21 Modules 5 & 6 Writing Assignment: Writing an Argumentative Essay

As module five hopefully made clear, an argumentative essay is very similar to an example essay; it has a main point (a thesis statement) that makes a claim about a controversial issue (your subject matter), and you will support that claim with examples and specific details. You also likely will use emphatic order (building to your most important point, like arguing to a jury) to convince your reader of your position. The difference, as you now know after reading the module, is that argumentative essays require outside evidence, so you can’t just rely upon your personal experiences to provide examples to back up your points. Also, when writing an argumentative essay you must openly deal with the opposing point of view on your topic so that you don’t appear biased. This is because your writing to an undecided reader (in this case, your instructor) who is wary but curious and will question everything, so you want to appear fair and balanced even as you make sure to argue for your side of the issue.

If this kind of writing sounds like it requires a lot of work to get right, well, it is. Happily, since we know this is perhaps your first attempt at writing such a paper, we are going to make your life a bit easier by providing you with all of the outside sources you need to develop it. That’s right; you won’t have to do any outside research other than reading over the sources we provide (see step 4 of the writing process for links to the sources). Of course, you must still make sure to use those sources effectively in your actual essay and to cite them when appropriate! You also must provide a works cited or references page (depending upon whether you are using the MLA or APA format) at the end of the paper that lists the publishing information for whichever of these sources you decide to use. You should use at least two of the sources.

This assignment relies upon information provided in both modules five and six, so make sure you read over module six on citing academic sources before you get too far along. However, we wanted to give you the assignment now so that you have its requirements in the back of your mind as you learn about how to bring sources into your paper correctly.

With all of that out of the way, let’s get down to the assignment itself. Using the information in modules five and six as a guide, write a 2 to 4 page (500-1000 word) argumentative essay about the use of social media in contemporary society. You may either argue that it is beneficial to modern life or that it is destructive. To do so effectively, you must:

• explain the controversy over social media in your introduction (give necessary background information)

  • present a clear thesis statement that announces your position on the issue
  • present the reasons you believe your position to be true in your body

    paragraphs

  • support those reasons with fair and convincing examples and evidence from

    your personal experience and from the sources you have read

  • address at least one of the opposition’s points (perhaps using information

    from the sources to do so)

  • cite at least two of the outside sources with which you have been provided,

    using either the MLA format or the APA format for in-text citations; your paper should have at least two effective and correct citations total (if you only have two, each one should come from a different source)

  • include a works cited page or a references page (depending upon whether you are using the MLA or APA format)

    Step 1: Pre-Writing (Questioning, Freewriting, and Mapping)

    After you read over the four sources we have provided (see step 4 at the end of this document for the links to them), it’s time to start developing your ideas. Any of the prewriting techniques we have discussed so far in the course can be used to generate ideas for your argument. You might use the reporter’s questions again: ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, and how in relation to social media. For example, you might ask:

  • who is affected by it and in what ways/ for what reasons?
  • when is it typically used? how often?
  • where is it typically used?
  • why is it so popular? why are people concerned/excited/angry/obsessed

    about it?

  • how has it changed our personal and professional lives?

    You might use freewriting (the process of writing freely without worrying about grammar, spelling, and sentence structure) to generate ideas about social media, focusing on its benefits and negative traits, which will probably be easy to do since it is likely you use some form of it quite frequently.

    You could also use mapping, putting a main idea in a large circle and then connecting other circles to that circle to represent general points of comparison or contrast related to each one. For example, you might put “social media benefits” in a large circle. In each subcircle connected to it you could insert one way that social media helps its uses (helps users stay connected over distance, helps users to maintain business contacts, etc). This kind of exercise can help you break your topic up into points and to discover exactly how to persuade your audience that your thesis is true.

Step 2: Focusing, Outlining, and Drafting

Once you’ve come up with the thesis (which should clearly take a side on the issue) and the examples and details that are going to help you prove it, you also need to consider the opposition’s point of view. In fact, you might want to go back and generate ideas for the opposing side in much the same way you did for your own side so that you better understand the opposition’s perspective. Ultimately you are required to discuss at least one of the opposing side’s points, so you need to have a good grasp of both positions.

Because this paper is complex, it is very, very important for you to organize your ideas in an outline. Perhaps more than any other essay in the course, an argumentative essay needs to be logical, and all of its components need to fit together in a way that is easy to understand for the reader. If an argument is not well organized, the reader will not find it to be credible and will likely remain unconvinced about the position the writer is taking. An outline will help ensure that you logically express your points while also explaining and perhaps refuting an opposing point-of-view.

As you fill out the outline, remember to choose an organizational plan before you start.

Here are two basic outlines to get you started. The first is the most common way to write an argumentative essay and proceeds by first addressing an opposing point of view in the first body paragraph and then providing all of your own points in favor of your position in the rest of the body paragraphs. You put the opposition first because you want to weigh your own ideas more heavily and you want the reader to finish the paper by thinking about your side, not the opposing side. The (perhaps more difficult) second outline follows a different strategy; each one of its body paragraphs addresses an opposing point and then uses evidence to show why it is wrong or misguided. This can be very convincing, but you must remember to clearly show why you disagree with the opposing point and then use evidence to back up your argument!

