Our first major paper (minimum 1,600 words, not including the abstract and references; submit via email) asks you to map the conversation on your topic. Our approach here fits with the expectations for an APA literature review. The goal is to better understand different perspectives on your topic and how they fit together to form a larger conversation. This perspective we achieve from this work helps us better understand where other people are coming from, what further questions we might ask or research we might conduct on the topic, and how we might offer our own response to the conversation.
In terms of content, you are welcome to directly draw on (copy and paste) the writing you have done from earlier assignments: the Topic Proposal, Public and Academic Analyses, and Annotated Bibliography. Your paper should begin with an introduction that introduces the topic, offers an overview of the paper overall, and includes a thesis statement articulating the larger conclusion you will arrive at through your analysis. The rest of your paper should include three main parts: an analysis of specific arguments, a synthesis of these different perspectives to capture the larger conversation, and your conclusion about the topic. Here are prompts for these main sections.
Your analysis of specific arguments should address the same prompts as our analysis papers: identify the main purpose, argument, claims, reasons, evidence, and counter-arguments; use Toulmin’s concepts (warrants, data) to identify the assumptions underlying the argument. You can organize this section in a few ways depending on your understanding of the conversation:
- You can focus on individual arguments, in which case you would look at one source at a time;
- You could organize the conversation using stasis theory, in which case you would have different sections for different questions or types of arguments (you might have multiple sources in a given section);
- You can organize your conversation around stakeholders, helping us see how different types of people invested in the debate take different positions;
- Or you can organize the conversation around its history, showing how the conversation and the arguments around it have changed over time.
Regardless of which approach you take, you should substantially draw on at least four sources, including at least three public sources and one academic source. You are welcome to draw on more than four sources.
Here we want to get a better sense for the similarities and differences between arguments, points of intersection and divergence, core dividing issues, gaps or impasses, etc. The main question here is, what do we learn by looking at the conversation overall? Specifically, you should address some combination of the following questions:
- Drawing on stasis theory, do these articles make the same or different types of arguments? For those people making the same type of argument, how are their arguments similar or different?
- Are there certain things that everyone agrees on? Are there certain things that people tend to disagree about?
- What sort of assumptions or beliefs are leading people to make different sorts of arguments?
- How would you characterize the reasons and evidence that people draw on? Is there any correlation between the type of reasons and evidence people offer and the arguments they make?
- How does context shape the arguments that people make?
- Do people seem to be talking to one another or talking past one another?
In this final section, offer your conclusion on the conversation overall. This is not the argument you would make or the perspective you would offer on the topic. Rather, it is your assessment of the conversation. What perspectives do you find most helpful and reliable? Unhelpful or unreliable? What is getting in the way of people achieving some sort of agreement or consensus about the topic? What would it take for people to achieve this sort of agreement or consensus? What would help move the conversation forward?
In terms of formatting, your work should follow the expectations for an APA paper (see The Little Seagull Handbook for more information):
- Your paper should start with a title page (p. 204).
- The second page of your paper should be an abstract page (p. 205).
- Although this is not required, it is common for APA papers to be divided into different sections. You are welcome to divide your paper into different sections as you see fit.
- At the end of your paper, you should include a References page with full APA citations for all sources cited in your paper (p. 207).