Following Up Your Response ~~
Analyze, Interpret, Synthesize, and Evaluate
Are other people's
opinions always useful to us? (No, they're not. Sometimes we can completely
ignore other peoples' opinions and be none the worse for it.) When do other
peoples' opinions seem unhelpful?
When a commentary
is purely subjective, purely opinionated with no supporting analysis, interpretation,
synthesis, or evaluation is can seem pretty useless. For example, consider
the commentator whose disembodied, enlarged head appears on the screen following
a presidential debate to say things like, "Well, it was obvious to everyone
who watched the debate that the President looked very Presidential this evening"
and from that you're supposed to be persuaded that he performed successfully
in the debate. There's no supporting analysis of what Presidential "qualities"
he's referring to, no specific interpretation of his language other than his
body language (as if to be "Presidential" you merely have to stand
in a certain posture and use a particular tone of voice). There's nothing
to help you understand anything but that one person seems convinced that the
President appeared presidential.
If people's opinions
can be useless, in what sense can they also be useful?
example of a movie review. How can one person's opinion about a movie become
useful to you? Suppose there's a movie reviewer who gives the latest flick
a thumbs down. She says, don't bother seeing this movie because the plot was
predictable, the acting was forced, and the camera shots were really dull.
The action sequences were full of stunts that have been done a thousand times
before. You have a pretty clear idea why this reviewer didn't like this film,
and even if you don't agree with her conclusion, you know why you probably
would or wouldn't like the film yourself. Even reviews we disagree with can
be useful to us if the reviewer has included that kind of evaluative commentary.
Maybe you don't care about the plot as long as your favorite star is on the
screen for 120 minutes; maybe the acting is less important to you than the
posing; and maybe originality is not something you expect when you go to the
movies. You're a gun fight fan regardless of how many you've seen. You decide
that even if this reviewer hated this film, you may like it a lot-the review
was useful to you.
Your personal response
becomes useful and interesting and provocative to other people when you include
some kind of objective analysis, interpretation, synthesis, or evaluation. If
you do this, your readers can determine whether they agree or disagree with
you and why. They gain a better understanding of your subject by understanding
your perspective on it and how their own perspective may be the same or different.
Let's use an example
to demonstrate how you can follow up your response. Suppose your topic is to
observe the "cell phone trend."
break into parts, examine each part closely, and make inferences
- Who, what, where,
and when are people using cell phones?
- Do teenagers
use them differently than adults?
- What kinds of
cell phones are available today? Who's attracted to which kind?
- What kinds of
services are available through cell phones that people never used to associate
explore the possible meanings of what you've observed, or settle on one meaning
you think is correct
- Why do people
use cell phones?
- What's the purpose
of a cell phone?
- Are cell phones
fads or permanent fixtures? If they're permanent, do they change our culture
in any way?
juxtapose your subject with something outside your subject to give your readers
another way of looking at it. Compare/contrast is one common way to synthesize.
- Is this new
technology comparable to other leaps in technology? The portable transistor
radio of the 70s? The internet of the 90s? Is there something to learn about
comparing or contrasting cell phone technology with any past trends, fads,
establish the worth or value of your subject by identifying and applying a set
of justifiable criteria
- Is the cell
phone trend a good or a bad thing for our society, as you observe it?
- Was life better
before or after everyone had cell phones?
- How could we
make cell phones better?