Portfolio 2: Analyzing the Conversation Surrounding a Publicly Debated Issue
Overview: This portfolio prepares you to write an argument about
a publicly debated issue by analyzing the discourse shaping that issue. As you
work on this portfolio, you will select a publicly debated issue that interests
you, research what is being written about the issue, and identify the
approaches writers take when writing about it. This process will help you learn
about the issue and prepare you to create your own carefully considered
contribution to the conversation taking place about the issue, which will
constitute your work on your third portfolio.
Essentially, this portfolio
helps you become an accountable member of the conversation you hope to
contribute to in your third portfolio. In the same way that you would listen
carefully to what is being said before adding your voice to a conversation at a
party, you’ll learn what has been written about an issue before adding your
contribution to the debate about it.
In this portfolio, you will
work on a sequence of four related activities, each of which will help prepare
you for your third portfolio:
Issue Analysis Report
The majority of your grade
for this portfolio will be based on the quality of your Issue Analysis Report.
Your success on the Issue Analysis Report, however, will be determined largely
by the work you do on the three preceding activities, and in particular on the
Annotated Bibliography. It might be helpful, as a result, to imagine each
activity as prewriting for the next. Taken as a whole, all four parts of this
portfolio are designed to help you understand the conversation surrounding your
As you think critically about
that conversation, you will look at both individual writers and groups of
writers who take similar approaches to an issue. Although each writer will have
his or her own individual position on
an issue, you’ll find that groups of writers typically share common approaches with each other. For
instance, you might notice that several writers agree that the government
should enact legislation to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other
greenhouse gasses from automobiles and electric power generation plants.
Despite differences in their individual positions about the type and scope of
that legislation, these authors would share a common approach to the issue. You
might label that approach as the “legislative solution” approach. Similarly,
another group of authors might argue that the government should take no role in
the solution to the problem, arguing instead that free-market forces will bring
about a solution to the problem. This approach might be called the “free
market” approach. Thinking about three or four approaches to an issue, as
opposed to a dozen or more individual positions, makes it easier to understand
and write about a complex issue.
As you analyze your issue,
you’ll move from defining the positions of individual authors to understanding
the shared approaches taken by groups of authors. Eventually, you’ll begin to
analyze the reasons that groups of authors adopt particular approaches. Your
analysis of your issue will involve understanding the writing situation in
which the debate about your issue takes place. That writing situation involves
the purposes of individual authors, the needs and interests of their readers,
and the social and cultural factors that shape the attitudes, beliefs, and
values of people concerned about the issue.
One of the goals of this
portfolio is to help you understand that most important issues involve more
than a simple pro/con debate. Instead, most issues are complex, and typically
involve several opposing approaches. By recognizing the multiple approachesthat writers can take on an issue and
the various reasons they take
them, you will gain a more thorough understanding of the conversation. This, in
turn, will prepare you to write a well supported, insightful argument about the
issue in your third portfolio.
Due Dates: See descriptions of the four
Worth:30 percent of the course
learn more about a current, debatable issue; to discover why your issue is
important to write about for a public audience of college aged readers; to
think critically about writing situations; to understand the complexity of your
issue by analyzing the various positions people take.
Audience:Your issue analysis will be directed
at college aged students of Talking Back (http://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/talkingback/),
an online journal for student publications at CSU. Much of the work you do on
the first three sections will be for yourself and for your instructor.
Content:Each of the four parts of this portfolio will be
submitted at various points in the unit. You will find due dates and a detailed
list of portfolio contents on separate assignment sheets. Be sure to keep all
draft work in your portfolio (even after it’s been evaluated) as I will
re-collect previous assignments with each new section.