Where research becomes story.
Can academic books and articles advance rigorous, nuanced, persuasive arguments and tell compelling stories at the same time? They not only can—increasingly, they must in order to get read, cited, and remembered.
The fusion of argument and story is the key to making academic research findings meaningful and memorable to readers. This kind of writing requires equal parts logic and imagination, reason and intuition.
And, even though writing like this is one of the hardest intellectual tasks a human can undertake, the tools to do it are already in front of you.
Story + Argument = Story-Argument
Theory. The concept of Story-Argument is the most powerful tool we have for research communication. Think of it as a conceptual framework, a genre, a strategy for organizing information, an idea of how a scholarly book or article should be shaped. By learning the features of this model and keeping them in mind while crafting our research communication, we can develop texts that engage readers, inform them, and transform their thinking.
Application. In practice, a Story-Argument is a text that tells a story and advances an argument at the same time. Like an argument, it organizes information into evidence in support of a claim; and like a story, it reveals the intricacies of one specific facet of reality in order to shed light on something universal. Like an argument, it circumscribes the reader within the author's intended meaning, and like a story, it invites the reader into a co-construction of meaning. A Story-Argument is the optimal container for communicating academic research findings.
Story-Argument (noun): An intricately engineered sequence of claims and evidence, organized around a single central claim, that carries the reader forward, whether across 30 pages or 300, with a sense of urgency, suspense, and unfurling illumination, culminating in a sense of resolution as well as raising of new and better questions that invite readers into meaning-making of their own.
A text that takes the form of a Story-Argument is both a functional machine and a pleasing work of art. Thus, crafting a Story-Argument requires a range of rational and intuitive skills, from transcalar thinking and genre analysis, to a sense of balance and proportion, to courage and empathy.
The concept of Story-Argument, once understood, becomes the wellspring of an array of conceptual tools that can be used to navigate the research and writing process: frameworks, procedures, and habits of mind that we can call upon while writing to help us make meaning of our findings and articulate them in ways that will invite our readers into their own understanding of the subject and its significance.
The conceptual tools that emerge from Story-Argument are nothing less than a set of tools for building and communicating new knowledge. These tools, based in the principles underlying argument construction and storytelling, are embedded within reality itself. This is why I am so sure that you can access them too, no matter where you are: Like the elements of nature, these tools are already all around you, and like your own deepest inner knowing, they are already inside of you.
Hello! I’m Margy Thomas, Ph.D., and I founded ScholarShape to support researchers as they develop books and articles that convey the substance and significance of their work to academic audiences.
Scholars have so many answers and insights that the world desperately needs. With a combination of strategy, skill, and integrity, scholars can craft manuscripts that communicate their findings in ways that engage readers without sacrificing rigor or nuance.
In my one-on-one scholar support services, I’m privileged to work with researchers all around the globe from the ScholarShape Headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. My services include developmental editing and writing consultation.
The Story-Argument model is a work in progress: every day I get a little closer to having it distilled into usable form for you. In the meantime, you can follow along with its development, and receive relevant resources and ruminations directly from me, by subscribing to the Working Thesis newsletter.