Monday, November 30, 2009

Calendar Post for December 2 and 4 + Interview/Survey Forum

  • Meet in Morgan Library Classroom Two on Friday and bring materials to support your Local Inquiry/Public Essay writing process (newspaper articles, books, interview notes, survey findings, et cetera).
  • As a team, be prepared to profile the person you spoke with during a lightening interview on Wednesday. If your team wasn't able to reach someone during class, tell us how and why your interview failed.
  • In preparation for field research this week, based on what you know about your topic, draft a set of interview or survey questions. Then, by Wednesday night, post them to a Writing Studio forum along with a one-paragraph explanation of your specific purpose in conducting this type of inquiry. (Why do you feel you need to talk to this professor, for example, or ask people in Old Town Square these questions?) As you draft your questions, consider our handout on field research, PHG pages 320-322, and the following guidance.

- Are the bread and butter of field research.
- Can be formal or informal, arranged or impromptu.
- Don’t always lend themselves to recording, but recording allows you to be most accurate.
- Provide you with more control because you’re there to guide the discussion.
- Allow you to ask for more elaborate answers.
- Allow you to clarify confusing questions for more accurate responses.
- Allow you to adjust your purpose in light of your interviewee's knowledge.
- Provide a more comfortable atmosphere for raising personal questions.
- Lend themselves to witnessing body language.

Surveys and questionnaires:

- Allow you to gauge information from large groups of people.
- Are easier to tabulate numerically.
- May lead to more honest responses since writing is more anonymous than talking.

Effective interview questions will:

- Start with objective or factual questions, or at the beginning of a chronology.
- Gradually approach more subjective or controversial questions.
- Almost always invite more than a yes or no answer.
- Avoid assumptions about what the interviewee will say, but reflect some knowledge of his or her situation.

Effective survey questions will:

- Be clear and focused.
- Avoid confusing or ambiguous language.
- Be shaped for a target audience.
- Be respectful and objective.
- Avoid skewing responses or leading respondents.
- Take into account different uses for open-ended and closed questions.
- Not take more than a few minutes to answer.
Most importantly, effective questions will address the writer’s purpose, which is generally to find out what people know and think about the topic at hand. Interviews and questionnaires, in other words, will give you a sense of the conversation surrounding your essay.
  • There will be no further news quizzes, as you should have an essay topic in mind by now.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Calendar Post for November 30

  • Prepare for our third local news quiz. These in-class writing prompts encourage us to study local news sources for essay ideas. In particular, between now and Monday, browse:
The Coloradoan
The Rocky Mountain Collegian
The Denver Post's coverage of Denver and the West
Our #CO150 Twitter feed
  • Read again one of the essays you were assigned in class on Friday, November 20 (by Orlean, Malone, or Maddocks) and prepare for a group discussion and presentation of the text on Monday by reviewing questions shown in class (now at Reading each of these essays will be helpful in understanding the Local Inquiry/Public Essay, but if you weren't in class on November 20, focus on either Orlean or Malone's text.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Enjoy the Holiday, Everyone!

We'll see you back in class on Monday, November 30.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Local Inquiry/Public Essay Assignment + Samples Posted

"Joining the Conversation: Local Inquiry and the Public Essay" has been uploaded to In addition, below, six sample essays composed by fellow students and published online by The Coloradoan are available for download. Some appear as two files: one is suitable for printing, the other shows the text displayed alongside visual rhetoric and comments from readers. Note that while these samples generally achieve the purpose of the Local Inquiry/Public Essay, they do have shortcomings and should be read in the context of the assignment handout (above).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Calendar Post for November 20 + Local Inquiry/Public Essay Forum

  • If you haven't already done so, review "Investigating: The Writing Process" on PHG pages 312-322. A handout at summarizes four kinds of field research techniques, three of which are covered in the PHG.
  • Prepare for our second local news quiz. These in-class writing prompts encourage us to study local news sources for essay ideas. In particular, between now and Friday, browse:

The Denver Post's coverage of Denver and the West

  • By Saturday night, at our Writing Studio forums page, please post a 200-word overview of the Local Inquiry/Public Essay you're planning to pursue. This plan will be tentative and may change. Still, you can discuss how the inquiry you're considering might incorporate qualities of the Public Essay as well as field research techniques (see handouts at You can also describe the kinds of people you plan to interview and audience expectations for the publication to which you will pitch your essay or column.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Academic Argument Assignment FAQ

Question on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 3:57 PM:

The final copy does not need to be in Google Docs, does it?


