Public Transportation Essay Assignment

Public Transportation
Public Transportation

Public Transportation

The Assignment
Over the course of the term you will be writing a 4-6-page (~1,000-1,500 word) argumentative paper with a standard, 12-point font, double-spaced lines, and 1” margins responding to the prompt.
For the purposes of Part 1 of the assignment, you will be composing TWO PARAGRAPHS of this larger paper: an introduction and one of your body paragraphs.

Your paper will provide an argument supporting a determinate position (your thesis or conclusion) in some controversial debate (topics below); to do so, you will draw upon at least two articles on the topic in contention, one from (roughly) each side of the issue.

Your own position (thesis/conclusion) may be more nuanced than simply for or against in a given debate: you can split-the-difference on the issue as long as you insightfully explain precisely how and why (e.g. “I am for stricter gun control in the following ways . . . and against these sorts of restrictions…”).

**PLEASE NOTE: this is not a “pro and con” paper.** The point of this paper is not simply to list the “pros” and “cons” or positives and negatives of both sides. You are to take a determinate stance on the issue at hand in a clear and precise thesis statement (your own view stated as the conclusion/thesis of your paper). You are not remaining neutral, and simply weighing the ups and downs of both sides on the issue: you are supposed to have a point of view and argue for it. This point of view may, for instance, be “Yes, the minimum wage should be raised, and here is why…” or “No, the minimum wage should not be raised because…” or even “the minimum wage should only be raised if certain economic preconditions in a given area are met; this is because…” or etc.

There are six argument/debate topics I have supplied (available on iCollege under “Content > Argumentative Paper Assignment > Paper Topics & Source Material”):
• Raising the Minimum Wage: For or Against
• “Police/Criminal Justice Reform” or “Black-on-Black Violence” — What is the main issue we should be focusing our time and resources on (at least when it comes to matters of Criminal Justice)?
• Public Transportation: Should it be free?
• Streetcar Renaissance: For or Against. Are Streetcars a wise choice for cities?
• Immigration to the United States: More Restrictions or More Immigrants?
• Is There a Right to Health Care?

Alternate Topics
If you would like to write a paper on another topic, I am quite open to it! I want you to write on something you are interested in. Still, to take this course you must do quite a bit more work upfront. First, you must find your own sources: you need to research and find at least two articles, one on either side (roughly) of the issue that your proposed paper topic addresses. Also, I must approve of your custom topic and the sources you propose, so you will need to get an early start. If you want to take this route, you will need to email me your paper proposal & sources and/or speak with me during (virtual) office hours ASAP to discuss.

Source Materials
For each of my pre-selected topics/issues (not for your self-selected alternate topics), I have clipped some blog posts, articles, and editorials from the web (again, available on iCollege under “Content > Argumentative Paper Assignment > Paper Topics & Source Material”).

• These articles and writings are to serve as a limited source of (sometimes biased) background, opinion, satire, and argumentation to serve as a springboard for writing longer argumentative passages. I’ve selected at least one piece of writing that falls either side of these selected debates.

• Sometimes, these articles’ arguments are all one-sided, and don’t concede an inch to the opposed position, making the issue seem to be a stark black or white choice. Sometimes the authors present more nuanced positions, conceding some to their opponents, or straddling the issues in various ways.

• You may want to supplement your understanding of these issues with your own research and turn up new papers/articles: just remember to evaluate these new sources for quality; and when in doubt, run them by me.

• You must incorporate at least two (2) sources into your own paper, one from each side of the issue (i.e. one that you will draw from in support of your position and one that you will argue against):
o In the paper, you will draw on some aspects of an article or editorial which you agree with in order to further support of your position.
o But you will also draw on elements in another author’s work that you disagree with, and argue against their claims and reasoning to further support your own opposing position.
o In other words, you will use at least one article as a positive foil to further support your own thesis and argument, and you will use at least one article as a negative foil to argue against in support of your view to the contrary.
o In both cases you will need to introduce the ideas and claims of these outside papers/articles sufficiently for your reader to be able to follow, and while you may quote, paraphrasing and putting matters in your own words (while still appropriately citing sources) demonstrates better understanding and mastery of the material which you are drawing upon.

General Suggestions for Writing
Conceiving of Your Audience
When writing, address your paper to an imagined audience of unsympathetic, highly-critical, and uninterested readers: someone who isn’t knowledgeable, doesn’t care for you, is annoyed and judgmental, and doesn’t want to be there. If you can convince such an audience, or if you can at least get them to follow your argument and understand it as a plausible position, then you will be able to pitch your argument to anyone. Crafting your paper with such an imagined, “nightmare” audience in mind will ensure that your argument is as strong and well-crafted as it can be. Expecting your audience to be such “nightmare readers” is an exercise in preparing for the worst, while hoping for the best. Preparing for the worst possible audience will make your writing much easier to follow and your arguments much stronger for more typical, “non-nightmare” readers.

Your paper should show some level of independent, creative thought in how you present your thesis, the arguments your present for it, and/or the way you and explain/analyze the subject matter:
• You might seek to present an existing thesis/conclusion in a novel or illuminating way.
• You should seek to come up with original arguments, novel justifications, and new examples in support of your thesis (even if the thesis itself is not wholly original).
• Your explanation of relevant ideas/concepts and reconstruction of others’ views about the issues in contention can demonstrate originality.
• Originality might take the form of combining ideas from different sources in a creative or novel way.

