Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問

The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: In writing an argumentative essay objectively, is it acceptable to cite the opinions of unspecified experts?

Let me say at the outset that writing an essay of opinion “objectively” is like whitewashing a fence with black paint. It is, to say the least, difficult. An argument is a clash of opinions. Any writer who tries to be “objective” in entering such an argument can count on losing. Argumentative writing is a subjective task. The goal is to marshal salient, favorable points of argument and to mitigate damaging, unfavorable ones.

Can a writer accomplish this by citing “unspecified experts?” Rarely. An anonymous “expert” has little standing in an argument, so little in fact that the very term “expert” tends to be ridiculed. Even a generic “expert” whose authority is virtually unassailable in other settings (“A mother knows these things…”) lacks convincing credentials as a source in a paper. Anonymous experts are the human equivalent of hearsay evidence and should not be counted on to carry an argument.
引用「不具名的專家」 是否能達成上述的效果呢?--難上加難。無名的「專家」在論述中立場薄弱之至,甚至連稱之為「專家」都顯得不恰當。就算一般常被指稱,在一些情況下不會遭致質疑的專家(如『當媽媽的一定都知道…』),在學術論文裡的說服力也不夠。不具名專家的意見,猶如道聽塗說,不適宜引用於學術嚴謹的證明論述。

It is a matter of persuasion. Facts persuade. Facts from the mouths of identifiable authorities persuade convincingly. It is the difference between asserting that “people love cream puffs” and declaring that “9 of 10 surveyed chefs in Taipei vote cream puffs the No. 1 dessert.” The assertion can be easily dismissed as fanciful, whereas if the survey is disputed, the onus to disprove it is on the disputant. Successful authors of argumentative papers know their sources – and identify them.

Posted at 2011-04-28 14:51:19

0 Response to Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問