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Third Writing Assignment

EngC 1014: University Writing and Critical Reading
Section 007, Spring 2007
Instructor: Michael Coleman
Email: Cole0384@umn.edu

Third Writing Assignment: Rogerian-style Research Essay

This research assignment is probably unlike ones you’ve encountered in the past. One of the goals of this course is to introduce you to a variety of writing styles within the academy and beyond. The academic and professional disciplines you pursue will further instruct you in their particular discourse systems, which include using a specific vocabulary, formats, method of inquiry, and other conventions. Writing in history looks different than writing in business management and biological sciences. In order to develop basic writing skills and to practice working within disciplinary conventions, your research assignment will be framed around the Rogerian model (see details below). While writing with the genre convention of Rogerian argumentation you may employ a variety of rhetorical strategies and pursue a wide array of topics. By practicing using the Rogerian conventions you will be able to understand its limitations, pursue a variety of rhetorical strategies within its confines, and recognize your writerly flexibility.

About Rogerian Argumentation
Carl Rogers is a psychologist who developed a negotiating strategy that deals respectfully with a variety of counter-arguments and perspectives in the name of consensus. This is not a debate-style paper in which the goal is to conquer your opponent. Instead of the traditional win/lose model, this style of argumentation focuses on building bridges between the writer and audience in order to find common ground. The structure of Rogerian argument usually follows the outline below:

In the beginning of the paper, the writer introduces the problem/topic while exploring the common ground and relevance of the topic that s/he shares with the audience. Rogerian argument assumes that if a reader and writer can find common ground about a problem, then they are more likely to find a solution. Rather than presenting an issue that divides readers or a thesis that demands agreement, the Rogerian argument doesn’t begin with the writer’s position at all.

For example: The writer, in an argument in favor of handgun registration, might begin by stating her respect for individual rights, especially the right to self-defense and protection of one’s property, and show appreciation for sportsman and collectors, who regard handguns and equipment for an activity or collectibles to be valued.

In the body of a Rogerian argument, the writer describes the reader’s perceived point of view on the problem, acknowledges the circumstances and contexts in which the reader’s position or perspective is valid, and also gives an objective statement of her position. The writer explains the contexts in which her position is valid and explores how they differ from the audience’s.
For example, the gun registration writer might note that gun collections are frequent targets for thieves, and point out that registration might help the owners retrieve such stolen property before it is used to commit and crime.

In the conclusion, the writer presents his/her thesis. By making some concessions or compromises, the writer invites the audience to concede as well and hopefully reach an agreement about the issue. A Rogerian essay asks the readers not to give up their own positions, but show how they would benefit from moving toward the writer’s position. Sometimes, the final section of the Rogerian argument explores ways to compromise or finds alternative solutions to the problem (topic) to benefit both the reader and writer.

For example, the gun registration writer might concede that this law should only apply to new sales of handguns, not to guns the audience already owns.

About the research
You will need 3 to 6 secondary sources for this essay. You may choose sources for a variety of reasons: the source may bring to light a complication of your issue or an alternative viewpoint you can incorporate or dismiss or compromise with, the source may lend credibility to your own position, the source may be a good or bad example of the significance of your issue. Secondary sources may be characterized by: facts and statistics, expert testimony, primary interviews, examples, etc.

At least once source must be in print form. All sources that end in “.com? must be approved by me. You may choose a source from our readings if you have found any of those essays speak to an issue you are particularly curious about. You must have 2 sources that are not from our readings. Photocopy the most relevant page from each of your secondary sources and include that with your paper.

Remember, a research essay is NOT a summary or collection of other people’s ideas, observations, arguments, opinions, facts, etc. It IS an essay based on your own ideas, observations, arguments, opinions, facts, etc., which are supported (in part) by those of other people. The goal of the research essay is to present a well-informed argument about a specific topic that integrates and synthesizes ‘outside’ sources.

About topics
Find topics that interest you. You might want to choose something you have some familiarity with. Your topics can vary widely from philosophical issues to political problems to policy strategies etc. Some sample topics include:

· an argument for or against assisting the Lakota people of Pine Ridge in their efforts to move off the reservation
· an argument opposing or supporting the increase of tuition costs for the University of Minnesota
· an argument about women who veil themselves in Arab countries
· an argument concerning a learning unit on trans-sexuality and transgender practices that has been proposed for elementary school children
· an argument about what makes for good art
· an argument on behalf of or in opposition to parents who are interested in adopting transracially
· an argument about the virtues of democracy and its global expansion with a case study of Iraq
· an argument regarding non-hearing children who are under pressure to learn to speak despite their preference to learn sign language only
· an argument concerning preserving wilderness areas and what the factors for funding should be

You may not choose the following topics: gun control, capital punishment, abortion, prayer in school, legalization of marijuana, and lowering the drinking age.

Your essay should include:
· an acute awareness of your audience and the objections they hold to your argument
· A thesis/claim that you are arguing
· A set of claims and attention (dismissal, concession, compromise, etc.) that lead to and support your argument (Why are you right?)
· A discussion explaining the significance of your position (Why is your position important, interesting, and meaningful?)
· 3-6 research sources (journals, magazines, books)
· An appropriate scope for the page requirement (5-7 pages)
· Consistency of appropriate audience address
· Ability to stay to the logical and fair approach identified as Rogerian argument
· Effective integration of realistic counter-arguments
· Logical organization
· Adequate development
· Accurate use of terms and facts
· Credibility of evidence
· Smooth integration of evidence, quotes, and paraphrases
· Focus and cohesiveness
· No grammatical and mechanical errors

Purpose: Persuade your audience to compromise and/or change their opinions and agree (at least in part) with yours. You will engage your audience in a fair and convincing analysis of an issue’s multiple perspectives and persuade those readers of the validity of the position you support.

Audience: Imagine you are writing to an audience of educated people who have a stake in opposing your view.

Format: Standard exposition with MLA citation. You should have a title. You are writing for an academic audience in an academic form. Your essay length is 6 to 7 pages.


Due on Thursday, March 29:

1. Research Topic Identification and Explanation
For this part of the assignment write one-page; use these headings and answering these questions:

· Topic: What is the topic / issue you have chose?
· Argument: What position do you plan to argue?
· Purpose: What do you hope to accomplish with the argument and why?
· Background: What is your background with this topic? What caused your interest in it? Do you have any direct experience with it? What are your qualifications for discussing this issue?

2. Annotated Bibliography
For this part of the assignment write the citation (use MLA form) for 3 to 6 sources. Write one to three sentences about each source explaining what it is about and how you plan to use it.

Due on April 17:

Two Copies of you rough draft and one page outline of your paper (using full sentences).

Due on May 1st:

Final draft, rough drafts and peer review sheets