Harvard Faculty Talk About the Elements of Academic Argument.

What Faculty Are Saying

  • Make sure you’ve got a question, something that made you curious, that you are trying to answer.

      Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School
  • If I’m not able to convey why I think that way and why that way is beneficial, then no one’s going to believe me. The goal of writing … is to convince people that your ideas have value.

      Margo Seltzer, Herchel Smith Professor of Computer Science
  • Even a teacher in a class is going to learn something from you when you write because you will be closer to that subject than the teacher ... You are the expert. You are the authority.

      James Engell, Gurney Professor of English
  • The grant proposals that are the easiest to like are the ones that are very well structured and well motivated, where every experiment has a clear explanation of why it matters.

      Rachelle Gaudet, Principle Investigator of the Gaudet Lab, Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • You’re appealing to a reasonable but skeptical person. They care about whether what you say is true or not. They’re reasonable. They can be persuaded.

      Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology
  • You don’t just want to repeat the thesis statement over and over again. It’s great to nuance your statement, develop it, further modify it as you go along.

      Ann Blair, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History
  • I think the "argument" in creative work is always there ... and if you can grasp that argument you’re on to another dimension of the poetry.

      David McCann, Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature