These guidelines apply to all of the papers you’ll write this semester. Consult this page before and during the paper-writing process so you don’t miss anything. Any deviations from the guidelines will cost you. I reserve the right to change this document during the semester, but I won’t do it within a few days of a paper’s due date. Check back before you start writing for any changes.
I. General Guidelines for all Four Papers
II. Topics and Audience
III. Paper 4: A Special Case
IV. Some Examples
V. Peer-Review Guidelines
I. Guidelines for all Four Papers
You must use Microsoft Word or some other word processor that can save in Word format (ex.: LibreOffice, OpenOffice) to write your papers. The reason for this is that you will be posting your drafts to the Discussion Board for others to read and review, and conversion conflicts are inevitable unless everyone is using the same software. If the reviewer cannot open the document, you will get no credit for posting it. I suggest that you try to open it yourself before class, and keep a current copy either in your email or on a flash drive that you keep with you. Remember that you cannot use any symbols in your filename (#, $, etc.) or it will not be able to be opened.
Rough drafts need not adhere to all of the formatting requirements–those are usually polishing touches done toward the end of the process. However, you do need all the parts of the argument, and you should have at least a rudimentary Works Cited page. Rough drafts are worth a very significant part of your assignments grade, and failure to produce a rough draft on the required day will severely impact your term grade.
All final drafts must be typed, using 12-point Times New Roman, double spaced, with 1″ margins. Any deviation will result in a lower grade. These settings can be changed by clicking on “Format,” then on “Page,” then on the “Page” tab.
Your name, section number, intended audience, and date should be in a header, not in the text area. Inserting a header is easy–just click on the “Insert” tab, then on “Header.” Select the first option in the drop-down menu (called “Blank”). You’ll see a new text box created in the document. Type your information in the box. This information must be single-spaced. The first page should show all of the above items; subsequent pages should have only your last name and page number. To do this, simply click the box next to “Different First Page” in the “Header and Footer Tools” tab that appears after you’ve added a header. It’s usually preferred to have the header on the right, so just select the text and click the right-justify button. That’s all there is to it, and you have a more professional-looking document.
All papers must also have a title at the top of the page, not to exceed a size of 12 points, and only one space should be left between the bottom of the title and the beginning of your text.
You must have all of the major parts of an argument: claim, stated reasons, evidence, rebuttal, and conclusion.
Your Works Cited page should be on a page by itself and correctly formatted according to the Chicago Manual of Style guidelines. Failure to do so will result in a lower grade. You must cite your sources both in the text itself and on the Works Cited page. If you have problems, see me or visit the Writing Lab.
Some sources simply aren’t credible, and some that are credible shouldn’t be used in a formal paper. To that end, I do not want to see any of the following websites used as sources. Using these websites will result in a lower grade.
Wikipedia. No system is in place to ensure accuracy, and many of the entries contain false or misleading information. It is not to be trusted for academic papers. If you have doubts about this, here’s a CNN video interview and an article from the San Francisco Chronicle which clearly demonstrate its unreliability and the potential for abuse. Encyclopedia.com, Encarta, Reference.com, and the online Columbia Encyclopedia have many of the same problems. In short, don’t use encyclopedias.
Dictionary.com. While I haven’t heard any complaints regarding content, it is not widely considered an authoritative source. If you want a quick-and-dirty definition, or a definition of something current, Merriam-Webster is usually fine. However, for the ultimate in credibility and authority, use the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). I strongly suggest that you use the OED, but on occasion, Webster’s would be acceptable.
Any website reproducing any of the above
You should always use the best, most authoritative, preferably academic sources. Just because the information is easy to access doesn’t mean the source is appropriate.
Correct grammar and spelling count. Make sure that you spell-check your document, and read it through carefully. The spell-check can’t tell if you wrote “to” when you meant “too,” or “lead” when you meant “led.”
Each paper must be at least 1200 words in length (approximately four full pages), with research and correct citations in Chicago Style format. I expect thoughtful analysis backed up by at least three quality sources–no fluff. I encourage you to use pictures, illustrations or graphs, but only if they advance your argument.
