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Examples of Successful Introductions

The following passages from scholarly writers exemplify the “Creating a Research Space” (CARS) method for introducing your project with four moves:

  • Move 1: Establish that your particular area of research has some significance.
  • Move 2: Selectively summarize the relevant previous research.
  • Move 3: Show that the reported research (or current understanding) is not complete.
  • Move 4: Turn the gap into the research space for the present essay.


Example 1

It has sometimes been suggested that the conjugal understanding of marriage is based only on religious beliefs. This is false. Although the world’s major religious traditions have historically understood marriage as a union of man and woman that is by nature apt for procreation and childbearing, this suggests merely that no one religion invented marriage. Instead, the demands of our common human nature have shaped (however imperfectly) all of our religious traditions to recognize this natural institution. As such, marriage is a type of social practice whose basic contours can be discerned by our common human reason, whatever religious background. We argue for enshrining the congeal view of marriage, using argument that require no appeal to religious authority.

Girgis, Sherif, et al. “What is Marriage?” Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy 34, no. 2 (2012): 246-287.


Example 2

Why must Moderns resort to complicated forms in order to believe in others’ naïve beliefs, or in knowledge without belief among themselves? Why must they act as if others believe in fetishes, while they seemingly practice the most austere anti-fetishism? Why not just admit that there is no such thing as fetishism—and no such thing as anti-fetishism either—and recognize the strange efficacy of these “action displacers” with which our lives are intimately bound up? The reason is that Modern are strongly attached to the conviction that there is an essential difference between facts and fetishes. The goals of belief if neither to explain the mental state of fetishists nor to account for the naiveté of anti-fetishists. Belief depends on something completely different: on the distinction between knowledge and illusion, or rather, as we all shall see in the following sections, on the separation between practical life—which does not make this distinction—and theoretical life, which maintains it.

Bruno Latour. On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

Example 3

As her student almost a half-century ago, I found Hannah Arendt’s philosophy largely inspiring, yet even then it seemed to me not quite adequate to deal with the material things and concrete practices contained in Pandora’s casket. The good teacher imparts a satisfying explanation; the greater teacher—as Arendt was—unsettles, bequeaths disquiet, invites argument. Arendt’s difficulty in dealing with Pandora seemed to me, dimly then and more clearly now, to lie in the distinction she draws between Animal laborens and Homo faber. These are two images of people at work; they are austere images of the human condition, since the philosopher excludes pleasure, play, and culture.

Animal laborens is, as the name implies, the human being akin to a beast of burden, a drudge condemned to routine. Arendt enriches this image by imagining him or her absorbed in a task that shuts out the world, a state well exemplified by Oppenheimer’s feeling that the atomic bomb was a “sweet” problem, or Eichmann’s obsession with making the gas chambers more efficient. In the act of making it work, nothing else matters; Animal laborens takes the work as an end in itself.

By contrast, homo faber is her image of men and women doing another kind of work, making a life in common. Again Arendt enriched an inherited idea. The Latin tag Homo faber means simply “man as maker.” The phrase crops up in Renaissance writings on philosophy and the arts; Henri Bergson had, two generations before Arendt, applied it to psychology; she applied it to politics, and in a special way. Homo faber is the judge of material labor and patience. Thus, in her view, we human beings live in two dimensions. In one we make things; in this condition we are amoral, absorbed in a task. We also harbor another, higher way of life in which we stop producing and start discussing and judging together. Whereas Animal laborens is fixated on the question “How?” Homo faber asks “Why?”

This division seems to me false because it slights the practical man or woman at work. The human animal who is Animal laborens is capable of thinking; the discussions the producer holds may be mentally with materials rather than with other people; people working together certainly talk to one another about what they are doing. For Arendt, the mind engages once labor is done. Another, more balanced view is that thinking and feeling are contained within the process of making.

The sharp edge of this perhaps self-evident observation lies in its address to Pandora’s box. Leaving the public to “sort out the problem” after the work is done means confronting people with usually irreversible facts on the ground. Engagement must start earlier, requires a fuller, better understanding of the process by which people go about producing things, a more materialistic engagement that found among thinkers of Arendt’s stripe. To cope with Pandora requires a more vigorous cultural materialism.

Richard Sennett. The Craftsman. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Example 4

The word “equality” is an essential marker in the lexicon of American political discourse. By most contemporary accounts it ranks with “liberty” and “property” as one of a troika of terms constituting the discursive boundaries of legitimate political behavior in America’s democratic republic.  Most U.S. citizens premise the establishment of “equality” as a central component of the American credo on the “self-evident” claim expressed in the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal.” According to the narrative of American history that emanates from this premise, the newly constituted nation did not immediately live up to the ideal of its founding principle. Gradually, however, the courageous efforts of northern, white abolitionists motivated the nation to affirm its egalitarian ideals, first in the Emancipation Proclamation, and shortly thereafter in the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. This affirmation required a protracted and costly civil war, but that, too, found a hallowed place in the story of American equality, framed as a trial by combat that resolved the issue once and for all under the sanctioning gaze of an approving and egalitarian Christian God. In the twentieth century the story evolved into a tale concerning how the nation’s initial commitment to equality led almost as if by necessity to the extension of political rights to a variety of minority groups, including most notably women and blacks. The moral of this rather traditional story is clear: American’s distinction is its egalitarian commitment to treat all of its people the same, “regardless of religion, race, sex, or previous condition of servitude.” And more, underlying this moral is the conventional belief that the meaning of equality was established as an ideal, self-evident principle at the time of the nation’s founding.

In what follows, I take these orthodoxies to task, arguing that the traditional rhetorical narrative of American equality is neither the most inclusive nor necessarily the most compelling account of the facts of the case. In its place we offer an alternate narrative. In our story the word “equality” is not a self-evident political idea, its meaning established and set in stone at the moment of the nation’s assertion of independence. Rather, it is a symbolic, rhetorical foundation of America’s collective identity, its meaning expanding and retracting in political usage as a result of the efforts of public advocates seeking to manage the tension between the nation’s abstract political commitments and its material needs and socio-political practices.

John Louis Lucaites, “The Irony of ‘Equality’ in Black Abolitionist Discourse: The Case of Frederick Douglass’s ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?'” In Rhetoric and Political Culture in Nineteenth-Century America. Ed. Thomas Benson. Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1997: 47-69.