Argument at UC Berkeley

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Math & Sciences

Below is some of the information compiled from students interviewing professionals in various fields of study. Each interviewee provided some helpful tips on what makes a strong argument in their field as well as an example of a strong argumentative paper. Listed below are the two most important pieces of advice each professional gave about writing persuasively in a given field.

Field: Applied Math (Statistics)
Interviewee: Lisha Li, GSI of Stat 134

“Math is extremely interdisciplinary –it has many connections to the social sciences (such as philosophy) that many people would not think of at first glance. Since math is so logic-based, everything is an argument; for something like math, you have to prove that what you’re doing can be applied again to different situations and that the correct methodology is being used. Also, even if there currently aren’t any current real-world applications for what you’re doing, it’s almost always necessary to come up with some possible ones especially when applying for grants. When writing math papers, you have to be especially aware of the order that ideas are presented in.”

Recommended Model: On the logarithimic calculus and Sidorenko’s conjecture

Field: Geography
Interviewee: Peter Eckman

Ekman’s approach to argument is to mimic the ‘rhythm of reading.’ He is humanistic in his approach and does not necessarily follow one model of argument. Using footnotes allows him to consider other ideas without distracting from the breadth of the writing.

Recommended Model: The Beholding Eye

Field: Forestry
Interviewee: Brandon Collins

“There is certainly a political aspect to my field. While I normally do not directly deal with matters of public policy or relations, the applied nature of the field ensures that someone must eventually contend with the public. Most of the interplay between the social and hard science aspects occur at the point when you attempt to transition between research and resource management. Many people will tend to support, or, at least, remain ambivalent towards your ideas until you try to implement them in the real world.”

“The “argument” itself arises from the interpretation of the data through different methods of analysis. The comparison of both the results of the analysis and the methods of analysis themselves is, therefore, critical when evaluating an argument in traditional scientific format.”

Recommended Model: Collins, Brandon, Jamie Lyndersen, Richard Everrett, Danny Fry, and Scott Stephens. “Novel Characterizations of Landscape-level Variability in Historical Vegetation Structure.” Ecological Applications 25.5 (2015): 1167-174. Ecological Society of America, 6 Feb. 2105. Web. 2 Feb. 2105 <;.

Field: Mechanical Engineering
Interviewee: GSI Marleigh Duncan

“Don’t try to hide too much and clearly state your assumptions. This gives strength to why the model actually shows something and shows why it would be different than other models out there. I am doing computational modeling, so you are always trying to show why there are a bunch of computational models, why your model is useful in comparison to the others, and so you compare it to experimental results, you compare it to other models, and show what the strength of the model is.”