• While demonstrating original, independent thinking, try to also be clear, precise, rigorous, and concise: those are true virtues of good argumentative writing.

• Make sure your writing is as easy to understand and comprehensible as it can be. Avoid overly-complex, ornate, or overly-technical phrasing when doing so would stand in the way of comprehensibility.
• Choose your words precisely.
• Be as clear as possible.
• Make your writing as concise as possible without sacrificing clarity or important detail & nuance.
• When you use technical vocabulary or concepts, make sure you define, explain, and employ them appropriately/accurately.
• Avoid overly complex sentences and phrases. Simplify and break these down into shorter pieces. Think about what each word is doing for you, and edit out words/phrases that are unnecessary for your point to come across.

Guidelines for Your Introduction
Please avoid fluffy, flowery introductions: nothing like “Since the dawn of time, mankind has wondered about…”. Nope: get to the point. What’s the issue, and what’s your view about it? In your introduction, just (briefly) introduce the topic, then tell me what you are going to argue about it (your thesis), and finally, tell me how you are going to argue for this position (your argumentative roadmap). That is, briefly introduce the subject-matter, state the thesis/conclusion you will argue for, and then give your roadmap or plan for arguing for this thesis in your paper: e.g. “First, I will explain … Next, I will argue … Then, I will engage … Finally, I will …”.

So, in brief, your Introduction should:
1. Briefly introduce the topic of the paper.
2. Contain a clear statement of what you’ll be arguing for (your precise, determinate thesis/conclusion).
3. Contain a clear statement of how you’ll argue for it (your argumentative plan or roadmap for the paper).
4. Be clearly and concisely on point (topic, thesis, plan) as possible.

Your introduction should not:
1. Contain excess fluff, filler, or frill.
2. Contain too much background information and detail: save that for body paragraphs.
3. Be challenging for a reader to easily follow.
4. Fail to contain a clear and precise thesis or argumentative plan.

Guidelines for Your Body Paragraphs
(Yes, you are only writing one body paragraph for the purpose of this assignment, but in general, here are some guidelines for the body of your paper.)

General Guidelines for the Body of the Paper
• The body of your paper should employ a number of helpful transitional/organization-guiding phrases (i.e. guidepost/signpost words like “first,” “next,” “last,” or etc.) throughout to let readers know they are in your argument plan/roadmap that you supplied in the introduction. Using such guides or signposting words/phrases (e.g. “in this section, I will argue that …” or “now I will explain how….”) will clue your readers in to where you are in your overall plan for the essay and thus help them better follow your argument.
• Also, as far as possible, your paper should clearly spell out the role of each paragraph and section of your paper, and simplify these as best you can. If the point of one paragraph is too convoluted and/or multifarious your readers will likely have difficulty following.
• The Body of your Paper should:
1. Provide an explanation and analysis of the topic/issue and an exposition of the relevant background literature.
2. Present your own argument in a clear, precise, consistent way, avoiding mistakes and fallacies of argument.
Let’s look at these last two items (1 & 2 above) in turn.
(1.) Explaining Background Information on the Topic / Providing Exposition of Other Author’s Work
The exposition of other authors’ arguments—whether you are supporting them or arguing against them—should come in the body of your paper. Remember: don’t present a caricature of your argumentative opponents’ positions. Even views you disagree with should be articulated/reconstructed in their strongest possible terms—be as charitable as you can in laying them out. Only then proceed to criticize them. Affording your opponents this charity of interpretation helps make your own criticisms of them and their arguments stronger, thus strengthening your own contrary viewpoint. If you can show that your opponents and their arguments are mistaken, even when these opponents’ arguments are presented in their strongest possible terms, you will have strengthened your own, opposing argument and position. You will have positioned yourself into a better position vis-à-vis a more worthwhile opponent.
More generally you should, when providing background or exposition of others arguments:
• Paraphrase, or put matters in your own words, when possible; this is preferable to direct quote, because it demonstrates your comprehension of the other author’s points. (Still, remember to cite! You have to cite sources even when you don’t use their words, but just their ideas.)
• Explain the topic/issue being addressed and the ideas/concepts involved therein as clearly and precisely as you can. Analyze/break down the matter into their constituent parts and their relations.
• Provide a clear & charitable interpretation of the relevant sections of other authors’ work, including those you are arguing against. Do not present others’ views as straw men (a fallacy we discussed). Your own argument is improved and strengthened to the extent that you are able to argue against opposing views cached in their strongest possible terms.
(2.) Presenting your own argument in a clear, precise, consistent way
• Pitch your claims at an appropriate level of strength, avoiding overstatements—appropriately qualify or temper your premises and conclusions.
• Make the considerations or reasons you present in favor of your thesis (premises), as clear, precise, and concise as you possibly can.
• Make it clear how your arguments lead to your thesis/conclusion. The inferential/argumentative structure of your paper should not be a guessing game: it should be obvious to the reader how the pieces fit together in support of your thesis/conclusion.
• Use plenty of particular, tailored examples and specific pieces of evidence (or data) to support your contentions.
• Be sure to think about how to make each example or each consideration as strong as it can possibly be in support of your argument and thesis. Ask what each detail might do, and whether changing, removing, or adding it strengthens your argumentative point.

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