Hey, Mom! The Explanation.

Here's the permanent dedicated link to my first Hey, Mom! post and the explanation of the feature it contains.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #434 - How to Write a Persuasive Essay, part Two

Hey, Mom! Talking to My Mother #434 - How to Write a Persuasive Essay, part Two

Hey Mom, Here's the second part of the multiple part (I have lost count, but I promise to return and update all the items once I count. But it looks like about 10-12 items).

I developed most of this material in teaching for Colorado Technical University (CTU), but I have also used it at Park University, Western Michigan University, and Lake Michigan College. By which  I mean, particulars of subjects to choose from or veto are specific to those assignments, mainly at CTU. But my two vetoed subjects have been off limits in my classes since 1987 when I started this madness they call teaching.

Mom, I know you love all this. I know.

This material applies to the standard college persuasive essay assignment in which students select their own subjects and must perform some basic research to gather evidence to support their claims.

Often students struggle to start a persuasive essay. But in performing basic searches using the Internet and school libraries to begin to educate one's self on a selected subject, then one can quickly determine if the subject is viable or if a new subject must be chosen. (Yes, I am well aware that the previous sentence is passive voice...)


Link to the previous post:  How to Write a Persuasive Essay Part One


The subject of your paper is an important decision.
Generally, students are more inclined to write about a subject that they already know something about or have even written about in a previous class. In this way, they both ensure their interest while saving time.

Other students choose popular topics either because they can easily find information via research. In some cases, this "research" involves using someone else's paper already written on that subject.



Often the best method of choosing a topic and performing necessary research at the same time is to find one article to serve as a core source. One article that sums up your problem-solution nicely can serve as your main source and be augmented by additional sources as needed to flesh out details or meet minimum source requirements for the assignment.


Take a look around you. If you are on the hunt to find your core source, you may stumble across the perfect article in a magazine in a doctor's office or in a rack at your local news stand. Often searching the physical library will yield results through serendipity alone.

You may spot a treasure if you have your eyes open.

Searching online databases is more convenient but takes a different mindset to continually refine search results using Boolean operators to find that one, core source. See examples of similar searches lower on this page.

In the following sections, I will list the most popular subjects and two I veto when students propose them (and why I veto them). Some students prefer to choose from popular subjects to benefit from a wealth of resources. Other staunch individualist students avoid popular subjects because they want their paper to stand out from the herd as a unique and original work. Both mindsets have their advantages and disadvantages.

·         school bullying
·         legalization marijuana/medical marijuana
·         obesity - child obesity
·         gay rights - gay adoption
·         drugs & crime/drugs & addiction
·         second hand smoke/ smoking bans
·         status of illegal immigrants
·         teen pregnancy
·         drunk driving
·         texting while driving

·         abortion
·         child abuse

I only veto two subjects in my current college English composition classes. I know other instructors who have long lists of subjects that they do not allow. In fact, in many classes, the vetoed subjects are much the same as the list of popular topics above.

ABORTION: I veto this topic for two reasons: very rarely do students manage to write reasonable papers on the subject because it is so controversial; because I have strong feelings, reading about the subject tests my ability to grade objectively. Thus, I would rather avoid it.

CHILD ABUSE: I do not outright veto this subject, but I try to talk students out of it. Most often, papers on this subject simply take a stand against child abuse. Such an argument is not persuasive. Of course, you are against it. I am against it. People who commit child abuse are also against it as by and large most of them do not consider themselves to be abusers.



For instance, perhaps I wish to research how we get fat and determine the best kind of diet in terms of equalizing fat intake and cholesterol as well as creating a balanced nutrition plan for my daily life.

However, I don't know anything about what such a diet would look like. I have a topic, but no thesis. As I research, I learn about good fats and bad fats, I learn that cholesterol in diet has little effect on blood levels of cholesterol, I learn that carbs really stack on the pounds. So my thesis evolves as I do more research and inform myself on a topic.

Or I want to write about the concealed weapons permit law changes proposed in many states. But the idea of people bringing guns to churches and schools bothers me. But in research, I learn that only 1% of crimes are committed by people with concealed weapons permits and that this is unlikely to change if the concealed weapon permit law changes. I begin to build my thesis as I learn and read more about this topic.

This is why I often do not like students choosing a topic before looking for resources. I was just reading an issue of WIRED and an article about anonymous, 4chan, and a terror campaign against the Church of Scientology. Also a great topic for a paper.

The upshot?

Either find the source first and ask if you can do the topic, or SEARCH for sources right away, so you do not lose valuable time planning a project that is either too complex or for some reason will not yield good sources.

BE WATCHFUL AS YOU READ:  I am always on the look out for articles that would make great sources for papers. For instance, I was reading an issue of Scientific American, and I spotted an article on machines that filter Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere. If we made enough of these machines, we could not only hold global warming at bay but likely undo much of the damage we have done with CO2 emissions. Plus we could bottle CO2 for industry

This article (published in 2010: Washing CARBON OUT OF THE AIR. Full Text Available By: Lackner, Klaus S.. Scientific American, Jun2010, Vol. 302 Issue 6, p66-71, 6p, 5 Color Photographs) is a good starting point and focuses the topic of global warming well. Often students tackle a HUGE topic like global warming with no idea how to focus it (or no idea that they even need to focus it).

Whole books are written on global warming; it cannot be covered adequately in a short paper. You can engineer this method backwards. I read the magazine so I spotted it. But if I go to the library and search global warming, then use keywords to narrow my future searches, I can find a good focus.

WHAT IF THE LIBRARY FAILS?  I was reading a book and read about an article called "The Worst Mistake in Human History" by Jared Diamond published in Discover Magazine. I wanted to find it and use it for a paper. Do you think I could find it in the library?? NO. But a Google search turned up a full text article.

I HEARD THE OTHER DAY...  Sometimes one hears about a good topic idea from someone, often a rumor. "Hey, did you hear that our state may change the law governing permits to carry concealed weapons?" Now, this intrigues me. But I cannot just start writing about it based on a rumor. I am going to have to do some research first.

The upshot?

Ultimately, you need research.

Start now

   Chris Tower    The Galactic Monkey Wrench   Kalamazoo, Michigan   49006   Contact me here with questions or comments.
1 The words "subject" and "topic" are used in two different ways in describing a persuasion paper and the process of completing it. "Subject" refers to the global content of the entire paper; "topic" refers to a specific element of the subject developed in a paragraph or paragraphs within the content, hence the term "topic sentence," which refers to a statement of the topic that leads a paragraph.

© All text and some of the images are the exclusive copyright of christopher tower (who purposefully avoids capitalizing his name), also known as the galactic monkey wrench, located at the Eldorado Ranch and batcave in the heart of the Great Lakes. All rights reserved. All paronomasia intentional.


Reflect and connect.

Have someone give you a kiss, and tell you that I love you.

I miss you so very much, Mom.

Talk to you tomorrow, Mom.


- Days ago = ## days ago

- Bloggery committed by chris tower - date - time

NOTE on time: When I post late, I had been posting at 7:10 a.m. because Google is on Pacific Time, and so this is really 10:10 EDT. However, it still shows up on the blog in Pacific time. So, I am going to start posting at 10:10 a.m. Pacific time, intending this to be 10:10 Eastern time. I know this only matters to me, and to you, Mom. But I am not going back and changing all the 7:10 a.m. times. But I will run this note for a while. Mom, you know that I am posting at 10:10 a.m. often because this is the time of your death.
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