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GRE Argument Essay: Tertia - With A Free Essay Review
Prompt: "Twenty years ago, Dr. Field, a noted anthropologist, visited the island of Tertia. Using an observation-centered approach to studying Tertian culture, he concluded from his observations that children in Tertia were reared by an entire village rather than by their own biological parents. Recently another anthropologist, Dr. Karp, visited the group of islands that includes Tertia and used the interview-centered method to study child-rearing practices. In the interviews that Dr. Karp conducted with children living in this group of islands, the children spent much more time talking about their biological parents than about other adults in the village. Dr. Karp decided that Dr. Field's conclusion about Tertian village culture must be invalid. Some anthropologists recommend that to obtain accurate information on Tertian child-rearing practices, future research on the subject should be conducted via the interview-centered method."
Instructions: "Write a response in which you discuss what questions would need to be answered in order to decide whether the recommendation and the argument on which it is based are reasonable. Be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation."
Dr. Karp claims that the conclusion from observations of Dr.Field that children in Tretia island were reared by entire village rather than their parents is wrong. There are few questions that need to be answered before we could agree with Dr.Karp on this claim. Dr. Field has studied Tertian culture 20 years ago whereas Dr.Karp has conducted interviews with children recently. We do not have any information regarding the change in their habits and morals in past 20 years. We need information on what basis Dr.Karp matched his recent study on Tertian child-rearing practices to the results of study that Dr.Field did 20 years ago. Did he get information on how these practices were 20 years ago, from people living in various parts of island or read the history of child-rearing practices 20 years ago in Tertia? If we could get an answer to this question, we will know that the diffrence in results of study by the two anthropologists is not due to the time gap between the two studies.
Next, it is mentioned in the statement that Dr. Field visited only the island of Tertia and observed that children were reared by an entire village. But Dr.Karp did not visit only the island of Tertia. He visited a group of islands and Tertia is one of them. It is also mentioned in the statement that "children living in this group of islands" spent much more time in talking about their biological parents than about other adults in the village. This statement makes us wonder if Dr. Karp's conclusions are only from his interviews with childern living in the island of Tertia or if this was conclusion made from collective results of interviews with children in islands around the Tertian island. Also, when people know about these types of interviews few days before it was conducted, they teach children what they should speak and what not. This commonly happens these days as we see in many television channels. So we would want to know if people were aware of the interview, weeks before it was conducted. If that is the case, how did Dr.Karp conclude that children were not taught to speak like that in the interview? Dr.Field did not conduct any interviews. His conclusions were based on his observations. So knowing the answers to above questions would help us in concluding that Dr.Karp's interviews results are only facts and actual happenings in the island and are accurate.
Finally, since Dr.Karp's method to study child-rearing practices of Tertian island was interview-centered, the fact that children spent much more time talking about their biological parents than about other adults is not adequate to conclude that Dr.Karp's study results are correct. What children talked about during the interview is fully based on what the questions of Dr.Karp were to the children. If he had asked them to tell about their parents and other adults in the village, it is plausible that children ended up talking more about their biological parents. So we need to know the set of questions that Dr.Karp asked these children before concluding that Dr.Field's study based on observations is wrong.
Remember that you need to discuss both the recommendation and the argument and you also need to explain how you would use the set of possible answers to the questions you identify in order to evaluate the recommendation.
The first question you identify concerns whether Dr. Karp inquired in his interviews into practices twenty years prior. You explain the significance of this question in the following way: "If we could get an answer to this question, we will know that the difference in results of study by the two anthropologists is not due to the time gap between the two studies." Obviously knowing whether the difference is due to the time gap will depend on the answer, so you need to either speculate about possible answers to the question and explain what significance they would have, or replace the word "that" with the word "whether" (and delete the word "not"): "If we could get an answer to this question, we would know whether the difference in the results of two studies by the two anthropologists is due to the time gap between the two studies." The expression "due to the time gap" is a bit vague. It might be better to say something like "due to changes in cultural practices over the twenty-year period separating the two studies." Note also that you do not explain how the possible answers to this question would help to evaluate the recommendation. You need to specify, in other words, what impact learning the answers to your question would have on the truth of the claim that "future research on the subject should be conducted via the interview-centered method."
The same problem occurs in the next two paragraphs. Again, what you learn from the answer depends on the answer. So you need to specify the possible answers to your question and then clarify what each answer reveals, and, then, clarify how it helps you to evaluate the recommendation. It is true for instance that we need to know the set of questions that Dr. Karp asked before coming to our own conclusions about the validity of Dr. Field's conclusions. So, if we find, say, that the questions asked in the interview were leading (i.e., that they tended to direct children to talk about their biological parents), what conclusion should we come to about the merits of the claim that the interview method is superior?