Debriefing the Persuasive Essay

Free Will vs. Determinism 2. Moral Considerations vs. Economic Considerations 3. Are People Inherently Empathetic?

A Critical Issue
O Not writing on one of the available topics. O Example: Some people wrote on whether or

not someone should believe in free will. That wasn·t the question. The question is which one is true. So the question is, to put it in other words, whether people are ever truly free or whether their actions are decided or determined by forces beyond their control.

Is Free Will or Determinism Correct:
O Examples in favor of free will being correct:

It seems I am clearly able to choose the clothes I put on in the morning and it seems I can choose which books to read.
O Examples in favor of determinism: It is clear

that I cannot choose whether or not I will die and I cannot choose whether the sun goes around the earth.

That is NOT the same as:
O Is it better for me or not if I believe I can·t

control the events of my life?
O If you wrote on this issue, you must re-write

your paper.

Another Critical Issue:
O Some people did not provide an argument in

favor of their thesis, a counterargument where you explain the concerns of someone who disagrees with that thesis, and a rebuttal where you address the concerns of someone who disagrees with you. O These components are what constitutes a persuasive essay and without them, you have not fulfilled the basic requirements.

An Example of this Structure:
O People are free to choose and here are two

examples that explain why I think this:
O Some people say we are not free to choose, that

all of our actions are determined and here are two examples they might have in mind:
O However, my argument that people are indeed

able to choose is still stronger because I can address the objections of someone who disagrees:

So how did these issues happen?
O In almost all instances, these confusions

occurred as a direct result of leaving out one of the necessary elements of the introduction. This is why those elements are critical. They set the structure of the rest of your essay. Generally, in essays that will need to be re-written, the author did not clarify the issue or he/she did not write the guiding question.

Less Problematic Issues:
O Being wishy-washy: Some writers still

wanted to argue that, for instance, free will is and is not true. Doing that means your structure will inevitably suffer. In addition, if you follow the structure, you can still reach that conclusion, but only by going through those steps.

O People are genuinely free O Some people say they are not O People are, however, still free, but I admit

that there is a sense in which they are not free to change gravity, but those examples do not show that in most instances people are free to choose.

Not having a conclusion:
O I am not entirely sure how this happened

except that I did not give you a stem paragraph for the conclusion. I did, however, require that you have one. Look at the yellow sheet that explained the assignment. ALL formal essays require a conclusion.

Failure to elaborate on examples:
O Let·s say that you are arguing that moral

considerations are more important than economic considerations and you want to give me some examples. Saying that abortion is important is not enough. How is this an issue that is more important than the economy? Explain this to me.

An Example that is too Brief:
O Some people believe in determinism because they

can·t control death or that the earth goes around the sun. How does that show determinism is universally true? Are these really two examples or are they the same kind of example? Is that the only kind of example one might pick? If it is, tell me why they think those examples prove their point since not everything is that obvious. If they think other things are determined, discuss what those things are. Your argument is only as good as your examples.

O When people argue in favor of determinism,

they often choose examples of events, such as death, that we cannot avoid or facts, such as that the earth travels around the sun, that we cannot control. Clearly we cannot avoid death because all biological organisms succumb to disease or old age, nor are we in control of the laws of the universe. Each of these represent scientific facts.

O This is quite different, however, than arguing that

my choice of t-shirt is determined, but a person who seriously advocates determinism could argue that as well. He or she might say that although it seems I am free to choose whichever shirt I want, my choices are restricted by my tastes, which are shaped solely by my culture·s views of style and color and by the choices available to me in the past, most of which were determined by my parents· favorite colors. In that sense, while I may seem free to choose my t-shirt, there is a sense in which because of where I grew up and with whom, I am not free to choose a bright pink kimono today, even if it is true that no one is forcing me not to.

O There was one language issue common to

all of the papers with language issues and it was the use of fragments.
O Here is the most commonly occuring

O For example, death.

How to fix that:
O Grammatical errors are not, for the most

part, violations of rules that someone just made up on a Tuesday. A grammatical error is an error in clear communication. If each sentence reflects a complete idea, you will have no fragments. Ask yourself: Does this sentence express a complete idea?

O While the misuse of commas was not as

frequent, it was there. This also has a relatively easy fix that does not require memorizing anything. Read your sentences out loud to yourself. Notice where, naturally, you hesitate or you include a short pause and that is usually where a comma goes.

O We are getting much better at this, but

sometimes I encountered paragraph or sentences that made little sense.
O The fix for this it to realize that when you

write an essay, you are using what is called ´academic language,µ which is quite different from the language we use most often.

Academic Language?
O The best way to begin to use academic language

is to pick a person who uses it all or most of the time, and when you re-read your papers, pretend that he or she is speaking. Alternatively, pretend you are explaining your points to someone who uses academic language. In other words, pretend you are writing to me, not to the man or woman in your head (who I certainly hope is not me).

Now for the good news:
O We are going to the computer lab tomorrow

where we will all re-write our papers. Those re-written papers will represent your final grade. That is very good news because it means that everyone who turned in a paper the first time around now has credit for a draft. It is even better news for people who did NOT turn a paper in the first time around, because now you can do that.

O Do I have a guiding question? O Have I defined my key terms? It is not a definition if it

repeats the term to be defined in the definition.
O Not a definition: Cats are things that are cat-like. O A definition: Cats are members of the species felines

and they include everything from house cats to tigers. All felines are carnivores, but their social habits differ. Some hunt in groups, some are solitary.

O Do I have two examples for each body

O Are they the best examples I could give? O Are they just one kind of example or are they

genuinely different kinds of examples.

O Would a story help me explain my example? O Have I explained exactly why my example

proves my point or have I supposed it does?
O Does my rebuttal address the concerns I

outlined in my counterargument?
O Do I have a conclusion?

O Are my sentences clear? If I were to explain

my points to my teacher, would she or he understand?
O Do I express myself in complete sentences? O Do I use commas?

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