Essay Assignment

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Major Essay 2: Mapping a Controversy.  What’s the Problem?
GWRTC 103 / Elisabeth Whitehead

 For your second paper, you will compose a letter of advocacy in which you argue that a current controversy constitutes a problem, offering a responsible argument on behalf of your position.  Your audience for this letter will be someone who currently disagrees with you and your position. 

Think in terms of writing a letter to an individual, a company, a magazine, a newspaper, or a letter to your senators or representatives, and keep this particular audience in mind as you present your argument.  If you choose to actually send your letter, or a portion of the letter, I will offer extra credit—an extra 20 points will be added to your lowest quiz grade with proof of mailing.  Remember, in order to capture the audience’s attention, such a letter must be compact, clear, and to the point.  You may want to cut your letter down before you send it out, depending on the audience.

Choose a topic that is significant to you and that you truly care about.  This will make your writing experience more relevant and enjoyable.  Remember that you have a wide variety of options in terms of subject matter.  You can address an issue that is more local and personal to you, or you can choose to tackle a controversy on a larger scale.   Whatever your choice, please be creative.  I would like you to avoid the following subjects: abortion, death penalty, drinking age, and legalization of marijuana.  If you have a strong interest in one of these topics and would like to address the issue in a novel way, please come speak to me about it.     

You will want to consider how you can best persuade your readers that this issue is an urgent problem requiring our attention.  Audience awareness will be especially important in this letter because your audience already holds strong beliefs about the issue.  You will need to demonstrate that you are well versed in the intricacies of this debate and that you have considered the issue from multiple angles beforehaving made up your mind.  Ask yourself:  where is the other position coming from?  Why do they believe what they do?  Where do we see eye to eye?  Where do we disagree and why?  And importantly, what is at the heart of this controversy? Looking at the values, assumptions, and interests involved, this will be an exploration of the debates between groups and a consideration of why the people who care about this issue may disagree.

You will need to build a balanced argument in which you make a claim and then support it with reasons and evidence, establishing credibility and making logical and emotional appeals suited to your audience.  Begin by defining your topic clearly, explaining your connection to and position on the issue. Make sure you are providing sufficient context.  Then lay out your argument clearly and concisely, providing reasons and supporting evidence to demonstrate why your topic constitutes a problem that needs to be quickly remedied.

Your discussion must show that you understand the major issues of the debate, the various positions that participants in the debate articulate, and the values and support that different positions rely upon in order to be persuasive. Think of yourself in conversation with your audience.

The letter should be 5 pages long.  Using MLA style, incorporate parenthetical citations and include a works cited page.

Responsible advocacy requires that you have performed an appropriate amount of research.  Your letter should include at least six sources (texts from the academic databases, books, magazines, journals, newspapers, interviews, films, etc.). One of your six sources can be from a credible website.  Make sure you analyze your sources carefully for their credibility before incorporating their information into your paper. If you choose to use more than six sources, you can use additional websites.  For this assignment, it is important that you seriously examine and address multiple positions within your letter.  For this reason, at least two of your sources should be arguments that support opposing views. 

Include in a folder:  a copy of your researched sources with your markings, down and up drafts with your changes marked, and your final paper. Your final grade for the paper will be reduced one step for each element that is missing.

The Green Point System (two points added to your lowest quiz grade for each of your drafts that are printed front to back or on recycled paper) will once again be in place for this assignment.  An additional two points will be added to a quiz grade if your final is printed front to back. 

Important dates to remember:

Works cited                             2/23
Outline                                     2/28                                         
Group conferences                   starting 3/16       (We are back in class on 3/23) 

Final paper                               due one week after your group conference


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