English 1010 & 1101

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What is an argumentative essay?

"The argumentative essay is a genre of writing that requires the student to investigate a topic, collect, generate, and evaluate evidence, and establish a position on the topic in a concise manner."

"Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view regarding the topic so that s/he may choose a position and support it with the evidence collected during research. Regardless of the amount or type of research involved, argumentative essays must establish a clear thesis and follow sound reasoning."

--For more information visit the Purdue OWL page on Argumentative Essays

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Facts on File Issues and Controversies

Issues & Controversies explores and analyzes hundreds of hot topics in politics, business, government, crime, law, energy, education, health, family, science, foreign policy, race, rights, society, and culture. Updated weekly, it offers in-depth articles designed to inspire thought-provoking debates and research papers.

1. Choosing a Topic

Choosing a topic is the first and most important step in your paper. Without a topic, there is no paper. There are many ways to go about this, but often, the best suggestion is to start with something that interests you. You do not want to have a very broad topic, because then the amount of research and the length of the paper can quickly become overwhelming. Likewise, you do not want to have a super narrow topic because then there will not be enough information to use.

How to Choose a Topic

  • Choose a broad subject that you are interested in, within the requirements of the assignment.

  • Do some background research--in this case, using a search engine, Wikipedia, or a print Encyclopedia is usually acceptable.

  • Using the new information from the background research, narrow down your topic to something manageable.

  • Do some more background research, this time looking to see a general idea of what type of resources may be available to make sure you can get enough information from your topic.

Example

In a class, your instructor might ask you to write a paper on a controversial topic. That's not a topic though--that's just a guideline of where to start. Maybe you are interested in Criminal Justice and technology; or Criminal Justice and Child Development. Those two interests would be too broad to write a paper on. So, after doing some research about current issues in Criminal Justice combined with technology or children, you might find out about Cyberbullying and decide on that for your topic. This is a much more narrow topic and may yield books, articles, and websites without being too overwhelming.

2. Thesis and Outline

After compiling research and defining a topic, the next step is to develop a thesis statement and start creating an outline. These two things will help you structure so that when it's time to write the first draft of your paper, you know approximately what you are going to say and where. It will determine the layout of your paper and can help you stay on target.  For information on HOW TO RESEARCH, click here.

Thesis

A thesis is the statement which summarizes how you plan to address your stance on your topic. If you're writing about Child Custody, your thesis would not only tell your readers that cyberbullying is the topic, but it would tell them that you are focusing on the lack of legal response. Typically, the thesis is a single sentence and is created only after researching. The thesis is frequently the last sentence in the first paragraph of a paper.

Suggestions for Creating a Thesis

  • The thesis statement should have only one line of thought, because you are writing a single paper.

  • It should be clear and concise. Tell the readers exactly what your paper is about and how each section supports your paper.

  • The thesis statement breaks your paper up into parts--there should be mention of each section of your paper in it.

  • It is a statement, so do not phrase it as a question.

Example

Cyberbullying can have fatal consequences, and currently laws regarding this new type of bullying are either non-existent or woefully lacking even though students of all ages are gaining access to the internet and social networking sites through smart phones, tablets, laptops and other devices; ultimately, this means that states need to take a stand on cyberbullying by working with schools and courts to establish laws that make the bullies responsible for their actions.

Outline

Outlines are a good way for you to start your paper. By creating an outline, you make a backbone for the entire paper. It should follow the pattern laid out in your introduction and thesis statement and will allow you to arrange your notes and thoughts into a coherent order.

Suggestions for Creating an Outline

  • Begin your outline with the thesis statement at the top. This will help guide you throughout the process.

  • Main topics from your thesis should each receive a Roman Numeral (see example).

  • Subtopics should go underneath the appropriate main topic and should receive a capital letter (see example).

  • Details for each subtopic should go under their appropriate topic and receive an Arabic number (see example).

  • Each branch of your outline needs at least two elements.

  • Whenever possible, include what quotations, paraphrases, or references you would like to use under each subtopic so that you do not constantly have to refer to your sources while writing the paper--cite them!

  • Don't forget that your instructor may have a specific format they want, always follow that!

Example

Cyberbullying can have fatal consequences, and currently laws regarding this new type of bullying are either non-existent or woefully lacking even though students of all ages are gaining access to the internet and social networking sites through smart phones, tablets, laptops and other devices; ultimately, this means that states need to take a stand on cyberbullying by working with schools and courts to establish laws that make the bullies responsible for their action.

