Intimidated by Academic Writing? Use CER!

Talking to students of any age, it’s clear that writing leaves an impression of being an intimidating, monumental task. However, those who are not fond of academic writing often don’t realize how structured and formulaic it can be — like plugging variables (sentences) into a math equation. Sure, there are many different modes of writing with varying styles of structure, and some may say that too much structure can impede personal style and creativity, but the bulk of most academic writing relies on a simple organizational order: claim, evidence, and reasoning.

If you’ve ever frozen at the body of your argumentative essay; looked desperately over the articles you’ve collected for a research paper, or have been simply stumped, fingers rendered immobile on the keyboard while trying to compose a discussion board post, just remember these three words. While some modes of writing have a lot of different parts (essays, of course, require an introduction and a conclusion), we’re going to focus on this strategic approach to writing “the meat” of an academic response. 

 

Claim: State your claim as a fact based on your reading, observation, or research.

Purpose: A major claim is your main point (zooming out to see the big picture), while supporting claims are more specific statements that relate to your main point (zooming in to see the specific details).

How to use: Turn your own conclusion into a statement using the professor’s question.

If the professor presents a question such as “Is social media addictive?” you can recycle that question by responding “Social media is addictive.” There’s your major claim! 

A supporting claim might look like: “App developers have admitted to using behavioral science in order to make social media as addicting as it is today.” See how it restates your major claim while providing more specific detail?

 

Evidence: Provide reliable information to support the claim.

Purpose: Facts, examples, statistics, and expert opinions hold the most weight in the academic world, but anecdotes and common truths are sometimes considered sufficient evidence to further support your claim.

How to use: Begin with sentence starters like these:

  • In the text…
  • The text states…
  • According to…
  • One example of this…
  • The author states…

 

Reasoning: Explain how the evidence supports the claim.

Types: Reasoning should effectively connect, explain, and elaborate on how your evidence supports your claim. You can even repeat your claim here!

How to use: Begin with sentence starters like these:

  • Based on this evidence, one can conclude (rephrase your claim) because…
  • This is significant because (explain why in a way that directly relates to the claim)…
  • Considering (restate evidence), it’s logical to assume (rephrase claim)…
  • Given this evidence, it can be assumed that (rephrase claim)…

So what does this look like when it comes together? Let’s take a look.

 

Question: Is social media addictive?

Claim Not only can people become addicted to social media (reference to major claim), it is often purposely designed to have an addictive effect (supporting claim).
Evidence According to app developer Peter Mezyk, there are two types of apps — painkiller apps and supplemental apps (Schwär & Moynihan, 2020). Mezyk explains that painkiller apps, like Instagram and Facebook, “typically generate a stimulus, which usually revolves around negative emotions such as loneliness or boredom.” One example of this kind of stimulus is the endless scrolling feature on Instagram. The creator of this feature, Aza Raskin, has admitted that it is highly habit-forming and even feels guilty about its addictive quality (Andersson, 2018).
Reasoning Given the testimonies of people working in the tech industry, it’s clear that there’s an effort to manipulate brain behavior during social media app development, which makes it effectively addictive.* 

*There’s my claim again! Good reasoning should always bring it back to the initial point.

 

The beauty of using the CER structure is that you can use it in so many different modes of writing. Writing a research paper on why bees are essential to the environment? Use CER! Developing an argumentative essay on the importance of recycling? Use CER! Constructing an analytical response as to the deeper meaning of a poem or song? CER works here too. Hopefully, in remembering this approach when you’re finding it difficult to organize your thoughts, academic writing will become less scary.

 

Written by Nichole Bradford
Student Success Coach

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