In your academic career, you will often have to write extensive persuasive research papers. These will be argumentative papers in which you’ll be expected to have a thesis that is supported with research and with insights you develop from your familiarity with the subject. Such papers will require you to understand a topic in depth, be able to offer background on what is at issue in the topic, put the topic and issues in context, and both support your own position and take other positions into account, by refuting, conceding, and/or bridging those arguments. This paper will be the place where you can share the fruits of your research and argue for the ideas you have developed through your writing and research process.
You have been working toward this paper all semester, gathering research throughout the term and considering (and re-considering) your position as well as others. The goal is to build on what you’ve learned and what you’ve argued to take a position within the conversation and make a new claim within your issue. Indeed, you may feel as if you’ve said all there is to say on this topic, but our work during this section of the course turns your attention to rhetorical strategies that take up concerns of cause and consequence and proposals for new action. Thus, you might work in this final paper to pinpoint the cause and the consequences of the problem you have been exploring and then propose a solution. Such a focus on proposals and solutions is indeed welcome, for we can all identify problems. The challenge is to create solutions.
For this final paper, you are required to have a bibliography of at least 6 sources (no more than 8). At least 4 of these sources need to be academic (books, articles, government and scholarly reports, etc.); the others might include blogs, interviews, magazine or newspaper articles, or YouTube videos. Of course, you should draw on sources you’ve already read. You’ll also, though, need to conduct more research. A great part of your success in this assignment will be determined by how well you employ your research.
As with all your other papers, you will identify an audience for this paper. When you do, remember the genre of the paper: you are making an academic argument. However, this genre should not be seen as limiting. Academics are not the only people who read academic arguments, and academic arguments are often published in widely read publications. Thus, you should think of your audience as an interested group who expects to encounter a thoughtful, informed, and persuasive essay. Beyond identifying who your audience is and in what contexts they might encounter your argument, you should also consider how they might feel about the issue already. Do they need convincing? How much convincing? Do they completely disagree with your premise, or are they undecided or neutral on the issue? While arguing with people who disagree with you may seem to be the most challenging rhetorical situation, persuading neutral or apathetic readers to care at all about a topic is often a difficult rhetorical task. Use stasis theory to help you determine your relationship to your audience vis-a-vis your topic.
One of the trickiest parts of a long argument is organization. You need to give an overview, stake your claim, offer evidence, refute evidence—how will you put it all together? There are two rhetorical tools to help you here. The first is the stases. You can use the hierarchy of the stases, the way that an issue in one stasis depends on or interacts with an issue in another stasis, to help shape the paper. If you are making an argument about action, for example, you might introduce your thesis, but then bring in issues from fact/definition to establish background, issues from cause/effect to show exigence, issues from value to further develop a sense of importance and urgency, and then come to more extensive support for your claim about action.
The second piece of rhetorical theory is the parts of a full argument. The parts of a full argument offer guidelines about:
- how to begin and offer background,
- how to lay out a map for the paper,
- how to help your reader anticipate your arguments,
- how to proceed with the support of your premise and the refutation of other arguments before you conclude effectively.
One of the central questions about organization will be how to distribute the confirmation (support of your point) and the refutation (where you confront arguments that disagree with your own). We’ll review the parts of a full argument in class.