Drafts posted to the Discussion Board must be posted by the time class is scheduled to start. The board’s time stamp will be used to determine posting time. Remember that others will be reviewing your drafts, and if you don’t post on time, you’re placing an extra burden on them.
II. Topics and Audience
The choice of topic for the papers is entirely up to you, with a few restrictions. First, each paper must be on a topic that fits the argument style (factual, evaluation, proposal). Second, since we will be peer-reviewing the rough drafts, do not write on anything that you wouldn’t want others to read. Third, keep it serious. We will discuss satire and humor in this class, but your papers should be serious, not satirical, and must deal with significant and relevant issues. In general, you want a topic that is of some current significance and upon which there is a significant debate. Finally, there are some topics that I am going to veto. I will not accept or grade any paper on any of the topics below. I reserve the right to add topics to this list as the semester goes on, and I have the final say on what constitutes a banned topic.
You must post your paper topic, along with your claim and stated reasons, to the Discussion Board by the assigned date. You should not proceed with your research and writing until I approve the paper topic, which I will do within two days. I will approve any serious topic on an important issue that fits the argument style (factual, evaluation, proposal), with the exceptions noted above.
I will refuse to accept or grade any paper for which a complete topic post has not been approved in advance!
A good post would be something like what you see below. Obviously, yours doesn’t have to be color-coded. This example is for a factual argument:
Humans are primarily responsible for the global warming phenomenon because we emit billions of tons of heat-retaining greenhouse gases (such as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere every year, and we are rapidly cutting down the forests that convert CO2 to oxygen and remove those pollutants from the air.
*NB: Evaluation topic posts must include the criteria of evaluation!
I don’t care what side of an argument you take–you will never be graded on your opinions, only on how you make the argument. If you have trouble finding a topic, catch me after class or during my office hours and I’ll help you find one. An email saying “I need help” won’t do it–I need to know what you’re interests are and what you aren’t interested in writing about. And remember that there are examples of each argument style in Section IV below.
You need to write for a specific audience that would care about your topic. “Senior citizens” might be an appropriate audience, but “adults” wouldn’t be. Your audience should be appropriate for your argument. For instance, if you are arguing that BGSU Firelands should build a tunnel system so that students, faculty, and staff don’t have to go outside in the winter or in bad weather, your audience would not be readers of the New York Times, your member of Congress, or your Aunt Myrtle (unless of course Aunt Myrtle is willing to fund the project). Keep in mind that I am not your intended audience. You will not choose “anyone who is against my idea” or “the American public” as your audience—those are far too vague. Think about who has a stake in the argument you’re making and write to them. Remember, you’re trying to convince someone, so choose your audience carefully. You need to decide who would care about your topic, why you need to convince them, and what kind of arguments might be effective. If, for instance, you’re making the tunnel argument mentioned above, you might write to Dean Balzer or to local businesses and donors. Writing to the dean, you might argue that a tunnel, while expensive, would protect student health and serve as an effective tornado shelter. Writing to local businesses or donors, you might mention those reasons, but you’d also likely want to bring up advertising possibilities and naming rights. The more specific your audience, the more likely your argument is to succeed.
III. Paper 4: A Special Case
The first three papers will each use a specific argument style (factual, evaluation, proposal). The fourth paper will require you to “flip” one of your first three papers and argue from the other side. For instance, if you wrote a proposal paper arguing for stricter gun control laws, your fourth paper would argue against stricter gun control laws. You will be able to choose which of your first three papers you want to flip.
Choose the most appropriate paper to revise. Some arguments lend themselves better to being flipped to the opposite argument. There are a few things you can think about to help you decide which paper to flip:
Which paper are you the most interested in flipping? Did you come across something while writing one of the first three papers that made you think about the other side? Is one of the three on a topic that you want to know more about? Or did you write one on a topic that you passionately care about and want to argue? If so, flipping that one might be challenging to write, but you might be better able to argue your perspective down the road if you better understand the opposing arguments.
Which paper did you do the best on? If you had a good B paper and a not-so-good C paper, you probably had a better grasp of the argument in the B paper, and that would help when you flip it.
Is one of the papers on a controversial topic that would make researching the opposite point-of-view easier?
