Context, Context, Context!
Tuesday, June 02, 2009 Using Evidenceby Brian Timmerman, Senior Writing Consultant
I find myself saying this a lot in paper responses, asking students (undergraduates, graduates, and PHD candidates) to please just give me a bit of info so that I can understand how one sentence (say, a Freud quote) relates to another one (say, some snarky Lacan one). What I get though, is usually something like this:
"The essential point is that one has a painful feeling of shame, and is anxious to hide one's nakedness, usually by means of locomotion, but is absolutely unable to do so" (Freud, 1911/2006, p. 33). Lacan (1944) claimed that "we realize, of course, the importance of these imaginary impregnations (Pragung) in those partializations of the symbolic alternative which give the symbolic chain its appearance" (p. 47).
Now unfortunately, I'm not really sure how those two comments are interrelated. In fact, technically speaking, I'm unaware of who even made that first comment since the author hasn't provided me with any commentary as to how I should read and interpret it. I'm left feeling like Jack Nicholson at the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
The point, of course, is that we need some context, some idea as to how you're bridging the gap between these two pieces of dialogue.
The key to transitioning (if you're interested) is to really figure out how the quotation you're providing relates to the previous information. For instance, if I was talking about homelessness in the first sentence, my second sentence (with citation) should include some sort of acknowledgment of that first sentence. Something like this: This problem could be largely attributed to what Johnson (1999) called "a deficient welfare system" (p. 333). Does that make sense? Do you see how I've integrated the quote into my commentary? Do you see how I've provided context here?