Argumentative Essay Guidelines, Xianfeng Mou, 10600

Xianfeng Mou 10600-394 09Fall

Argumentative Essay Guidelines: What Do You Stand For?


Throughout the semester, you have created yourself, and have also connected your self and your life with the larger culture. You have learned and sharpened the necessary research skills, gathered and evaluated what the experts’ opinions are on your subject through published sources. With the Interview Report, you have carried out field research and reported back what a seasoned researcher has found out on your topic but has not made his or her expertise publicly available. Now, armed with all the information and skills you have accumulated so far, you will take a position on a controversial issue within your topic area and argue for it. For the Argumentative Essay, your main task is to argue for your position so as to persuade your readers by refuting opposing opinions. You must seek to convince your readers to agree with your point of view, or sympathetic with your view, by showing logical loopholes in opinions other than yours. Defend and advocate your position. Sometimes you have to stand and fight.

Two Definitions of Argumentation

Argumentation can be understood in two ways, narrowly and broadly. The broad understanding is everything you say and do constitutes a kind of argument, because, as we have discussed, you are constructing your meaning, your self, your life, and now what you understand your culture to be with what you say and what you do.

Cultural Studies scholars like to use “argumentative” in this sense. Under this context, I personally prefer to use the word “construction” instead of “argumentation,” because “argumentation” sounds as if one likes to carry out a verbal battle with someone, which is not my cup of tea. Sometimes those who always like to win in an argument will say anything horrible simply to win, for they cannot accept that they are not winning. They usually use that underhanded strategy when they know they have already lost the argument.

You often witness this in politics when one candidate resorts to personal attacks when that candidate cannot win a debate in political policies. For instance, how many times have you seen a high official fall from office due to other’s accusation of him having some illicit affairs? Too often. The strategy of character assassination is also a most effective way to kill a female candidate for a high office.

Argumentation, in the narrow sense, is a special kind of writing, one that extends beyond sharing information for its own sake to presenting a claim (arguable thesis) about a controversial subject and supporting that claim through a variety of specialized means. To put it in non-academic terms, this argumentation means you say what you believe in on a controversial topic and defend your belief.

Much of the high-interest reading you do is argumentative in nature, whether the essays or articles or editorials are about education and empowerment, individual opportunity, medical research, presidential campaigns, music censoring, Internet use, law enforcement, drug costs, pollution, or other subjects. The success of these arguments—regardless of the perspective—depends on the clarity of their presentations and the effectiveness with which they incorporate information.

What You Do

The first step is to take your position clearly and concisely. You cannot write a convincing paper unless you know what you want to argue for, stand for, and in some cases fight for. Your feelings should be strong, since you have already produced three papers on your topic.

You will be introduced to the techniques of making effective arguments. Remember your purpose is to try to convince readers to adopt your position or, at least, to take seriously the arguments you raise. Therefore, you will want to acknowledge your readers’ opposing views as well as any objections and questions they might have. You need to consider your audience—what they know about your topic, their emotions, and their objections. You will also need to establish your credibility with proper parenthetical and end citations. In other words, you have to be very sophisticated on how to defend yourself and how to refute others.

In order to give everybody a chance to show what they are doing throughout the semester, you will also give a Powerpoint presentation to the whole class after the first draft is due. Relevant techniques will be introduced. The presentation must run between 5-7 minutes. It is too short if it is less than 5 minutes. Do not exceed 7 minutes because 6 of you are scheduled for each day.

After each presentation, the presenter should elicit feedback from the audience and the audience needs to give suggestions. Signing up early if you want to present early. Your presentation is worth five points towards your course grade.

Specific requirements

For this assignment, it is recommended that your evidence should come from what you have learned from your previous writing assignments (that is, your personal essay, literature review, and interview report) and from any other sources (additional research and reading if necessary) you choose to use. Your argumentative essay should run about 1,000-1,200 words (3.5-4 pages).

Do not exceed five pages if your paper is long.

Elements of the assignment

An introduction in which you orient your readers to your topic, state your position, and preview the rest of your paper;

A body in which you provide support for your position by using evidence agreeing with you and refuting evidence against you with proper skills and in-text citations;

A conclusion in which you summarize main points of your argument and suggest, very briefly, what you think needs to be done to improve the current situation; and

A works cited or reference list that includes the sources of information you have used in your paper in proper academic styles.

Important Clarifications

The Argumentative Essay and the Powerpoint presentation are separate projects. The essay is worth 20 points towards your final course grade. The Presentation is worth 5 points.

The purpose of the Powerpoint is for you to tell your classmates what fantastic achievements you have made through the entire semester and to gather their opinions and feedback on your project before your submit the final draft of your Argumentative Essay.

Since the majority of the class have signed the opinion sheet that you want to do the presentation in the last week, those doing the presentation on the day when the final draft is due must understand you will have no chance to incorporate any feedback into your final draft. That is the reason why each project is placed strategically in the schedule. Any changes introdce important consequences.

The computer lab has already been finalized. It is located in Stone Hall, B006. Therefore, for Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday of the Week Sixteen, we will have classes there, not Enad 130 or Heavilon 109, 108. Keep in mind.

Adapted from all of the following sources (see list below). Significantly changed to meet this semester’s particular needs.

Axelrod, Rise B., and Charles R. Cooper. Reading Critically, Writing Well: A Reader and Guide. Fifth Edition. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1999. 394.

Perrin, Robert. The Beacon Handbook and Desk Reference. Sixth ed. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003. 92-93.

*Materials provided by Professor Tony Silva.

Creative Commons Rights. Xianfeng Mou, November 2009.


Some Project Materials I have developed or adapted from published sources or other sources. Password protected PDF files.  Accessible only to the class due to Copyright laws. I will tell the students the access password.

Argumentative Essay Materials2

Argumentative Essay Materials3


Some Powerpoint Files

A Powerpoint file on what to pay attention to when designing a Powerpoint file. This file has had some history. It was developed by my first mentor here, Ms. Jessie Kapper. Copyright of the file belongs to her.

Ms. Kapper, who is a professor now in another institution, did not mentioned the use of music or sound files. Those were not that widely used then.

So I will upload a Powerpoint file I have designed to remind what you might want to watch out for when using sound files. I am not a guru. So do not be too critical. One rule of thumb: if you use other’s materials, always tell and give them appropriate credit according to accepted conventions.


(This file is by Ms. Jessie Kapper, now Professor Kapper)


Introduction of traditional Chinese New Year. Cultural Studies Material. I originally did not intend it to be used in the language classroom. I intended it to be as Cultural Studies supplement materials. Pretty dense content. File is in English. Designed by Xianfeng Mou. I spent around seven hours collecting and designing the file. Copyright belongs to Xianfeng Mou.


This is a very simplified version. My colleague, who is course coordinator then, changed to its present format. This file is used in the first year Chinese language teaching classroom. And it was indeed sent to the resource bank and used program wide. The file also undergone some other changes, which do not necessarily improve it, so I did not save that version.

Copyright of this version then belong to Xianfeng Mou and Chao-mei Tu, according to how much time we each spent on it.

All rights reserved. Xianfeng Mou. 2009.


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