English Composition 1
Essay Assignment 4
This long assignment page is divided into the sections listed below. You can scroll down to read the page or can click on one of the links below to go directly to a particular section.
- Due Dates
- The Assignment
- Sample Essays
- Deciding on an Essay Topic
- Exploring Possible Topics
- Organizing and Developing Your Essay
- Understanding Your Audience and Purpose
- Arguing Effectively
- Using Credible Sources
- Using Library Databases
- Using, Citing, and Documenting Sources According to MLA Standards
- Preparing the Works Cited Page
- Avoiding Plagiarism
- Other Resources
Monday, November 6: Draft of at least 600 words due for peer critique.
Monday, November 13: Revised draft of at least 800 words due.
Essay 4 is a persuasive essay of at least 800 words with at least three online sources in which you examine a controversial issue of your choice and argue persuasively for your position on that issue. Your goals are to help readers understand the issue and to persuade readers to agree with your point of view.
To demonstrate your understanding of the issue and to support your argument, you need to use material from at least three credible online sources. Sources must be cited and documented according to MLA standards, and you need to include a separate "Works Cited" page that properly lists the sources cited in the essay. (The minimum required length for the essay includes the "Works Cited" page.)
It is vital that you use credible sources for your essay. See the Using Credible Sources section of this page for information about the types of sources that you should use.
The Web page linked below is an example of the type of paper that you will be writing for Essay 4: it is a persuasive essay on a controversial topic that uses online sources.
You must choose the controversial topic for this essay. Deciding on the issue will be your first step, and there are a few important things to consider as you determine your issue and the position you will take on that issue.
- Make Sure to Choose a Controversial Issue
Your topic must be a controversial issue. While someone could write a persuasive essay on topics such as the need for blood donors and the need for organ donors, these topics are not controversial enough to be the topic of an essay for this assignment. There probably is only a tiny percentage of people who would argue against donating blood, so there is not much of a controversy associated with the topic. For an issue to be controversial, there must be a substantial percentage of people who hold different points of view on the issue, along with seemingly valid reasons for these different perspectives.
Part of your essay should address opposing points of view, something that is just about impossible to do effectively if there is no significant opposing point of view on the issue you have chosen.
- Avoid Some Controversial Issues
Do not choose the following topics for your essay: blood donation, organ donation, abortion, gun control, the death penalty, doctor-assisted suicide, euthanasia, any issues that rely heavily on matters of faith, same-sex marriage, the United States' involvement in any war, and anything about Donald Trump.Do not choose a controversial issue that is so controversial and so familiar that you read or hear about it about almost everyday. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for you to say anything in your essay concerning the issue that has not been said many times before. Likewise, do not choose an issue that involves such deeply felt and strongly held beliefs that you will never be able to change the minds of readers who disagree with your position on the issue, and avoid issues that are so complex that a book would be a better format than a short essay to present a well-developed argument about them.
Given the general guidelines above, then, please do not choose one of the following issues as the subject of your essay: abortion, gun control, the death penalty, doctor-assisted suicide, euthanasia, any issues that rely heavily on matters of faith, same-sex marriage, the United States' involvement in any war, and anything about Donald Trump. After eliminating these issues as possibilities, you still have at least hundreds if not thousands of controversial issues to choose from.
- Focus your Approach to the Issue
You should focus your topic enough so that you can go into depth with it and present a convincing argument in only a two- to three-page essay. For example, the topic of youth violence would be too general for a short essay. You should instead think of something specific about youth violence that you could argue effectively in your essay. More specific issues relevant to youth violence include how to deal with students bringing weapons to school, the possible effects of violent television shows on children, and how fairly the legal system punishes children convicted of serious crimes (to name only a few). Whatever topic you choose, ask yourself if you can narrow that topic to a more specific issue.
- Determine a Logical Position to Argue
Make sure that you have a logical and controversial position to argue. Imagine that someone chooses teen pregnancy as her issue to explore, and that student decides that she will argue that fewer high school students should get pregnant. It seems unlikely that anyone would argue against this position, would argue that more high school students should get pregnant. And imagine someone arguing that high school students should not bring guns to school. No one is going to take an opposing position and argue that more high school students should bring guns to school.
For both of these examples, though, the writers could come up with good positions to argue. For example, the first writer could argue that high schools have a responsibility to give more emphasis to sex education to help prevent teen pregnancies, or the writer could argue that all high school students should have free access to birth-control information and methods. The second student might argue that high schools need to invest more money in metal detectors and other measures to make it more difficult for students to bring weapons to school.
- Determine if you are Suggesting a Solution or Solutions to a Problem
As the examples above suggest, when you argue a position on an issue, you often try to provide a solution or solutions to the problem you explore.
