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What is an argumentative research essay?
For students, the most difficult part of writing a research essay might lie in understanding how it differs from essays that they wrote in high school. Argumentative Research essays are not informative essays (like the ones assigned in high school). According to the OWL of Purdue, “the argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic, collect, generate, and evaluate evidence, and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner”.
This argumentative research essay asks you to take a stand on a public issue and to use language to facilitate positive social action. Students apply rhetorical principles such as ethos, pathos, and logos as they write for a real audience of their choice. For this assignment, you will research a topic of personal and social significance and then argue for change. You can think of the assignment as a “Problem & Solution” because your topic should matter to you but it should be a “problem” in society and the “solution” should present a logical and back-up theory. There are a wide variety of topics that you could write about; ask yourself what in the world needs changing, perhaps on a local, global, political, or social level. Your job is to convince your readers of the importance of your chosen topic and motivate them to enact change by offering a well-researched and persuasive argument.
PART I: Topic:
You will base your choice of topic off of either a documentary, TedTalks, or a feed from The New York Times Room for Debate—these mediums should provide your with examples of societal problems/issues that you can use to begin your research as well as a jumping off point for your solution.
PART II: Focus:
The focus of this project is a persuasive essay that frames a problem, offers a reason for action, and present a solution in the form of social action while informing and persuading your audience. These genres take things beyond simple informational discussions by offering sound ways that the issue can be solved.
PART III: Audience:
Your audience is any group of people predisposed to disagree with your argument, or any group of people who have not previously acted on this issue in effective ways. When writing to this kind of skeptical audience, it is important to use a tone that will make that audience want to agree with you: calm but firm and considerate of other points of view, and extremely knowledgeable.
PART IV: The Essay:
You will write a persuasive, 7-9 page essay that a) educates your audience about an issue that needs changing, b) invites them to your point of view, c) acknowledges and refutes opposing arguments, and d) motivates readers to act in specific ways. Your essay should work directly to effect change on the given issue. You must include specific actions that your audience members may consider to correct this problem. Use at least five (5) sources to develop your argument including one that appropriately represents an opposing view.
PART V: Essay Structure:
The essay must have an introduction that includes the problem, controversy and thesis; background section discussing the history of the problem and unsuccessful approaches; body paragraphs providing evidence, examples, and argument; counter-claims that react to the opposition; a conclusion that states your call of action (what should be done).
Evaluation, Points, and Due Dates:
A Successful Essay will:
• Construct an argument that works as a tool for change
• Introduce the issue/problem and the controversy
• Create a debatable thesis statement
• Provide background information for sources and evidence
• Integrate sources that support or illuminate the focus of the essay
• Anticipate possible objections and addresses them
• Suggests applicable courses of action/solution
• Successfully utilize logos
• Successfully utilize ethos
• Successfully utilize pathos
• Use MLA academic conventions correctly (including the Work Cited Page)
• Use appropriate, formal and non-inflammatory language:
• Provide transitions to connect paragraphs and sentences within your paragraphs
• Use the writing process, including invention, drafting, revising, peer review, and editing strategies
Common Mistakes to Avoid:
1. Many students make the mistake of simply repeating the suggestions of other authors instead of coming up with their own calls for action. If those arguments were sufficient, why does your chosen injustice continue to be a problem? When considering the suggestions of other authors on your given topic, try to use your knowledge of various arguments and rhetorical devices to make an even more effective call to action.
2. Sometimes, students fail to persuade their readers because they do not accurately represent an opposing argument. Therefore, as you write your paper, you should spend as much time considering various legitimate counter-arguments as you do your own, so that your argument is as persuasive as possible. If your readers can see that you’ve considered a wide range of diverse viewpoints, they will be more likely to value your position as reasonable and impartial.
3. Try to keep your audience in mind as you write and revise your essay, especially when recommending actions that could be taken to affect your chosen problem. For instance, if you’re writing to address the problem of wasted gasoline used by students who drive to campus instead of walking, riding bikes, or taking the bus, it will be unconvincing to a student audience to simply say, “Students should ride their bikes more often.” Think deeper—what exactly keeps students from riding their bikes? (Heat? Convenience? Speed?) You need to craft recommendations that people might actually do, argued persuasively to consider possible objections they might have.
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