Your final essay is to offer a specific solution to a specific problem. You will research the problem, develop an argument, and organize your supporting details as a means to persuade your reader. The problem you choose to research should be one that you are interested in exploring further. It might relate to your hobbies, your major, or your hometown. For example, one might research the lack of bike paths in Rochester and come up with a solution to solve that problem. Or, one might want to explore the problem of “food deserts” in Rochester. Your topic needs to be specific!!!! Do not write about climate change, legalizing marijuana, abortions, homelessness, or any other topic that would far exceed the scope of a 5-7 page essay. If your essay is too general, then you will lose points. Those students who write the most successful essays typically choose a topic that they find to be interesting or related to their field of study.
One way to narrow down your topic is to brainstorm your interests, hobbies, or issues that are personal to you or to your community. For example, I really like mountain biking, so I might want to examine the availability of mountain biking trails in the Rochester, NY area. How could I improve the existing trails? Could I add more trails? Where might I add trails? Who would I speak with? How much money would it cost? What are the local biking groups that I might join? In other words, once you figure out your topic/problem, you should then analyze the problem by breaking it down into smaller sections.
Keep in mind that your final essay should focus primarily on the solution, not on the problem. As I indicate in my video lecture on how to outline your essay (which I will provide), I would suggest that 20% of your essay covers the problem, while 80% covers the solution. The more specific the essay, the better your paper will be.
Your essay needs to contain the following criteria:
• Follow the MLA format, including 12 point font, Times New Roman, 1” margins, page numbers, remove space after paragraph, an original title, and a Works Cited page.
• You need to use at least three outside sources, one needs to be a scholarly source from the MCC Library database, and the other two sources can be from a local newspaper, archival material, online magazine, an interview, etc.
• Your essay needs to demonstrate a clear understanding of the characteristics of a persuasive argument and of a research essay.
• Your thesis statement/solution needs to be specific, which means that you should narrow your focus to a specific problem and locate a specific solution. Your thesis needs to explain reasons for your argument/solution and must be a claim of policy and value. As such, your thesis must contain the key words “should,” “must,” “need,” “could,” “would,” or “ought.” Also, your thesis should answer the “what?” and “so what?” questions.
• Make sure you consider the process required to implement your proposal. Your thesis/solution needs to be realistic. For example, say you want to write about eliminating the traffic on the 390 between Greece and Rochester. Simply stating that we should drive less is too general and not very realistic. Again, the more specific your thesis/solution, the more specific your reasons and approach will be. Specificity leads to better (and longer) essays.
• Your essay needs to be between 5-7 pages in length, with a Works Cited page.
• Consider the completeness of your argument, and avoid padding your essay with lengthy quotations or with unrelated information – you should engage your research in a conversation. You should not simply agree with your research; instead, move beyond your research. Anything extra or unnecessary may distract your reader and take focus away from your argument, making the paper less effective.
I will be looking for:
• A clear thesis/solution. Your thesis/solution will be one of policy and value, so I expect it to contain words such as “should,” “must,” “ought,” “need,” etc.
• A distinct introduction and a thesis statement that previews and prepares the reader for the problem under consideration, your proposed solution, the steps to implement your solution, and reasons to support your solution.
• Well-developed supporting information in the form of logical discussion.
• Transitional statements between and within paragraphs
• Clear connections between your thesis and the body of your essay. Do not make any generalizations. Stay on topic.
• A concluding paragraph that wraps together the elements of your discussion and connects them back to your central argument.
• Again, the majority of your essay should focus on the solution, not on the problem. See the video lecture on outlining your essay.
Peer-Review Rubric for Policy Paper
As you read your partner’s essay, please look over this list and make sure that the essay follows these criteria. If you see anything in the essay that does not answer one or more of these questions, then make sure that you mark the essay and describe what is missing.
• Is the essay in Times New Roman, 12 Point Font?
• Is the essay double-spaced with the space removed after the paragraph?
• Are there page numbers at the bottom center of the essay?
• Does the essay contain a specific enough title to give the reader an idea of the essay’s topic?
• Does the essay contain a Works Cited page? Are the citations in alphabetical order, with the author’s last name first and first name second?
• Is the opening sentence specific? If you see any unnecessary words, then please cross-them out.
• Does the opening paragraph provide adequate background to the problem?
• Are the terms or concepts clearly defined? If you are unsure what a particular term or concept means, then please circle it and put a question mark near it.
• Please underline the thesis statement. If you have trouble locating it, then please write “Thesis?” in the margin.
• Is the thesis a claim of policy? Please circle the “should,” “must,” “ought,” “need,” etc.
• Does the thesis provide a believable solution?
• Does the thesis provide adequate reasons to support the solution (i.e., does it contain a “because”)?
• Make sure the thesis provides adequate steps that cover how the writer plans to implement the solution.
• Point out any grammatical issues. Make sure each sentence is an independent clause (Subject à Verb à Object).
• Point out any mechanical issues. Make sure the commas and semi-colons are used correctly.
• Point out any syntax issues. Make sure the wording of each sentence makes sense. If not, then write “Reword” in the margins.
• Is there a smooth transition between sentences and between paragraphs? If not, then please write “Trans.”
• Are the outside sources used correctly? Do they appear to be merely “dropped” in the essay without any clear indication of why?
• Do the outside sources contain a proper introduction and an adequate analysis after the cited passage? In other words, does it follow the OREO method?
• Is the quote cited correctly with quotation marks and a proper parenthetical citation?
• Is the conclusion satisfying? Can you offer any suggestions to improve it?
• Does the conclusion restate the thesis/solution (in different words) and explain its importance?
• As a reader, do you have any possible counter-arguments that could challenge the writer’s thesis/solution? If so, then please write them on the back of the essay.
• Can you identify any paragraphs or ideas that are out of place?
• Is the essay organized? Does the essay move from one point to the next in a logical manner?