Persuasion: Problem/Solution

AT A GLANCE:

●Boldly solve a weighty and difficult problem in a way that benefits all stakeholders. Choose a Problem as your topic area—it will be a while before we even start talking about any solutions (when we do, it will be a win-win-win solution that will benefit all affected stakeholders).

●Thesis and Outline should refer to the problem, the solution, the claim of fact, the claim of value, and the claim of policy (and, eventually, objections to your thesis).

●Purpose: To Persuade.

●Audience: Affected Stakeholders. You will report on the situation as it exists, and answer their likely objections.

●Voice should appropriate to your task (not punitive) and need not be strictly formal (may use first person and contractions).

●Paper is 6-8 pages long. Before you turn your paper in, highlight your thesis statement if you have included it in your paper. Include cover images for the problem, the solution, and the unified paper. Include cover sheet with checklist. We will write this paper in two parts: first, we will complete topic selection, thesis, outline, research, pre-writing, rough draft, wild draft, and workshop draft for the problem only (other steps may be assigned as needed). Then, second, we will repeat the process with an emphasis on win-win-win solutions.

●Use MLA for format and source citation. A minimum of five sources required, including at least one scholarly journal article. Please enter through the College Library tab on the website.

●Process must be turned in and include required steps (prewriting, research, thesis, outline) culminating in a rough draft (may be handwritten or typed), wild draft (handwritten or typed), workshop draft (must be typed), workshop rubric, and final draft (must be typed). You will have a checklist to help you account for these steps and elements of the writing process.

Preparation

Daydream and prewrite until you come up with a suitable problem area.  Please list at least 15 possibilities and prewrite for three minutes each on at least three.  Any kind of arguable, provable, public, and weighty problem is fine as long as the paper meets the requirements of the assignment. Think of problems that we could reasonably weigh in on as we participate in a democracy. If you would like me to assign a problem to you, I will assign one on request after you complete this process.

–You will be exploring a problem in order to present a solution. This should be a win-win-win solution that will satisfy and/or serve all stakeholders (excepting universally accepted criminal behavior)—or at least not single anyone out for undeserved harm. It should work for America. It should be authentic, not a rhetorical game.

Start by brainstorming problems in our culture (unmotivated K-12 students, wealth inequality, loss of privacy, broken treaties, national debt, sexism, obesity, homeless veterans, climate change, automation and AI, coarseness of culture, the pandemic, etc.) Then narrow and deepen your topic. You will research to establish facts about the problem, understand it as a whole system with moving parts, and then proceed to develop a frame of values and a solution.

Consider the assigned readings.  What methods do these writers use that you could use (or avoid) for your topic?  For example, how do they handle the opening and closing paragraphs? How do they appeal to multiple audiences? How do they achieve economy of language? How do they organize? How do they handle pacing and transitions? Do they leverage factual information effectively?

–Consider the required claims:

Claim of fact: What is the objective truth about the problem area? What misconceptions exist in the imagination of your (possibly quite diverse) audience? What misconceptions have you overcome? How have the facts changed over time? Research is required. Use a fact-check website when applicable and prioritize sources with legitimate expertise. Do not make unsupported generalizations; provide specific, reality-based support from trustworthy and verifiable sources.

Claim of value: What is the subjective truth about the issue? Have things changed? What would your grandmother say? What advice could you give? Reflect on the problem in the context of values, morals, and tastes. Research might inspire you. Turn to admirable thinkers, philosophers, specialists, professionals, taste-makers, patriots, practitioners, musicians, influencers, and moral leaders for good ideas.

Claim of policy: What could and should be done to improve the situation? Your solution will take the form of a plan, policy, or law that will resolve, or at least mitigate, the targeted problem. Research will probably help you combine others’ proposed solutions with your own original thinking. If your solution would cost money, and yours probably will, propose a realistic funding source. This claim of policy must consider the well-being of all stakeholders—any and all Americans who would be affected by the plan you propose. 

You may not shift a harm from one group to another: This is a win-win-win solution. If your plan requires some cost, sacrifice, or enforcement, you must account for that—if there is a cost, propose a funding source; if workers are displaced, create a mechanism for support or retraining; if you propose a law, establish penalties, incentive, and cost for enforcement. For example, you are free to argue for a law that makes coal mining illegal. To follow up, all those coal miners (that will now be unemployed) entered a legal profession—in the context of the paper, you can’t just throw them under the bus, but offer fair compensation for their loss of employment—since we’d all benefit from no coal mines, should we as taxpayers take care of those miners’ subsistence incomes?

–You must argue the claims in a way that will be understood by your audience. Audience is assigned: all people who are affected by either the problem or the solution that you put forward, including policy-makers. Keep in mind that part of this audience will likely be predisposed to agree with you; other parts of the audience will oppose you vigorously. Address legitimate objections and create clarity in the problem and then inclusion of all citizens in your solution.

Research is required. Our goal with this paper is to use appropriate sources effectively—five or more appropriate, legitimate sources (with full citation information available) will be needed. Include at least one scholarly journal article. Give credit to your sources using the MLA. You must do this correctly to pass the paper. Your handbook gives you a very good baseline for MLA. Purdue OWL is excellent—you can search most source types there.

