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Negotiating (Bruce)

The aim of the negotiating project is to mediate between several differing positions on an arguable issue. For this project, you'll work in a collaborative group to plan the essay, collect research, organize your thoughts, and revise a negotiating essay. Along with the essay, you'll give a short group presentation to the class during our final exam period.

The Sequence:

First, you must select a topic that offers opportunities for negotiation, mediation and/or compromise. You can do this one of two ways:

As a group, you'll need to define the major issues and points of view involved in the debate (inquiry and exploration), determine the key goals of each point of view, and come up with a plan that attempts to solve or lessen the problem while meeting at least some of the major goals of each differing point of view. You must become familiar enough with the various positions that you won't, as a group, overlook obvious opposition points that some people might have to your plan. Then, you'll devise a written argument that uses convincing and persuading techniques to bring both sides into what you have created as a mutually comprehensible and acceptable solution.


For your research, start with the articles in Aims on the issue or your own essays--those should give you the basics of the points of view involved. You may well need to go beyond this in order to support your reasoning for your own solution, though. As with the convincing and persuading essays, there's no set guideline other than the one set by the real world of negotiating: whatever support you use must motivate your multiple audiences to come together. If you can do this without outside research, more power to ya. If not, use however much you need to develop your argument and make it convincing to your audience. For most real-world topics, you'll need to do at least some outside research, but it won't need to be as intense as the research for your last two essays. Remember, too, that you'll be able to divide the tasks between several people.

The Essay:

You should organize the essay to meet the demands of the rhetorical situation (consider the audience and the situation as it exists currently). In this essay, unlike other essays, you may find yourselves having to predict the reactions of people with quite different viewpoints all on one piece of writing. Diplomacy and a variety of types of claims will probably be necessary. Throughout the essay, you must avoid alienating any members of your audience so that all members will be ready to accept your compromise. In other words, it won't work to switch from one audience to the next, taking sides and speaking to only one group while ignoring the others. Imagine your essay and presentation as one which you make to a room full of representatives of all the differing positions--they can all hear everything you say, and you can't afford to let any of them storm out of the room.

Division of Labor:

The tasks of writing the essay should be broken down with two goals in mind: to equally distribute the workload and to fully exploit the strengths of each of the group members. One possible method might be to list all the tasks the group will need to accomplish and then divide them. Then, have each member of the group draft an outline of the essay, combine the best elements of the outlines, and then assign part of the outline to each group member. Finally, you'll come together, cut-and-paste the sections, and edit the whole shebang as a group. Another method might be to assign textual research, field research, and an outline to different group members. Then, assign individual members to represent each side of the argument and other members to introduction and conclusion. Finally, each member would independently revise the essay, and then the group as a whole would hammer out the rough spots in the final revision. Keep in mind that each group member should contribute research, writing, revision and presentation--though a different group member might take the lead in each of these areas.

Please fill out the "Work Log Planner" before you begin writing, during your project, and add the final touches after the project is done. You'll be evaluating your own contribution, the contribution of other group members, and the other groups' presentations.

The Class Presentation:

For the class presentation, I'd like you to plan a brief talk that explains the issue and defends the solution or compromise you've chosen to suggest. One approach might be to evaluate solutions and show why the one you chose is best. Another might be to analyze the arguments of each side (Toulmin-style) and defend the strongest argument. Another might be to have members of the group role-play the different sides, and then show us how you'd mediate between the positions to defend your solution. These are by no means the only choices. One of your tasks as a group should be to determine the approach that best meets the needs of your audience. All group members should contribute to the group presentation, and you should have some type of visual aid prepared (overhead, chart, etc.) to visually reinforce some aspect of the presentation. Don't just read your project aloud to the class. Your audience won't be easy to persuade if they're asleep and drooling. At the same time, remember that your main goal is to convey the substance of your ideas--the visual and entertaining aspects of your presentation are the sugar that makes the medicine go down. Don't give us too much sugar and too little medicine.


This'll be my ultimate responsibility, but I'll seek input from the class in two ways. First, I'll ask you to evaluate the contributions of each member of your group. The final project will be worth 70% of each person's grade, but 30% of the grade will be based on individual work (research, writing, revision and presentation). Second, I'll ask each group to rank all the groups based on the strength of the final presentations.

The Schedule:

Here's the basic sequence of events, subject to change as we determine our own needs:

Monday, April 15: Intro to negotiating; form the groups, exchange vital info.

Homework: Read sample essays and annotate--prepare to discuss on Wed.

Wednesday, April 17: Discuss sample essays; groups should be working on knowing the issues and dividing the labor.

Homework: individual assignments to be announced. Group work Log Planners will be due Monday.

Friday, April 19: In-class negotiating practice. We'll let this run into Monday if necessary.

Homework: Work Log Planners due Monday. Groups should schedule extra meeting times if necessary to finish these.

Monday, April 22: Portfolio II due; Design negotiating assignment, set agenda to cover any remaining concerns for Wednesday's class.

Homework: Whatever the class determines based on the assignment design discussion.

Wed, April 24, Friday, April 26, and Monday, April 29: In-class group work and conference days.

Wed., May 1: Written product workshop day: drafts due. (Mayday! Mayday!)

Friday, May 3: Workday for group presentations.

Presentations and portfolios due at final exam.