This is the Topic/The problem of the research I am doing:

How can media literacy be improved to help K–12 students acquire the proper information, and what can GMU Early Identification Program do about this issue?


George Mason University Early Identification Program

Supporting Materials/Directions

The White Paper | Advocating for a Solution
Length: 1,000 words approximately

Learning Objectives We’ll focus on the following throughout this project: ·           Using research to understand an issue and produce the most insightful problem analysis or feasible solution, which includes using research for question development, discovery, and invention.   ·           Carefully selecting, analyzing, and integrating sources. ·           Synthesizing your ideas with outside facts and opinions.   ·           Producing a complex thesis and supporting it with sound reasoning and carefully selected evidence. ·           Honing your ability to produce clear, well-organized writing that meets the demands of the rhetorical situation. o   Analyzing and responding to genre conventions o   Understanding and writing to a target audience o   Crafting a logical argument while responding to your audience’s questions, concerns, and objections

For this project, you will identify and investigate a specific social problem (exigence) in one of three problem areas: 1) Englishes and Standard Language Ideology; 2) Unequal or Poor Access to Literacy/Education; or, 3) Misinformation and the Need for Media Literacy. The specific social problem you choose must be relevant to the GMU community. You will research this problem, how it affects (or is relevant to) students, faculty, staff or systems within our own Mason community, and possible solutions. In this White Paper, you will write to a specific audience at GMU discussing the problem and advocating for a solution.

You will use two tools, each a Major Project, to assist you in your research process. They are the Research Project Plan and Annotated Bibliography. The Research Project Plan will walk you through a research process and help you develop rhetorical elements for your White Paper. The Annotated Bibliography is a document where you will gather, summarize, and reflect on the sources you find and read. Don’t be fooled into thinking the Annotated Bibliography is busy work. As we know, writing is thinking, and having to write specifically and carefully about your sources will help you gain a deeper understanding of both the problem and the solutions that are being proposed by experts in academia and/or industry. This will also help you look at your research overall and make decisions about how to develop your investigation, step by step.

The White Paper  is your opportunity to do something with all of the knowledge you will gain on your chosen problem as it impacts GMU and to advocate to a real audience for the best solution or a new solution that you believe would help the Mason community.

Your task:
Write a 1,000 word White Paper to a university committee or individual you’ve selected that provides a research-supported overview of the problem, surveys the existing solutions, and makes an argument for the best solution or a new solution that decision-makers at Mason should consider.

Your audience:

The audience for your white paper is  a university committee at GMU that has decision-making authority and influence over the problem you’re investigating and that has a say in implementing viable solutions. As you know from our lessons thus far, you can’t write  anything well without really studying and understanding  who you are writing for:  what are their values? Their interests? their goals? their work so far? What are the gaps in what they’re doing so far? What are their needs? How can I write something that captures their attention and speaks to their interests and their needs?

So, before we can write our White Paper, we need to research the various committees and individuals at GMU to see which stakeholder might benefit from hearing about the problem you’ve identified, how it relates to our campus, and the solution you think the committee should consider.

It’s always important to identify and analyze your audience/stakeholder when writing any text because you may make certain writing choices when addressing one audience/stakeholder and other choices when addressing a different audience/stakeholder. In other words, your audience may determine how you write your text.

Let’s learn about our options for Mason stakeholders, or people at Mason with decision-making authority to make a difference regarding the problem you are researching and to implement solutions on campus:

  1.  The ARIE Implementation Leadership Team

    Since we’ve been pursuing themes related to standard language ideology, literacy, and misinformation, you may want to strongly consider writing to one of the subcommittees of the university’s  Antiracism and Inclusive Excellence (ARIE) Taskforce.  To learn about each of the subcommittees, their goals and action plan, click here.  

    To learn about the recommendations that came out of ARIE Taskforce work, you can view the committee reports, broken out by area of focus — Curriculum & Pedagogy,  Student Voice,  Research,  Policies,  Training & Development,  Campus & Community Engagement.

    Since the recommendations came out of those committees, there is now an Implementation Leadership Team. You can find a list of the leadership team on the first page and then a list of the working groups on the second page:  21-ARIE Implementation Team & Working Group Members.docx.     

The people on this list would be the people that you can write to who are CURRENTLY working on implementation of Antiracism and Inclusive Excellence values through Mason’s curriculum, hiring practices, policies, and campus and community engagement.

  • A University Office or Committee
    If you don’t feel like any of these ARIE committees have decision-making authority over the problem and solution you’ve been exploring and that you want to advocate for, you might consider one of these other potential stakeholders:
  • Office of the President: for an overview of the stakeholders in GMU and the organizational structure of GMU. Click on the links on this page to learn about different stakeholders and what roles they play at GMU.
  • Student Government: to learn about the student government at GMU. Notice the specific committees and what roles they play at GMU.
  • Faculty Senate: to learn about the faculty senate. Notice the different committees in the menu bar on the right at the bottom of the page.
  • Academics: to learn about the variety of academic programs at GMU. Click on some of the links in the menu bar on the left and explore.
  • Googling GMU + your topic

    Search Google to find other options. For example, I searched “GMU fake news” in Google, and I found this really interesting article about a Mason professor who is developing a game to raise people’s awareness about climate change misinformation. And, through that, I learned about the Center for Climate Communication at Mason that focuses on combating misinformation regarding the climate crisis.

