Arguing Essay Proposal Packet
Due: November 19th, 1998, at the beginning of class
Purpose of the Assignment: To help you think through your ideas about your arguing essay and to provide me with an opportunity to give you feedback on your ideas.
Contents of the Proposal: You should write a proposal packet that includes:
- A one-to-two page overview that
- Identifies the specific issue your paper will address
- Discusses the major categories of positions that are argued on the issue (as determined by your research). You will talk about what people and/or groups of people are saying about the issue, why the issue concerns them, and what sides they take.
- Identifies the side you will be on with regard to this issue, and why you have chosen this side.
- Identifies your (tentative) position on the issue. You can state this as a working thesis/claim.
- Provides a brief explanation (about a paragraph) that supports your position. To develop this, you might ask yourself why you think your position is right or true or what reasons support your position.
- Identifies a list of questions you need to answer in your paper. (In other words, what will people reading your essay expect you to address?)
- Lists any questions you have for me about the assignment or about how to deal with your topic.
- An Annotated Bibliography of at least 10 sources: Your annotated bibliography will serve as a representation of the research you have done so far, and of the discussion on your topic that is forming in your mind. You should cite your sources using correct MLA format (See PHG 360-6 or the Online Writing Center reference unit on MLA style -- located under reference materials / working with sources). All research must be relevant in some meaningful way to the issue you are concerned with.
- An Audience Analysis: You will be doing a detailed analysis of your intended audience, as a way of preparing to address this audience in your Arguing Essay. (For analysis questions and requirements for this portion of the proposal, see the attached Audience Analysis sheet.)
- Photocopies of Sources: Copies of sources listed in the bibliography, with appropriate bibliographic information written on the first page. See the Research Packet for more information about what specific bibliographic information is required for each type of source. [NOTE: You don't need to make a NEW copy of your source to hand in to me. Handing in your originals is fine. However, if you do hand in your original copy, it would be a good idea to write down all bibliographic information and notes about location for these sources, so that you can get back to them in case they get lost. (Always a good policy anyway.)]
Audience: You should address this proposal to me.
Grading Criteria: I will evaluate your proposal packet on the following criteria:
- completeness (in terms of expressing your initial ideas and the results of your initial research)
- thoroughness of research and of recording research
- complexity of analysis (where the audience analysis is concerned)
- adherence to this assignment sheet
- conformity to standard American English (In other words, is it generally free of grammatical, mechanical, and spelling errors?)
Audience Analysis Worksheet
(Adapted from Crusius and Channell, The Aims of Argument)
Successful written argumentation requires that the writer try to think like his or her audience -- to "get into their heads," so to speak -- inasmuch as such a feat is possible. It is necessary that writers understanding how they are like and unlike their intended audience, determining what motivates their audience, what they value, and what they have invested in the issue being investigated. Understanding these issuess helps a writer create a convincing or persuasive argument. As writers, if we fail to think about these things, we are simply shooting in the dark, writing the argument we ourselves want to hear.
The following audience analysis questions are designed to help you understand your audience and how they should be approached.
Complete an audience analysis that is between 1/2 and 1 page (typed, single-spaced) in length based on the following questions:
- Specifically, write out the position you will be taking on your topic in the Arguing Essay.
- Why are you interested in this topic? What is the relationship of this issue to your current studies, or more generally, to your life?
- What position do you take with regard to the issues involved in this topic? (You may have already answered this one in question "a".
- Who benefits and who suffers in the situation surrounding this topic?
- How would each group you just named define the issue/question?
- Which group defines the issue/question most similarly to the way you do in questions "a" and "c" above? Which one defines it most differently?
General Characteristics of the Audience and their Connection to the Topic
- What is your purpose for writing (to convince those who disagree with you or are neutral, to persuade those who agree or are neutral to act, to mediate a dispute between pro/con views)?
- Who is your intended audience?
- Specify the characteristics of your audience. How would you define them in terms of age, economic and social class, gender, education, and so forth?
- What typical attitudes, stances, or biases about your topic does this audience hold?
- What in their background or daily experiences helps explain their point of view?
- What are they likely to know about your topic?
- How might they be uninformed or misinformed about it?
- How would they like to see the problem, question, or issue resolved, answered, or handled? Why? That is, what personal stake do they have in the topic?
- In what larger framework--religious, ethical, political, economic--do they place your topic? That is, what general beliefs and values are involved?
Differences Between Writer and Audience
- The process of written argument begins with the assumption that the audience the writer is addressing needs to hear this argument in order to be won over to a different way of thinking or acting. Therefore, when you launch an argument, you have to understand that you are addressing an audience which differs from you in their position on the topic in certain essential ways. The trick is to figure out specifically how and why the audience disagrees with you. The following questions can help you to examine the roots of these differences. To respond to this portion of the analysis, simply choose the set or sets of questions that seem to address your differences from your audience best, then respond to those questions with a short paragraph or two.
- Is the difference a matter of assumptions? If so, how can you shake your readers' confidence in their assumptions and offer another set of assumptions favorable to your position?
- Is the difference a matter of principle, the application of general rules to specific cases? If so, should you dispute the principle itself and offer a competing one the audience will also value? Or should you show why the principle should not apply in some specific instance relevant to your case?
- Is the difference a matter of hierarchy of values--that is, do you and your audience value the same things but to different degrees? If so, how might you restructure your readers' values?
- Is the difference a matter of ends or of means? If of ends, how can you show that your vision of what ought to be is better or that realizing your ends will also secure the ends your readers value? If a difference of means, how can you show that your methods are justified and effective, more likely to bear fruit than others?
- Is the difference a matter of interpretation? If so, how can you shake your readers' confidence in the traditional or common interpretation of something and show them that your interpretation is better, that it accounts for the facts more adequately?
- Is the difference a matter of implications or consequences? If so, how can you convince your readers that what they fear may happen will not happen, that it will not be as bad as they think, or that other implications or consequences outweigh any negatives?
Commonalties Between Writer and Audience
- When writing an argument, it is important to keep in mind not only the nature of your differences from your audience, but also the nature of your similarities with them. These similarities provide you the basis for identification with this audience, allowing you to see what resources you can draw on in order to make effective argumentative appeals and to build your credibility and trustworthiness as a writer on your topic. To complete this portion of the analysis, answer (like you did in the last section) only those questions which seem to be appropriate to the audience you have chosen.
- Do you and your audience have a shared local identity--as members of the same organization, for example, or students at the same university?
- Do you share a more abstract, collective identity--as citizens of the same region or nation, as worshippers in the same religion, and so forth?
- Do you share a common cause--such as promoting the good of the community, preventing child abuse, or overcoming racial prejudice?
- Is there a shared experience or human activity--raising children, caring for aging parents, helping a friend in distress, struggling to make ends meet?
- Can you connect through a well-known event or cultural happening--a popular movie, a best-selling book, something in the news that would interest both you and your audience?
- Is there a person, historical event, or document that you both respect?
Building An Argument
- What claim do you want your audience to accept? How strong a claim can you realistically expect them to accept?
- What reasons are likely to appeal to this audience? What might you have to rule out?
- What kinds of evidence do you think your audience will expect as support for these reasons? What sources of information will they find credible?
- What can you do to present yourself as a person this audience can trust and respect?
This audience analysis should show that you have spent a significant amount of time thinking about your topic. It should be well written and coherent.