Persuasive Argument Essay

The Persuasive Argument
Syllabus Project Description
Worth 300 course points (30% of your final course grade), your second major essay project will be the Persuasive Argument Essay. In this APA, research-driven essay, you will first respond to our selected readings from Carl Sagan’s 1996 book, The Demon Haunted World (chapters 1 and 2). You will then develop a thesis-driven, persuasive argument that applies (or “updates”) Sagan’s lines of reasoning to the social-media world we live in today. Your final draft must consist of 4-6 full pages of written text (not including cover page or References list) in APA format. This essay project will be due before 11:59 pm on Sunday 22 November in PDF format.


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Your Purpose & Audience
Your purpose in this essay is to respond to the first two chapters of Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World(1996) and to develop an original, thesis-driven argument about our world today (as it relates to some element addressed in Sagan’s work). In essence, you are responding to and “updating” Sagan’s lines of reasoning to the world of today — through your argumentative perspective. You have enormous intellectual and creative freedom with the thesis of your argument, but your thesis claim must be either a claim of value or a claim of cause & effect (see notes below). Further, your essay must contextualize Sagan’s source text for your reader (with the assumption that your audience has not read it). For your audience, imagine you are writing this essay to be assigned to all incoming first-year students at our college in the near future. Academic standards of professionalisms (and APA) are expected.

Toulmin Considerations and Thesis Focus
In developing and mapping out your argument, you must utilize Toulmin Schema considerations for argumentation (a central claim with at least two explicitly stated reasons; a consideration of warrants; grounds and backing; and qualification/rebuttal).
See Module 8 for our introduction to the Toulmin Schema.

A focused thesis statement must be explicitly stated in your introduction. Your thesis statement must contain your CLAIM and each of your supporting REASONS written as one complete sentence. You can think of the equation for the thesis statement as follows:

CLAIM because REASON 1 and REASON 2.

If you have three stated reasons to support your claim, the equation for your thesis statement would be:

CLAIM because REASON 1, REASON 2, and REASON 3.

You must have no less than two and no more than three stated REASONS to support your primary CLAIM.

Further, your CLAIM must be either a Claim of Value or a Claim of Cause & Effect
(for extended background on types of claims and thesis statements, check out this page at OWL @ Purdue (Links to an external site.)).
Claim of Value:
“These are claims made of what something is worth, whether we value it or not, how we would rate or categorize something”
(via OWL (Links to an external site.)).
Claim of Cause & Effect:
“These claims argue that one person, thing, or event caused another thing or event to occur”
(via OWL (Links to an external site.)).

Essay Structure, Components, & Assessment
For this project, we’re going to follow an outline schema known as the “Classical Structure” (with applied APA standards for formatting, citation, and section headers). Here are the relevant details with point values for consideration:

Cover Page (20 points)
Fairly self-explanatory, this component of the grade is based on successful formatting of an APA-style cover page. See “Student APA Title Page” (Links to an external site.) for exemplification.
Essay: Introduction (35 points)
Your introduction should accomplish two things. First, you should reach out to your audience and effectively grab their attention. Do not assume your audience inherently wants to read your argument. You need to appeal to their sensibilities and engage them. Second, you must also explicitly provide a thesis statement (which, as described above, must consist of your CLAIM coupled with each of your REASONS written as a single thesis statement). Your introduction will likely need to be two paragraphs in length.

Essay: Background (35 points)
In this section, you’ll need to provide background to Sagan’s Demon Haunted World. Again, you should assume your audience neither knows who Sagan is nor has read Demon Haunted World. Thus, your job here is to provide context to Sagan’s original text (as it relates to your thesis) and to “build a bridge” from 1996, so to speak, to 2020 (again, as it relates to your thesis). The background section will likely be two paragraphs in length (one for Sagan’s text and the other for the “bridge” to today’s world). You will need to cite Demon Haunted World in this section, of course, but no other sources are required. Think of this section as laying the foundation (“what the audience needs to know”) before you move into your main lines of reasoning.

Essay: Lines of Reasoning (60 points)
This is the most important section of your essay. In this section, you’re going to explicitly argue each of your supporting reasons to support your primary claim. Each stated reason should consist of its own paragraph (or two). Further, you’ll need to provide grounds (and perhaps backing) in each of these paragraphs to support your stated reasons. This is the main argument of your paper. This is where your external research must be utilized. If you have three stated reasons, you’ll need at least three paragraphs, etc.

