Sustained Argument Writing Assignment for Second Year Composition

Sustained Argument

2000 Points, as part of Argument Series


At this point in the semester, you have spent quite a bit of time exploring a topic of interest to you. It is now time to take things to the next level. You will create a sustained argument, a research paper making a research-based persuasive argument about an important issue or controversy related to your topic, which you will then break up into about four posts on your website. Although this assignment is a more traditional academic essay, you should still adapt it to conventions of online writing: headings, images (with sources credited in a caption with working hyperlinks), very brief introduction, and shorter paragraphs. Keep in mind that most online readers only spend a few moments on a website, so deliver your main message quickly and offer those who linger multiple points of entry.

Your Task

Identify a specific issue within your topic, research that issue, and then compose a persuasive argument of about 1500-2000 words, giving a specific call to action to a specific group, backed up by extensive, scholarly research. Your thesis should answer the question, “Who should do what?” and include words like “should,” “have to,” “need to,” or “must.” If your advice is negative–somebody shouldn’t do something–invert it to make it positive advice. If your advice is about people changing their opinions, revise it so that your target audience actually has to do something: a call to action.

Selecting an issue: Part of the challenge here will be to find a relatively narrow issue within your topic to discuss. An “issue” is not the same thing as a “topic.” A topic defines an area of interest, like baseball, light pollution, or art therapy. An issue, on the other hand, involves a question or matter upon which there is some dispute or disagreement. Issues within the topics just named might include “Why should the National League require professional baseball players to submit to random drug tests?”, “How should city governments limit light pollution through laws?”, and “How can the American Psychological Association encourage multiculturalism in art therapy?” Reasonable people might answer these questions very differently, and that makes them debatable issues.

Sources: Since you are building on foundations you laid in the Inquiry Series, you may draw on previous posts, especially your primary research, to develop and support your argument, but you must reshape it to fit the new context. Simply copying and pasting a previous post into your argument is self-plagiarism. You must provide new concepts and insights and shaped them into a new argument. You must also add new research from the library, library databases, college-affiliated websites, and respected news sources like The New York Times. You may include other sources as long as you briefly evaluate their credibility. (Note: exposing non-credible sources is a strong move in an argumentative paper.)

Suggested structure: Your series of posts could look like this, but this is just a suggested structure and does not need to be followed. Allow the structure of your essay to rise naturally out of your argument:


  • Introduction to your issue – Present your main thesis giving specific advice to a specific group in the first few lines, and offer readers the essence of your argument in a few lines. Identify the question you are addressing. Name and describe your target audience. Explain why the issue matters and why your target audience should care about this issue in particular.
  • What different people and organizations think about this –Who are the respected (and disreputable) people and organizations writing about the issue? Present their opinions objectively and fairly with evidence to support their opinions. Explain the source(s) of disagreement. What arguments seem to be favored by what groups at this time? That is, which communities are making which arguments? How are their interests served by these arguments? How does money and power affect their judgments?
  • What is your position on the issue? – Building from your analysis of the arguments and evidence presented in the previous post, create and support your argument in carefully staged steps with substantial, credible evidence drawn from respectable sources.
  • Call to action – Give specific, detailed, step-by-step advice with explanations and examples to a specific group in the form a positive call to action. Create a how-to guide so that your target audience will know exactly what they need to do. Keep in mind that you will actually have to reach out to your target audience in the Genre Transformation which follows, so keep in mind that they may actually receive your advice.


Assessment Rubric

Goal: The Sustained Argument represents the type of well-organized, well-supported writing one would expect to find in an academic, research-based, persuasive argument.

1=strong; 2=good; 3=developing; 4=needs work; 5=no evidence 5 4 3 2 1
The thesis, which appears near the beginning of the first post, gives specific advice to a specific group as a positive call to action.
The paper presents a logically organized persuasive argument, presenting multiple sides of the issue fairly but showing how the writer’s central argument is the best approach.
Clear, specific title, subtitles, headings, main ideas for each section, and topic sentences all relate directly to the thesis.
Substantial evidence in the form of examples, facts, anecdotes, summaries, and quotes with links to titles from research supports every claim. Evidence is analyzed and relevance explained.
The writing is clear, specific, detailed, relatively free of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. Sentences have strong sentence focus and active verbs. Lists are grammatically parallel.


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