Can you put together a list of at least three major points you could make? These might be in your original rebuttal, but keep in mind that the rebuttal points may not be substantial enough to use as primary arguments.
Once you’ve decided which paper to revise, re-read the original and re-read my comments. Also re-read the paper guidelines (the entire document).
Decide how the original thesis should be flipped. Remember that the new paper will be the same type of argument as the original.
If you originally argued that, for instance, stricter gun control laws lead to less gun-related violence, you might now argue that stricter laws have no bearing on gun violence.
If you originally argued that something was bad, you might now argue that it is good, and vice versa. If you argued that Obama is doing a bad job as president, you could now argue that he’s doing a good job as president. Evaluations are usually the easiest to flip.
If you originally argued that we should not do something, you would now argue that we should. If you argued that we should do something, you will argue that we should not do that, but rather something else. You could also argue that we should not do something, but rather keep the status quo.
Regardless of which paper you choose to flip, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
First, don’t think that just because this paper is a revision that it will be easy. Don’t think that it will take less time or less effort. Flips are usually harder to write, since you’re coming from a perspective that is probably not your own. You’re writing an entirely new paper. Treat your original paper like a source, not a prototype.
The bulk of the paper should be on your new argument, not refuting the old one. Your original argument should basically become your new rebuttal.
You may want to treat your new paper like a response to your old one. In which case, you might start off with your rebuttal.
Make sure you have solid research on your new argument. You might look at the evidence you used the first time to give you an idea what to look for. For instance, if you found evidence that said that a majority of people think that Obama was doing a good job on foreign policy, and you used that to say he was a good president, you might find data showing that a majority thought he was doing a bad job on the economy to argue that he’s a bad president. And both numbers might come from the same poll. Remember, you’re going to have to do new research to find evidence to support the opposite argument, but you may find some workable evidence in your original sources. Also, if your original argument doesn’t have a lot of people opposing it, you might have a harder time finding evidence, so don’t wait until the last minute.
Give careful thought to your audience. You aren’t necessarily writing this paper for the same audience you wrote the original one for. If your first paper argued against joining the military and you intended it for a high school audience, you could flip it and keep the same audience. But if you argued that veterans’ benefits should be increased to an audience of politicians who served in the military, you probably wouldn’t argue to the same audience that their benefits should be decreased. You might instead direct the argument to lawmakers who are on the budget committee. Make sure the audience is specific and appropriate for the argument.
Make sure that all the formatting details are right, and that you’ve followed the paper guidelines to the letter.
IV. Some Examples
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for your papers, here are some examples.
Use of photo radar reduces the number of injuries and fatalities, and curbs incidents of reckless driving
Humans are/are not primarily responsible for global warming
Children in single-parent homes are/are not more likely to struggle in school
Incidents of cancer are/are not higher among people who live near high-tension power lines
Tuition raises a good/bad idea
Obama is a good/bad president
Wikipedia is/is not a trustworthy source
Current immigration policy is good/bad
Teachers should/should not get pay raises
The university should/should not build covered parking areas
Americans should/should not buy more American-made products
Gun control laws should/should not be made more strict
V. Peer-Review Guidelines
Writing is a form of communication. The purpose of peer-review is to get feedback on how well–or how poorly–your draft helps you communicate your ideas. The reviewer is a critical reader, someone whose task is to spot problem areas so that the author can revise and make the argument stronger and clearer. As a reviewer, the process will help you to develop a critical eye for your own work as well.
Keep this in mind also: “revising” and “editing” are two entirely different things. Revision is a process of re-vision, of looking at the draft for ways in which it could be improved. Revision is re-conceptualizing, re-thinking how the paper should look. It means that you might cut entire paragraphs, even whole pages, if they don’t further your argument. It means that you might move sentences and paragraphs around, rewrite transitions, and change the order of your points. Editing, on the other hand, is polishing. It’s making sure that your spelling and punctuation are correct, among other things.
