemination of prevention and treatment programs, while maintaining the cultural infrastructure. Drawing on government and NGO reports, as well as other documentary sources, this paper examines the nature of current efforts and the state of health care practices in Africa. I review access to modern health care and factors which inhibit local utilization of these resources, as well as traditional African beliefs about medicine, disease, and healthcare. This review indicates that a collaboration of Western and traditional medical care and philosophy can help slow the spread of HIV in Africa. This paper encourages the acceptance and financial support of traditional health practitioners in this effort owing to their accessibility and affordability and their cultural compatibility with the community.

Example source: University of Montana

 

For your RAD 240 assignments, you will use information from your sources to support your own ideas in your essays.  How you add that information is very important. You can't just clip information and drop it into your essay.  The information from sources must be integrated into your essay so it forms part of your argument and your narrative. Your research paper is about communicating your ideas, not summarizing your sources.  The sources are there to provide support, a framework for your ideas, but the paper should be all about your own ideas. 

  • The best way to incorporate sources is to paraphrase or summarize. This shows your instructor that you understand what the source is about and how it fits into your paper.
  • If you use a quote, have a good reason for it:
    • The author of the source has expressed the information in such a clear and concise way that you cannot possibly express it better
    • A certain phrase or sentence from the source provides a very vivid or striking representation of what you are discussing
    • Your readers could doubt a claim you are making, especially if you are criticizing something, and you want the reader to know you are not misrepresenting the source -- in this case, quote enough of the source to make the context and meaning clear, but paraphrase or summarize the rest.
  • Always make sure you provide an analysis of the quote.  Show your reader(s) that you understand how the quote relates to your topic and your ideas by analyzing its significance.
  • Do not use standalone quotes. These are quotes that are just standing there, in the middle of a paragraph. Example:  The majority of students know what plagiarism is. "A 2016 survey showed that 92% of students knew the definition of plagiarism and how wrong it is" (Smith & Jackson, 2017). 
  • Use signal phrases to introduce the source material.  Let's revise the example above: The majority of students know what plagiarism is. According to a 2016 survey, "92% of students" were well aware of what plagiarism is and that it is wrong (Smith & Jackson, 2017, p. 67).
  • When using materials in quotation marks, APA requires that you provide a page number or a paragraph number if the source has no page numbers.  If you paraphrase or summarize, you do not have to give page/paragraph numbers.
  • Vary your signal phrases.  Don't always use "according to." It gets repetitive and boring.  Try these verbs: write, suggest, state, remark, explain. Example: Smith and Jackson (2018) write that most students (92% according to their survey) know what plagiarism is.
  • Do not use quotes as padding. If your quotes lack analysis, readers will feel that you don't have any idea what you're talking about, and they might feel you're adding quotes simply to fill up space.
  • The APA style has specific rules for narrative and parenthetical citations.
  • Avoid citation generators like the plague. They all make mistakes (Word being the worst), and if you don't know how to cite, you won't even notice. The librarians can give you some support, but you are expected to apply the feedback and learn to cite for yourself.

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