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Argument Essay Assignment
Assignment Description
For this essay, you should choose a topic from the Gale resource on Opposing Viewpoints (see below) and write a 4-5 page essay that argues a clearly defined position about that topic. The essay should have an introduction that has a clear thesis statement and demonstrates the relevance of your topic, several body paragraphs that each make focused claims, and a conclusion.
In upper level courses, you will often be asked to demonstrate your ability to converse with other scholars in your field. Your job is to change the reader’s mind about a particular subject and persuade the reader into believing your argument. Your paper must be written so that it is accessible to readers from a different perspective. In other words, be fair and unbiased when acknowledging what others say about your topic, but then prove why they are wrong using logical reasons and credible evidence. In this essay, you must synthesize various sources while persuading the reader to accept your viewpoint. You do not want to simply report what others are saying, but engage in a dialogue with them.
Purpose and Learning Objectives
The purpose of this assignment is to practice persuasive writing and synthesis of sources. You will increase your critical thinking skills by analyzing yours and others’ assumptions, evaluating multiple perspectives, and developing a clear position. Writing, research, and eloquent written expression are vital for a successful future. You will express all of these skills in this assignment. This essay will be used as the English department assessment for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s mandated core curriculum assessment of Student Learning Outcomes (SLO). This essay will address the SLO objectives of critical thinking and written communication.
Your research paper should demonstrate the following learning objectives:
Awareness of the audience to whom you are speaking
Awareness of the purpose of your argument
Ability to enter into a scholarly conversation
Ability to write a qualified and narrow argumentative thesis statement
Ability to synthesize information from various sources
Ability to craft an argument with different types of relevant, credible, and detailed support
Ability to research
and identify academic sources
Ability to summarize, paraphrase, and quote while citing correctly in MLA to avoid plagiarism
Ability to converse in standard, academic English
Minimum Requirements
1,200-1,500 word essay (4-5 pages)
An interesting and informative title
A clearly stated thesis in the introduction that articulates your position and what you want to argue in your paper.
Logical and clear reasons supporting your argument
A document formatted in correct MLA format
5 sources (peer-reviewed journals, books, and reliable web sources)
One of your sources must disagree with your argument and be used to create a counterargument. A counterargument occurs when you show what the opposing side claims and then refutes that side. For instance, if I am arguing that public schools should require children to be vaccinated unless a documented medical reason prohibits vaccination, then I might cite a source that argues that vaccinations are dangerous. I would show one or two main reasons the source gives and then show why those reasons are invalid as I prove my point about the need for vaccines.
A refutation of opposing arguments (in the counterargument)
A synthesis of sources; do not simply summarize your source material, but show how they are connected and respond to them.
A works cited page in MLA format with corresponding in-text citations. The works cited page should be included in the same document as your essay.
If you fail to meet the minimum requirements, you should not expect to earn higher than a D on the essay (but perhaps much lower).
Due Dates
Refer to the assignment calendar for due dates for this assignment.
Remember, the grade for the peer review is separate from the grade for the essay. See the guidelines for peer review for instructions about completing the peer review process.
Process of Completion
Here are a few steps that might help you develop your essay:
Choose your topic from the ones provided for this unit (see below).
Once you’ve found a topic, determine if it needs to be narrowed or if a particular focus might help the argument.
For instance, if you were writing about obesity, you might need to find a slant that creates a more interesting argument than “obesity is a problem” (of course it’s a problem!). Narrowing helps a bit, but not enough: “to avoid obesity, Americans should exercise more” (of course Americans should exercise more!). But what if we narrow the topic further: “schools in Texas need to ban unhealthy foods from the lunch menu and eliminate vending machines with unhealthy snacks and sodas.” This sentence establishes a more focused and nuanced argument than the earlier topic of obesity. To create a more interesting topic, you might then move to question who is responsible for obesity. Is it individuals, corporations, cultural norms, the government, or some other entity? What can we do to change the culture in the United States so that obesity is not so prevalent? The more focused and nuanced the topic, the better the paper usually is. Starting with the topics from the list below, try to find a focused topic for your essay.
After narrowing your topic, you should make a list of everything you know about the topic and everything you want to know. This list will guide your research.
Now, you’re ready to start researching. Be sure to only include reliable sources in your research and to take careful notes to avoid accidentally plagiarizing your sources later. As you research, remember that plagiarism is still a serious offense even if you just forget to cite a source. Always keep notes of where you get information and be prepared to cite the information correctly.
Be sure to allow a few days to draft your essay. You want to be sure you don’t forget any of the wonderful arguments you developed during the invention and research phases. You may also want to outline the major points of the essay before drafting.
Always allow several days to revise the essay. You will get comments during peer review, and you should consider those comments carefully.
Finally, be sure to edit your essay for mistakes in grammar, punctuation, and proofreading.
Potential Topics
Choose your topic from the Gale Opposing Viewpoints database:
U.S. Borders (Emigration & Immigration)
Cuba & Immigration
Children of illegal immigrants
Public Transportation
Civil Rights
Popular Culture
Culture of Beauty
Celebrity Culture
Renewable Energy
Animal Experimentation
Technology & Education
Criminal Justice
Millennial Generation
Genetically Modified Foods
Submission Protocol
Your assignment must be submitted as a .doc, .docx, or .rtf attachment
Grading and Rubric
To view the rubric, go to the assignment and select View Rubric. You should also keep in mind the following general criteria that your instructor is looking for in the essay:
First, does the essay contain a clear argument? Arguments have opposing sides, which means at least some portion of your readership should disagree with your viewpoint. If your claim is fairly obvious (“obesity is a problem,” for instance), then you have not met the primary purpose of this assignment, which is to take a side on an issue.
Second, does the thesis statement present your argument in one clear and concise sentence? The thesis statement is the most important sentence of your essay, so take time to revise it (sometimes multiple times) before submitting the essay. The thesis should present your main argument as well as provide a brief overview of the major claims in the essay. After reading the thesis, the reader should have a good sense of where the essay is going.
Third, are the paragraphs organized, focused, and developed? The paragraphs should be organized logically and should each present one focused claim. That claim should be stated in the first sentence, called a topic sentence, which should then be followed by evidence to support the claim. Then, you should provide commentary on the evidence (show why the evidence leads you to your claim) so that the reader always understands how to interpret the evidence as you do.
Fourth, is evidence from outside sources integrated seamlessly into the essay? Be sure to quote, paraphrase, and summarize accurately and to integrate all of the evidence into your own sentences. See the lessons in unit 3, 4 and 5 about integrating sources.
Plagiarism is using someone else’s words or ideas without giving credit and is a serious academic offense.
It can range from:

Turning in a paper any part of which you did not write,

Cutting and pasting a paper together from various sources without attributing the sources correctly,

Changing a few words but basically keeping most of the words and sentence structure of the original,

Using the ideas of another without giving credit to the person who originally had the idea.

Using the exact words of the source without using quotation marks even if you give the name of the source.
Refer to the syllabus for consequences of plagiarism in this class. For more information, see