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GRE Argument Essay: Dr. Field, A Noted Anthropologist, Visited The Island Of 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. 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.”

The argument tells about the reasons for preferring the interview-centered method over observation-centered method to study child-rearing practices.The conclusion looks tenable at first glance. However, the conclusion is based on unclear evidence that lack precise information.

The author mentioned that the children spent much more time talking about their biological parents than about other adults as per Dr.Karp's interview-centered method. But the behaviour of the children is not explained here. There is no survey report explaining how many children were interviewed. Also the author did not give the precise data for the number of children who talked about their parents.

Although there is no precise data given for Dr.Field's method, the author did not explain about the disadvantages observed by Dr.Field's observation-centered method. The author did not give any information about the comparison between the two methods. Also, there is no reason for Dr.Karp's conclusion that Dr.Field's method must be invalid.

From the information gathered by Dr.Karp's method, the author cannot tell that his method is accurate. Also, the author failed to describe the evidence for the final conclusion that the future research on Tertian child-rearing practices should be based on interview-centered method.

The author's conclusion is blindly based on his unclear assumptions. His argument would have become strong if he had clearly given the disadvantages of the observation-centered method conducted by Dr.Field. Also, he could have given more precise data for the accurate information as mentioned by him.

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ESSAY REVIEW

This essay is a general criticism of the recommendation and the argument on which it is based, but that is not what you are asked by the instructions to produce. You are asked instead to “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.” To start, then, you need to identify the specific questions that would need to be answered.

Now when you say that “there is no survey report explaining how many children were interviewed,” that sentence could be taken by a reader as a way of identifying this question: “How many children were interviewed?” But there is no need to rely on your reader being generous. In other words, just say something explicit and straightforward, like this:

“One question that we need to ask in order to evaluate the argument is this: How many children were interviewed?”

Now even if what you say is taken as identifying a specific question that would need to be asked, that still would not amount to a sufficient response because you also need to “discuss the question.” It would probably be safe to assume that “discuss the question” means first something like “explain why this is an important question to ask.” In that case, you need to make an explicit statement that might, for example, look like this: “This is an important question to ask because etc.”

Once that is done, there is a final step that is needed before this part of your essay would be considered a complete response to the instructions, for these also state: “be sure to explain how the answers to these questions would help to evaluate the recommendation.” To respond to this specific instructions, you need to consider what the possible answers might be, and then explain their role in an evaluation. Given the specific question that we’ve taken as our example, we have to be inventive here with respect to possible answers. For example:

“If the number of children interviewed is statistically significant, then Dr. Karp’s study represents evidence in support of the argument that Dr. Field’s conclusions ‘must be invalid.’ If the number was not statistically significant etc.”

That’s a reasonable kind of statement to make because to say that something is “evidence” is not to say that it is proof. But we would also need to know, to take another example of a question we ought to discuss in this kind of essay, whether Dr. Karp actually interviewed any children from Tertia, and if he did, what they actually said about their biological parents, assuming they too talked about their biological parents. And so on. There are many questions one could ask that would be relevant to an evaluation of the argument.

Remember, finally, that you need also to discuss the implication of possible answers to identified questions for the recommendation, not just for the argument. Final example: Has anything changed in twenty years? If things have changed in twenty years, then it may be that Dr. Fields was right, but his findings no longer apply. To say that, is to indicate how a possible answer helps evaluate the argument. But if Dr. Fields was right and Dr. Karp is right to assume that today things are different (i.e., if both findings were correct at the time they were made) then we can deduce nothing about the relative efficacy of the two ways of obtaining information on Tertian child-rearing practices.

Upshot: Read the instructions!

Best, EJ.
Submitted by: Saranya M
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