The Social History of Alcohol
- Instructions for Position Papers
- Grading Guidelines for Position Papers
- Instructions for Final Research Papers
As indicated in the course syllabus, you are required to write three position papers during the semester. These papers are meant to give you a chance to focus on three topics which interest you, provide a thoughtful basis for leadership of discussion on those topics, and give you practice in efficiently and effectively summarizing and commenting upon othersí written work.
In a three to four page double-spaced essay (750-1,000 words), provide the following:
* a brief summary of the authorsí arguments, being sure to identify the overarching questions they are addressing.
* an original, critical response to these authors which evaluates the effectiveness of their arguments, relates the topic to other themes in the course, and offers your own insights.
In weeks that have just one topic (e.g., February 24th discussion of the role of women in temperance reform), include all authors for that week in your discussion. In weeks that have more than one topic (e.g. "The Self-Help Tradition" and "The Progressive Tradition" on March 3), pick one topic and discuss all the authors included under that topic.
Advice and Aid:
Please observe the page limits: your goal is concise, focused prose. We are happy to read first drafts of your papers, or to talk through them with you.
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Grading of the position papers will occur along the following lines:
An "A" paper will:
- have well-written, precise, and active sentences. Say what you need to say as simply and directly as possible, making the fewest possible words convey your meaning. Avoid unclear phrases, abstractions, or constructions that are vague and inexact. Instead, be as concrete as possible in your language. Write actively instead of passively. Have each paragraph contain one main idea, and then stick to that idea within the paragraph. Be sure that one sentence flows easily and naturally into the next, making good use of transitions. Do the same with your paragraphs.
- have an introduction and a conclusion. In the introduction establish what you will be discussing and concluding in your paper. You should have a clear thesis, or argument, as well ("I will discuss Burnhamís and MacAndrewís treatment of alcohol," is not a thesis. A thesis takes a position and asserts an interpretation. Make your conclusion more than just a summing up of the points made in your essay.
- identify and present each authorís argument, along with a brief summary of their reasoning and evidence. Note: identifying what the author argues is different from merely summarizing his/her topics ("Burnham claims that the repeal of Prohibition marked a crucial turning point in the American perception of drinking, when the countryís middle class stopped seeing drinking as a "bad habit" associated with the "lower orders" and came widely to accept and sanction it as a normal social activity" identifies an argument. "Burnham discusses the history of how Americaís middle class viewed drinking and other "bad habits", and charts the changes in these views through the nineteenth century, Prohibition and its repeal, and into modern times" summarzes a topic).
- offer a well-argued criticism of the readings.
- attempt to link, compare, and contrast readings, or set them in the broader context of the themes developed in the course.
A "B" paper will:
- be generally well-written, with sporadic but repeated problems (general or overly-vague sentences, confusing use of passive voice, paragraphs which stray from guiding idea, etc.).
- have incomplete summaries of arguments. In this short a paper we realize that you may not be able to cover everything that every author argues in your discussion -- the point is to zero in on the central questions each author addresses.
- offer a comparison of the works, but one which is vague or scattered.
- criticize the readings, but not deal with the authorís central argument.
A "C" paper will:
- contain sloppy, superficial, or inaccurate summaries of authorís arguments.
- be plauged by writing problems: lack of a thesis, wandering prose, vague and general statements, repeated grammatical errors.
- lack criticism that directly engages the authorís points, and is not supported or effectively argued.
- offer little or no comparison between discussed works
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Guidelines to be announced in the near future
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