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2. Write a focused essay critiquing any one of the major articles we will have read thus far: Graff, Merrow, Sacks, Sperber, or Washburn (Tuchman, Reader 224 ff., offers yet another perspective, for those of you wanting to hear another voice in the debate).  Do you agree or disagree with the general argument or situation the author presents? Are there any assumptions (unspoken values/beliefs) that you find problematic or evidence that you don’t find compelling; do any factors exist the author didn’t consider? Be sure to interrogate your own assumptions in framing your response, and (especially if you are challenging the author’s evidence in any way) to provide some evidence of your own. If you wish, construct your essay as a letter to the author. If you present your ideas as a formal essay rather than a letter, imagine your audience to be your classmates who have read the piece but not thought about it as thoroughly as you and who may be somewhat skeptical of your claims. Make sure that it’s clear to your audience why this issue matters.  

Evaluation criteria: Review your own “Keepers” to be sure, first and foremost, that you’re working on whatever you think is most important to writing a good paper. Check out the rubric  I’ll use to respond to your essay. And finally, as Trimble and WA suggest, strive for  

* a sense of engagement with your topic (i.e., YOU should be interested in it, and should attempt to interest your reader too), and a sense of why the topic is worth the writer’s and reader’s time.

* a title and an opening paragraph that draw the reader in and reveal something of the content (Trimble ch. 3 and WA ch. 11)  

* one central thesis (argument/claim), articulated in your opening paragraph ideally (because that’s clearer for your reader) that follows the suggestions in WA 143-4 and ch. 12) and that all of your subsequent points/paragraphs try to prove  

* a sense of the conversation that exists about your topic (include and even direct your paper to others’ points of views): the sort of thing Graff promotes and himself tries to accomplish  

* clear direction/organization – what Trimble calls a “plan of attack” (rather than random points in random order). Each subclaim that supports your main argument should have a separate paragraph(s): don’t smoosh two different subclaims in the same paragraph (neither will get the attention it deserves, and it will be more confusing for your reader to keep your points straight).  ONE IDEA ONLY per paragraph is key.  

* compelling evidence for your claim (accurate, specific, sufficient, clear, relevant, and representative) – ideally in something approaching a 1:1 ratio with your claims (WA chs. 7-8). Beware evidence without claims and claims without evidence. Don’t ask your reader to “just take your word for things.”  

* quotes used selectively and judiciously, integrated into your own writing and appropriated for your own argument (i.e., you’ve analyzed whatever you’ve quoted, and used it to enhance rather than substitute for your own argument). Graff and Birkenstein (ch. 3) have good advice about using quotes. Feel free to draw from the ideas (yours or those of others – so long as you acknowledge the source of any ideas that didn’t originate with you) that have circulated in class discussions or on the email list; indeed one of the goals of this assignment (whichever option you select) is that you give your reader a sense of the “conversation” percolating around your chosen topic.  

* no problematic assumptions (values) for your stipulated audience  

* smooth connections to bridge every sentence and paragraph; a sense of “flow” (They Say/I Say ch. 8; Trimble 46-48). Remember that transitions at the beginnings rather than the ends of paragraphs are usually smoothest for your reader. Use plenty of transitional phrases, synonyms, and pointing words to create these bonds.  

* please use 12 point font with 1″ margins, paginate, STAPLE, and acknowledge any sources (don’t worry about any particular technique at this point).

Here’s how to begin: 

–> Look for a problem, something people disagree about, or something that people in the past have interpreted wrongly or insufficiently (or maybe not noticed at all). Observe it or gather evidence about it (if you’re analyzing a text, reread it and take notes on it). Look for the “presence of tension….the pressure of one idea against another idea” (WA 143-4) or some moment of “instability” (this term is Graff’s in CiA), where people disagree or where more could be going on with whatever you’re analyzing than the average person can see.  

–>Try to develop an “idea” (WA p. 27), explore it/gather evidence for it (notice details), and then offer an interpretation as to what those details mean – i.e., make an argument – that seems reasonable and ideally convincing to your reader.  

–> Think of your reader as someone specific (like your roommate or department head or Gerald Graff or Gov. Brown or your state legislator or a prospective student) and make it your goal to say something to that person that offers insight into (an “idea” about) an artifact, event, situation, or text which that person otherwise wouldn’t have thought about very deeply (so because you’ll make her “think,” the issue from your reader’s perspective will seem significant and worth her while) and about which that person might disagree. Seek to establish a conversation in your paper — at the least, between yourself and your reader; ideally, between several different voices/views (though your voice/view/ideas are of course the dominant ones, the ones you hope your reader comes away from your paper believing). And be sure to “share your thought process with your reader” as WA puts it.  

Rubric

P1 Rubric (That’s how the grade gonna be) Really important 

P1 Rubric

CriteriaRatingsPts

This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeFocus: how well does the essay maintain focus on a single TSIS?Beginning (1 point): Essay has no TSIS and shows minimal focus on a topic. Developing (2 points): Essay has focus, but no TSIS, or a TSIS, but doesn’t stay focused on it. Successful (3 points): Essay shows controlling (if uneven) focus on a TSIS and has a unified purpose. Exemplary (4 points): Essay is consistently purposeful and well-focused on a TSIS. This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeComplexity of ideas: to what extent does the essay analytically explore the topic?Beginning (1 pt): Esay takes on a very simple topic or oversimplifies the complexities of the topic. Developing (2 pts): Essay tackles a complex problem or question, but may not adequately address it. Successful (3 pts): Essay sufficiently addresses a complex problem but may not fully explore the complexities/connections. Exemplary (4 pts): Essay thoughtfully addresses the complexities of a question/problem that has no easy solution, or teases out the nuances of connections that are not easily pinned down.

This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeSupport: how well does the essay use evidence, both as support and as “points of departure”? Are quotes/evidence incorporated effectively and analyzed thoroughly?Beginning (1 pt): Essay uses minimal or inappropriate evidence not clearly relevant to the controlling idea/claim. Writer does not tag/comment on/analyze the evidence. Developing (2 pts): Essay uses limited support that may not be well incorporated in support of the controlling idea/claim. Writer tags/comments/ analyzes the evidence only minimally. Successful (3pts): Essay’s support is mostly relevant and sufficiently well-analyzed; writer thoroughly introduces/ discusses each piece of evidence, although it may not always be clear who is speaking. Exemplary (4 pts): Support is consistently relevant, skillfully synthesized and thoroughly analyzed to advance the essay’s purposes. It is always clear whether a source or the writer is speaking. This criterion is linked to a Learning OutcomeOrganization: to what extent is there a logical order of paragraphs/ points? Just one idea per par? Does the essay use transitions effectively?Beginning (1 point): Essay shows minimal control of arrangement of content. At sent level, there are frequent jumps in topic without bridging devices. Developing (2 pts): Essay exhibits some basic structure, but has confusing/inconsistent arrangement of content. Uses transitions inconsistently/ineffectively Successful: Essay has a functional (maybe simplistic) arrangement of content that creates a logical order; transitions are mostly effective Exemplary: Essay demonstrates sophisticated, thoughtful arrangement of content with focused paragraphs and fluid transitions. 

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