Essay 2: Public Arguments

In an academic style essay, you will be evaluating whether certain public arguments on a particular topic are effective or not.  This essay has a few steps that need to be synthesized into a coherent argument, so let me describe those steps.

1. Find a currently controversial topic that you have interest in.  I want you to first think through some topics of interest before jumping straight to the Internet.  It doesn’t have to be an important topic, but it has to have people writing about it.  For example, Miley Cyrus’s performance at the 2013 MTV VMAs or Richard Sherman’s trash talking at the end of the NFC Division Championship Game both generated lots of writing for or against them.  However, if you want to select something more substantial, you can as well (but these can sometimes be difficult to find “current” debate articles).  It also can be a debate in your native country if you aren’t from the U.S.  If you don’t have an idea, you can always look at International Debate Education Association’s Debatebase.

2. Once you have your topic, you need to find TWO articles that have different viewpoints on the controversy.  They don’t have to be pro/con, opposite articles, but they should hold different positions on the controversy.  You will have more luck by searching using keywords, [your topic] and “opinion” or “editorial” at newspapers and search engines. You should read these articles carefully taking note of why they appeared (exigence), where they appeared (the publisher), when they appeared (kairos), and who the writer is.  You might have to use the Internet to figure out political perspective of a writer or publisher as a way to further frame the issue or debate.  Then, in draft notes, analyze how each article is making its argument.  How does the writer use logos, ethos, and pathos? What types of evidence does he or she use?  Does he or she qualify claims or state them without reservation?

3.  Begin Drafting the actual essay.  In this essay, your introduction should provide some background about the controversial topic–when did it start, why is it still going on, why does it matter (you are allowed to cite Wikipedia for the background if you want).  You should then end your introduction by introducing your two articles and then arguing whether the arguments that each article poses is effective or not in persuading the opposition.  IMPORTANT: The point here is to analyze how effective the written arguments are and NOT to agree or disagree with the points raised.

4. The body of the essay should makes claims about the rhetorical effectiveness of each article (e.g., Jones tends to favor more ethical appeals in her argument that technology should be removed from schools) and provide evidence from each article to back these claims up (e.g., for example, she describes how Mark Carges, chief technology officer at eBay sends his kids to the Waldorf school that forbids modern technology on its campuses).

You will find that you might have to go back and revise or change your thesis while writing this essay, and that is perfectly fine.  This is a thesis driven essay, which means that you should have a controlling idea or clearly expressed statement towards the front of your essay.  Your controlling idea should be supported by a number of claims that are then backed up with appropriate evidence.

You will be integrating additional sources in this essay using MLA format for citations. See the MLA resources for how to integrate sources.  You will have a Works Cited page for this essay.


  • 500 – 1,250 words


  • This essay should be sent as a doc/docx file via email to by Friday (June 27) at 11:59pm.


  • Demonstrate practical knowledge of the concept “rhetorical situation,” through the abilities both to analyze and to write effectively in different kinds of situations.
  • Demonstrate proficiency with basic elements of rhetorical analysis (such as logos, ethos, and pathos) in a range of texts, and the application of that facility in their own writing.
  • Demonstrate the ability to produce writing that effectively provides evidence and reasoning for assertions, for audiences of educated readers.
  • Demonstrate the ability to incorporate and attribute or document source material in rhetorically effective ways.