Argument essay

timer Asked: Feb 7th, 2019
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Question Description

1) Carefully read the essay instructions in the syllabus. There is lots of very concrete advice and everything you need to know about the formal expectations. You need to read these two pages in the syllabus and follow them in order to succeed on this assignment. The essay grading rubric, which details how these expectations translate into grades, is attached to this assignment and copied in "useful stuff", where you'll also find the link to a short instructional piece about writing good definitions.

2) Content Prompt (see syllabus for all formal expectations): Write a definition of the concept "life". Think of it as making an argument/thesis/claim about the concept "life," not a subjective opinion or a dictionary entry. Your thesis should specify how broadly or specifically you are defining life, e.g. "life for humans is..." or "life as a mammal is..." or "life in x text/for x philosopher is...", but make sure it is neither just your own private life you are defining, nor a summary or description of someone else's concept, like summarizing the biological characteristics or describing a philosopher's point of view (arguments are debatable claims, like saying "Plant and human life are not much different... here is why and how").

A good approach would be to argue "life for x (e.g. humans) is... a (e.g. these biological characteristics), b (e.g. this philosophical idea), and c (e.g. this other thing)," where a/b/c each turn into a body paragraph and come from a different angle/perspective. Each of these should be supported by quoted evidence, but remember to pick reputable sources and not inspirational quotes. Use at least one of our course texts for that.

Please note that most definitions of life you have written so far would not be enough, mostly because they lacked concrete evidence, i.e. quotations from reputable sources. The paper is not about "the one, comprehensive right definition" (we've already figured out that that's impossible), but about going beyond what a dictionary or text book can offer. You can argue for anything (just like Jabr did, but with quoted evidence) if you do it well, which means that you sustain its aspects with evidence (quotations) and explanations over the course of 1000 words (+/-100).

  • Pick one understanding of life for which you want to argue or an argument about the concept of "life" that you want to make. Remember that you will have to say enough about it to fill 1000 words. Think of the task as convincing someone you don't know of your way of understanding the concept of life. It cannot be so subjective ("life is my family") that nobody else could possibly be included or convinced and it cannot be so general ("we can't define it," "it's the biological characteristics") or tautological ("life is living") that it cannot be sustained for more than a paragraph or backed up with evidence.
  • In order to convince, you need to give evidence (i.e. quote reputable sources, which can range from philosophy to science to literature... put keywords in the library search catalog & ask a librarian for help) and explain how this specific quote supports your argument. Quote at least one of the texts we have read in class so far in your paper (ideally more and, if you want, also others, but avoid Wikipedia or too many dictionaries; also check your sources and don't just rely on one).
  • Make sure you explain everything well and in appropriate language, and don't assume that I or anyone in this class is your reader (think of a stranger with no previous knowledge of the topic instead).
  • Avoid trying to argue for several understandings and jumping back and forth between ideas. Instead, plan out the structure of your paper: If this is my argument, what do I need to explain and prove for all it's components, and which order makes this clearest? Or, where do I need to go and which steps do I need to take to make my point?
  • Re-read your own essay, use spell-check, and double-check whether you followed all instructions (quotations? word count? format?... read that section in the syllabus!). Test your argument on your roommate, your mom, your best friend... share what you've written to get feedback. It can only improve your paper.

Coming up with a thesis and organizing your thoughts is hard, so let us help you! Use the in-class exercises, office hours, etc. to run your thesis by us and your peers. The Writing Center offer lots of help too (link & info in syllabus). Remember that you get an automatic 5% grade bonus if you upload evidence of having gotten help with your paper from either of these sources. Don't ignore the word minimum/maximum instructions!



Write 1000 words (+/


100 words), double


spaced, typed, with 1” margins all around and 12


point Times

New Roman font (papers that are

more than

100 words below/above the limit of 1000 will be deducted

half the missing/additional



your name, the date, the course, and the paper number in the header,


page numbers in the


Special characters in your file name will lead t

o upload problems.

Quote properly and list all of your sources under Works Cited at the end:

Chose and stick with a

citation style, like MLA




Content & Structure

Papers should make an analytical argument with evidence from

reputable sources for an unknown reader.

