Prof. McMahand


English Composition


Criteria for Research and Persuasion Essay

·         Must be five to six pages in length

·         Must be correctly formatted and documented in the MLA stylebook

·         Must contain at least three sources but no more than five (web sources must be approved)

·         Subjects must be focused, not trite, nor polarizing.  Off-limits: abortion, the legal drinking age, euthanasia, gun control, capital punishment, religion or prayer in schools, Confederate flag, affirmative action, and stem cell research

·         Thesis must be argumentative with something to prove, a controversy involving at least two sides.  You must articulate both but choose your own position.


Proposal (due        )


·         Include your working thesis.

·         Include a brief description of two or three articles you plan to cite in your essay.

·         Describe the position you will take and list three or four reasons explaining why.

·         Must be a paragraph in length, typed, well edited, and polished.

·         Attach the articles to your proposal.


General Plan and Structure of Essay

(Final Draft due           )


·         General topic

·         Address Question at Issue

·         Thesis



·         Define terms, issues, and the opposing side

·         Give needed background information

·         Provide reasons and claims for the position that you have chosen, using:

                                    Causal connections


                                    Facts and Examples

                                    Expert Opinions

·         Point and Counterpoint.  Dedicate half a page fairly laying out the opponent’s argument and as much space rationally countering the opposition.




·         Restate in different language the thesis and the major reasons.

·         Include inquiry for further study, research, or discussion.  


As usual, all essays must include a correctly formatted Works Cited page following the text as well as the proper citation of quotes within the text.   Place your final drafts, rough drafts, peer edits, prewriting, and research (highlighted) in an envelope or folder.


Essay Topics


Many of these controversies are extremely current and on-going in their development.  Therefore, much, if not all, of your research will come from newspapers, weekly periodicals, and on-line journals.  Do not rely on blogs or other personalized webpages.  Also note that several topics contain subtopics that could stand alone as the focus of your research and argument. Lastly, bear in mind that some issues—like nationalized healthcare—are micro-spatial and contain more subset issues that I can possibly list here.  Be open to new angles and avenues in determining the focus of your research and argument.    


1.      the ethics of the pornography industry

*(How) should the government track or regulate the porn industry?

*Does porn damage or enable its subjects and viewers?

*What (if any) porn is protected free speech?

2.      gender assignment for (infant) intersex people

*At what age should a parent or doctor assign gender to a child with ambiguous genitalia?

3.      the ethics of the U. S. Patriot Act

*Argue for or against wire-tapping and Internet tracking

*Weigh the loss of privacy and civil liberties against the pursuit of public safety and national security 

4.      Foucaultean tracking devices/parental tracking devices

*Do parents have the right to track their teenaged children?

5.      environmental racism

*What (if any) restitution should go to impoverished (often minority) communities impacted by undue corporate environmental violations?

6.      California’s Proposition 8: banning same sex marriage—should the overturning be reversed and for what reasons?

7.      gay parent adoption—should the Catholic Church and other religious organizations be forced to consider gay parents as adoption candidates?  Consider all angles of discrimination.   

8.   California’s Proposition 19: legalizing marijuana—should the ban be overturned and

      for what reasons?

9.   federal funding for National Endowment of the Arts (NEA)

10. the national homeless crisis

11. pro-anorexia movement

      *Do pro-ana websites deserve the same protection under the First Amendment as

      other forms of protected speech?

12. racial profiling in police work and national security

      *Weigh individual rights against public safety.

13.  mainstreaming special needs children—consequences and drawbacks

14.  alternative high schools for marginal populations—gay students and “at risk” students

15. hate crime legislation for racial and sexual minorities

16. single race specification for multiracial individuals

17.  body dysmorphia in males and females

18.  hazing and bullying in high school and college—focus on bullying OR hazing

*Suggest a series of solutions for the epidemic spread of bullying and teen suicides

*Should federal, state, or local governments enact anti-cyber-bullying laws?

*Is cyber-bullying protected free speech?

*How responsible are teachers, administrators, and other students in hazing cases?

* How responsible are teachers, administrators, and other students in hazing cases?

19. the sexual exploitation of women by pop and hip hop music videos, mass media,

      and tabloid journalism

20. cyber-sex predatorialism—prosecution and policies regarding Internet pedophiles

     *Should the government outlaw web cams for children?

     *To what extent should we hold teenagers culpable for participating in or producing

       Internet pornography?— i.e. the Justin Berry case

     *To what extent should parents pay punitively for the actions of their porn-producing


     *How far should the law hold teens responsible in “sexting” cases?

21.  post-Katrina controversy

      *the remaking of certain neighborhoods and sections in New Orleans

      *the displacement of New Orleans’ poor

22.  Illegal Immigration (in particular the influx of and resistance to Latinos)

       *Weigh in on Arizona’s new anti-illegal immigration law

23.  legalization of prostitution

24.  Internet brides from third world nations—Is this practice an advanced form of

       international dating or sex trafficking?

25.  argumentative solutions for the methamphetamine (meth) crisis            

26.  bug chasing, the ethical and legal consequences

27.  the controversial plight of Native Americans on reservations—restitution or more


28.  national debate on health care reform

      *the constitutionality of the Obama comprehensive healthcare law

      *should employers opt out of providing certain benefits such as for contraception and

       abortion because of religious objections.  Consider all angles of discrimination.  

29.  disclosure of sex offenders in any given community

      *Does the sex registry prevent sex-offenders from re-entering the mainstream?

      *Does the registry go far enough in protecting children and other potential victims?

30.  No child left behind—why many states are reassessing and breaking with the policy