Your purpose:
In your Research Project Plan, you will articulate a specific purpose for your project on your chosen social exigence. But, in general, your purpose is to synthesize and consolidate at least six credible sources into a report that is accessible to a busy audience of decision-makers and stakeholders within the university. Your audience is looking for solid, yet relatively brief, reports on issues that are relevant to their work and responsibilities. Your goal is not only to provide an informative overview of the problem you’ve identified and the solutions proposed by the scholarship and expert perspectives you’ve explored, but to also make an argument for the best solution or a new solution that you think this committee should consider.

Your genre:
The White Paper is a common genre in industry; its most popular form these days is a document in which companies present an argument to consumers about the viability of a certain product or in which engineers in a company work with the marketing team to provide a persuasive overview of a product to the Executive branch about the consumer value of a new innovative product.

The White Paper isn’t only used by companies as a marketing strategy though, it’s also used by/within organizations/government agencies as a document that synthesizes research and advocates for a particular position or solution. The document is meant to be concise but thorough. So, while it does include research, it is selective in the research that’s included and the writer’s job is to interpret that research for a non-academic audience. This means that the document can include bullet points, graphs, images that help you, as the writer, communicate the research and build your argument.

Your language:
Given that you’re writing for a professional audience and given everything we’ve learned about how standard language ideology operates within universities and industry, you need to make a strategic decision about whether you feel like non-standard varieties of English and/or codemeshing will help you make your argument. Do you want to use standard and professional English to make your argument and follow the genre conventions for a White Paper, or do you want to push back against those conventions and use your own version of English to take a stance against standard language ideology? 

Requirements for Completion:

  • The White Paper reflects a thoughtful consideration of the audience/stakeholders (ie. relevance); this means that the writer has:
  • Selected an appropriate stakeholder audience at the university with decision-making authority to address the identified problem
  • Shows evidence that they understand what the stakeholder does/its mission;
  • Shows evidence that they understand what the stakeholder has done or has not done so far regarding the problem;
  • Proposes a solution or series of solutions that are within this stakeholder’s purview and capacity
  • Discussed and defended the stakeholder choice in the Memo.
  • The White Paper clearly reflects and articulates an exigence, purpose and new offering:  
  • Exigence: The writer addresses the problem both at the social/global/national scale and at the local Mason. Both the social/global/national problem and its presence at the local Mason level are clearly defined, explained and substantiated by reliable evidence.
  • PurposeThe writer establishes a clear purpose for appealing to the stakeholders at the beginning of the document. It is clear to the reader that the goal is to detail a problem affecting the Mason community and to appeal to the stakeholder to address this problem by implementing a viable solution or series of solutions.
  • New Offering: The solution or series of solutions presented in the second half of the document are thoughtfully and thoroughly substantiated by evidence ranging from expert opinion to models/examples of similar solutions and their effectiveness in other contexts. The presented solutions are viablemeaning that they are not too complicated, expensive or lofty for the stakeholder to implement. And, even more importantly, the solutions are directly tied to the problem articulated in the first part of the document and are directly aligned to the articulated mission/goals of the identified stakeholder.
  • Relevance of Sources: The sources that the writer includes are reliable and appropriate to the task and purpose. This means that the writers uses the sources thoughtfully and expansively: incorporating expert opinion to support a point; using statistics that illustrate the exigence/problem; using models/examples from other contexts to argue for a solution; using social media or student media posts/voices to reflect the needs/experiences of Mason students if applicable; including evidence from stakeholder websites or reports that reflect the stakeholder’s mission/actions/goals and aligning solutions to that mission, etc.
  • Synthesis: Throughout the document, there is substantial evidence of synthesis both across sources and between sources and the writer’s own contributions. This synthesis is demonstrated through language moves that show agreement, contrast, or extension between authors/sources as well as through strategic choices of integrated or non-integrated in-text citations
  • synthesis in integrated citations → Habib (2020) and Savage (2021), both faculty at Mason, argue for a Philosophy and Aims Statement that takes a stance on standard language ideology;
  • synthesis in non-integrated citations: Faculty in the Composition program argue for a Philosophy and Aims Statement that takes a stance on standard language ideology (Habib, 2019; Savage, 2019; Michiels, 2020; Fernandez, 2019; Cho, 2021).
  • Focus and Flow: The White Paper is both coherent and cohesive (ie. follows our class lessons on known-new transitions and anaphoric referencing).
  • Genre: The writer shows an awareness of the structure and style of the White Paper and is able to discuss and defend these genre choices in the Memo.

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