Proceedings of the Symposium on
Academic Writing and Critical Thinking
Data Laundry-Listing: When Student Writers Lack a Foundational Argument
Mei-Writing Academic Writing Center,
As an academic writing tutorial specialist working one-to-one with students at a Japanese university, one tendency I have observed in numerous papers is the "laundry-listing" of data. Students often marshal out a cornucopia of discrete data without connecting them to each other or to a concrete thesis statement, instead posing their research as a broad overview that aims to ascertain the characteristics of a given phenomenon. When asked during tutorial sessions what conclusion they would draw from their data, students are often at a loss. But with reams of data collected over many grueling hours, students have the unfortunate choice of either omitting a strong thesis statement and making a laundry list or ditching copious data in order to draw a concrete conclusion that may well rely on the sharpshooter fallacy anyway. This paper looks at the tendency of data laundry-listing by introducing several specific examples culled from my experience working with students at the Mei-Writing Center of Nagoya University. The examples suggest that data laundry-listing is a result of the lack of a coherent thesis statement at the outset. Moreover, an effective solution to this tendency is to reach students early and compel them to articulate an explicit thesis statement before completing the collection of data.
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