–Brainstorm, prewrite, outline, organize, and write at least three drafts before workshop. The Problem will be written about and workshopped well in advance of completing this paper. Four drafts are required for each paper in this class: Wild Draft (written after your outline, but not consulting it), Rough Draft written from your outline (may be handwritten or typed and printed), Workshop Draft (typed and submitted to peer review; it should be a good paper—if you were to turn it in for a content class, you would expect to pass), and the Final Draft (typed, well-supported, and error-free).

REQUIREMENTS

–Push beyond the pro-con model of “debate.” Don’t throw any of your drafting materials away.

–Your thesis must be well defined.  It should be one sentence that includes your claims and support summary.  It may not be a question (though it might be the answer to a question). It should refer in some recognizable way to the required parts of the paper—problem, solution, claim of fact, claim of value, claim of policy, and the heart to heart answering of objections. This should be a boring, hardworking sentence. As you begin to grapple with the Problem portion of the assignment, expect that your thesis will go through some changes.

Purpose is assigned: to persuade. You are seeking a sincere change of heart and mind through your solution to a controversial or intractable problem. Forget about “sides” and “winning.” Instead, make the problem go away. Literally: solve them. The basis of persuasion should be that you have the best ideas and the most compassion for stakeholders.

Audience is assigned: Stakeholders. Your audience is actively informed, but divided. Perhaps your audience members have fallen prey to misinformation or have a stunted or outdated perspective on the problem. Though stakeholders may be resistant to your plan, you must ensure that none will be unnecessarily harmed by your solution. You will be proposing to act—genuinely—in their—our–best interests.

–Show compassion for your audience and try to make them your friend rather than your enemy. You are proposing a solution that some members of your audience may be inclined to agree with, while others may be inclined to reject.  Alternately, you may find that your entire audience disagrees with you, but for very different reasons.

–Describe the “state of the problem.” You must objectively describe the situation as it really exists—in the real reality. Your full audience should more or less agree with this assessment by the time you are done persuading them. We will workshop a draft of this portion of the paper before proceeding to the solution. This situation report should lay out all the verifiable facts of the problem.

–You must explore audience opinions and likely objections to your thesis. Report on three or more distinct perspectives on the problem. Preempt likely objections to your solution.

–Using sources, make a claim of fact that presents relevant, reliable, verifiable evidence.

–Using sources, make a claim of value that directs your reader to understand these facts in the context of relevant American values or other carefully-defined moral claims.

–Using sources, make a claim of policy. Seek to find, combine, or invent a solution (or solutions) to solve the problem (or problems) you have identified and that meets our needs as a nation. This should be a plan for everybody. There should be no “collateral damage” of citizens who are excluded from benefiting.

Your voice should invite dialogue; do not make word choices that would predictably be understood by any members of your audience to be combative, punitive, or propagandistic.

–Both the workshop and final drafts must be typed and double-spaced, using the MLA format. Your last name and a page number must appear on every page.  Do not justify the right margin.  

–On the first page, use the MLA format.  (A sample “page one” may be found at Purdue OWL.) In addition, add a paper ID in brackets as the last item in the heading—this will help both of us keep track of multiple drafts and ensures that you receive credit for multiple drafts. This paper’s ID will be [Persuasion, Wild Draft], [Persuasion, Outline/Rough Draft], [Persuasion, Workshop Draft], then [Persuasion, Final Draft] when you turn it in as part of your final portfolio.  If you revise multiple final drafts, it will become [Persuasion, Revision Draft].

–The length must be between six and eight pages (ask first if you would like to write a much longer paper).

–The organization for the paper must include the following:

Title

Introduction  Grab your reader’s attention.  Do not merely             preview.  Give the impression that this is going to be a dynamic, fruitful experience for your audience. (Write last.)

Body   The order of development and the formal outline is up to you, but you should write it first and include these things:

  • Situation Report—Objectively describe and clearly define the nature of the problem.
  • Resolve Stakeholder Objections—Anticipate, acknowledge, and accommodate opposing ideas. Put fears to rest and show that you have the best interests of all in mind. 
  • Claim of Fact— Report information that the reader needs to know in order to understand your position. Clear up misconceptions, myths, disinformation, and urban legends.
  • Claim of Value—Clearly define the values, principles, morals, and aesthetics that you are applying to the problem and solution. Link these values to both your claim of fact and your claim of policy. May operate as a bridge or thread in your organization.
  • Claim of Policy—Propose your solution in the form of a plan.  Think through the true costs and unintended consequences of your plan, and accommodate all stakeholders. For instance, if your plan would incur a financial burden, make funding one feature of your proposal.

Closing           Provide closure for the issue, and leave your reader with something to                                            ponder.  Do not merely summarize. (Write last.)

Suggestions

–Ask yourself: Am I cutting to the heart of my topic? How might I solve a problem that existing strategies and society at large have not been able to solve? How can I simplify the complexities of the problem/solution without losing momentum and accuracy?

–Read your paper out loud to yourself and listen for correctness and clarity. Proofread one sentence at a time backwards, starting with the last sentence.

–Remember that an extreme position sounds less “reasonable” and is therefore more difficult to defend, even if it is correct.

–Think for yourself.

–Rely heavily on the legitimate expertise of others.

Write until you learn something new.

–Use your curiosity to make discoveries and inform the voice of the paper.

–Rely on the skills you have, and experiment with new skills as you acquire them.

–Be willing to change your thesis if you find that the evidence does not support your original thinking and prewriting—this is essential.

–Start doing some light research right away, so that any changes you make to your thesis are not attempted at the last minute.

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