An introduction should

Propose one argument that responds to the prompt. An argument is a thesis that is debatable and is not

simply a description or observation. Have no more than one main argument.


nclude the fo

llowing information about the main text




you are analyzing

or drawing


: the

title in italics, the author, publication date, and genre. E.g., “Franz Kafka’s

The Metamorphosis


is a

novella about a man who wakes up as a bug.”

Each body

paragraph should

Be organized around one sub


claim that helps support your main argument.

Give evidence for your sub


claim by quoting from your main text/source or sources. This includes

analyzing the quotations, i.e. stating which aspect of a quote suppo

rts your claim in which way.

Give necessary context to an audience that does not know



. Don’t summarize or describe the




, only what is necessary for your reader to understand the


you’re analyzing and be

convinced by you

r argument. Be brief. You can also make this part of your introduction.

Make sure the main terms of your argument are defined for your specific context. Don’t assume everybody

knows how you understand a term. You can do this “by the way” rather than dictio

nary style, e.g. “Life, in

its biological sense, is central to...”

A conclusion should

Summarize the paper’s argument, telling us what we learned about the text/source/


from your


State the stakes or implications of your analysis, i.e. tell us

what your argument changes about our

understanding of the text/source/


. That’s like responding to someone asking,

Nice point, but so what?

Why does this matte

What to avoid?


Avoid spelling mistakes and incorrect word choices

: Proofread and edit your paper, and use spell


check. Ask


to read your paper (Writing Center, preceptors, roommates...). Re


read it yourself, try it out loud!


Avoid personal reflection

: Avoid saying “I” or drawing from your personal experience. Instead focus on the


or sources

to analyze. This is an anal

ytical academic paper, not a personal essay.


Avoid generalizations

: Don’t make statements about “things all people do/think/agree on,” “stuff everybody

knows,” or “what’s normal.” Instead be specific and give evidence for all your claims.


Avoid letting quo

tations speak for themselves

: Always explain what a specific piece of evidence contributes to your



Avoid writing more because you have more to say

: Edit carefully and be succinct. This is part of the challenge of

paper writing. More is not better

. Follow the instructions to succeed.


Avoid writing for your teacher

: Write for a reader who is not familiar with the text

or context

(i.e. give them all

the information about the text or


they will need to understand your argument) and write in a ton

e that

is appropriate for a stranger and an analytical paper (i.e. no colloquial terms).


Avoid having more than one argument or focusing on too many texts

: Less is more. Go for a well backed


up argument

and an in


depth analysis rather than touching on this

and that superficially. This will also help with a clear



Avoid describing instead of analyzing

: Don’t give too much summary or description and make sure you have an

argument that you back up with quotations.


Avoid giving Wikipedia or other



reputable sources as evidence

: The sources Wikipedia gives for its claims are

evidence, but Wikipedia itself can be changed by anyone and is not always in the best shape. The same goes

for study sites. Go for the printed word over the posted word for q

uality control, and favor .edu sources.

Google Books is a great resource, and so are the librarians next door. And when you use an online source,

cite it properly; don’t just post a link into your Words Cited list (see above).


Avoid inspirational quotes

. F

amous people or inspirational sayings can be great, but they are not evidence that