Note that you will either fill out the first or second outline, not both. As you know by now, the idea is to write out a quick summation of the different sections on the lines provided. When you go to write a full draft based on the outline you’ve chosen, you will add a hook at the beginning to flesh out your introduction (which should end in your thesis statement), and each of your general example sections will become body paragraphs. You will also need to add a conclusion explaining why your overall point is important.

Remember that these outlines are just suggestions, and you can include as many examples and body paragraphs as you want as long as you stay within the assignment’s length requirements:

Basic Argumentative Pattern I. Thesis Statement:

ii. Opposing Point:
a. Evidence for

b. Evidence against (refute the point!)

iii. General Point #1: a. Evidence: b. Evidence:

iv. General Point #2: a. Evidence: b. Evidence:

v. General Point #3: a. Evidence: b. Evidence:

Alternative Argumentative Pattern I. Thesis Statement:

ii. Opposing Point:
a. Evidence for

b. Evidence against (refute the point!)

iii. Opposing Point:
a. Evidence for

b. Evidence against (refute the point!)

iii. Opposing Point:
a. Evidence for

b. Evidence against (refute the point!)

Post your “Argumentative Essay Outline” to the discussion board so that your instructor can give you some feedback before you begin drafting. You can either attach it to a thread as a Word file or just type it into the thread itself.

After you’ve finished outlining and received some feedback, you are ready to draft the actual paper.

As you’re drafting, remember that you have to accurately cite the sources inside your paper whenever information comes from one of them; this is called in-text citation. Module six explains how to do this, so read it over thoroughly.

Step 3: Revising, Editing, and Proofreading

Once your draft is finished, step away from it for at least a few hours so you can approach it with fresh eyes. It is also a very good idea to email it to a friend or fellow classmate or otherwise present it to a tutor or trusted family member to get feedback. Remember, writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it is meant to be read by an audience, and a writer can’t anticipate all of the potential issues an outside reader might have with an essay’s structure or language.

Whatever the case, after getting some feedback, read your essay over and consider what you might alter to make it clearer or more exciting.

Consider the following questions:

  • Does the introduction provide a hook and explain the general controversy being discussed?
  • Does the essay clearly take a position on the issue in a thesis statement?
  • Does the essay address an opposing point-of-view (POV) without being

    insulting or unfair?

  • If an opposing POV is discussed, is it refuted? In other words, do you show

    how it is wrong or why it is not convincing?

  • Does each section have plenty of supporting evidence? Does at least some of

    this evidence come from the outside sources?

  • Are clear and correct in-text citations used to identify outside source

    material?

  • Are plenty of transitions used to help the reader navigate through the parts

    of the essay?

  • Does the conclusion avoid merely repeating information and instead answer

    the question, “what is important about all of this?” and/or “what should the

    reader do about this issue?”

  • Are there any fragments, run-on sentences, or comma splices?
  • Does the essay follow the formatting requirements?

    Step 4: Making Your Works Cited or References Page

    Before you are ready to submit your final draft, you need to make sure you have completed the list of sources (either your works cited page or your references page depending on your format) that goes at the end of your paper on a separate page. You might want to make this list first because it can help you provide accurate in- text citations; after all, the first information you list for each source (usually the

author’s name) is what you must tell the reader about when you cite it in the text. Regardless, make sure to put your list together at some point in the process.
For our purposes you can classify each of these sources as a “page on a website” (what the MLA calls such sources) or a “nonperiodical web document” (what the APA calls such sources).

For the MLA, the information for this kind of works cited entry is as follows:

Author last name, Author first name. “Article Name.” Website title, date published, full URL (web address).

For the APA, the information for this kind of references page entry is as follows:

Author last name, First Initial. (date published). Article name. Retrieved from full URL (web address).

Look at the sample papers at the end of modules five and six to see examples of these pages. Format your papers according to the one that uses either the MLA or APA (whichever formatting style you are using for your own paper)

Here are the links to and the basic citation information for the provided sources:

Positive Effects of Social Media

Title: “Is it time for science to embrace cat videos?”

Author name: George Vlahakis
Website Title: futurity.org
Date Published: 17 June 2015
Source URL: http://www.futurity.org/cat-videos-943852/

Title: “#Snowing: How Tweets Can Make Winter Driving Safer”

Author Name: Cory Nealon
Website Title: futurity.org
Date Published: 2 December 2015
Source URL: http://www.futurity.org/twitter-weather-traffic-1060902-2/

Negative Effects of Social Media

Title: “Using Lots of Social Media Accounts Linked to Anxiety”

Author: Allison Hydzik
Date Published: 19 December 2016
Source URL: http://www.futurity.org/social-media-depression-anxiety-1320622-2/

Title: “People Who Obsessively Check Social Media Get Less Sleep”

Author: Allison Hydzik
Date Published: 16 January 2016
Source URL: http://www.futurity.org/social-media-sleep-1095922/

Step 5: Evaluation

After completing these steps, submit the essay to the instructor, who will evaluate it according to the grading criteria. (1)

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English Composition I by Lumen Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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