< Portfolio 2: Analyzing the Conversation Surrounding a Publicly Debated Issue

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:

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 issue.

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 approaches that 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 activities

Worth: 30 percent of the course grade

Purposes for this Portfolio: To 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.

Portfolio 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.