Sunday, January 8, 2017

Handout CR2: CRITO-Based Argumentative/Persuasive Essays

Mechanics (form): Your essay — excluding footnotes, bibliography, and CRITO outline (see handout CR3) — should be approximately 1-2 (nonhonors sections) or 2-3 (honors and online sections) pages in length; it should have, as a maximum, one-inch margins all around; it should be double-spaced in 10-12 point, non-italicized font of your preferred type and be left justified only; it should include your name and date, single-spaced, in the upper left-hand corner; it should contain no grammatical or spelling errors and conform to the basic conventions of academic, or formal, writing (for example, no contractions (can't, don't, etc.), slang, or inappropriate gender-specific language (mankind vs. humankind, he vs. he or she, etc.); minimal use of the passive voice,* nominalizations,** and "mere opinion" (CRITO will be invaluable here);*** and proper — meaning consistent — use of footnotes and bibliography). See also the philosophy department's Style Checklist. Edit your work frequently and carefully: Poor form and style seriously distract from and often undermine the quality of the content.

Grading: (as outlined in your syllabus and/or in the handout on Q&A's).

However, when assigning letter grades, I attempt to adhere to a traditional understanding of the grades A-F (outstanding-abysmal) as articulated by the Foundation for Critical Thinking:

Content: At times I will determine the specific focus of your essay (this is especially true for Q&A's); other times the topic will be one you choose (with my approval). Your task is to research, construct, and refine a sophisticated yet clear, philosophical yet interesting, argumentative essay. I expect that your thinking and research efforts will take you well beyond the texts I assign in class — these essays are your opportunity to shine as a researcher, writer, artist, and scholar.


*Avoid the passive voice whenever possible.

For example:

Good: "Good writers avoid the passive voice."
Not so good: "The passive voice is avoided by good writers."

**Avoid nominalizations by expressing important actions as verbs, not nouns.

For example:

Good: "He decided to write clearly."
Not so good: "He made a decision in favor of clarity in his writing."

***Opinions require substantiation.

For example:

“Informed” opinion: "I think Clive Bell is right (or wrong) for reasons X, Y, and Z."
“Mere” opinion: "I think Clive Bell is right (or wrong)."