Proposals are one of the most common types of writing tasks you will be asked to complete, both in college and in the working world. For this essay, your goal is to identify and explain a social problem, discuss several different possible solutions to the problem, then argue that one solution to this problem is preferable to or better than all the others, and address counter-argument to your solutions. Being able to identify a problem, think through the implications of that problem, propose possible solutions, and explain why different solutions are more or less practical than others is a valuable set of skills to possess, and they tie together a lot of the analysis, argumentation, and rhetorical concepts we have discussed this semester.
There are a couple of things your essay must include or accomplish. These are:
- A clearly defined thesis statement: Your introduction paragraph must have a thesis statement, in which you reveal the problem you are addressing and the several possible solutions you will propose, ending with your best solution. Your thesis MUST state that one particular solution is definitely better than the others.
- A clear summary of the problem you will be addressing: You should tell your audience why the topic you are discussing is an important problem to address. As you begin to plan your essay, be sure to think about who your audience is and what they know about the problem. Consider who can actually put your solution into practice; a general audience or “I’m writing to anyone” is not acceptable. In some cases, you may have to argue that the problem you are addressing really does exist and really should be solved.
- Discussion of the solutions you will propose: Each solution should be separately developed and distinct from the other solutions. You should propose at least 3 solutions to the problem and make sure all of the solutions are practical and realistic in relation to the problem at hand. Each solution should be discussed in its own paragraph. Oversimplified or impractical solutions are not acceptable, nor are solutions that could not actually happen in the real world.
- You are to argue why one solution is better that all the others: By the end of your essay, your reader should know beyond any doubt which solution you feel is the best way to deal with the problem, and why. In choosing the “best” solution, you need to decide what makes a solution better. Is the solution cheaper? Less risky? Quicker? More likely to help the most people? Does it require fewer resources? You need to let your reader know what criteria you are using to decide why you think one solution is the “best” solution.
- You must have clear counterargument and refute: A counter argument is a claim or argument that seeks to prove another claim or argument is wrong. If you tell me something is a possible solution to the problem, for instance, the counter argument could be all the things that are bad with that solution. You want to cover the good and bad aspects of each solution as you discuss them, and if a solution is not the best solution explain why the downsides of that solution outweigh any possible positive aspects. When you reach the best solution, you will want to offer refutes – reasons why the counter argument can be overlooked, ignored, or is otherwise handled in such a way to make one solution preferable to the others.
- You must consider your audience: For this essay, I will not be giving you any direct instructions regarding who your audience is. Each essay’s audience will depend on the problem being discussed, but you should keep your audience in mind as you write your essay. It is not necessary to assume your audience is currently affected by the problem at hand. In fact, depending on the problem you are trying to solve you may need to choose an audience who is not affected by, or does not know the problem exists, to help you fully explore the different solutions available and which one you think is the best. THE AUDIENCE IS NOT THE COURSE INSTRUCTOR!!! Neither is your audience the general public. You will need to think outside the box and decide who needs to hear your message, and who can actually put your best solution into practice.
- You must consider how to organize your ideas: How do you want to present ideas in this essay? Do you want to lay out each possible solution, discussing its pros and cons, then explain why you think one is the “best” solution?” Do you want to start with the “best” solution, then discuss other less desirable solutions as a way to support your claim that one solution is superior? This is a decision you, as the composer, must come up with based on the solutions you are arguing for/against and the audience you are trying to reach. With that said, I will give you this piece of advice: when discussing “alternative” solutions – that is, the solutions that are not your “best” solution – you should spend significantly more time talking about the reasons why they won’t or can’t work than you do talking about how they might work under perfect conditions.
- You must use outside sources: For this essay, I am expecting you to use a minimum of five (5) sources. These should be the same sources you found in your Annotated Bibliography Assignment. If you think your sources are not useful to you, that’s because you did a poor job researching them to begin with. You should use your research sources to support your main ideas, not to replace them. I will be looking to see that you’ve made effective use of quotes and paraphrases, that they support your ideas, that you have synthesis among and between sources, that you do not “pad” your essay with long quotes to meet the length requirement, that you use research from reputable and reliable sources, and that your sources are relevant to your topic.
You will be sticking with the same general topic for the remainder of the semester, so you want to pick something you are interested in talking/writing about in a variety of contexts. Your topic must be a social issue, something that seriously affects the lives and/or livelihood of people in the community. “Community” here can mean any number of things: Howard County, the HCC campus, the individual town or city where you live, or a cultural community to which you belong.
Although I am willing to approve a wide range of topics, I do have certain topics that are off limits. These topics will not be approved, and any assignments written on these topics will automatically receive a 0/0%/F grade. Some of these topics are not appropriate for the scope of our class; some of them have just been done to death and there is nothing new to be said about them; others cannot be argued in a detached, neutral, objective way; and others have never resulted in good essays and I’m frankly just sick of reading about them. Off limit topics are anything related to abortion, capital punishment/death penalty, anything related to gun control and/or the second amendment, immigration, nuclear weapons/power, anything of an overtly religious or spiritual nature, advocating for or against war (current or past), advocating for or against a political candidate or party (foreign or domestic), allowing high school students to become professional athletes, concussions or other injuries in professional sports, performance enhancing substances, legalizing marijuana or any other drugs, or lowering the drinking age.
