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ENG 121: Academic Writing: Argumentative Essay

Center for Online Learning courses

Student Samples and other Handouts

Argument Essay Assignment- Revised from LearningStudio assignment

You will begin the rough draft of your last essay this week. Within the LearningStudio Module, it is called the Argumentative Essay. But be warned, it is actually one of many argumentative-style essays you have written. Any time you try to persuade someone, you are doing argumentative writing - and you've been doing that here for a while.

I will admit I am not fond of the direction or lack thereof that you are given for writing this essay in this module. But I also want to stress that you do need to read all assigned pages in the book as well as the online module despite my feelings towards this assignment. What I am going to do, however, is add information here at our LibGuide for you to read as part of your assigned readings as well. I want you to have a strong argument essay for this course, and I think the extra reading (which I promise will be short) will be worth it. For the purposes of further defining which type of essay you will write, I will be referring to your Argumentative Essay as the "Proposing a Solution Essay."

The purpose of the “Proposing a Solution” essay is to persuade, but it is a special kind of argumentative essay.  It involves identifying a problem, discussing several possible solutions to it, and arguing that one solution is better than others.  There are many possible topics for this essay, and you will have considerable freedom in selecting your own topic; however, there are some topics you MAY NOT write about: euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment, gun control, parking, legalization of pot or other illegal drugs, steroids, and changing of the voting age.  If you want, your topic can be related to any of your other topics, but it does not necessarily have to be the exact same topic you wrote about.  Y


·         Identifying the problem.  Early in your essay, you will need to identify the problem under consideration.  This will require describing, defining and/or limiting the problem for background support.  For example, if starvation is the problem, you may want to focus on famine in developing countries, on hunger in the U.S., or perhaps even more narrowly, on malnourishment among U.S. children.  In this part of the essay, it may also be necessary to establish the problem, to argue that it really exists and that it's really a problem.  Some readers, for example, may not believe that technology is expanding very rapidly or, if they do, maybe they don't consider it a problem.  So before discussing solutions, you may have to argue that the problem is both real and worthy of our attention.

·        Discussing possible solutions.  Once the problem has been identified, you will turn to a discussion of possible solutions to the problem.  You should discuss at least three alternative solutions, and each should be plausible (believable) and feasible (workable).  Far-fetched or oversimplified solutions are of no use in this essay.  Proposing that we solve the problem of bad food in the SLU commons by hiring the finest chefs in France to cook for us is far-fetched because it’s not economically possible and therefore not believable.  Similarly, suggesting that execution be the penalty for all overdue books at the library is too simple given our current value system and not workable.  On the other hand, suggesting that the commons implement a quality survey to improve the cafeteria food or that students with overdue fines at the library cannot receive their grades until those fines are paid would be examples of plausible, feasible solutions.  (My note: I like the food in the cafeteria so maybe that topic is off limits.)  

·        Arguing that one solution is better than others.  Your discussion of possible solutions will consist of examining the pros and cons of each and, by the end of the essay, it should be clear that one solution is better than all the others.  As in the position paper, it is vital that you not only assert your own arguments, but also present and respond to counterarguments.  Once you have asserted that this one solution is the best, the bulk of your paper will be including reasons why it is the best, again incorporating research into this section whenever possible.

·        Including Counterarguments.  Due to the fact that all the solutions you discuss in the essay will be plausible and feasible, it is unlikely that you will be able to utterly and entirely refute all of them.  In fact, you may be tempted to suggest that all the solutions should be used at once.  Don't do this.  In order to pass this essay, your thesis must state that, even though all the solutions might be helpful, one solution is definitely better than the others.  However, this raises the question of what constitutes “better”?  There are a variety of criteria.  Perhaps one solution would solve the problem more thoroughly, more quickly, less expensively, or with less risk.  But don't worry about these sorts of criteria right now; they’ll develop as we continue the writing process.

Details: The essay should be approximately 500 words.  Please write about something you know about firsthand (meaning nothing that has to be researched by either you or me to be understood). Topics should come from your life and may be related to your job, family, or social situations.  Some off-the-top-of-my-head examples are how to get kids to do chores, how to lower the speed of cars through your neighborhood, getting children to nap, etc. Again, stick to topics you know. DO NOT USE OUTSIDE SOURCES FOR ANY REASON. Please also use MLA format, as your grade depends on it.  You must have a 25% or lower similarity score as usual; if not, you will be turned in as a violation of the Honor Code of Saint Leo University for plagiarism. Please ask me for help if you have questions. 

Please refer to this LibGuide for information on Counterarguments as well as a student sample (or two) of the Proposing a Solution essay. I realize that some of the restricted topics may actually be possible topics listed in the module. However, please let my restricted topics take precedent, as I do restrict them for a reason. If you would like me to look over topics, I would be more than happy to do so, so feel free to send an email or meet me during office hours. And remember to use the suggestions I have been giving as comments on your other graded essays. Good luck this week. Knock this essay out of the park!