If you argue for a solution to a problem in your essay, make sure to consider alternatives to your solution. You will need to argue not only that you have a good solution to the problem but also that your solution is preferable to other possible solutions. Providing a solution to a problem should include information about how the solution could be implemented.
The resource linked below may help open your mind to some of the many issues that are currently controversial. Remember that you need a specific issue to explore. Many of the issues referred to in the resource linked below are not specific, but they might help you decide on a specific issue for your paper.
- Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context (access from off-campus with your complete 14-digit student ID number and your last name)
The guidelines for organizing essays that we have discussed for the other essays you have written in the course also apply to Essay 4. For example, you need a total of at least five paragraphs, a clear topic sentence for each body paragraph that presents a claim for you to prove in the paragraph, and enough supporting evidence in the paragraphs to prove each claim.
You might consider the suggestions below for three major parts of your essay:
- Background information: What is the problem or controversy?
- Other solutions or positions on the issue: Why do you think other solutions or positions on the issue are not as good as your own?
- Your own solution or position on the topic: Why is your solution or position on the topic the best one, the one that your readers should accept?
Notice that each numbered item above includes a question, so one approach to organizing and developing Essay 4 is to try to answer an important question in each part of your paper. Each item listed above could be addressed in one or more body paragraphs in your paper. The outline above is just a suggestion. You might try experimenting with different ways to organize and develop your essay to help ensure that you are presenting the best argument that you can.
You should use material from sources to help you develop and support your own ideas. The thesis statement and topic sentences should be your own. You may need to use a lot of material from sources, but be careful not to lose your own writing voice.
Keep your audience in mind.
We could divide your audience into three categories:
- people who agree with your point of view,
- people who do not have a position on the issue, and
- people who disagree with your point of view.
Your purpose it to persuade your readers that you are right, so what segment of your audience is the most important? Of course, the people who disagree with you are the most important because, if you want to persuade readers that you have the best position on the issue, those are the people that you need to convince (followed closely by the people who do not yet have a position on the issue).
It is important to demonstrate a good awareness of your audience in your essay. Do not insult or attack the people that you are trying to persuade. Do not assume that people who disagree with you are stupid or ignorant.
It is a good idea to assume that the people who disagree with you probably have good reasons for doing so (if they did not, then the issue is not controversial, right?). You can present a more effective argument in favor of your position on the issue if you have a good understanding of the reasons why someone might hold an opposing point of view.
As with all of your essays for the course, you should use a formal writing voice for Essay 4.
Your main purpose in this essay is to persuade readers to agree with you. You may need to include some background information regarding your topic to help readers understand it, but be careful not to allow your essay to become more informational than persuasive.
Consider techniques for effective argumentation, including
- appeal to reason
- appeal to authority
- appeal to emotion
- use of proper tone
- awareness of audience
- use of specific examples
Avoid Logical Fallacies
"Logical fallacies" are flaws in reasoning that, of course, you should avoid in your essay. They come up more than you might imagine. The Web page linked below identifies and explains some common logical fallacies:
While there are many logical fallacies, and while some of them are quite subtle and not easy to catch, most of the fallacies are basically just a matter of common sense. Below is a summary of some of the most common logical fallacies:
- argumentum ad hominem (argument against the person): this occurs
when the argument shifts from the issue itself to criticism of the people
holding the opposing point of view. Stick with the issue; do not start
attacking the character of the people who disagree with you.
- post hoc ergo propter hoc (before this, therefore because of
this): this fallacy occurs when one thing happens after another, so we
mistakenly assume that the first thing caused the second thing. (Another way
to put it is that "correlation does not prove causation"--one thing
occurring after another does not, in itself, prove that the first thing
caused the second one.) We can find an excellent example of this fallacy
back in the 1970s, after the federal government enacted a 55 miles-per-hour
speed limit on national highways. After this new law was enacted, limiting
the speed limit to 55 miles-per-hour, the number of people killed in highway
accidents in the United States went down. So the lowered speed limit caused
the number of people killed in accidents to go down, right? Wrong. In the
1970s, the United States was experiencing an energy crisis, with gas
shortages, long lines at gas stations, and high gasoline prices. The 55
miles-per-hour law was enacted in an attempt to conserve gasoline. Because
of the energy crisis, people were driving less, thus the reason for fewer
deaths in highway accidents. If we look at the percentage of people killed
in highway accidents per miles driven, we find no significant change before
and after the lowered speed limit.
- red herring: this fallacy involves presenting information that is
irrelevant to the argument and only distracts people away from the issue. We
can see this fallacy in action if someone argues that "yes, guns cause
death, but so do cars. If we are going to ban guns, shouldn't we also ban
cars?" Deaths caused by automobile accidents are completely irrelevant to
the issue of gun control.
