The Death Penalty
Purpose: Write a persuasive essay that requires you to substantially research the subject you are discussing. Since this paper is an argument, you will be expected to choose a clear position on the issue; you may not straddle the fence. To help force yourself to choose, pretend that you are a legislator or someone else in authority, who, out of fairness, investigates both sides but then must vote one way or the other. Your paper should primarily appeal to reason, although you may include ethical and emotional appeals if appropriate. While most of the essay should support your position on the issue, you must also identify opposing arguments and refute them, as part of constructing an informed and strong case.
The topic for this assignment will be the death penalty. I ve provided you with an article and a statistics sheet up front and you may use these two items for two of your sources, which means you will still need to seek out at least two other sources for your paper (You need a total of four sources). You are not required to use these two sources for your paper, but they are there to get you jumpstarted. This is a highly controversial topic and you will need to argue a side. Keep in mind that Texas, as a state, is for the death penalty: How does that affect your views on the death penalty? Of course, you don t need to address this fact, but being a Texan may be an interesting angle in the context of your paper.
*As the professor of this course, I represent an objective entity. I respect both sides of this issue and I want you to know that whatever your opinion/argument is on this matter, I will read it in a non-judgmental manner. Write fearlessly! Persuade me!
Audience: Using the rules of standard written English and a formal tone, address the essay to an audience of educated adults. Expect to add value to your presentation of the subject by sharing unique insights and juxtaposing ideas in an interesting manner. This essay is formal, so you should NOT use first-person pronouns (except in the introduction and conclusion if you have a personal experience to share) nor second-person pronouns.
Format: Your paper should be 1500 words in length at the bare minimum, not including the works cited page. Do not use a title page.
An argument has as its purpose to persuade the reader that the writer's position—your position—is true. In addition, it may attempt to persuade the reader to take a certain course of action. An argument is going to be about a debatable topic–something reasonable people disagree about. An argument thesis indicates the topic and the position. You can check to see if what your draft thesis statement will work by trying to lay out the opposing position. For example, if a person wants to write that "stem cell research has the potential to help humankind" he or she can try composing the opposite sentiment: "stem cell research has the potential to harm humankind." We know that people do claim that side of the issue, so we can see that the stem cell topic "works."
How do we create an argument/persuasive paper?
First you need information from which to argue, and you are going to have to do a little research to get it. For some subjects, reference sources such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and almanacs can be a good place to start exploring to see what you know and to get references to research. They are usually fact-oriented and editorially controlled, which lend them well to giving background information. However you may not use such sources as direct, cited sources for this paper. These sources are too "predigested" and far from the original information and opinion you'll want to build your paper on. However, some references materials include bibliographies to original sources, and you may find sources you can use in you papers by tracking down items in the bibliographies of reference works. By the way, wikipedia.com counts as a reference source, and may not be used in your papers. (You may use it in your background research.)
You must use at least four sources, which may include textbook articles, newspapers, magazines, or books from a library or electronic documents from the Internet or an on-line database such as EBSCO. Other sources such as textbooks, encyclopedias (including ones on CD-ROM), dictionaries (including Wikipedia), pamphlets, and other heavily digested or synthesized material do not count as one of your five sources although you may use them as background research. If you do use them, you must cite them as you would any source. You should not rely too heavily on a single source of any type.
**One component every paper will need to include is consideration and refutation of counterarguments. Since an argument can only exist if there is more than one side to the story, your argument will not be adequate if you pretend that the other side does not exist. Instead you will need to stop and determine what the opposing side s BEST argument or two are. Don t focus on trivial details that anyone would laugh off as ridiculous.
Once you identify opposing argument you will need either to concede or refute them. Conceding means saying something like, the other side has a good point when they say ___ , but my point is even better. The advantage of conceding is that you demonstrate that you are reasonable and open to alternatives. Sometimes you may feel that you really just need to refute the opposition. In effect you re saying, the other side says ___, but I simply cannot agree because of X, Y, and Z. You may have to fight a little harder in this case, but sometimes it is the reality that you simply cannot get on board with another person s claims.
In either case, your argument is the main event and it would be a mistake to write a whole paper around why various opposing viewpoints are wrong. It makes your case look weak if all you do is react. Devote more time to building your own argument up than to tearing down others arguments.