Your first essay will be 5-6 pages in length, double-spaced, 12 point font, one-inch margins, with MLA (or APA) formatted citations and a works cited page. In evaluating your essay, I will be looking to see that you’ve substantially incorporated ideas from the course readings and two of your four to six researched sources (see the exegesis section below), and I’ll also be looking to see that you’ve incorporated my feedback on your research proposal.
Use the following guidelines in composing your essay.
Format of Essay
(1) an introductory paragraph which introduces the reader to the issue(s) and ends with a thesis statement
(2) an exegesis section which presents the subject matter—i.e. the authors’ views and reasoning in detail and apart from your evaluation or criticism
(3) an assessment section which presents your evaluation of the author’s arguments and your own view on the issue(s)
Advice in Preparing Each Section
(1) Introductory Paragraph and Thesis:
Your thesis is a statement of the specific claim or claims of which you are attempting to persuade the reader in the essay. A good thesis is precise and strong. Avoid general theses like “the internet is influencing the way we think” or “some lies are good.” You need to specify, for example, in what way the internet is influencing the way we think, or why, precisely, some lies are good. A thesis is also strong, i.e. it is worth arguing for. An uncontroversial thesis is no thesis at all. It might be helpful to state an opposing view to your thesis in your opening paragraph in order to ensure it is strong, since a counter-argument makes the reader aware that there are other plausible theses.
Your first paragraph should not simply be a statement of your thesis; you should also introduce the reader to the respective texts, relevant background, previous treatments of the issue, etc. before you state your thesis. An informative, eloquent, and developed introductory paragraph sets the tone for your entire paper.
Since an effective introductory paragraph encapsulates what you are attempting to accomplish in your essay, I suggest you write it after developing your thesis and supporting arguments. Since one discovers new things while writing a paper, you might change your thesis or its emphasis. Make sure your introductory paragraph reflects such changes.
The task in this part of the paper is to explain in a clear and developed way the reasons the respective author gives for his or her view. There are two fundamental purposes for the exegesis portion of the essay. First, it demonstrates how well you understand the author’s position and reasoning. Second, it develops your ability to present another person’s view accurately and sympathetically without adding your own personal gloss.
There is a difference between simply summarizing an author’s view and presenting it in an analytical way. Thoroughly explain the author’s reasoning and its sequence of development. You ought to cite the text directly to illustrate the arguments and assumptions. It is necessary to explain what a passage means when you cite it. Do not simply drop it in your text and assume its meaning is clear; elaborate in your own words what the passage means in order to show you understand it. Your exegesis will in fact sometimes involve interpretation since scholars can be vague about what they mean in certain passages or how a particular argument or theoretical posit is supposed to work.
This is the section where you construct well-reasoned, developed arguments in support of your thesis. While you are indeed defending your own view, it is not simply your private opinion, since a persuasive opinion is one that any reasonable person could accept. Some opinions are more cogent than others, even if the stronger opinion is not absolutely certain.
While you have the arguments of the exegesis section to draw on, you ought to use our discussion in lecture, your own experience, primary and secondary sources, etc. to help you think through your own position.
Make sure to develop the different reasons for your view as much as possible. It is better to develop one or two arguments for your thesis in detail than to give several reasons which are not fully explained. If you are defending or attacking others’ views, be clear about what, precisely, you are defending or attacking. Are there contradictions in their views? Are their assumptions questionable? Do their views lead to problematic consequences?
It is often effective to introduce a significant counter-argument to your view and then respond to it. Meeting counter-arguments gives philosophical depth to your analysis and shows the reader you are aware of opposing views, especially when these are challenging. I’d recommend devoting a separate paragraph to the introduction of a counter-argument, followed by a separate paragraph for your reply. This should help you to develop the counter-argument in the strongest form possible, before responding to it. If your counter-argument appears to be stronger than your own argument, you ought to change your position!
Reread the text(s) and review your annotation bank. Flag passages from the readings and your researched articles which will be appropriate for the exposition and assessment sections.
Think about your assessment section over the course of many days; thoughtful and well developed evaluations can take time.
Make sure every paragraph has a leading idea, is necessary and relevant for the paper, is well developed, and is connected to the preceding and following paragraphs.
Define important terms in your analysis which might be susceptible to ambiguity.
Advice Specific to the Grading Criteria
1A. Topic: The topic should be able to be addressed in a reasonably thorough way in 5-6 double-spaced pages; and it should be neither too broad nor too narrow to engage the preexisting literature easily.
1B. Thesis: You want your thesis to be one that your readers, by the end of the paper, are on board with, but you don’t want it to be so obviously true from the start that no one would ever have doubted its truth (because that typically doesn’t make for a very interesting paper). That is, you want your thesis to be one regarding which there could be some initial disagreement, and then you want to bring people around to it through the reasons/evidence/argumentation you provide in the paper. The thesis should be explicitly stated (that is, the reader should not have to wonder which claim is the thesis) and very clearly worded, it should be located at/near the beginning of the paper, and it should accurately capture the position the paper goes on to defend.
2A. Reasoning/Evidence: The paper should demonstrate a thorough and accurate understanding of the issue, make convincing claims and valid inferences, and answer key objections well. Crucially, it should also incorporate other scholars’ work in a natural, effective, and deep way. Simply incorporating a quote from a reading is not particularly impressive. In addition to doing some quoting, you should: explain why a point from the literature is important; help your reader understand a point from the literature that’s complex; point out where an author stops short of considering an important issue, or isn’t as clear as she/he should have been, or makes a claim that isn’t as well supported as it could be; explain how the claims of one author bear on those of another; and so on.
You are not expected to break entirely new ground through your research, i.e., to advance a totally novel view. You should, however, be synthesizing information in a reasonably unique way. That is, you should not be simply repeating wholesale what anyone else has said, and should instead be pulling ideas from a unique combination of sources that you have assembled yourself, and also adding analysis and commentary that’s your own.
Your paper should have a thoughtful title that helps signal to your readers what your topic is.
All the sources you consult should be cited—and this is true whether you are quoting, or are paraphrasing, or merely have gleaned general information. Failure to cite a source may result in a failing grade on the paper. You are free to talk to people about your paper; and if you do, you should give them a formal acknowledgment. You are also permitted to get feedback from others (including those in the Writing Center). However, you need to do all the actual writing yourself.
P.S. This paper is based on the last one Research Proposal you write for me.
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