Project One: Using Context to Clarify Argument

This project has two assignments: A group assignment and an individual paper. For the group assignment, working in groups of three or four, each group selects one text from the readings.

Your group objective is twofold:

  • By way of the categories, explain the Surrounding Context of the reading; and
  • Interpret/show how contextual information helps us understand the essay, how this information makes the argument more effective for an audience in a particular time and place.

That’s the Group Assignment (completed via individual research and writing).

The second assignment is an Individual Paper:

  • An individual Paper (3-4 pages) completing a rhetorical analysis of his/her group’s article.
    1. Focus on the most prominent appeals (you have limited space).
    2. Provide excellent evidence and COMMENTARY that EXPLAINS how each example supports your evaluation. You are making an argument in this 3-4 page paper.

The group assignment is a paper and a presentation.  Each group member focuses on the information of a particular category (see Context Categories below), and locates references to said category in the author’s text and in research.  From the research into the categories of context, students provide an explanation of how his/her particular area of context affects the reader’s understanding of the overall text; evaluate how these elements of context make the argument more effective given the rhetorical situation (context). In other words, show your audience how the research helps us, as readers, in better understanding the text.

With this research, you’re really looking at clues that clarify why or how this author constructed this argument. What led to him/her writing this text? That’s what you are looking for: clues concerning the composition.

For the group assignment, each student writes a 1 to 1 ½ page single-spaced paper about his/her category. You will each focus on one category and write your explanation of that research and interpretation.

In addition, the group presents these findings in front of the class in a 10-15 minute presentation.  Groups may, if they want, use a short Ppt. to help convey their findings.

The Order of the Presentation

  • Introduction: Explain the project and introduce the content
  • Author’s life and works and how this context affects the argument
  • Context of publication/audience and how this context affects the argument
  • The larger conversation and how this context affects the argument
  • The historical context and how this affects the argument
  • Conclusion: how overall understanding of this particular text is enhanced by knowledge of its context.

Context Categories

  1. Author’s life and works (his/her political goals) – Elements of his personal ethos, his project(s), his background.  Can you find any references in the text? Does an authorial reputation precede the text?
  2. Context of publication – The particular genre and where it was published, or “presented” and to whom, are factors in evaluating this argument.
  3. The larger conversation – What were others saying in texts at or around the time of your text’s publication?
  4. Historical context – What was happening culturally and historically that may have influenced your author in writing this text?

Again, each student should write about 1 page single-spaced for his/her group assignment.  You should each have a works-cited. The research is not necessarily scholarly. You will have, most likely, a few different sources.

Assessment Criteria for Project # 1

The group assignment is worth 25 points and the rhetorical analysis is worth 20 points.  The entire assignment is worth 45 of the 100 points possible in this class.

Evaluation Criteria for Part One:

Successful Group Papers and Presentations

  1. The introduction can be somewhat creative to engage your audience and explain what contextual analysis is (what is context?); also, you are introducing your author giving a brief sketch of his/her argument.
  2. Each group member then explains the work he/she did with a particular category.  You should not read your paper; instead, paraphrase, but please illustrate with specific evidence.  Use visuals if you would like.  Explain the enhanced understanding of the text from this research.  That’s the key. You have to bring the research back to the text!
  3. Make sure that you evaluate the effectiveness the author’s argument in light of this research (the reference, the connection. . .this part of the contextual analysis).
  4. The conclusion should comment on the value of the enhanced understanding of text which results from the contextual analysis.

Evaluation Criteria for Part Two:

Successful papers will:

  1. Signal the topic, and give some indication of the paper’s goal;
  2. Identify the text, the author, and give a thumbnail sketch of the central argument;
  3. Provide accurate and useful details relevant to the appeals you have identified;
  4. Explain clearly what the author is attempting to do with each appeal; this is your argument. If you are vague, lack clarification in commentary, your argument is weak;
  5. Be thoroughly edited so that sentences are readable and appropriate for an academic paper.
  6. Correctly adhere to MLA-style, including a works-cited page. Paper is 3-4 pages in length.

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