That's right, it does not. Revisions to the final draft of your Academic Argument should take place in Word and on your desktop, not in the Google Docs draft that you've shared online. This allows us to preserve the comments your collaborators have provided in the context of your rough draft, and award points for participation. This point was reiterated on our blog on Saturday:
You can edit and format your final paper without the comments showing by clicking "File" and "Print settings." Uncheck the "include comments" box, and the click "OK." Now you can select "File" and "Download file as" to save a copy of your draft as a Word document (without the comments).

Question on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 1:29 PM:

I was just curious to see what you wanted the title to our Academic Argument to be. Should it just be "Academic Arguement" or do you want it specific to our paper?


I'm glad you posed this question. Unless you're told otherwise (think "Works Cited," for our annotated bibliographies), most arguments, essays, and research papers in MLA style require a creative title that departs from the name of the assignment. An example of this comes in the paper Diane Hacker includes in her supplement, "Online Monitoring: A Threat to Employee Privacy in the Wired Workplace." Another example comes in the argument we discussed on Monday, Crystal Sabatke's "Welfare Is Still Necessary for Women and Children in the U.S." Note in both cases that titles of academic papers appear longer than titles of short stories, plays, and other fictional works. Sometimes they also involve a colon.

Question on Tue, Nov 10, 2009 at 8:26 AM:

I was wondering would it be appropriate to put a picture into my argument? Mine is on deforestation in Indonesia and it seems my argument would benefit from a visual. If not that is okay too, I just wanted to ask.


That's a good question. It would be fine to include an illustration, and for formatting guidance you should see pages 50 and 51 of Diane Hacker's MLA supplement, where the writer of a sample text includes a "Dilbert" comic strip. Note that there's a reference in the text to the illustration's figure number, and that the illustration's caption includes this figure number ("Fig. 1") as well as a source. Also, for our purposes, the illustration won't affect the argument's required length. In other words, you should still have at least 1,000 words but no more than (the equivalent of) four pages of written text.

Question on Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 3:01 PM:

I was not clear on if we should have completed any research before coming to our conference with you? I have written the majority of the outline but I have not done any research; do we need to have that completed by the time we come for our conference? The sample paper had tons of research and a works cited page. Will we need to have all of that prepared as well?


Here's what our proposal assignment handout asks about research, under "Evidence and Arguments":
What kinds of evidence has your research revealed so far that might support an argument shaped by the tentative thesis statement above? Summarize different key arguments about this issue that you have discovered during your research so far, focusing especially on those that support your claim. (Be sure to cite sources here.)
And here's what our blog says about the sample paper:
please note that the sample proposal runs too long as a text and does not conform to MLA guidelines or our assignment handout's specifications. Still, it does respond to many of the same questions that serve as prompts for your proposal, and it shows a student carefully researching and designing an argument in proposal form.
That last part is important to note: it's hard to write an effective proposal without doing some preliminary research on the evidence to support it. Your question-at-issue, your claim or position on that question, and the factual information to support that claim should all feel tentative at this stage, and that's okay because you're only proposing an argument, not actually drafting it. Still, this proposal needs to be grounded in sources you might rely on, and that is why you see the author of the sample proposal discussing and citing a few potential sources––that kind of source-based discussion is also expected in your proposal.

Question on Sun, Nov 1, 2009 at 10:46 PM:

I was looking at the sample argument proposal and it was talking about a group. Are we supposed to include reflection on a group proposal as well as a new individual proposal?