I know this probably sounds like I’m putting all the good topics off limits, but believe me, there is still plenty you can talk about. Examples of topics you may want to discuss include obesity, the opioid epidemic, food deserts, environmental destruction, human sex trafficking and slavery, gentrification, the objectification of women in the media, fracking, various types of pollution, the cost of education, and so on. These are just examples, you don’t have to pick any of them, but they give you a sense of what’s available. I suggest thinking about what issues impact you in your day-to-day life, and think of a way to address one of these issues in your work.
NOTE: Here are some additional topics that were brainstormed in class on March 29: homelessness, unemployment, home foreclosures, wage stagnation, electronic addiction, cost and access of public transportation, single use plastics, plastic pollution in the ocean, deforestation, air pollution from car exhaust, second hand smoking, anorexia.
All formal essays for this class, including this one, must follow MLA-style formatting guidelines. This includes 1-inch margins, 12-point Times New Roman font, double spacing, a title (something more catchy or interesting than Analysis Essay or Formal Essay #1), your last name and page number in the right heading of each page and an MLA header with your name, the professor’s name, the course title and the due date in the top left corner of the first page. You must also include a Works Cited page with correctly formatted bibliographic listings, and proper quote conventions within the body of your essay. None of this should be unfamiliar to you at this point; if it is, you’re in big trouble.
The essay should be no less than five (5) full pages. I am happy to read more than this, but anything less than five pages will not receive a passing grade.
Your essay should be written in a formal, academic tone. Strive to achieve a detached, neutral, third-person perspective; first-person “me” and “I” statements have no place in this essay.
You will write two drafts of this essay: a First Draft and a Final Draft. As you write the Final Draft you should strive not just to “correct errors,” but to understand how your own writing functions and work to make revisions that reflect a deeper understanding of the task, your writing skill, and a larger understanding of your writing process.
Annotated Bibliography of six sources separately
For this class, you will be writing Annotated Bibliography entries for research sources found for Essays #2: Argument Essay and #3: Proposal and Solutions Essay. You will be submitting two Annotated Bibliography entries to me for each assignment due date. This means you will need to research, read, and evaluate two sources every week, and write an Annotated Bibliography listing for that source, which you will then submit to me. Your submissions should include/do the following for each source:
- A correct MLA bibliographic citation for EACH SOURCE (as would appear on a works cited page in a formal essay).
- A brief 3-4 sentence summary of the source, including the thesis and conclusions the author draws. I do mean BRIEF here: summaries are what the source is about or what the author attempts to communicate in the writing, but do not contain a lot of specific details.
- An evaluation paragraph of 5-8 sentences that indicate the value this source might have – or not have, as the case might be – to one of your formal essay assignments, and why. How do you see the source helping you in one of your formal essay projects? If you ultimately determine the essay is not helpful, what about the source is not useful? To put it another way, think of this paragraph as an extension of the Rhetorical Analysis essay earlier this semester, think of this paragraph as attempting to answer the “why” and “how” of the source.
- Identify and provide three quotes from the text that you feel may be useful, either to help substantiate a point you are trying to make in one of your essay projects or that you think could be used to help build a counter argument/claim. Be selective with your quotes.
Essay topic proposal separately
The purpose of this Topic Proposal is to help you get a feeling for what you are going to write about. Please note, you are not required to use everything you write here in your final essay. Remember, writing is a process, and things will change over time. But the more work you put into your essay in these prewriting stages, the better your final essay will be. You will note that I am asking for more solutions/counter arguments here than I am asking for in the essay assignment. This is to give you plenty of ideas and information to draw from as you write your essay.
What problem are you writing about?
Why did you choose this subject?
Write for around ten minutes about the problem you have chosen to analyze, noting everything you know about it (focusing on proving it is a problem).
Write down all the things you can think of that could be solutions to your problem. Also, next to each potential solution, explain why you think it is real and important.
- Counterarguments and Refutes
List possible counterarguments your readers might have to your proposed solutions. Next to each counterargument, explain how you would refute it in your essay.
- Best Possible Solution
Now that you have explored several solutions and counterargument, choose what you believe to be the best possible solution to your problem. Then explain why you believe it is the best possible solution.
- Audience Consideration
Who is your target audience? (Remember, the purpose of an essay like this is to propose a solution to a problem, so your audience is most likely the person or people who can put your solution into action)
How did you decide who your target audience is?
What, if anything, does your target audience already know about your topic before they read your essay? What attitudes does your audience have about your topic? Do they know the problem you are writing about exists, or do you need to inform them? Do they know it exists, but do not believe it is a problem and need to be convinced?