On peer-review days, you must post your draft to the appropriate Discussion Board forum before class. To do that, go into the Discussion forum, and click “reply” for the main entry. You should see a text editing box, with familiar Word-style icons. Underneath the text box, you’ll see a paper clip with the word “Attach” next to it. Click this. You will then see a button marked “Choose File.” Click it. Browse to find your document, and click it. Once the file window closes, you’ll see the filename of your paper next to the “Choose File” button. The button is still there because you can attach more than one document to a post–you shouldn’t need to do this, but the feature exists. Then just click the “Post Reply” button.
When class starts, each person will do a review of two other students’ papers. Download and open the paper to be reviewed in Word. If the document will not open, inform me immediately. Read the draft, and wherever you want to make a comment, use the “comment” feature. Select the word, sentence, or whatever you want to comment on. Click on the “Review” tab at the top of the screen, then on “New Comment.” A comment box will appear on the right side of the screen. Type your comment in the box. When you’ve finished your review, save the document on your computer, and post it as a reply to the original post.
What to review
When reading the papers, look for all of the general factors listed below, then look at the factors for the specific argument style. If the item is present and well-executed, you don’t need to make any notes on it. If, however, you can’t find something or it isn’t clear, then make a note to that effect. Also make any appropriate notes relating to misused punctuation, poor grammar, or other sentence-level errors. Be as detailed as you can in your comments, and keep in mind that the author of the paper will be using your feedback to help him or her revise the paper. Do a good, thorough job just like you would like someone to do for you. Be honest and constructive–and yes, you can do that diplomatically.
At the end of the paper, write a short paragraph (in a comment) summarizing your overall take on the paper, it’s strengths and weaknesses, and the most important changes you think the author should work on for the final draft.
Can you find all of the main components of an argument (Claim, stated reasons, evidence, rebuttal, conclusion)?
Are all of the components clearly stated?
What is the writer’s major thesis/claim? Can you summarize it in one sentence as a claim with a “because” clause? If you have trouble, what is the source of the problem?
Can you determine the primary audience for this argument? How resistant is this audience to the writer’s claim? Does the writer regard this audience as supportive, undecided, or resistant?
Does the introduction effectively identify the issue, engage the reader’s interest, provide the needed background, and announce the writer’s claim?
Is each supporting reason relevant to the writer’s claim?
Is each reason supported with sufficient evidence or chains of reasons? Are there any places where a skeptical reader might require more substantial support?
Do any of the reasons rest on unstated assumptions that the audience might not accept? If so, how does the author handle that?
Identify places where the prose is confusing or unclear.
Are there any non sequiturs, logical leaps, or other fallacies?
What fact or assertion is being argued in the paper?
What kind of evidence is being presented, and is that evidence relevant and applicable to the fact or assertion?
Are the examples cited too narrow or too extreme? Are they sufficient, or do they amount to little more than anecdotal or circumstantial evidence?
Does the writer acknowledge counter-arguments and effectively refute them?
What is the writer evaluating (what is the X term)? What category does the writer place X in (the Y term)? Is this the smallest relevant category in which X might be placed?
What does the writer see as the primary functions of the category? Does s/he ignore any significant functions of this category? Does the writer cite any functions which seem peripheral or irrelevant to the category? Does the writer discriminate between more and less significant functions/purposes of the category?
What evidence does the writer present that X meets the established criteria?
How does the writer measure the extent to which X meets a given criterion? How trustworthy in your view are these measures? Are the measures significantly narrower than the criteria would suggest?
Are the criteria based on what’s normal for members of X’s class or what’s ideal or a mixture of both?
Are there any mitigating circumstances which might cause you to apply the criteria to X in a less strict manner?
Does the writer’s evaluation take the cost of X into account?
What is the problem that needs to be addressed?
Does the writer show why it is a significant problem? Does the writer give “presence” to the problem? Does the writer make clear just how negative consequences will arise if the proposal is not initiated?
Does the writer persuade you that the problem is a soluble one and not simply “in the nature of things”?
Does the writer make clear just how the proposal will solve the problem? Are any significant aspects of the problem left unaddressed by the proposal? Does the writer show how the proposal will be paid for?
What are the benefits of enacting the proposal? Does the proposal address the needs/interests of the audience being addressed by the proposal?
Does the writer take into account any possible alternative proposals which offer better/cheaper solutions?
Does the writer face up to potential negative consequences of enacting the proposal?