No, that's not the case. I think what you're noticing is that the proposal writer references her inquiry group's research question ("The question-at-issue for our group was: What are the effects of global warming on Polar Regions?"). So in this case she has chosen to pursue an argument related to that question. However, as you'll note in the Academic Argument Assignment handout (just posted), you can choose to refine your own group's question, refine another group's question, or invent a new climate-related question entirely. In the proposal you'll discuss just one question, and the important thing is that it becomes narrow, debatable, and significant both to you and an academic audience. The question should prompt you to make a claim of fact or definition, cause and effect, value, or policy/solution, or a combination thereof.

Question on Sun, Nov 1, 2009 at 4:08 PM:

The question I'm interested in pursuing is: How has climate change affected polar bear populations? Is this too narrow or irrelevant? Also, because none of the groups on the wiki looked into this subject, am I required to find my own research for the proposal or do I merely state how I plan to research this topic?


On its face the question doesn't seem too narrow, but consider the other criteria for questions-at-issue in the Academic Argument: is it debatable and significant? What kind of claim will result? Can you form an interpretive thesis that doesn't just describe a piece of reality? If you can locate a particular debate about the extent to which climate change is affecting the polar bear, then you may have fertile ground for argument, but you may also find overwhelming consensus about the severity of climate change's impact on that species. Now that you have a topic that feels personally significant, how can you tweak your question to generate arguments about the polar bear's ecological worth, or its iconic status as a symbol in climate change rhetoric? Those are just some possible avenues for debate. As to the research query: two groups researched ecology, and I'm noticing sources on those wiki pages that provide a starting point for inquiry, such as:

Berteaux, Dominique, et al. "Keeping Pace with Fast Climate Change: Can Arctic Life Count on Evolution?" Integrative and Comparative Biology 44.2 (April 2004): 140-151. Web of Science. Web. 18 Oct. 2009.

In the end you may not use this source, but at minimum it should provide an interesting works cited list, some names of Arctic scientists, and a journal for further exploration. Plans are great to include, but the proposal also needs to specifically cite potential sources and stakeholders under "Evidence and Arguments" as well as "Rationale and Audience."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Extra Credit Assignment

  • For the extra credit assignment, which will compensate for at least one unexcused absence, please choose to attend a live event featuring a speaker (many are listed online at websites such as CSU's "All University Events" calendar). Then, e-mail Raul a description of the event (see "Contact" in the sidebar), take detailed notes during the event (direct quotations will be valuable), and write a two-page rhetorical analysis.
  • Think of this as a cohesive, miniature essay that utilizes prompts from our rhetorical situation handouts. As a well-organized, MLA-styled text, it shouldn't mimic the order of the prompts on the handouts but rather draw relationships between different aspects of the rhetorical situation––in an introduction, thesis, body paragraphs, a conclusion, and a "Works Cited" list, if necessary. In short, you'll be answering this question: what choices did the speaker make, and how effective were those choices, in context? Assume that your audience is academic but not knowledgeable about the situation you're analyzing.
  • Update: the extra credit assignment is now due to Raul's mailbox on the third floor of Eddy Hall by 4:30 PM on Thursday, December 17.

Calendar Post for November 18

  • Continue reading David Boerner's "Following the Poop" in preparation for a discussion of the Local Inquiry and Public Essay on Wednesday. Other texts that can inform our final assignment have been posted to We'll be focusing next on examples of essays in the same genre from two professional writers, "Whither Wind" by Charles Komanoff and "Lifelike" by Susan Orlean.
  • Download a three-page handout (also at that describes the qualities of the Local Inquiry/Public Essay and the writing process it should entail. The handout includes some tentative due dates.
  • Read a short introduction to field research on PHG pages 320-322.
  • Prepare for our first local news quiz. These in-class writing prompts will encourage us to study local news sources for essay ideas. In particular, between now and Wednesday, browse:
The Coloradoan

The Fort Collins Now

Denver Post's coverage of Denver and the West
Our #CO150 Twitter feed will also begin featuring items of local interest. An example of a local news quiz has been posted to dropio.
  • Most process work on the Group Inquiry assignment has been handed back with comments and grades. However, Raul neglected to hand back a few annotated bibliographies today in class. These will be available during tomorrow's office hours (see our syllabus) should you want to take a look before handing in your Academic Argument (as a hard copy) on Wednesday. Expect comments and grades on our wiki pages by the end of the week, and a midterm report on grades and attendance following Thanksgiving break.

