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History 122
Argument Paper Assignment
Fall 2017

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Key critical thinking skills for college students to learn: "how to sift fact from opinion, make a clear written argument
[and] objectively review conflicting reports of a situation or event." Sarah Rimer

The argument paper will be an exploration of the impact of a technology on society (both negative and positive)You must write on one of the topics listed below. You must examine the different impact of the technology you pick on different parts of society--whom did it hurt and whom did it help?  Most of your paper should examine evidence about what has already happened, not speculate about the future. One source of questions you might consider is Prof. Newell's STS Analysis Tool.  This is an argument paper in the sense that you should state a thesis and prove your thesis step by step and in the sense that you are required to look at different perspectives (who benefited and who lost out as a result of a particular technology).

The higher grades will go to papers that exhibit logical thinking, an analytical framework, specific evidence, the ability to inform and communicate, sound organization, and a concise and coherent argument. In this paper the premium will go to those who are capable of making a persuasive argument.   That argument must be backed up with specific factual information from your research, not just based on your own impressions.   I expect you to come to your own conclusion (and so you are allowed to use "I"), but you may conclude that each side is partly right.

Instructions on paper format:
Your paper should be double spaced and about 1400-1600 words.  Include formal references in a standard form (MLA, Chicago, or APA). 
Papers will not automatically be penalized for being too long or too short but we will look for repetition or lack of detail and take those into account in grading.  Papers must be handed in via Canvas, screened by the Turnitin plagiarism detection system.  (Turnitin does keep a copy of your paper--if you have a problem with that please speak to the professor.)  Late papers will be penalized two points if handed in later than the assigned time and an additional two points for each calendar day late (so a paper two days late would lose six points).  When your paper is handed in on Canvas will determine the penalty.

You must provide footnotes or references to your sources (not just for quotes but also for specific information and arguments) in the text of the paper and provide at the end an overall list of the sources you used to write your paper (not just the ones you cited but all sources that you read that you found useful). You must use either MLA, APA, or Chicago format for references--papers that fail to use one of those formats and use it correctly will be penalized.  You can find standard formats at:  Writers Handbook.  In most cases I would expect six or more different sources on your list of sources.

Be careful to avoid plagiarism.  The syllabus states:

It is cheating to cut and paste or otherwise copy portions of a argument paper, exam, or discussion board posting from a book, web site, or from the online class notes, even if you change a few words, unless the words are quoted and the source is given.  It is poor writing for more than about 20% of your paper to consist of quotes.  In most cases when you use specific material from any source you should paraphrase: cite the source and put the ideas into you own words (generally no more than 5 consecutive words should match the source but if the words are mostly the same it could still be plagiarism even if there aren't 5 consecutive words).

Information on doing web research:
I am going to let you use the web to do research for your argument papers. Please don't get the wrong idea--historians still believe in the importance of books. But I want you to struggle with a range of perspectives in this paper, and the web is a wonderful source of opinion. Also, the library doesn't work very well when lots of people are trying to write papers on the same topic. You are more than welcome to use books and articles as sources for your paper if you want to, but in this special assignment I am willing to accept papers written only from research on the World Wide Web (I would not do that for a longer term-paper requiring more in-depth research, except for certain topics where primary source material is available on the Web).

Each topic page includes a brief introduction to the subject, plus links to a variety of pages dealing with that topic. You must choose one of these topics on which to write your paper, and you should use the links given to start your research. Some of those links will only work when you are connected to the Clemson network (logged in via Novell, not just using Clemson wireless).  You are expected to search beyond our links: for information on Web searching see The Spider's Apprentice.

Be thoughtful about doing research on the World Wide Web. Before a book is published, the publisher normally sends the manuscript out to experts in the field for evaluation. That doesn't mean that books are always right, but that plus fear of lawsuit means that the information published in books is screened for accuracy. On the other hand, anyone can put anything on the World Wide Web--there is no screening at all. So you must evaluate the information for yourself.  This is one of the skills that I want you to learn.

You may want to ask yourself:

For further discussion of these issues see: An Introduction to US History Research Online and  Information Literacy: The Web is not an Encyclopedia.  

Checklist for a good paper:

  1. Does your introduction focus on the assigned topic and give an overview of how you will address that topic?
  2. Is your paper organized around the assigned topic and cover all the parts of the topic?
  3. Is your specific evidence selected to fit your particular argument rather than telling random facts?
  4. Have you found specific examples or statistics to prove your points rather than simply asserting them?  Have you pinned the events you discuss down to specific dates and places and shown how things changed over time?
  5. Have you considered both positive and negative impacts in detail?
  6. Are the sources of specific points acknowledged with references or endnotes, even if paraphrased rather than quoted?
  7. Do you have a bibliography or list of sources set up in a correct form that lists all sources that were useful, not just the ones you quoted?
  8. Have you proofread, looking particularly for those mistakes that a spell-checker doesn't catch?  Remember also that the best grammar checkers are right only 80% of the time.


Fall 2017 Topics:

Reducing hurricane damage

Robots and jobs

Facial Recognition Software

Technology and the opioid epidemic