English 103 // Essay 3 Prompt


As you know from your readings in the class and beyond (think newspapers, magazines, advertisements, television, and blogs) persuasion is at the heart of any good writing that takes a stand on a controversial issue.  As we’ve seen in the selections from Rereading America, writers often appeal to cultural myths and ideals in persuasive writing situations.  In Essay 3 you will write an original persuasive piece to influence a specific audience. Your argumentative essay will share many elements of a well-reasoned editorial in a newspaper, magazine, or blog.  Like most effective arguments, your essay should carefully consider competing viewpoints.  You should also make rhetorical use in your essay of one of the American cultural myths or ideals found in Rereading America to appeal to your audience.




Review your New Century Handbook 70-98.


Formulate an arguable thesis (p. 70-1) related to a specific current issue.  For example, the controversy might concern an issue related to your residence hall, the greater NIU campus, the greater DeKalb area or your own hometown community, or state, national or international affairs.


On separate pieces of paper, list as many contending positions as you can on the issue you have selected. Although outside resources are not required for this assignment, if you do use outside resources to investigate the positions surrounding your issue, be sure to note from where those resources came.  Typically, these outside resources should be restricted to factual information.


For each position, identify its core assumptions, arguments, and audience.  In addition, discuss which arguments you find compelling, and why.  You should also identify which of the cultural myths found in Rereading America most applies to the issue you are addressing or argument you will be making. This prewriting should help you narrow your claim to one that can be argued in a four to six page paper.


Audience Analysis:


You should presume that the intended goal of your essay is to sway the opinion of your intended audience.  Review pages 15-18 of The New Century Handbook and write an informal one-page description of your target audience and intended persona as writer that takes into account how you will appeal to and establish common ground with that audience. 




Review your prewriting, audience analysis, and section 6f (“Structure the Argument”) of your Handbook. Next, choose a medium that is an appropriate venue for both your audience and message. For example, if you are discussing a local issue that affects students, an opinion piece to be published in the Northern Star may be appropriate.  On the other hand, if the issue concerns the northern Illinois region, the Chicago Tribune may be a more appropriate venue.


Keeping in mind the conventions of the medium you have chosen, along with the audience considerations and advice from the handbook, draft your argument. Remember to support your claim with reasons and evidence, as well as to address opposing views.  Remember also to use one of the cultural myths from Rereading America as part of your appeal to your audience.  If you were writing about an issue related to religious expression, for example, you would want to appeal to your readers’ sensibility toward the American ideal of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.



Your argument should be 4-6 (full) pages in length and should observe the conventions of your chosen medium and publication. If you choose to use outside sources, either directly or indirectly, your essay should clearly identify the author, title, date, and place of publication of each source. Be careful not to plagiarize inadvertently!


You are highly encouraged to submit your argument for publication.



Essay 3 will receive a letter grade that will count for 10% of your final course grade. The successful essay will present a compelling argument to the target audience. Essays that fail to make and support clear claims, that fail to address contending views, that have haphazard organization, that adopt a tone that alienates or offends readers, or that are poorly developed will receive lower grades, as will essays with surface errors so numerous that they interfere significantly with communication.