R. R. Pope
Guidelines: A "Critical Summary"
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"
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.
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.)
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
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
to one point
Be specific: avoid
general statements, especially general assertions
not just assert or list
a concrete example to illustrate your point/argument or evidence
to back it up
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."