ESSAY GUIDELINES: You are
to write a 1000--1200 word Arguing a
Position essay on some controversial aspects of
folklore. Assuming there are about 250-300 words per double
spaced page with margins, we are talking about a 4-5 page paper. You
are to select
a topic, take a clear position by way of a developed
thesis, provide plausible reasons and convincing support for each claim
made, and either acknowledge or refute common objections against your
position. In order to provide adequate support for your claims, you are
expected to make use of MLA in-text citations and provide a Works Cited
page. Your essay should also be free of common grammar and spelling
errors, and you should avoid the common problems listed below.
offers valuable experience in critical thinking, essay organization,
establishing a tone within an essay. The writer is forced to take a
on a controversial issue, adequately support her position, and refute
accept common arguments against her position. The aware writer soon
that reasonable people have conflicting assumptions about our world,
certainty is as elusive as a black cat in a dark room, and that one
have thought deeply about a position to support it beyond a superficial
level. This assignment asks you to develop an argumentative strategy
both supports your position and considers your specific audience.
of simply rushing to defend a position you presently hold, try to
a controversial topic with an open mind. Only after careful research
analysis can you hope to arrive at a position based on solid reasoning.
Note that "The foolish and the dead alone never change their opinion."
COMMON PROBLEMS WITH THE
ASSIGNMENT: There are always a
that have a difficult time taking a position on a controversial issue.
Rather than simply seeing this as a weakness, it might well indicate
student is truly beginning to see the complex nature of the specific
Still, a position must be taken, and there are ways that can help you
at a reasonable position. One method involves dividing a sheet of paper
into two columns, placing arguments "for" and "against" in respective
and weighing the relative worth of each column. Don't be upset if the
side has a couple of very strong arguments--these can either be
or accepted in the refutation section.
Failing to adequately support one's position is the most
I have encountered with the assignment. Don't simply assert a position
or make generalizations--your position can be supported by facts,
to human needs/values, statistics, and even personal narrative/personal
anecdote. Be sure
your refutation section addresses the tough questions likely to be
against your position. You also risk failing to support your position
when you use common logical fallacies as evidence, use sources that are
biased or outdated, and offer evidence
supported more by belief than fact.
A few students will also have problems with tone. You should
seem reasonable; you don't want to come across as dogmatic. Work hard
appear as someone who has considered both sides of the issue, and don't
be afraid to concede a point to the opposing side--ignoring evidence
your position will only make you appear one-sided or simplistic. If you
can refute common arguments against your position, please do so. If you
can't refute such arguments, acknowledge their relative value to the
issue and move on.
Lastly, there are always a few students that miss the word
"controversial" in the essay guidelines. I am not interested in reading
the obvious, the trite, the already agreed upon truth. Look for a topic
that has significance, where taking the right position is clearly
important, and let the reader know what consequences are associated
with taking the wrong position on the topic. Simplistic
sermons, as well as
simplistic approaches to complex problems, risks making even a thinking
reader numb to any value in your essay.
USING SOURCES: You
will need to use in-text
a Works Cited page. I tend to take off quite a few points for MLA
problems, as the COS Writing Lab in the Academic Skills Center is
available for assistance.
SELECTING A TOPIC:
This assignment will require time
so please think carefully before selecting a topic. Consider
selecting a topic you honestly want to know more about, a topic you
not mind researching, and a topic on which you are likely to easily
needed research material. I have created a small
list of possible topics, but you will have adequate time and
opportunity to create your own topic should you prefer. The bibliographic section that follows each chapter
in the Brunvand text also provides hundreds of possibilities, and his
short overview of student research in folklore (pp471-475) might help
point you in the right direction. Lastly, there is the Journal of
American Folklore (as well as other sources
) available at the local libraries.
GRADING OF THE COURSE PROJECT: I
grade the Course Project according to the following--60%
content, 20% organization, and 20% mechanics. Writing assistance,
including help with thesis, organization, and mechanics is available
from the COS
Lab staff in person, by telephone, or by email.