- slippery slope: this fallacy occurs when someone argues that one thing
will cause something else, which will then cause this other thing, which
will then cause this other thing, and so on. The slippery slope fallacy
involves presenting a sequence of cause and effect relationships. This
fallacy would occur if we argue that, "if the government makes laws
prohibiting pornographic Web sites, the next thing you know, the government
will be banning stores from selling Playboy and Penthouse
magazines, and then the government will not allow any magazines, television
shows, or movies from having any references to sex at all."
- straw man: this fallacy involves presenting an oversimplified assessment
of the opposing points of view in an attempt to emphasize how weak those
views are. The straw man fallacy would occur if we argue that "people who
are pro-choice simply have no respect for human life."
- non sequitur ("it does not follow"): this fallacy occurs if a
conclusion is presented that does not follow the premise. This fallacy would
occur is someone argued that "we should be allowed to download copyrighted
music from the Internet for free because musicians and music companies
already make a lot of money." It does not follow that we can steal from
musicians and music companies simply because they make a lot of money.
- drawing conclusions from insufficient evidence: this is a common fallacy that occurs when there is a lack of sufficient supporting evidence presented for the conclusions drawn in the argument. One form that this fallacy can take involves the use of "anecdotal evidence," as in "my friend bought a new Ford and had nothing but problems with it, so Fords are the worse cars you can buy."
In addition to avoiding logical fallacies, you should also avoid exaggeration in your argument, as exaggeration often can lead to false statements. This occurred once when a student was arguing in her essay that prisoners in American prisons have too many privileges. As part of her argument, the student claimed that prisoners "live like kings." I said that this is not true. She insisted that it is true: "they do live like kings!" When asked why she thought that prisoners live like kings, the student said that prisoners are allowed to watch television and are allowed to take college courses. Is that a reasonable definition of what it means to live like a king? It might be a good point that prisoners have too many privileges, but it is not a good claim that prisoners live like kings.
As you write your paper, try to develop a logical argument with plenty of good supporting evidence to help you prove the ideas that you present.
For Essay 4, you must use material from at least three credible online sources to help you develop and support your position.
It is vital that you use credible online sources for your essay. Many print sources, such as books or articles in journals, go through a rigorous review process before they are published to ensure their credibility and accuracy. The articles are reviewed by experts, who often give suggestions for revision and return the article drafts to the writers, who then revise the articles and resubmit them for publication. This is not true of most online sources, and many online sources are not credible or accurate. It is up to you to review each source and to evaluate its credibility. Using sources that lack credibility will weaken your essay.
To help you use credible sources, try to use the following types of sources for your essay:
- online newspapers
- online journals
- online magazines
- Web sites of major news organizations (such as NBC or NPR)
- government Web sites (the URLs ending in "gov")
- sources found in the library's subscription databases (see below)
Do not use the following types of sources for your essay:
- Personal Web sites for which you cannot ascertain the credentials of the author that would make him or her an expert on the topic
- online encyclopedias (including Wikipedia)
- online dictionaries
- postings to discussion forums
- Web sites by organizations with an obvious bias on issues (such as PETA or the NRA)
- Web sites providing high school and college essays that are made available to be plagiarized (such as 123 HelpMe.com)--Especially avoid these Web sites. In your college-level essay, you should not use as sources essays on the same subject written by high school students!
- Web sites that present information about your topic in a superficial way (such as with bulleted "pro" and "con" lists)
- Web sites that present "facts" or statistics without citing the sources of the information
- Web sites that include obvious grammar and punctuation errors
- Web sites posted by companies or businesses
If you type search words for your topic into a search engine, it is likely that most of the Web pages in your list of results will not be good sources. Evaluate your sources carefully.
To help you use credible sources, think about why you are using sources in your essay. You are using sources to present facts and to show readers what experts say about your subject. You are not using sources to show readers what just anybody thinks about your topic.
We might have a tendency to assume that information we read online is credible unless we have reason to think otherwise. It probably would be a good idea to reverse this thinking: assume that sources are not credible unless you can find reasons to trust their credibility.
But there is a much better resource that you can use.
It used to be that Jacobs Library (IVCC's library) subscribed to many journals, magazines, and newspapers and made these resources available to students in the library. Things have changed. Nowadays, Jacobs Library provides students access to thousands of publications through its online subscription databases. Not only can you conveniently search through these sources for information on your topic, but you can do so from your home computer.
Jacobs library provides access to several subscription databases that include many good essays and articles from newspapers, journals, and magazines. These include sources that you cannot find by searching the general Web. Most of the sources you will find in these databases are credible.
A. Library Databases such as ProQuest Direct, FirstSearch, and EBSCOhost
These databases provide access to a wide variety of magazines, journals, and newspapers that originally appear in print form.
