This assignment is basically an essay in argumentation in which you use assigned readings to support a particular point of view, hoping to convince your reader through the use of logic, evidence and sound writing practice. The art of persuasion is a skill you will use throughout your life and this paper will serve as good practice.

            Below you will find a list of paper topics with questions relating to various issues discussed in the readings for this course. Most of the authors were from assigned readings in various mini papers, but some were not. You’re being asked to develop an argument concerning a particular issue which will be supported by readings you have decided to use to back up the argument. This is not a traditional “research paper” where you where you use outside sources. You are to only use the readings from class that you have chosen to support your argument.


Technical Guidelines

Paper must be 1,000-1,300 words long, typed, single-spaced, with one-inch margins. Font size should be set at 12 using the Times New Roman style. Do not include spaces between paragraphs. You will be penalized for not following these standards. You may use any style guide/manual you wish. (MLA, APA, etc.). No bibliography required. No PDF or Pages files please. (If you have no other word processing software, just place your document in the body of an email.) Cite your references immediately following quoted material, just as you did with the short writing assignment.

Calhoun argues that “the white or European race has not degenerated. (Calhoun)

Paper Topics

  1. One of the most common topics that many of our authors address in our readings is the division between what is known variously as the “rights of the individual” vs. the “good of the community”, or the “rights of the one” vs. the “good of the many,” or individuality vs. society/community/state, and so on. All are variations on the same theme. Using the examples of four primary source documents from our readings, discuss how each writer brings his/her own twist to this division (or dichotomy) and to what ends. Pay close attention to the time of publication of the pieces you select, and therefore, be conscious of the light thrown by your selected text upon its own time and social milieu. Possible sources include: John Winthrop, George Mason, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Henry David Thoreau, Anne Hutchinson, Anne Martin
  • Use evidence from our readings to identify and explain four arguments (from four different primary sources) used to justify the continuation of slavery. There were many justifications used, including appeals to law, religion, tradition, the good of society, racial harmony, ownership, aristocracy, and more. Be sure to thoroughly explain which justifications each of your authors used. Some used multiple justifications. Possible sources include: Virginia Slave Code, North Carolina State Supreme Court, De Bow’s Review, John C. Calhoun, Plessy vs. Ferguson, U.S. Constitution


My grading will focus on the following five general areas:

1. Thesis

The first paragraph of your paper will consist of a well-defined thesis. The thesis is the main idea you’re discussing in your paper. It’s a specific and detailed description of what will be argued in the paper, or what you’ll try to persuade your reader to believe. Therefore, it cannot be just a statement of fact. (Facts do not require argumentation.) It is an answer to the question, not a restatement of it. Furthermore, this is not the place for a rambling introduction using phrases such as “Since the beginning of time…” Use this introductory paragraph to engage the reader’s interest so they’ll keep on reading.

2. Paragraphs

In the body of the paper is where your argument will be presented in detail, using references from the readings (as evidence) for support. Readings should be carefully chosen so that the best evidence is presented. Be sure that you begin each paragraph with a clear statement of the main point to be made. “Transitions are the mortar that holds the foundation of the essay together. Without logical progression of thought, the reader is unable to follow the essay’s argument, and the structure will collapse. Transitions should wrap up the idea from the previous section and introduce the idea that is to follow in the next section.” Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. This will allow for clarity and direction throughout the essay. In addition, such conciseness creates an ease of readability for one’s audience. It is important to note that each paragraph in the body of the essay must have some logical connection to the thesis statement in the opening paragraph. Some paragraphs will directly support the thesis statement with evidence collected during research. It is also important to explain how and why the evidence supports the thesis (warrant).

3. Argument

The argument of your paper should develop in a logical manner. You want to ensure that your reader is able to easily follow the progress of your argumentation at all times. The argument is built on your own close reading of the texts. It is to be supported with evidence at every point, using brief quotes (or sometimes paraphrases) from the readings. (Try to find quotes, be they sentences or phrases, that best support what you’re saying. Be sure to cite each one with the page #.) Then analyze the quotes, explaining how each contributes to the overall argument. The longer the quote, the longer the commentary. You are to rely mostly on your own words in this essay.

Here’s a list of things to avoid in your argument:

            no generalizations (about people, time periods in history, society, etc.)

            no opinions without backing up with evidence (“Kant was smart” or “Thoreau was immoral”)

            no references to yourself or your feelings or your private life

            no background information or biographical details about the writers

            no synopsis of the readings. use only what’s essential to your argument

4. Conclusion

Provide a conclusion that does not merely repeat your thesis, but readdresses it in light of the evidence provided or adds a new dimension of interest to points made. Briefly review the main points.  Don’t introduce any new information here. Talk about why this topic is important. Assume the reader is saying “so what” after hearing your argument. This is the part of the paper where you want to leave a good impression on your reader. Be creative.

5. Style and Mechanics

The paper should be free of grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors. Write in complete sentences. Should not contain any slang or colloquialisms. Use the same verb tense throughout. (If you write “Wordsworth said”, stay with that. Don’t use “Wordsworth says” elsewhere. And vice versa.) Make sure the paper flows smoothly and doesn’t sound disjointed. Read it aloud to yourself and/or a friend.

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