Researched Argument: An Argumentative Analysis

Purpose of assignment: To develop your ability to introduce, integrate, evaluate, and discuss information from academic texts in order to make a successful academic argument; to practice the type of research and writing that is often a part of upper-division courses; to be able to distinguish peer-reviewed academic research from non-peer-reviewed and educated-audience sources.

Your final essay will be an argumentative analysis:  a minimum of 2300 words, double-spaced, standard fonts, bibliography/works cited page, at least four academic sources and up to three non-academic sources.  Your paper might be seven to ten pages. Non-academic sources are not required, but you must have a total of five sources.  Please note that the majority of your sources must be peer-reviewed, academic sources.  You may have more than five sources, but do not overwhelm the essay with non-academic sources.  

This essay is very similar to your previous essay in that it is an argumentative essay with sources.  The primary difference is that you will almost exclusively use peer-reviewed, academic sources to support your position.  Just as in Essay 3, your sources help you develop reasons that support your thesis and evidence that supports your reasons.  Essay three must employ five sources that are credible for an academic audience.  The majority of these five sources will come from peer-reviewed, academic journals or books. 

Before you get to those peer-reviewed sources, begin your research by exploring among on-line sites that are credible but still aimed at a popular audience, not an audience of experts.  You’ll identify at least four such sites, which tend to be run by universities, non-profit think tanks, or journals that target educated audiences like The Economist, The Atlantic or The New Yorker.  Your homework now  is to begin reading, taking note, and writing both descriptively and speculatively about your topic.  Here is where you shape your earlier questions into more informed questions, and gain enough context to be ready for the expert, peer-reviewed research of the next stage.  The exploratory writing you do here may well be useful in your final essay.  For example, it may serve as an element in an extended introduction or background section.  Sections might form the basis of body paragraphs, provide useful evidence, or suggest a counter-argument worth exploring.  Once you have a grasp of credible but still popular sources, we’ll shift, in class, to finding and using peer-reviewed, academic sources. 

Choosing a subject:  Moore’s text offers a tremendously wide range of subjects for independent study.  You will each choose a subject and research it.  Your initial research will result in homework writing that will then evolve into more rigorous research supporting an argument.   For example, you might begin with a topic – school zoning – and as you read and become familiar with your topic, you will may begin to see just how complicated the issue is.  This is not a reflective personal essay or a political speech; working with and analyzing evidence will lead you to developing focused claims.  For example, you might begin your essay feeling engaged with the topic because you found the documentary Teach Us All compelling, but as you work your way through evidence and analysis, begin to focus on charter schools.  Your early reading and drafting will tend toward the descriptive, and as you explore your subject, and as you gain expertise you’ll begin to fashion a proper academic argument.  

It is not uncommon for a researcher to begin with one question and end with a different one, so give yourself time to be curious and flexible.  Such shifts are the nature of asking questions and looking for answers.  Your essay must dig deeply and go beyond simply discussing racial bias and segregation in the system; rather, look to Moore’s focused claims.  You might write on the Code of Silence in police departments, or the incarceration rate of veterans of color who suffer from PTSD, or the use of solitary confinement as a form of punishment in the prison system.  However, the subject for this last essay must come, in some way, from South Side  because that is what will happen in upper-division courses—students study an issue together and then branch off and do their own research in an area related to that issue. 

Organization:  Employ a standard argumentative structure that includes all the basics:  an introduction/background section of one or two paragraphs; body paragraphs that delineate reasons and evidence that support the thesis; at least one counter-argument; a conclusion that usefully wraps up the argument in a persuasive manner.

Becoming a successful writer means teaching yourself how to use the resources that are available. This is what successful professionals do, whether they are mathematicians, teachers, or accountants. They take control of their learning process and make it their own. In your future classes, instructors may want more (or less) emphasis on an original thesis. Some instructors insist on two sources; others may want ten. Whether the essay is 600 words or 2000 words, the basic moves you practice in E4 will be almost the same for your upper-division classes. 

Grading criteria:

  • Effective and helpful introduction with an appropriately argumentative thesis and a conclusion that leaves the reader with something to think about
  • Well-developed body paragraphs that, for the most part, engage one or more sources
  • Reasons and evidence that are presented and analyzed in a manner that supports the thesis and makes explicit connections to it
  • Well-introduced, documented, and discussed sources   
  • At least one counter-argument that engages either why a reader would disagree with your position or how you disagree with one or more of your sources. 
  • Accurate citation of at least five sources; three of which must be substantive articles or book chapters from peer-reviewed, academic sources. 
  • Accurate understanding of sources
  • Clear and effective sentences
  • Accurate bibliography page

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