Assignment: The final project in this course is to write an academic argument. In the previous units, you selected a topic that interests you, generated a complex research question, gathered sources, and explored the ongoing conversation between experts in the field. Now that you have a significant base of knowledge about your topic, you can join that ongoing conversation by taking a position and making a claim of your own.
In addition to providing you with an opportunity to practice making a claim and supporting it with logical reasoning and credible evidence, this writing project will also provide an opportunity for you to display what you have learned about the expectations of an academic audience, and to further develop your skills as a careful researcher, critical thinker and persuasive, thoughtful writer.
Just to clarify: The goal of academic argument is not to win a debate against the other side, nor is to deride those who disagree with you—academic argument is a combination of truth seeking and persuasion. It takes into account all the available information and views, and acknowledges the truth may lie within a compromise between two established positions, or else within a third, undiscovered position. Although your personal opinions on a topic may be passionate and heartfelt, if you do not provide reasons and evidence to convince the reader to hold the same opinions, you cannot be persuasive.
Connecting Your Argument with Your Exploration:
We do the exploration before the argument because researching a topic objectively is a great way to come to a stance based on logic rather than bias; however, it is important to bear in mind that the argument is a different genre with a different rhetorical purpose.
Unlike the exploratory narrative, which is written in an open-form style, the final project will be written in closed form and support a clearly stated thesis. The exploration was essentially a story, written in the first person, about your research project and progress. Like all open-form writing, the exploratory essay moved toward a tentative conclusion, rather than presenting one in the beginning. The research paper is the opposite. Your conclusions – in other words, your thesis – must be presented early, and supported with evidence through the rest of the paper. The writing style should be objective.
You can use the first person “I,” but try to limit its use to relevant passages in which you discuss your experience (if any) with the issue that you are writing about. Do not report the subjective process of your thinking and your research as you did in the exploration. Only report findings, insights, evidence, conclusions, and so forth.
For a good illustration of the differences between an exploratory essay and a researched argument, compare John Gardiner’s “How Do Online Social Networks Affect Communication” with his formal, closed-form paper, “Why Facebook Might Not be Good for You,” in the Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing.
Despite the important differences in genre between these two projects, they will be closely linked by topic, as all of your writing projects this semester have been.
Drafting the Argument with the Rhetorical Appeals in Mind:
Your introduction should get your reader’s attention (possibly by appealing to pathos), provide background that identifies the conversation you are joining, and clearly state your entry into the conversation—the claim you intend to support.
The body of your argument should appeal to logos by presenting reasons and evidence in support of your position, as well as appeal to ethos by incorporating research and responding to opposing views. You may also appeal to pathos within the body your essay by appealing to the values and beliefs of your audience.
As you consider your rhetorical strategies, it is important to bear in mind that your audience may read against-the-grain, or hold different values and beliefs than you do.
The type of conclusion you write will depend upon the purpose of your argument, and we will discuss this more in class.
At this point in the semester, you have already developed effective strategies for finding and evaluating sources. For the argument, you must have at least seven credible, relevant sources, four of which can be carried over from the exploratory narrative. If you choose to take a different approach to your topic, you must work to find credible sources that are relevant to your new focus.
If you are having trouble finding sources, or if you are unsure about the credibility of a source, please contact a librarian (best choice) or me (next best choice). You will be graded on the strength of your appeal to ethos.
Your research can be utilized to:
Provide background information about the topic, issue or problem
Appeal to logos by supporting your thesis, claims and reasoning
Appeal to ethos by presenting and addressing counterarguments and alternative viewpoints or solutions
Requirements and Guidelines: This project must be typed and doubled-spaced with 12pt. font. Your margins must be one inch, and you must have either a heading or a title page. You must adhere to MLA style rules (check Everyday Writer) for formatting, in-text citations and Works Cited. Your peer review draft should be at least 1400 words, and your finished argument should be 1600-1800 words. The Works Cited should not be included in the word count.
Evaluation Criteria: I will collect your essay electronically through Turnitin.com. When evaluating your argument, these are the questions I will be thinking about (and you should ask them also):
Argumentation in general:
Does the essay contain a clearly stated thesis that is easy to find, meaningful and sufficiently argumentative?
Do the reasons and evidence logically support the thesis and other claims?
Have possible objections to the underlying assumptions linking the claims and reasons been addressed?
Have opposing views been addressed? Is there evidence of truth seeking?
Are the sources of evidence credible and relevant? Are there enough sources?
Are sources incorporated smoothly and effectively into your own writing? Did you choose the best strategy for incorporating sources: summarizing, paraphrasing or quoting?
Is there proper documentation of sources in MLA format? Did you use an effective combination of attributive tags and in-text citations?
Did you include a complete and correctly formatted Works Cited list (essential for a passing grade)?
Organization and audience awareness:
Does the introduction effectively present the central topic, issue or problem? Does the audience understand what is at stake and for whom?
Does the paper provide adequate background on the conversation you are joining?
Is the essay clearly and logically organized? Does it present information in an order that will make sense to a reader?
Are the tone and style appropriate for an academic audience? Is the writing objective enough, and appropriate for a formal paper?
Is the essay written clearly and concisely? Can each sentence be understood the first time it is read? Are there any distracting grammar, spelling or mechanics errors?
Are you displaying evidence of an effective writing process that includes planning, drafting, revision, proofreading and editing?
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