Essay 1: Defining the Issue
It is useful to think about a research project as an intervention. The students are not inventing new knowledge or simply expressing their opinions; instead, the students are intervening in an issue that others have already considered and are using those opinions and fact-based research to develop personal, informed, coherent opinions, which can be passed along to their audiences.
Essay 1 will be the first step in this intervention. Each student will read the following two essays from Subject & Strategy:
A Techno-Pox Upon the Land,” by David Ehernfeld
“Gene-Altered Foods: A Case Against Panic,” by Jane E. Brody
Each student will use the aforementioned essays from Subject & Strategy to define the issue. Defining an issue is important because it helps the students to gain firmer footing and to determine where to focus further research. Some questions to consider include the following:
What is at stake? (Why is this an issue about which people care?)
What is the scope of the issue? (What are the boundaries of the issue? What is it that people do or do not tend to focus on in regard to this issue?)
What are the core controversies? (What are the most important issues that people tend to focus on with this issue? Which topics are merely tangential?)
What are the points of agreement, if any?
The audience for this essay will be the average newspaper reader. Because this audience regularly consumes the news, each student should assume that the audience has a passing familiarity with contemporary issues and events, but likely does not have an in-depth understanding of this issue; the audience may be aware that there is a controversy, but may be confused about what the controversy is or where the audience stands.
In addition to being the first stage in a larger research project, this essay will also test each student’s ability to integrate research, and a significant portion of the grade will be determined by how effectively students do so. Integrating sources means the following two things:
Integrating sources is a technical skillthe ability to attribute information correctly and within the conventions of a citation style (e.g., attributing all borrowed information, using quotation marks for direct quotations, and using the correct format for in-text and bibliographic citations).
Integrating sources is also a cognitive taskstudents are putting ideas together to effectively achieve their purpose (e.g., to familiarize the audience with the basic issues involved with this topic).
For this reason, the students should not merely repeat everything that sources say; instead, the students should have a clear thesis and a well-thought through organizational plan highlighted by informative topic sentences that are supported by appropriate evidence from readings.