Essay: Rebuttal (35 points)
Likely consisting of only one paragraph, this section should acknowledge limitations to your argument and potential rebuttals against your lines of reasoning. In essence, the purpose of this section is to rhetorically acknowledge to your readers that you recognize there are oppositional views to your own and that there are limitations to your own lines of reasoning. This isn’t to undermine your own argument. Instead, it’s to demonstrate to your audience that you have, in practice, considered these oppositional views and limitations as a critical writer and thinker. Research in this section is not required.

Essay: Conclusion (35 points)
In your conclusion, you should reframe your thesis (your claim + reasons) to and for your audience right here, right now, in Fall term 2020. Punt your readers forward, as I like to say, and give your argument as sense of real world value. There should be a sense of closure, finality, and use value to your essay by the end.

References List (20 points)
Beginning at the top of the next page after the final paragraph of your essay, you should compose an APA-formatted list of References. The references list must include the four (or more) “high-ethos,” credible sources that serve as grounds/backing in your essay’s lines of reasoning section.

Overall Tone & Professionalism (60 points)
This grade is an overall, holistic score in response to the project as a whole. It is essentially driven by the preceding rubric points in relation to the assignment and the intentions of the writer. In a sense, this is an overall assessment of your rhetorical situation (your purpose, the audience, and the context of the essay itself).

A Note on Splash Effect!
Some issues can absolutely impact more than one rubric point concurrently. Insufficient proofreading, for example, can negatively impact any of the relevant “Essay” rubric scores as well as the “Overall Tone & Professionalism” rubric score. Similarly, unclear citations can confuse the reader in the body section and also diminish the “professionalism” score. Splash Effect is most evident with the “Overall Tone & Professionalism” rubric point in relation to other rubric points.

Project Requirements
o Due before 11:59 pm on Sunday 22 November;
o Late submissions are subject to late penalty standards as described on the syllabus;
o Final draft must be submitted in PDF format.
o Final draft must consist of 4-6 full pages of written text (not including cover page or References list) in APA format with 12 pt. Times New Roman font with standard 1″ margins.
o Final draft must adhere to APA standards for manuscript formatting and citation (via the References list (Links to an external site.)and in-text citations (Links to an external site.)). There should be no extra blank spaces between paragraphs and/or headings (other than standard double-spacing with no after-paragraph extra spacing).
o Final draft must utilize “Level 2” headings (flush left, boldface, title case heading) for the background, lines of reasoning, rebuttal, and conclusion sections; there should be no “introduction” header before the introduction. See Level 2 of the APA Headings chart on this page (Links to an external site.) for more details.
o You must use and cite Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World:
Sagan, C. (1995). The demon-haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark. Random House.
o You must also use and cite at least four external “high ethos,” credible sources that serve as grounds/backing in your essay’s lines of reasoning. Weak sources such as Wikipedia,, and the like will not count as “high ethos,” credible sources. You should utilize at least two academic, peer-reviewed sources accessed via the Hunt Library database system (Links to an external site.).
See Module 8 for an introduction to grounds/backing.
o Final draft must adhere to the project description and expectations described elsewhere on this page.

Potential Penalties
o If you fail to use and cite at least five sources (Sagan’s book plus four credible sources that serve as ground/backing in your essay’s lines of reasoning section), you will score zero out of 60 points for the Overall Tone & Professionalism Score (regardless of the quality of the rest of your paper).
o If your final draft does not consist of at least three full pages of written text (in APA format and with 12pt. Times New Roman font), you will score zero out of 6 points for the Overall Tone & Professionalism score (regardless of the quality of the rest of your paper).

Project Advice
If we critically look around us at the world we live in, particularly at our digital world, I think most of us would agree that we’re in a perilous phase of American culture and history. Misinformation and disinformation campaigns are rife with activity in our online lives, and many of us are somewhat desensitized to the affects of untruths/lies and the values of facts/reality. I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to suggest that this muddling of reality (or lack of critical awareness) may cause very real, very tangible problems in our respective futures (as individuals, as citizens, and even as a world). In other words, this project shouldn’t just be an arbitrary “academic” exercise. These issues carry with them very real effects in our everyday realities. Engage this project with and attitude of real-world use value. Attempt to move and persuade your audience, a very real-world audience, to more closely consider the reality they live within, to think more carefully and critically of the world they are enmeshed in. To put it bluntly: Write your essay to make a real difference. The more “real world” you approach this essay, the more likely you will land on the rhetorical and argumentative targets when it comes to assessment. Think critically, think academically, and engage your audience with calculated logos, ethos, and pathos!

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