will hold up to analysis. The reader wants to hear


argument, supported by reputable academic eviden

Unformatted Attachment Preview

Analytical Paper Rubric with Possible Percentage Points Excellent (90+) Thesis is clear, convincing, original, and interesting. Analysis is in-depth and develops thesis in a consistently excellent manner. Readers will learn something from this piece of writing. Good (80+) Thesis is good, but could be clearer, or more convincing, developed, or innovative. Analysis is generally indepth, but perhaps not consistently so, or could go further. Ideas may be good, but perhaps not as insightful or well developed. Satisfactory (70+) Thesis is not entirely clear, convincing, or fully developed. Thesis may be too obvious or general. There may be more than one thesis. May have more plot summary, description, or citation than analysis. Needs Work (60+) No arguable, clear, or overarching thesis and limited analysis. Might not meet expectations or the terms of the assignment on one or more dimensions. Unacceptable (59-) No thesis and analysis at all. Might not meet expectation or the terms of the assignments in several dimensions. 30 27-30 24-26 21-23 18-20 0-17 Organization Organizational plan and connection to thesis is clear at every point in the paper. Paragraphs are unified, coherent, and complete. Transitions are smooth and logical. Organization and connection to thesis are logical, but could be clearer. Some paragraphs may lack unity or could have more logical sequence. Some transitions may be choppy or missing. Organization and focus are confusing. Paragraph order may be confusing. Paragraphs may lack unity, coherence, and completeness. May lack transitions. 20 18-20 16-17 Exhibits a discernable organization, but may not provide a clear connection to the thesis. Focus may be scattered. Paragraphs may not follow the most logical order. Transitions may be missing. 14-15 There are no paragraphs, transitions, or other discernable organization. Sentences and paragraphs do not follow a logical order. 0-11 Development and Evidence Note: A paper will receive a 0 if it is plagiarized in whole or in part. Develops and explains the aspects of its thesis clearly, convincingly, and logically. All assertions are supported by fitting, quoted evidence from reputable sources. Citations are contextualized, explained, and connected to the thesis. Balances citation and analysis well. Develops and explains most aspects of its thesis clearly, convincingly, and logically, with some exceptions. Most assertions are supported by fitting, quoted evidence from reputable sources, but some unsupported generalizations may occur, or some sources might be questionable. Some citations may not be contextualized, explained, or clearly connected to the thesis. Some parts of the paper might not balance citation and analysis well enough. Development and explanations may suffer from too many generalizations, unsupported claims, or questionable/ill-fitting evidence, as well as issues of logical sequence, clarity, and reader conviction. May not engage with the primary materials enough or critically enough, cite too much without explanation, or make assumptions and claims without evidence. Relies strongly on generalizations and may lack specific references to the text altogether, or may paraphrase someone else’s argument without any contribution of one’s own. May draw on questionable or illfitting evidence. Development may be insufficient in several respects. Thesis and Analysis 12-13 Insufficient development for the requirements of the assignment. Generalizations may be used in place of analysis. May draw on inappropriate or offensive sources. 20 18-20 16-17 14-15 12-13 0-11 Style/Clarity/Flow Note: Grammatical errors such as comma splices, fragments, agreement errors, and vague or awkward phrasing can obscure the meaning of an otherwise good paper. 15 Sentences are fluent, clear, and a pleasure to read. They are generally free from issues with word choice, syntax, or style, although there may be a minor error, or two, in the piece. Demonstrates correct sentence construction, clarity, and good flow for the most part, although some sentences may be awkward or unclear. A few issues of word choice, syntax, or style may occur. Persistent problems with articulation, clarity, and flow. May demonstrate little sentence variety, or vague or awkward phrasing. May sound like a spoken, not a written piece, or have several issues with word choice, syntax, or style. Parts of the paper are difficult to read and interpret clearly or consistently. May contain many errors in sentence construction or word choice that obscure the paper’s meaning. Serious problems with word choices, sentence construction, and style obscure meaning and make this paper inconsistent with college-level writing standards. 14-15 13 12 11 0-10 Mechanics of Writing and Referencing Papers will be almost entirely free from mechanical errors (spelling, usage, and punctuation) and the formal requirements for the paper (double-spacing, etc.). Papers will cite and use one bibliographic style correctly. A few minor instances of an incorrect use of words, misspellings, or punctuation errors may occur. Papers might have few and small errors or confusions in their citation and reference system, or the formal requirements for the paper. May contain persistent errors in spelling, punctuation, or usage. May have several bigger errors or confusions in the citation and reference system (e.g. a list of links instead of properly formatted Works Cited list), or the formal requirements for the paper. May demonstrate significant deficiencies in punctuation, spelling, and usage. May not cite or indicate the source of references at all. May disregard many of the formal requirements for the paper. Contains numerous errors in spelling, punctuation, and usage. Serious problems with citation and referencing that border on plagiarism. May disregard all the formal requirements for the paper. 10 9-10 8 7 6 0-5 Audience/Tone Clear sense of individual voice and awareness of audience expectations, as demonstrated by the paper's use of tone and an appropriate level of diction for an academic paper. Mostly clear sense of individual voice and awareness of audience expectations. Level of diction may occasionally be uneven or colloquial, or somewhat inappropriate for an academic audience. Voice and diction may be significantly inconsistent with audience expectations or the requirements for an academic analysis. Paper may demonstrate a consistently insufficient awareness of audience and voice for an academic analysis. Serious problems with tone, diction, and sense of audience, such as inappropriate and offensive language. 5 5 4 3 2 1 ...
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