Readings Posted

Essays on topics local and otherwise that will foster discussions of our Local Inquiry and Public Essay assignment have been posted to Please note that some of these texts contain disturbing content:

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Calendar Post for November 16

  • If you haven't already done so, please provide in-text comments and a thorough summary note in each of your collaborators' Google Docs drafts. An earlier post lists groups of collaborators and handouts to guide this online workshop. As you revise your argument and prepare to submit a final hard copy on Monday or Wednesday, recall the guidance discussed in class about converting Google documents to Word documents. To reiterate, final revisions should take place on your desktop, not online. From our Google Docs handout:
You can edit and format your final paper without the comments showing by clicking "File" and "Print settings." Uncheck the "include comments" box, and the click "OK." Now you can select "File" and "Download file as" to save a copy of your draft as a Word document (without the comments).
  • If you haven't already done so, read about revising arguments and identifying logical fallacies on PHG pages 577-582.
  • You should also read a final example of how an Academic Argument moves through the writing process. Crystal Sabatke's "Welfare Is Still Necessary for Women and Children in the U.S." appears on PHG pages 583-591.
  • Finally, for comparison, read and bring to class David Boerner's "Following the Poop" (at, which points to the kind of essay we'll be researching and drafting in our final assignment.
  • We meet back in our usual classroom on Monday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Google Docs Groups for the Academic Argument + Calendar Post for November 13

Meet in Morgan Library's Classroom One on Friday for a final workshop using our peer review, Google Docs workshop, and assignment handouts. You may also find our Academic Argument samples helpful.

As discussed in class, you should update your Google document with the (revised) text of your Academic Argument and send invitations to your collaborators (listed below) by noon on Friday. You can find e-mail addresses for collaborators in a class e-mail and on the "Classmates" page of the Writing Studio. If you don't see your name listed below, follow step three in the Google Docs workshop handout.

  • Jason L, Stephen G, Alex H
  • Jack H, Jesse S, Rachel S
  • Branden K, Cyndi H, Eric S
  • Kelly T, Mandy D, Kassi M
  • Cooper O, Brian R, Kayla T
  • Valerie B, Senite T, Mark A
  • Zach H, Derek W, Chris N
  • Justin S, Regan G, Rachael C
  • Dan P, Jonny S, Adrienne K
  • Sam S, Sean W, Eric W
  • Kelsey C, Robbie O, Kaylynn A
  • Jillian H, Michael W, Amanda K

Video Posted

"Weekly Address: Tragedy at Fort Hood" will be discussed today in class. It's a message President Obama delivered Saturday about shootings in Texas last week that killed 12 soldiers and one civilian employee.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Calendar Post for November 11 + Argument Handouts Posted

• Follow steps in our Google Docs workshop handout, especially the part about creating a document and inviting as a collaborator by noon on Wednesday.

• Bring a full rough draft of your Academic Argument to class on Wednesday as a hard copy.

• Read about revising arguments and logical fallacies on PHG pages 577-582.

