Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Social Issue Project: Argument Phase: Writing a Research-based Argument about a Social Issue

Writing a Thesis Statement about a Social Issue

Day 1.
Narrow your large topic to a topic-within-the-topic.
(The narrowed topic should be something you care about deeply, something you want to understand more fully, and something you want to present an opinion on.)

Then make a clear, insightful, meaningful, debatable, supportable claim (also called a thesis, an assertion, a statement) about the topic.
(In other words state a carefully thought out opinion you have about the topic that you could support with some of the research you've conducted and perhaps some more research you will do.)

Go to Purdue's OWL for help creating a thesis statement, including specific help creating different types of thesis statements (also known as claims).

Go to Purdue's OWL for more about evaluating and strengthening different types of claims (also known as thesis statements).

You can model your thesis on strong examples from OWL, or you could set out on your own.

Day 2
* Write your claim (thesis) in a Google Doc called something like "Researched Argument about [your topic]".

* Write down what type of claim (thesis) it is? Cause and effect? Proposal? Evaluation? Interpretation? Definition? Rebuttal? Relative importance (i.e. "the most important aspects are...")? Remember that many arguments use more than one of these modes.

* Use the guide below to assess your thesis. Then, have at least one peer assess it too.

Researched argument thesis
Metacognitive Self-Assessment
What is your topic-within-the-topic? How does the thesis suggest something significant about your topic? Discuss with a peer (or peers).
Our school-wide rubric for writing says that students should write thesis statements that are clear, supportable, debatable, insightful, and meaningful. I want to add that the thesis statements
CLEAR: Presumably, the thesis is clear to you but double check. Try to look at it with new eyes. Imagine you are someone who has not researched the topic and who has not yet thought much about the topic. Is the thesis still clear? Is every word precise? Is the sentence structure logical?
SUPPORTABLE: Could you support the thesis using the research you have already gathered or using research that you think is available with a bit more digging? Discuss with a peer (or peers) the kind of supporting evidence you plan to use to support your thesis.
DEBATABLE: Does the thesis need to be developed, explained, argued for, and supported? (Or is the thesis too obvious or too easily proven?) To test if the thesis is debatable imagine a person disagreeing with your thesis. If that is possible then the thesis is debatable.
INSIGHTFUL: Does the thesis offer an insight into some specific aspect of the larger topic: an idea, an interpretation, an analysis, an evaluation, a diagnosis, a complex definition, a causal relationship, a rebuttal?  (Often times a thesis can be made more debatable, insightful, and meaningful by adding a “because” clause: “Education in America stymies creativity” becomes “Education in America stymies creativity because artificial boundaries between subject areas get in the way of students synthesizing information from different subject areas to create new understandings.”) Discuss with a peer (or peers) what you believe to be the insight (the essential understanding of the issue that comes in your thesis.
MEANINGFUL: Does the thesis address something about the topic that is vital, crucial, significant, maybe even essential. Explain to a peer why your thesis (your insight, idea, interpretation, analysis) matters!
Give your thesis to a peer to get some feedback.   


* Is the thesis clear? Restate your peer's thesis back to her or him in your own words. Were you able to do this successfully. If not the thesis may need editing. The thesis (claim) is the heart of the argument so make sure it is precise and powerful.

* Is the thesis supportable? What kind of supporting evidence will you expect to see in the body of the paper? Tell your peer. If not the writer doesn't have access to the necessary support the thesis needs editing or writer needs to do more research.

* Is the thesis debatable, insightful, and meaningful or when you read it do you think “so what”? Try to explain the meaningful significance of the thesis back to the writer. Also, talk about what makes the thesis debatable. How does the thesis enter a controversy or attempt to explain an uncertainty? If the thesis is too obvious, too vague, or too easy to "prove" then it might need editing.


The next step will be taking a look at the sources you and your group members have already gathered, summarized, and evaluated. What there might be useful to you for developing and supporting your argument?

& what other sort of additional support will you need in order to develop your thesis into a convincing argument?


Then make a plan (a plan geared to the kind of argument you will be making)

Day 3 we will work on making a plan (an outline or map) with...

a central claim (thesis)>>>>supporting claims (mini-theses)>>>>supporting sources for each claim

[This is similar to the map of issues>>>>implications>>>>sources we made before writing the consumerism and commodification synthesis paper.]

But before we create our own plans we will (1) read examples of researched arguments with different types of claims (theses): cause and effect, evaluation, proposal, definition, rebuttal. (2) Understand the process that went into making each type and the structure that underlies each type.

Day 4-7
Turn your plan and your research into a well-developed and well-supported argument using MLA in-text citations and works cited page (1500-3000) words. Don't forget the MLA heading and an engaging, informative title.

Applying previous lessons about introductions.
* Write a narrative or thematic opening to engage the reader in the central issue of your argument. (Or, try another engaging opening.)
* Connect the opening to the central claim (thesis). Often this is done by offering context for the central claim (thesis).
* Include the clear, bold, insightful, meaningful, debatable, and supportable central claim (thesis).

Applying previous lessons about body paragraphs.
* Make sure each body paragraph is focused on developing a particular aspect of the overall argument. (Is this focus clear near the beginning of the paragraph and is it returned to at the end of the paragraph?)
* Use relevant, specific information and focused quotations (phrases and/or sentences) to support and develop the claim. (In argument analysis this is sometimes called "data".)
* Effectively introduce the information and quotations and explain how the information and quotations support and develop a claim. (In argument analysis this is sometimes called "warrant" and "backing".)
* Thoughtfully, logically, meaningfully sequence paragraphs in a particular order with skillful transitions between paragraphs

New ideas about body paragraphs.
* Perhaps try a new way of organizing an argument based on the example(s) you studied on day 3.
* Incorporate counterargument, rebuttal, and concession.
* Perhaps incorporate appeals to pathos and ethos along with appeals to logos.

Applying previous lessons about conclusions.
* Return to the central claim(s).
* Make sure the reader understands why the argument matters

Applying previous lessons about style and conventions.
* Above all else be clear.
* Use standard educated (or formal academic) diction.
* Use apt and vivid word choices. Don't use approximately the write word; use exactly the write word.
* Vary your sentence structures for rhetorical effect. (A complex-compound sentence explaining a multi-layered idea can often be followed effectively by simple sentence that drives home the point.)
* Apply what you've been learning about usage, grammar, and conventions. Aim for no frequently confused word errors, no apostrophe errors, no run-on sentence errors, no punctuating quotation errors, no pronoun antecedent errors, no subject-verb agreement errors, no parallelism errors (mixed constructions). Aim to create a publishable draft.
* Follow MLA format, in-text citation, and works cited page conventions.

Day 8 through end
Self-assess and peer-assess.
The final draft of your researched argument (1500-3000 words with MLA format, in-text citations, and works cited page) is due Friday, April 18 (7:30 am).

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