The assignment is to write a thoughtful and carefully reasoned 3 to 5-page double spaced thesis paper on one of the allowed topics listed below. Before you look at the list of topics, there are some things I want you to bear in mind that will improve your chances of getting a good grade on this assignment.
1. Clarify. Make sure you know what you’re supposed to write about. If you chose “free will,” don’t write about political freedom. If you chose “personal identity,” don’t write about personality or identification. Take the time to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to be thinking about before you start thinking about it. (If you get your topic wrong, you won’t get any points for that paper.)
2. Follow Instructions. Once you have chosen a topic, you can only gain credit by doing good work at the things the prompt for that topic tells you to do. If you do something that the prompt didn’t tell you to do, you will not get any credit for doing that thing. If you fail to do things that the prompt tells you to do, you will lose points for that failure.
3. Prewrite. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to improve your grade on any paper, it’s prewriting. If you’ve had good English teachers, you will have had plenty of instruction on how to clarify, organize, analyze and evaluate your own thoughts. If you had rubbish English teachers, all I can tell you here is that if you take the time to clarify, organize, analyze and evaluate your own thoughts in your own mind before you start writing, you will get a much better grade than you would if you didn’t.
4. Self it up! Make sure that you say is what you think, everything that you think, and nothing that you don’t think. what you write should fully and only express your own best personal thinking on this issue. Don’t write what everyone else says, or what you think you’re supposed to say. Write only things you think. Your personality should shine through your paper. Self-expression is sometimes risky, but the alternative is to be dull, boring and determinedly unimpressive. You have a voice. You should use it.
5. Defluff. Don’t write anything you don’t need to write to explain, justify, and defend your thesis. If there’s something you only put into your papers because some English teacher told you it had to be in your paper (like an “opening paragraph,” or a “conclusion”), don’t put that thing in your paper. When you write your paper, start with your thesis, explain your thesis, justify your thesis, explain and rebut counter-arguments, and just keep going until you’ve said everything you have to say, and then stop. If you find yourself wanting to say things that are not really on topic, or to repeat things you’ve already said, be strong, and don’t do it.
Your assignment is to read, analyze, and critique some important element of an online article from the list following this green box
This is a Read-Think-Think More -Write assignment, which means that you have three very important and complicated things to do before you start any actual writing.
1. READ: Read your chosen article very, very, very carefully. Get clear in your own mind at least one of the main points the article is making, and the main argument the writer makes in support of that point. Make sure you become capable of stating that point and argument in your own words.
2. THINK: Logically analyze that argument, look for weak spots in the argument, and try to come up with one or more objections to that argument, or at least work out what an opponent of that point might have to say against it. This is where it’s important to take the time to think through all sides of the issue, and use your imagination to think about what points an opponent might make against the point made by the writer. (If the writer covers both sides, getting opposing arguments will be easier.)
3. RETHINK. Once you have at least one argument on each side clearly in mind, THEN sit back and think about which side has the logically better arguments. Does the writer’s argument logically stand up to the criticism? Or does the objection actually defeat the writer’s arguments? Figuring this all out should take up a good chunk of your time spent on this assignment, and you are required to decide based on your best understanding of the logic and evidence, and not merely on your feelings.
Again, this assignment is not about your feelings, so don’t just pick the side you happen to “think” is right, pick the side that is supported by the argument that doesn’t fail under logical analysis. One way to do logical analysis is to do the following:
1. Write out a list of relevant arguments clearly in your own words.
2. Examine each argument to determine whether it commits a logical fallacy.
3. If an argument commits a logical fallacy, cross it out.
4. Examine each remaining argument to see whether it has some other logical weakness.
5. If an argument has a fatal logical weakness, cross it out.
6. If there’s more than one opposing argument left, cross out the logically weakest arguments until there’s just one left.
If you follow this procedure, you should be left with the strongest argument
3. WRITE: Do the following actions in order:
1. Take the conclusion of the one argument that didn’t have any logical weakness, and write that out as your thesis. (This is the title of your paper.)
2. Write out in your own words the argument for your thesis. (This would be the argument that turned out not to have a logical weakness.)
3. Take the best argument against your thesis, explain it in your own words, and then explain clearly and exactly what is wrong with that one argument.
4. Make any other comments you happen to think of. Don’t write a “conclusion” or “concluding paragraph,” and don’t repeat anything you’ve said before. Instead, write out any other thoughts you might have about this topic. (You can write anything at all at this point.)
5. Stop writing, make any cosmetic or other edits you think appropriate, and turn in your finished paper.
Don’t do anything in your paper that isn’t specified in these instructions. I don’t take points off for wrong stuff, but I only give credit for material that meets the requirements of the assignment, so stuff that these instructions don’t call for isn’t likely to help your grade.
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