Week 11 (Tuesday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 5th)
Demonstrate how to use evidence to develop an argument (12-15 minutes)
Development is one of the aspects of writing that CO150 students struggle with most, so they can benefit from guided practice on how to use evidence to support reasons to support a claim. Start by showing an example of sufficiently relevant evidence for a reason that supports the claim that the U.S. government should subsidize wind power:
Claim: The U.S. government should subsidize wind power.
Reason: Wind power could help to replace fossil fuel energy.
Evidence: The Kurtzweil Energy Center reported “that each turbine means less mining, shipping, and combustion of fossil fuels.”
Evidence: A 2003 John Hopkins study found that “every additional kilowatt hour generated by low- or zero-running-cost units such as wind turbines, hydro dams, and photovoltaic arrays translates one-for-one into reduced output by plants running on fossil fuels.”
Evidence: The US Department of Energy reports that “by 2030, the U.S. wind industry could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity needs, nearly leveling projected increases in CO2 emissions over the next 25 years.”
Next, show an example of the above written in paragraph form:
Wind power could help to replace fossil fuel energy. The Kurtzweil Energy Center reported “that each turbine means less mining, shipping, and combustion of fossil fuels,” and a 2003 Johns Hopkins study found that “every additional kilowatt hour generated by low- or zero-running-cost units such as wind turbines, hydro dams, and photovoltaic arrays translates one-for-one into reduced output by plants running on fossil fuels.” The US Department of Energy has released a report announcing that “by 2030, the U.S. wind industry could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity needs, nearly leveling projected increases in CO2 emissions over the next 25 years.”
This paragraph is typical of CO150 writing. While it starts out with the reason and then presents evidence for the reason, it does not explain how the pieces of evidence connect to each other nor how they support the reason. This paragraph asks readers to make the logical connections between the evidence and the reason. This compromises the purpose of the argument; if a reader is already skeptical or even just indifferent, how likely is it that he/she will be willing to do the work to understand how the evidence supports the reason?
Present another example that uses the same reasons and evidence much more effectively:
Wind power could help to replace fossil fuel energy. For every wind turbine that goes up, we can reduce our use of fossil fuels to create the electricity that we need to run our society. The Kurtzweil Energy Center reported “that each turbine means less mining, shipping, and combustion of fossil fuels.” Some have argued that the uncertain output of alternative energy sources like wind and solar—which stop making electricity when the wind stops blowing or the sun stops shining—keeps them from being a realistic replacement for fossil fuels, but as a 2003 Johns Hopkins study states: “every additional kilowatt hour generated by low- or zero-running-cost units such as wind turbines, hydro dams, and photovoltaic arrays translates one-for-one into reduced output by plants running on fossil fuels.” Even if wind energy can’t supply the entirety of our energy needs, it can still help to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere—or at least keep us from adding more as energy needs increase. The US government has started to take notice. The Department of Energy has released a report announcing that “by 2030, the US wind industry could provide 20% of the nation’s electricity needs, nearly leveling projected increases in CO2 emissions over the next 25 years.” If a concerted wind strategy can at least keep CO2 emissions from increasing, other conservation strategies might have a better chance of actually reducing them.
This second example is much more effective in showing how the evidence supports the reason. The writer has done the work that the first example asks readers to do. It directs readers to the writer’s preferred interpretation of the evidence, thus making readers much more likely to agree with the reason and with the argument as a whole. If your students need more of a push to see the benefits of the second example, point out that the first example is 101 words long while the second example is 238 words long (a third of a page vs. almost an entire page). This can help students who tend to say what they have to say and then fill in the rest of the required length with “fluff.”
Group activity for practicing using evidence (25-30 minutes)
Use these examples from an argument about organic food for the following activity in which students will practice providing evidence and showing how evidence supports reasons.
Reason: Organic farming is much easier on the environment.
Evidence: The FDA says that, “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations.”
Evidence: Whole Foods Market lists these environmental benefits of organic food:
Evidence: A 2006 study at Stanford found that organic farming reduces groundwater contamination and nitrogen gas emissions while being the most sustainable method of agriculture.
Reason: If the price of organics decreases, demand will go up (resulting in a healthier population and environment).
Evidence: I used to have to pay $5.00 for a gallon of organic milk at the local food co-op. I could only afford to do this now and then. Now, I can find organic milk at Whole Foods for less than $4.00 and at Safeway for around $3.00. I buy organic milk a lot more now.
Evidence: According to Chip Wilson, author of Principles of Economics, “the law of demand states that, in general, price and quantity demanded in a given market are inversely related. In other words, the higher the price of a product, the less of it people would be able and willing buy of it.”
Evidence: The USDA reported that in 1997, consumers spent 3.6 billion dollars on organic products. In 2003, consumers spent 10.4 billion dollars on organic products. During that time, the price of organics decreased.
Break students into small groups and give each group a handout that includes a reason and a few pieces of evidence. Also give each group an overhead transparency and pen. Present the following instructions on the overhead:
Work with your group to develop the reason you are given. You may use the evidence provided in any order and you may omit some of the evidence if you find that it is somehow flawed.
Remember to set up each piece of evidence and then to explain what it means, how it supports the reason, and how it relates to other pieces of evidence.
Write in paragraphs as though you are writing an essay. Please write on an overhead transparency so you can present your work to the class.
When groups have finished, collect transparencies and pens, and call on groups to present their work.
Introduce interview techniques (10-15 minutes)
One of the requirements for the Academic Argument is to incorporate field research, specifically an interview with a local expert/stakeholder/authority figure. Therefore it is necessary to spend time talking about and strategizing ways to incorporate this piece of evidence.
Discuss interviewing techniques using pages 320-322 in the PHG to guide a discussion. See if students can produce or add to these points:
Discuss audience. Students should question a range of people in order to make their interview or questionnaire results the most meaningful. If, for example, a student is inquiring into how students incorporate church into their lives as college students, they need to talk to people from a variety of churches as well as people who don’t attend church regularly if at all.
Discuss effective questions.
Most importantly, effective questions will address the writer’s purpose, which in this case is to find out what the local expert knows about the topic at hand. In other words, the interview should give students a better sense of the conversation surrounding their topic. The right expert can also serve to illuminate apparent contradictions in a student’s other research materials and point the student to further resources.
Practice interview techniques (10-15 minutes)
Allow students time to draft potential interview questions. As students work, offer to address their questions and concerns one-on-one.
After students have completed a draft of their questions, have them exchange drafts in pairs or groups. Refer them back to the criteria established earlier to provide some useful feedback. Put some workshop questions on the overhead to guide students’ feedback. Before students provide feedback, they need to provide one another with the context surrounding their inquiries, including which expert(s) they hope to interview.
Analyzing "Is Welfare Still Necessary for Women and Children in the U.S.?" (15-20 minutes)
Take some time to talk with your class about their reactions to "Is Welfare Still Necessary…?" Your discussion need not be scripted, but try to work in the following:
How does this essay differ from students’ arguments-in-progress? [possible points of difference include: where the writer places the claim, how she organizes her ideas, how she uses paragraphs, her inclusion of evidence and cited sources, etc.]
How does the writer begin the paper? [Ask students for more ideas about introducing arguments. Give them time to jot down ideas for their own papers. Point out that some students will need to include some narration including background information in order for readers to understand the argument.]
What kinds of evidence does the writer use? [Make a list on the board and ask students to add to the list—what other kinds of evidence are possible for an argument? Give them time to make notes on their drafts.]
Recommended Homework for Week 12