main menu

IDENTIFYING ARGUMENTATION IN TEXT: ‘BRIGHTLY COLOURED CARS’

A
bright orange luxury car

Bright cars and fraud: any link?

Introduction

Understanding the argument or discussion structure of any journal article is a crucial element in reading critically and, therefore, successfully at degree level. The exercises below are designed to take you through the stages of identifying, understanding and evaluating the argument or discussion structure present in an introduction to a social sciences journal article. Most academic articles aim to persuade us of their validity by claiming to say something original and important about a field of study, so ‘taking the debate forward’.

They do this by employing a combination of language and tone, logical steps or ‘moves’, citation of other authorities in the same subject field and, crucially, by logical argument, or discussion, by which an author aims to establish a valid claim, or situate themselves in the field. If you need to check the meaning of any of the key words in bold follow this link Glossary

You will have the opportunity to work through the activities below based on a specially created introduction to an academic article. You can then try applying this approach to a text chosen from your own reading list.

Objectives

• To practise reading to improve your understanding of argument structure
• To better understand the structure of an introduction to a research paper
• To expand your knowledge of key terms used to critically analyse academic writing



Activity 1: Pre-reading tasks

Reflect on what you would normally put in an introduction to an academic essay.

instruction icon

Instruction

Read the title and the short abstract that follow:

"Brightly Coloured Luxury Cars and White Collar Crime: Yet Another Dead End?"

by Alan Hengist
Professor of Crime and Social Trends, the London School of Demographics

Previous studies (Cheney et al., 2004 Bush et al., 2006) have argued for a
marked correlation between the increase in the number of brightly coloured,
high performance cars on the City of London’s roads and a recent rise in
the incidence of City banking fraud. This research article calls this view into question.

Make notes in the box below in response to these questions:
• The title: why does it end with a question and what might it mean?
• The short paragraph in bold below the title: what does it discuss?
• The author’s job title and place of work: what does it tell us?

Now using no more than 35 of your own words, write down in the box below what you think the article is about:

Activity 2: SPRE structure and ‘Brightly Coloured Luxury Cars’

Many academic articles you will read at university employ a SPRE-type structure. First, they set out the current state of a particular academic debate which the author wishes to engage in (situation). After that, the article identifies a specific point at issue (problem). Next, the article outlines ways to counter identified weaknesses in other approaches (response) and, finally, most articles will attempt to assess their response to, or intervention in, the debate (evaluation).

instruction icon

Instruction

Skim the text "Brightly Coloured Luxury Cars and White Collar Crime: Yet Another Dead End?"

"Brightly Coloured Luxury Cars and White Collar Crime: Yet Another Dead End?" (1)

by Alan Hengist
Professor of Crime and Social Trends, the London School of Demographics

Previous studies (Cheney et al., 2004 Bush et al., 2006,) have argued for a
marked correlation between the increase in the number of brightly coloured,
high performance cars on the City of London’s roads and a recent rise in
the incidence of City banking fraud. This research article calls this view into question.


Leading criminologists (Cheney et al., 2004, Bush et al., 2006) have claimed a marked correlation between the increasing popularity of the brightly coloured cars being driven by the City of London’s wealthy élites and the recent collapse of the Capital’s fraud-hit financial sector. It was their seminal analysis of luxury car ownership in the United States (Bush & Cheney, 2001) that definitively established pink Ferraris, day-glo green Porsches and flame-orange Rolls Royces as the vehicles of choice for the Wall Street hedge fund élite by early 1999. Recent work on banking malfeasance (Jodrell, 2005, Trouserd & Goodwin, 2007) has sought to link these unconventional colour preferences to the marked recorded increase in the level of fraudulent activity by City traders, but without conclusively demonstrating any quantifiable causal relationship.

It is clearly the case that the causes of recent City banking fraud are many and complex (see Mandelström, 2008). Indeed, psychologists have been arguing over the motives for such crime for many years and have yet to come to any firm conclusions. Broadly, authorities in the literature divide into two camps. On the one hand, the environmental and occupational position (Workhouse et al., 2003) argues that such criminal behaviour results from social factors. According to this view, such fraud is simply a by-product of the bonus culture that has pervaded the City since 1997. This bonus culture, it is argued, constrains young male traders (statistically the majority of the perpetrators are both young and male) to commit high risk, fraudulent acts in order to enrich themselves as rapidly as possible. In short, it is suggested that any rise in questionable trading practices is almost entirely fuelled by well and less well-paid financial operatives competing to buy these brightly coloured, luxury models. On the other hand, the behavioural perspective (see Cue & Dole 1998, Skint et al., 2001) has long held that such crime is in fact genetic in origin. In other words, there are identifiable, highly acquisitive character types that appear to be inherently predisposed to defraud in all contexts, regardless of the risks, to get possession of highly prized and exclusive status symbols, such as these cars.

However, all the studies cited above manifest a common flaw - they crucially ignore the psycho-social profiles of existing owners of these unusually luminous, high prestige vehicles. By contrast, our research demonstrates that although some of these luxury models may indeed be owned by traders in sophisticated financial products, this is not exclusively the case. Furthermore, as will be shown, such vehicles are also demonstrably the car of choice for other high achievers, such as well remunerated practitioners of law or medicine. This specific stratum of professionals in society has been decisively proven in a recent longitudinal study (Blunkettle et al., 2007) to be among those least likely to commit fraudulent acts, lending even greater weight to the case against any obvious correlation.

Our results suggest, therefore, that it is unhelpful to attempt to relate the number of brightly coloured cars on London’s roads to any perceived increase in fraudulent City dealings. Whilst accepting that the causes of fraud may indeed be social or genetic, our findings set out below, based on both the most comprehensive literature review and exhaustive programme of field research undertaken to date, demonstrate that, in practice, there is little, if any, substantial evidence to suggest that strikingly coloured, high-end luxury vehicles on the Capital’s streets are in any meaningful way connected with the car ownership patterns of perpetrators of the most notorious cases of City fraud. We conclude, rather, that any quantifiable increase in the number of brightly coloured, high performance cars on London’s roads is a wholly predictable outcome of the exponential increase in buying power resulting from the financial sector’s total deregulation from 1997-2007. The broader question of the social distribution of the ownership of these particular cars, and any plausible relationship to, and impact on, City fraud, is beyond the scope of this study and would fruitfully be the object of further research.
________________________________________________________________________ _
(1) Phil Vellender acknowledges with thanks Peter Hopes’ inspirational paper ‘It has been suggested that the increase in the number of white cars on the roads has led to an increase in crime. How far do you agree?’ (Available in New Directions in Fraud: Proceedings of the Royal Psycho-Environics Society (Hotter and Struttin) London, 2000)

Select the correct paragraph ‘function’ for the first paragraph from the dropdown list:

Select the correct paragraph ‘function’ for the second paragraph from the dropdown list:

Select the correct paragraph ‘function’ for the third paragraph from the dropdown list:

Select the correct paragraph ‘function’ for the fourth paragraph from the dropdown list:

Would you like to review the main points?

© Phil Vellender, Queen Mary University of London, 2010, photo used under the terms of an attributive CC license: courtesy of dwhartwig