I. About Cyberbullying

A. What is Cyberbullying

  1. Definition of cyberbullying: "incidents where adolescents use technology, usually computers or cellphones, to harass, threaten, humiliate, or otherwise hassle their peers" (Hinduja and Patchin, Cyberbullying Identifications, Prevention, and Response 1).

  2. Examples of cyberbullying: listing phone numbers on dating sites, social networking comments, threatening messages, etc.

  3. To whom and where it happens

    1. School-age kids

    2. On and off campus, at home, anywhere students may have access to computers

  4. Consequences

    1. Could result in physical bullying

    2. Could result in kids skipping school to avoid classmates

    3. Could result in depression or even suicide

  5. Current Laws

  6. Possible Laws

  7. Conclusion

3. First Draft

Once you have an outline and thesis statement, it's time to make use of it in the first draft. This is also known as the rough draft. It's the first time you'll be putting all of the ideas down on the paper. Don't expect it to be perfect. This is your time to get your thoughts out, get them organized into paragraphs and then play around with the organization if necessary. Also, take this as an opportunity to add in your viewpoints, don't include information strictly from other sources.

How to Write your First Draft

  • Your thesis sentence should go into the first paragraph, or introduction of your paper.

  • Each of your subtopics from the outline should be a paragraph. Make sure to include the details you listed.

  • Don't be afraid or surprised if something new and relevant comes to mind--add it into the appropriate place, even if it's not on your outline.

  • Make sure to include the following: introduction (with thesis), body (most of the topics/subtopics, and quotations/paraphrasing), and conclusion (summing up the paper and restating the introduction).

  • Once you have everything written out--use complete sentences and correct grammar/punctuation if possible--then read through it. Do you see anything that would make sense in a different place? Should you change the order? Do it now!

  • After you have everything written down and have reorganized as necessary, step away from the paper. Take a break and do something fun, or go to bed.

4. Revising the First Draft

After a good night's sleep, or some time having fun, you will be fresh and ready to look at your paper again. You might be surprised to see how many mistakes you catch when you have had a break. The revision is the time to polish your paper.

How to Revise your Paper

  • Read your paper to yourself, reviewing spelling and grammar as you go. 

  • Read your paper out loud. Doing this makes you pause at commas and periods and you may notice that something is out of place. You might also hear that a word is missing or that you're using the wrong word. Reading out loud forces you to read slower.

  • Add in transitions between paragraphs, sentences, and topics if you have not already.

  • Make sure that your paragraphs line up with your thesis--does everything in the paper relate back to the thesis? If not, get rid of the parts that don't.

  • Double check that you have in-text citations for all quotations, summaries, and paraphrases of outside sources.

5. Citing your Sources

When you're ready to create a References or Works Cited page, you are nearly done with your paper. After doing your revision (where you might add in or take out information from your resources), it's time to make sure that everyone can find out from where you got the information.

How to Cite your Sources

  • Choose the style your teacher required for citing your works, usually APA or MLA

  • Use one of those styles to begin writing down every source you quoted, paraphrased, or summarized in your paper. If you simply read the materials, but are not directly or indirectly quoting, paraphrasing the content, or summarizing it in your paper, you most likely do not need to cite it.

  • Use the information you kept on your outline to make sure you have every source--and re-read your paper to make sure you have it there as well.

  • Make sure that you have properly cited each use of outside resources in the text.

6. Final Draft

After you have finished citing your sources, it's time to complete the final draft. This will be the paper you turn in. It is important that the paper is proof-read for any typos, spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Make sure that the paper flows, and that all of your assertions from your thesis and from your outline have been backed up with your own comments and with information or data from outside sources.

How to Complete your Final Draft

  • Like revising your first draft, take a break before getting into the final draft.

  • If you haven't already, give your paper a title! Make sure it's meaningful, short, and eye-catching.

  • Read through the paper one final time and make sure everything looks good.

  • Format! This is the point where you add your name and any header information your teacher requested. Add page numbers through the header, and make sure everything is double spaced.

  • Read the assignment requirements a final time, and check to make sure you have everything it asks for, including the correct length.

If you have looked through the paper and know that you have met all of the requirements and find that everything appears to be good--then congratulations! You've finished writing your paper!

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