English and Literature

Essay #2 – Argumentative Comparison
Please Note: Read this Entire Assignment Sheet

Below is a description and word count for the Prewrite, Rough Draft and Evaluation Draft assignments for this essay. Remember, in this class we view writing as the product of a process. See the coursework overview section in the Course Syllabus for a description of all the steps in the process and the Schedule of Work for a list of due dates for these and other assignments (like Peer Review, Self-Assessment, and Discussion prompts).

Essay Prompt
This assignment is like a typical comparison and contrast essay with a twist. In addition to analyzing what unites and divides two similar subjects (people, companies, ideologies, animals, etc.) you will discuss how they are important to our society.

For example, you could discuss what makes the presidential legacies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush so important. Or, you could discuss the similarities and differences between Halo and Call of Duty games and how they impact the genre of first person shooter games. Or, you could talk about how the political ideologies of Communism and Capitalism have shaped the 20th century. Or, you could look at how artists on Etsy and Pinterest display their work and argue something about social media and the economy. You may not know what your thesis is the second you begin to write. You may also discover that your thesis ends up not being as profound as you would like. That is okay. Writing is a process of discovery.

Prewrite: 150-200 words
This is a brainstorming assignment. Write the answers to 1-4 on your own. Post your response to Step 5 in the Discussion forums for this assignment.

What are the two greatest Super Bowl advertisements of all time? (Advertisements are a great way to talk about companies because they give you a text to analyze.) Search for them on YouTube and analyze the elements of each.
What two famous people (living or dead) would you like to see have their own YouTube channel together? What would if be titled / what would the topic be on? Why do you think that would be a popular channel? What value would this give society?
What are two definitive cultural icons of the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s?
Name two of the major stories in the news today.
Pick two pairs from the list above and tell us briefly what unites and divides them AS WELL AS why you think they might be important to society. Post this response in the Discussion forum for this assignment.
Rough Draft: 750-1000 words
At this point you should commit to your topic. You will define each subject individually and you can include some outside sources (one for each subject) to back up some of the claims (refer to the textbook for help using MLA). Be sure to include at least two paragraphs that tell us why the subjects are important to society.

Evaluation Draft: 1000-1250 words
You will extend, revise, and improve your Rough Draft in part through the feedback you received from your instructor and your peers. Make sure that you state your thesis clearly in the first paragraph. As well, make sure that each body paragraph connects back to the thesis statement. In addition to comparing and contrasting you are making an argument about how these two subjects impact our society.

What’s My Thesis?
For this kind of writing, a thesis happens in stages. Unlike timed writing assignments like you did in High School or for standardized tests (which must be done quickly and therefore are based on what you already know) research and revisionary writing discovers that which you do not know. If you are discovering something new you can only know it is after you discover it. Makes sense, right? So why do we insist on starting with a thesis? We do so because we have been trained to do so and because it makes the writing a little less intimidating. In order to have the best of both worlds we learn the following process.

Ask questions before you write.
As you research and write your draft begin to answer those questions.
As you revise, rephrase those initial answers until your working-thesis accurately represents what you discovered.
At that point, you have a thesis.

For this assignment we start with the following questions that you will try to answer as you write and revise. I’ll walk you through a sample thesis development.

Here Are My Starting Questions
What two things (objects, people, characters, ideas, etc.) do I think are important to what aspect (culture, history, politics, economics, health) of American society?

What has my experience taught me and what can I discover through observation and research about these two things?

What have my descriptions about these two objects (or people, characters, ideas, etc.) revealed about the importance of these two things to that aspect?

As I begin to revise it looks more like this:

The Nyan Cat (Pop Tart Cat) and the Peanut Butter Jelly Time (PBJT) are important parts of Internet culture that have made money and inspired parodies even though search hits for these memes have diminished over time.

By the time I’m done with my paper it looks like this:

A close study of the Nyan Cat and PBJT memes reveals that while these Internet icons were important to economic and artistic aspects of American culture, that importance is diminishing.

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