• Download and bring to class the following handouts (at
- argument_appeals.pdf

- argument_fallacies.pdf

- argument_workshop.pdf

Rhetorical Analysis + Google Docs Handouts Posted

  • For those attending a speaking event and drafting a rhetorical analysis that will compensate for an unexcused absence, three additional handouts at will be useful:

Event Posted

From the Colorado State University School of Global Environmental Sustainability:
"The World Gathers in Copenhagen: What to Expect and Why it is so Critical to Us"
November 11, 2009
Avogadro's Number

Panel of Colorado State University experts on Climate Change, and what to expect at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen that will take place in December 2009.
Participants include:
Dr. Jill Baron- Research Scientist, United States Geological Survey and Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
Dr. Michele Betsill- Associate Professor, Political Science
Dr. Stephen Ogle- Research Scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
Dr. Keith Paustian- Professor, Soil and Crop Sciences

Free and Open to the Public.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Calendar Post for November 9

  • Please read about two nontraditional argument techniques on PHG pages 521-525. (And if you haven't yet debated your partner, be prepared to finish "Staking a Claim" in class.)
  • As discussed on Friday, also read read and bring to class a short series of counter arguments (at by the United Kingdom's Royal Society, a scientific body with a history that spans four centuries. Then skim five "personal opinions" on climate change written by members of the Society and choose one to read closely and discuss in class.
  • On Monday and Wednesday we'll continue watching Frontline's 2008 investigation of climate change, "Heat." At Frontline's website on, you can also access interviews with sources featured in the program. "Heat" should be useful in providing information to supplement your Academic Argument, but if you do quote from one of its sources, please choose only one.
  • By Monday evening, post a thoughtful response to the following questions on a forum about Frontline's "Heat" at the Writing Studio:
What facts, ideas, or points of controversy covered by the program might become important in your Academic Argument? Does this information support your claim or a counterargument?
If you were to quote one source who appears in the program, who would that be and why?
  • Looking forward, full rough drafts of the Academic Argument will be due at a workshop in class on Wednesday. Then, on Friday, we'll be meeting again in Morgan Library's Classroom One for a workshop using Google Docs. Between now and then, please familiarize yourself with this online word processor by logging into Google Apps for CSU (or Gmail) and clicking on "Documents" at the top of your inbox. The final Academic Argument is due as a hard copy on Monday, November 16.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Video Posted

"Heat," a 2008 program produced by Frontline, an investigative unit of PBS, can be viewed online.  We'll be watching and discussing excerpts in light of the Academic Argument.  Frontline describes the program this way:

Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, fires, floods and droughts. On the eve of a historic election, award-winning producer and correspondent Martin Smith investigates how the world's largest corporations and governments are responding to Earth's looming environmental disaster.

"I have reported on the Cold War, the breakup of the Soviet Union, the rise of Al Qaeda, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," says Smith. "But nothing matches climate change in scope and severity."

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Calendar Post for November 6

  • If you haven't yet debated your partner, prepare to finish "Staking a Claim" in class.
  • Now that (most of) you have a proposed an Academic Argument, received feedback on that proposal in a conference, and begun research on behalf of the claim you will put forward, try drafting a "thesis paragraph" and bring a printout to class on Friday.
This paragraph might eventually become an early part of your argument that appears after you have introduced its context. The thesis paragraph it should both state a claim and forecast key points your argument will go on to address. Examine two paragraphs by Edward Koch on the top of PHG page 535 to get a sense for what this part of the argument looks like.
  • Finally, read and bring to class a short series of counter arguments (at by the United Kingdom's Royal Society, a scientific body with a history that spans four centuries. Then for Monday, skim five "personal opinions" written by members of the Society and choose one to read and discuss in class. More reputable sources on climate change debates that might inform your own argument can be found at and

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Academic Argument/Proposal Assignment + Samples Posted

"Academic Argument: Adding Your Voice to the Conversation" has been uploaded to, where you can also find "Proposal: From Inquiry to Argument" (offered in class) and a sample proposal (available as a download only).

As discussed, please note that the sample proposal runs too long as a text and does not conform to MLA guidelines or our assignment handout. Still, it does respond to many of the same questions that serve as prompts for your proposal, and it shows a student carefully researching and designing an argument in proposal form.

Remember that proposal conferences take place in Aylesworth 268 on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday instead of class.

Update: five samples of the Academic Argument are now available (as three files at Like the sample proposal, these arguments do have weaknesses and don't always adhere to MLA guidelines or our assignment handout, but they should serve as useful models.