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Assignment 3: Productive Counterargument

Proposal Due: Thursday, July 21

Rough Draft Due: Friday, July 22
Final Draft Due: Monday, July 25
Overview: The Productive Counterargument essay is your chance to influence your
readers to understand your position an issue you care about, whether or not you convince
them to agree with you. Argue a point. Clarify a position. Introduce an alternative option.
Correct a misconception. Refute an argument or belief. Take a stand. Change a behavior.
Launch a manifesto! All of these stances require you to address a position that differs
from your own in some (big or small) way.
Whatever stance you take, youll engage with a larger conversation (at least one opposing
or alternative perspective) on a topic that merits your intellectual energy and your
audiences attention. You will research multiple sides of the issue, respectfully consider
and address opinions you may not share, and respond to an existing argument with your
own productive counterargument.
Prompt: Identify an interesting problem or issue that affects you directly or affects a
community youre a part of and that merits your taking a stand.
First, think locally, rather than globally. You are more likely to make a strong, insightful,
impassioned, and fresh argument about issues affecting your hometown, your family, or
classmates in your major than about national or global issues like hunger, gun control, or
the drinking age.
Second, be sure the issue is debatable, which means it lends itself to genuine
disagreement and invites practical resolution. If you can solve the problem with an easy
change or if you cannot find an audience who might disagree with your stance, the issue
may be too simpleaim for a topic that populates multiple concerns for different
Process: As part of your proposal, you will explain your audience, exigence, and purpose
for addressing this topic. Consider carefully what you can accomplish with this particular
group of readers at this time. Additionally, you will identify three research questions that
will help you to better understand the factors involved in the issue and three library
resources that will help you to research articulated, published positions on the topic
and/or to learn more about the complexity of the issue. You may need to reach beyond
your local context to find appropriate resources, just be sure the resources you find will
provide relevant, useful context.
After submitting your proposal, you will select an existing argument on the topic to
which you will be respondingperhaps it will come from one of the library resources
you identified in your proposal, or perhaps you will need to do some additional digging.
The existing position should be reasonable and argumentative (it should strike a clear
position), though it may have some flaws you would like to explore or expose. This
argument provides your exigence for writing: You are responding directly to this

argument with your own productive counterargument. You do not have to disagree with
the existing argument 100%, but you should have a distinct, original position to present to
your audience in order to achieve a clear purpose.
As youre drafting, be sure to define the situation or problem that calls for your attention.
Consider the character of your audiencefriendly? hostile? mixed?and how best you
can address them. Consider how your readers will respond to the existing argument and
to your counterargument. Consider what facets of the problem or the existing argument
you may need to summarize. Consider how you might establish common ground and
build consensus with the opposition, even as you use refutation and rebuttal to distinguish
your own position. Consider what persuasive arguments, examples, reasoning, and
rhetorical appeals will best achieve your purpose.
After drafting, youll revise and edit. Consider carefully how you should refer to your
readers and your topic. Consider the tone you should establish. Consider the best
rhetorical uses of sentence structure.
Format: Your final draft should be 4-6 pages (double-spaced, 12-point, TNR font, 1
margins). When citing your outside source(s), you will follow MLA format (see HGW
Ch. 19 and/or the PSU Libraries Citation Research Guide: _citation.html).
Grading Criteria: Your essay should (1) define a debatable issue clearly; (2) address a
specific audience; (3) identify and summarize an existing position; (4) respond to an
existing argument with a convincing, rhetorically effective counterargument; (5) support
your claims with examples, details, and reasoning; (6) use outside research that is
credible and appropriate, as well as properly cited following MLA guidelines; and (7)
demonstrate the potential to influence your audience toward your purpose.