You can access the login pages for FirstSearch, ProQuest Direct, EBSCOhost, and the other databases from the college library's Magazine and Journals page.
WebFeat is an excellent resource that searches through all of the databases for articles with your search words.
B. Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context
Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context is an excellent resource for Essay 4. This databases is organized into many different controversial issues. You can click on a link to a controversial issue, and you will see many articles on the issue. In a sense, Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context has already done much of the searching of articles for you.
Just click the Gale Opposing Viewpoints in Context link to access the resource.
The library databases require a login and password.
For IVCC students, your login
is your 14-digit student ID number (which you can find on your
student ID card and your class schedule), and your password is your
last name. Your 14-digit student ID number begins with 24611 and
ends with 01, and the seven numbers in between make up your unique
IVCC ID number.
Login: 24611 _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 01 (Your student ID number)
Password: Your last name
(If you are using the databases from a college computer, you may not have to enter a login or password.)
In your essay, you should try to use sources from the library's subscription databases. In general, the quality of the sources you will find in the library's databases is much better than the quality of sources that you will find by using Google or Yahoo to search the Web.
The essay assignment requires the use of information from at least three online sources. This means that you must use specific information from at least three sources in your essay and must give credit to the sources of the information within your essay.
There are three basic ways to present information from a source in your essay:
- quoting--presenting the words in your essay exactly as they appear in the original source, with quotation marks around the copied words.
- paraphrasing--taking ideas or facts from a source and presenting them with your own wording and your own sentences, with no quotation marks.
- summarizing--taking ideas or facts from a source, condensing the information, and presenting it with your own wording and your own sentences, with no quotation marks.
When you paraphrase or summarize, the wording must be your own. If you copy more than a couple of words in a row from a source as part of your paraphrase or summary, those copied words must go in quotation marks. (See "Avoiding Plagiarism" below for more information.)
For more information about using information from sources in your essay, see the Web page linked below:
As you use information from sources in your essay, you must cite and document your sources correctly.
Whenever you use sources in your writing, you need to give proper credit to the sources and need to be careful to distinguish your own words and ideas from those you use from the sources. There is a specific way to do this, and there is an organization that has established one of the most widely accepted standards for citing and documenting sources. This organization is the Modern Language Association, abbreviated MLA. You need to make sure that you follow MLA conventions as you cite and document your sources in your essay.
To help you use, cite, and document sources correctly according to MLA standards, see the course Web pages linked below:
- Using Sources Effectively
- Citing Sources
- Citing and Documenting Online Sources
- Checklist for Using Online Sources
Sources for your essay must be cited and documented according to MLA standards, and you need to include a separate "Works Cited" page that properly lists the sources cited in the essay.
The sources that you use in your essay must be listed on a "Works Cited" page, and that page must be prepared according to MLA (Modern Language Association) standards. Do not guess how to prepare the "Works Cited" page! (If you guess, it is unlikely that you will prepare the page correctly.)
Important: the MLA recently made major changes to how works should appear on a Works Cited page. Because of these recent changes, many of the Works Cited instructions and examples you will find online are not correct. We are using the new MLA's 8th edition style, not the earlier MLA's 7th edition style.
The course Web page "Preparing a Works Cited Page" is the most useful resource for preparing your Works Cited page. Look carefully at the resources and examples linked on "Preparing a Works Cited Page" and follow the examples that best match the kinds of sources that you need to present on your Works Cited page. For example, if your source is a Web page, then you could use the example on "Preparing a Works Cited Page: A Web Page." If your source is an article from one of the online library databases, then you could follow the example on "Preparing a Works Cited Page: An Article in a Magazine or Journal Database."
Follow the links below to see more information about preparing a Works Cited page and examples of well-prepared Works Cited pages.
- Preparing a Works Cited Page
- Sample ENG 1001 Persuasive Essay with Sources
- Preparing a Works Cite Page: Sample Works Cited Page
- Sample Paper from the MLA (pdf file)
- Checklist for Using Online Sources
- MLA Formating and Style Guide from Purdue Online Writing Lab
Please note that it is your responsibility to use, cite, and document sources correctly and not to plagiarize from your sources. Any essay with plagiarism, intentional or unintentional, will receive a failing grade.
For information about plagiarism, see
- Avoiding Plagiarism (from IVCC's online Style Book)
- Plagiarism Examples (from IVCC's online Style Book)
- Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism
- Getting Started on Essays
- Evaluation and Grading Criteria for Essays
- Expectations for All Essays
- Integrating Quotations into Sentences
- Bad Paragraph / Good Paragraph: Effectively Developing a Persuasive Paragraph
- Organizing and Developing a Persuasive Essay
- Organizing and Developing Persuasive Paragraphs
- Revision Checklist
- Checklist: Organization and the Support and Development of Ideas
- Checklist: Style and Mechanics