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POS 101                                                                                                                                  
R. R. Pope
Citizens & Governance

Paper Guidelines: A "Critical Summary"


Purpose: To help you "think through" an issue that citizens have to deal with if there is any hope of building the "best possible society," and to help you work on your "analytical" writing skills.

Subject: Four topics with different due dates will be assigned, one topic to each 25 percent of the class.  That is, each of you will be required to write one paper.   If you decide you can"t work with the topic you are assigned, with the approval of the instructor you can select another topic.

Source: A single article you select.  The article cannot be from the assigned readings, but it can be from any other source, including the Internet.  A "thought provoking" brief article will generally work best.

Length of Paper: One page double spaced.  You can not go smaller than 11 point type, and you must have at least 3/4" margins on all sides.   (These "guidelines" meet these requirements.) You need to make your summary of your article concise.  (See below.)

Structure: Brief summary of your article followed by a single "critical comment."  If necessary, you can summarize just one aspect of your article. Your summary needs to lead the reader directly to your "critical comment."  That is, there needs to be a clear connection between your summary and your "conclusion."

Critical Comment: The simplest thing to do is to find an article you disagree with and then clearly explain why you disagree with what you have summarized.  You can also agree with something specific from your article, or you can tie it into something we have discussed in class.  You need to


Stick to one point


Be specific: avoid general statements, especially general assertions


Explain: not just assert or list


Provide a concrete example to illustrate your point/argument or evidence to back it up


For example, let us assume your topic is the death penalty"which you oppose.  Find an article that supports the death penalty.  Select one specific argument in the article that you want to challenge.  Briefly summarize what the article has to say on this topic.  Explain why you disagree.  Provide a specific example to illustrate your argument or some concrete evidence to back up your position.   For instance, let us assume the article argues that the death penalty is "just punishment" for those who have committed a "terrible crime."  You can counter this "argument" by pointing out that some people who are sentenced to death are later found to be innocent.  If they"ve already been executed nothing can be done to even partially rectify the mistake, thus making "life in prison without the possibility of parol" a better punishment.  (It would be very effective to either provide a concrete example or to cite specific data from a recent study of the death penalty. Obviously, this means that, unless you have personal experience you can cite, you probably will need a second article for your example or evidence.)  Your goal is to present an argument that will make a reader who disagrees with you at least "stop and think."  Even if they still disagree, you want them to conclude that you"ve made a "good point""one they cannot easily dismiss.

Cartoon Option: In place of writing the assigned paper you can show the class a political cartoon that is connected with something we have discussed and then write a one page paper explaining the "relevance" of the cartoon.  In this case, your goal is to make this relevance clear to someone who does not necessarily see any "connection" between what we"ve discussed in the class and the cartoon.  You must show your cartoon before the due date for your assigned paper.  You have one week from the time you show the cartoon to the class to turn in your paper.

Extra Points: You can earn up to 4 extra points for "originality" by presenting an especially strong or original argument.  Obviously, using the argument in the above example will not qualify for "originality."  Also, an argument taken from another source won"t qualify for "extra points."


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