Zooming In/Zooming Out

One potentially helpful framework for revising and expanding a paper is to think in terms of “Zooming In” and “Zooming Out.” To me, this metaphor has been made more prescient by the existence of tablet devices, on whose screens you can use your thumb and index finger to expand or shrink web pages, maps, and pictures. We should consider revising our papers through this process as well.

First, “Zooming In.”

Can detailed analysis, further examples, or elaboration be added without merely tacking on more content. We want to avoid the feeling of rambling on at the end of a paper to reach the minimum word count. Some people call this b.s.-ing.

Instead, have you left major points unexplained or unexplored. If, for example, you’re making the claim that “The protesters in Brazil lack a coherent political message,” (I couldn’t tell you the answer to this.) have you given us one example of an incoherent message from said protest? How about two or more examples that add up to incoherence, followed by your explicit analysis to prove how incoherent it is? How about a quotation from a political commentator or politician making the case for incoherence, again followed by your words tying this quotation back to your argument?

You certainly want to avoid repeating the same information, but multiple pieces of evidence add nuance and depth to your argument. Sometimes it’s very effective to overwhelm the reader with a lot of examples, quotations, and research citations, provided you establish the context and explain the evidence. The reader just might throw his or her hands up in the air and say, “I’m convinced!” Just remember that every time you cite evidence from source material, you must introduce it and follow up by analyzing it and tying it into your argument.

You, as the writer, are in control of the argument and the flow of information. Your voice should dominate.

Second, “Zooming Out.”

I really love zooming out on Google Maps after studying some local street intersection, which of course disappears in the bigger view. (I can’t wait for “Google Space” so I can see how truly small our little blue planet is.) You may want to invest time and energy into expanding individual sections, paragraphs, and sentences (i.e. Zooming In) to develop the ground you have already staked out.

Or, you may want a global view. You might be leaving out an entire continent.

Especially if your task is to double the length of your paper, you may want to consider the backbone of your paper (thesis and subtopics) as representing a single continent. What am I leaving out? How can I make this picture more complete?

Let’s return to the above argument: “The protesters in Brazil lack a coherent political message.” (Again, I wish I were following this development more closely. I really don’t know much about it. The above opinion represents nothing more than a hypothetical.) You can almost “zoom out” on individual words here, such as “Brazil.” What if the paper suddenly became about worldwide protest movements and their messages? Or what if we considered related movements throughout history? What if we stayed in Brazil and expanded our focus to other issues in that country: protests, crime, economic development, foreign policy? One would have to be interested in Brazil to begin with, but hopefully that’s why you selected this topic.

What if the paper  turned into an analysis of incoherent political messages in general, and explored why they fail? What if it became a paper about the failure of language in general to communicate effectively? That’s really zooming out!

Zooming in and Zooming Out both require more research, but hopefully this is how you will obtain your additional sources for the paper.

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