In order to apply and extend the skills and techniques you've learned in this section on argumentation, research, and research writing, you will write an essay which synthesizes research on an arguable topic to create a well-informed and rhetorically impactful argument.
Your task is to write an argumentative essay which takes a position on a topic, supports that position using credible sources, addresses counterarguments, and rebuts those counterarguments. Here's a more detailed breakdown:
1. Choose a Topic
Using the idea generation activities in Chapter Eight, identify a path of inquiry that is open-ended, focused, and—most importantly—interesting to you.
2. Write a Proposal
Before beginning your research, identify your path of inquiry (research question) and your working thesis—this is your research proposal. Keep in mind, this is not set in stone, but is rather a starting point. Your proposal should be no fewer than 250 words. Consult the discussion of research proposals in Chapter Eight for guidelines.
3. Research and Write an Annotated Bibliography
Using multiple resources (your school’s library, Google, Google Scholar, and beyond), identify the different perspectives on your topic. Consider:
- What conversation already exists about this topic? Are you saying something new, or aligning with existing viewpoints?
- Who are the authorities on this topic? What stance do they take? Who is weighing in?
- What aspects of this topic make it arguable?
- What other issues is this debate connected to? Try to gather a diversity of sources in order to catch the contours of a complex conversation. Be sure to document your research along the way to save yourself a headache when you begin your annotated bibliography.
You should compile any sources you seriously consult (even if they do not seem useful at the time) in a bibliography using a citation style appropriate to your class. Then, you will evaluate them in the form of an annotated bibliography. Each annotation of roughly 100 words should:
a) briefly summarize the source,
b) attend to its use-value, and
c) consider its credibility and place in the ongoing conversation.
Your annotated bibliography is a research tool; you are not obliged to use all of the sources from this portion of the project in your essay. You may include any sources you've encountered for your annotated bibliography, even if you don't plan on using all of them as evidence in your essay.
4. Write, Re-research, Revise, Revise, Revise!
a. Write a first draft of your essay; this can be an outline, mind-map, draft, or hybrid of pre-writing. This will help you organize your ideas and research so your instructor knows you’re on track to write a successful final draft. Although a rough draft does not need to hit all these points, your final draft will include:
- Your question and your stance
- Justification for your stance, including sources
- Opposing/varying stances, including sources
- Your response to other stances
- An ultimate conclusion on your topic Note: this is not an outline or prescription, but a set of recommended subtopics.
b. Using feedback from your instructor, your peers, and the Writing Center—as well as new ideas you discover along the way—revise your first draft as many times as possible until it is ready to submit.
Your essay should be thesis-driven and will include evidence in the form of quotes, paraphrases, and summaries from sources to support your argument.
Before you begin, consider your rhetorical situation:
Guidelines for Peer Workshop
Before beginning the Peer Workshop and revision process, I recommend consulting the Revision Concepts and Strategies Appendix. In your Peer Workshop group (or based on your teacher's directions), establish a process for workshopping that will work for you. You may find the flowchart titled "Establishing Your Peer Workshop" useful.
One Example of a Peer Workshop Process
Before the workshop, each author should spend several minutes generating requests for support (#1 below). Identify specific elements you need help on.
I'm worried that my voice is being overwhelmed by other voices in the conversation. How do you think I can foreground my ideas?
Do you think my conclusion is convincing? What do you think my call-to-cation should be?
Do you see anywhere that I could better cultivate pathos?
During the workshop, follow this sequence:
1. Student A introduces their draft, distributes copies, and makes requests for feedback. What do you want help with, specifically?
2. Student A reads their draft aloud while students B and C annotate/take notes. What do you notice as the draft is read aloud?
3. Whole group discusses the draft; student A takes notes. Use these prompts as a reference to generate and frame your feedback. Try to identify specific places in your classmates’ essays where the writer is successful and where the writer needs support. Consider constructive, specific, and actionable feedback. What is the author doing well? What could they do better?
- What requests does the author have for support? What feedback do you have on this issue, specifically?
- Identify one “golden line” from the essay under consideration—a phrase, sentence, or paragraph that resonates with you. What about this line is so striking?
- Consult either the rubric included above or an alternate rubric, if your instructor has provided one. Is the author on track to meet the expectations of the assignment? What does the author do well in each of the categories? What could they do better?
- Ideas, Content, and Focus
- Structure Style and Language
- Depth, Support, and Reflection
- What resonances do you see between this draft and others from your group? Between this draft and the exemplars you’ve read?
4. Repeat with students B and C.
After the workshop, try implementing some of the feedback your group provided while they’re still nearby! For example, if Student B said your introduction needed more imagery, draft some new language and see if Student B likes the direction you’re moving in. As you are comfortable, exchange contact information with your group so you can to continue the discussion outside of class.