Introduction

Introduction

This module, like all others in the Writing and Critical Thinking domain, has the primary objective of helping you to become a better writer of academic essays. An "academic essay" may not be something you've written or even encountered before, and there are also small variations in the genre. Our focus is on the argumentative essay that contains evidence-based claims. Though it will, of course, be the purpose of the module to help you understand the following definition, we can for now say that an argumentative essay justifies the need for, and then advances, an original thesis, doing so via the primary analysis of evidence. Put another way, an argumentative essay first convinces its readers (often through research) that there is an interesting problem to be solved, and then goes on to solve it by examining relevant evidence.

This definition has many implications. For starters, it suggests that the chief purpose of an argumentative essay is not to summarize or paraphrase other people's ideas, and that it is not going to make its claims by only or even mainly using other people's ideas as "supporting evidence" (i.e., "I think X because persons A and B have said X"). This, however, does not mean that we can ignore what other scholars have said. Quite the opposite: after all, you will only have something original to say about a topic if you spend some time reading and thinking about what other writers, with whom you are essentially entering into a dialogue, have already said. Indeed, the writing of a good essay must be prefaced by critically reading texts on the subject; this helps us figure out what are the intriguing and remaining problems in the field, before we try to solve them.

Furthermore, in this class, writing is not just a way to represent or communicate the ideas that you formulate in your head; writing is instead a way of helping you come up with those solutions and arguments. Writing will be a way of thinking through things. In addition, this module will help you acquire some "technical" skills: not so much grammar, but the protocols of academic writing (e.g., citations, formatting, working with sources), as well as methods of conducting research. These are all important skills that should come in useful for the rest of your time at NUS, and perhaps beyond.

The topic we will think, read, and write about in this module is tourism. This can be a huge subject; to make things manageable, we will further limit our focus. This module will therefore be concerned with the relationship between tourism and notions of authenticity. When tourists visit sites and attractions, or buy souvenirs, they frequently seem perturbed by how "real" these sites and mementos are. This kind of worry also operates at a broader level: tourists may wonder about whether the food they are eating—whether during their travels, or more generally—are "truly representative" of a culture, or even whether the culture and heritage they are seeing are in pure, untainted forms. Even the act of defining "tourism" is often riddled with such anxieties. Why does tourism bring out such anxieties about authenticity? Indeed, why are we generally so concerned with the real and the authentic? What, in fact, is the nature of the "authentic"?