Creating PIE Paragraphs
Points: A primary statement you are making that will contribute to your overall theme, angle or argument. In your profile, what points do you want to make about this individual’s character, motivations, or plans? Where will this “point” lead the paragraph? (Try to “connect the dots.”) Will a point set up an anecdote your partner has relayed to you? Will it introduce a specific description of your subject?
Illustrations: Quotes or paraphrases from the written transcripts of your recorded conversations. Use a signal phrase for every quote and make sure that it is integrated into one of your own sentences. (For common signal phrases, see page 417-418 in the second edition of our Field Guide). In a profile, an illustration might also appear as a detailed description of your subject’s physical traits, actions, or interactions.
Explanation/Evaluation: Provides an analysis based on the illustration. In this profile, our guiding question is, “What motivating factors and decisions have led this student to pursue an education at Queens College?” How does what this individual has said indicate a certain way of understanding an experience he/she has had or a choice he/she has made?
Note: The phrasing and content of ideas that qualify as “points,” “illustrations,” or “explanations” may vary according to the genre of your piece. The way you arrange these elements might vary as well but the strongest body paragraphs will often contain all three.
Two PIE paragraphs that might appear in a profile
From “Phoenix Risen: How a history professor became the pioneer of a for-profit revolution”
by Thomas Bartlett (The Chronicle for Higher Education, July, 6, 2009)
A paragraph that uses quotation and description as illustration:
Despite his fondness for conflict, he [John Sperling] doesn’t demand the floor in meetings. “I speak as little as possible because when I talk I don’t learn,” he explains. He tends to sit back quietly, waiting for the right moment to interject. When he has a point to make, he will spring to life, leaning over the table, raising his voice, wagging his finger. It’s as if he has been waiting for the action to begin.
A paragraph that relies on paraphrase, summary, and description as illustration:
It is hard to square that [the way Sperling is usually cast, as “the Eccentric Rich Guy, a wealthy dabbler, the kook] with the actual John Sperling, who may just be the least flashy billionaire out there. He tools around Phoenix in a decade-old car (albeit a Jaguar), carries his IBM ThinkPad tucked under one arm, and dons the same outfit almost every day: a blue, button-down shirt and khaki slacks. He loves theater, classical music, and especially poetry. He is easily bored by chitchat but lights up when the conversation turns to politics or the environment. He sees the University of Phoenix not as a giant ATM to support his causes, but as a force for social good, an enterprise consistent with his left-of-center worldview. These days he is spending millions on solar technology and sustainable agriculture, which he hopes can reel humankind back from the edge of calamity.
Making Decisions as a Writer
Using Sources: When to quote? When to paraphrase? When to summarize?
Quote texts when the wording is worth repeating or makes a point so well that no rewording will do it justice, when you want to cite the exact words of an authority on your topic, when his or her opinions challenge or disagree with those of others, or when the particular source is one you want to emphasize.
Paraphrase passages that are not worth quoting but contain details you may need to include.
Summarize longer passages in which the main point is important but the details are not.
Note: Again, the decisions you make as a writer should take the genre of your piece into account.
Activity #1 (10 minutes):
Read over your printed transcript, which should have “key” phrases highlighted. Reevaluate your selections. Mark moments that you feel confidant are “quotable” excerpts with “Q,” paraphrase-worthy excerpts with a “P,” and moments that you can reduce to “summarizable” main points with an “S.”
Activity #2 (15 minutes):
Compose your own PIE paragraph below. (**When quoting, pay attention to incorporating descriptive signal phrases. You may even want to go back to your recording the remind yourself of the tone of your partner’s voice; then, choose the most appropriate signal phrase.)
Download: PIE paragraphs (d0c)