Writing@CSU: Composition Teaching Resources

Portfolio 3: Making Your Contribution to a Publicly Debated Issue

Overview: This portfolio culminates in a pair of Arguing Essays that contribute to the publicly debated issue you analyzed in Portfolio 2.

To complete work on this portfolio, you will:

  • carry out a series of homework activities
  • read the PHG chapter on arguing (Chapter 10) in its entirety
  • choose a target publication for your first Arguing Essay
  • write a brief Context and Audience Comparative Analysis (or simply Context Comparison from here on) comparing and contrasting a selected publication and its readers to the readership/context of the New York Times Editorial page
  • continue to read the NYT, now with an emphasis on the Editorial and Op-Ed pages as well as on visual/graphic forms of communication and argumentation (collect 10 of each)
  • write rough drafts of your first Arguing Essay
  • submit an Arguing Essay that is written and designed to conform to your target publication.
  • Revise your first arguing essay for submission to the Editorial page of the New York Time and submit it for a grade

Evidence of participation in all these items will be compiled in your folder, turned in, graded and returned to you before your second arguing essay is due—this one for a new audience of readers, specifically the Editorial page of the New York Times.

For the first essay and folder, if you targeted your article for Parents’ Magazine, you would write for a general audience of parents of young children. Similarly, if you were writing for a journal or magazine published on a Web site, such as National Review Online, you would write for the readers of that publication. The first arguing essay, written for an audience and publication of your choosing, can also be submitted to the CSU online student journal, Talking Back, for possible publication after a competitive selection process. The final draft of this first argumentative essay must include a cover page that clarifies the audience and purpose you have in mind for your essay. This first arguing essay is worth 20% of your final grade.

The second argument, which is a revised version of the first and directed toward the Editorial page of the New York Times, will be turned in after the initial folder is graded and returned to you. Here you will demonstrate your understanding of the New York Times as a distinguished national and international news source, show evidence that you are familiar with its readers, and demonstrate that you understand the differences between the rhetorical situations of your selected publication’s audience and the New York Times Editorial page, only the simplest of which is a difference in length requirements. This second arguing essay is worth 15% of your final grade.

Essentially, this portfolio helps you add your voice to the public conversation you analyzed in your second portfolio. Now that you have learned what other members of that conversation have been saying about the issue, you are qualified to make your own contributions. The first essay, targeting a publication of your choosing, and the second one (a substantial revision) targeting the most read newspaper opinion page in the world, will allow you differing opportunities to stake your claim as well as two distinct opportunities to showcase your talents as a flexible writer—that is, one who is adaptable to differing contexts. In making your own contribution to the conversation on your selected issue, your goal will be to add something new to the discussion while also acknowledging the contributions of authors who have already contributed ideas and information. You may wish to go back to your notes on the idea of “newness” from the beginning of the course to recall the range of ways a paper than stake new ground.

Your grade for this portfolio will be based on the quality of your first and second Arguing Essays (20% + 15% of your overall grade in course). Your success on both Arguing Essays, however, will be determined largely by the work you do on your homework assignments and especially the Context Comparison. It might be helpful, as a result, to imagine the homework assignments (including the News Clippings) and the Context Comparison as prewriting for the Arguing Essays.

Worth: 35% of the course grade (20% and 15%, respectively)

Purposes for this Portfolio: To learn how to contribute to a debate about a public issue; to learn strategies for designing effective documents; to think critically about writing situations and to strengthen your understanding of writing for specific audiences, to demonstrate your flexibility in writing for differing contexts.

Audience: Your arguing essays will be directed toward two differing audiences, first the audience of a publication (magazine, journal, newspaper, Web site) that you propose in your Context Comparison. This first paper will be a minimum of six double-spaced, typed pages or 1500-1800 words. The second, an opinion piece for the Editorial page of the New York Times, will be of a length appropriate for this newspaper—probably 650-800 words. Your instructor must approve your choice of target publication for the first arguing essay.

Portfolio Content: When you turn in your portfolio folder after the first paper for 20% of your grade, your portfolio will include homework assignments, the Context Comparison, rough drafts of your first Arguing Essay, comments you receive from your classmates on your rough drafts, the final draft of Arguing Essay #1, and a collection of 10 editorial and op-ed pieces as well as 10 examples of visuals/graphics from the NYT. This portfolio will be graded and returned to you prior to your revision for the Editorial page, which constitutes the final portion of Portfolio 3 for an additional 15% of your grade. When you submit your Editorial, you must resubmit all previous Portfolio 3 materials.

Pick Up of Final Portfolios: You can pick up your portfolio at the beginning of next semester (after contacting your instructor ahead of time). Alternatively, if you would like to have your portfolio returned sooner, you must include with your final folder a self-addressed, stamped envelope that has been metered for the full weight of your completed folder.