I need an argumentative essay. Help me, pls!
Choose ONE of the questions below and answer with an argumentative essay that takes a position and supports it with reasons and evidence. You may use your textbook, the Echoes documents, your own notes, the Roundtable posts and any other source you consider appropriate, but you may not present the words or ideas of anyone else as your own. If you do, you will receive a zero grade for the whole exam and be forced to drop the class! It is not hard to tell when you have used the work of others, so don't risk it.
Remember that your goal is to demonstrate your understanding of what you have studied not your ability to find more information. Telling what happened is not the same as explaining why the events support your interpretation of the "so what." The "so what" should be your primary focus. Your first concern should be that you answer the question that is asked. Second is showing you understand that everything is more complicated than the simplified story you got in U.S. history class in high school. Things are never as black-and-white as people want you to think.
Take your time to prepare before you begin to write. Plan your argument. Think through what you are going to say and what is the best way to organize it. Make sure that you include everything you need to make your case and that you exclude anything that does not help directly. Related is not the same as relevant! Sticking in ideas and examples that are not really relevant or failing to make clear why your examples are relevant are indications that you do not really understand the topic you are writing about.
These are complex tasks that will require the use of your "Spock brain," so move slowly, read the questions and directions carefully, and plan your answer before you begin to write. Try to allow enough time to let your first draft "cool" before going back to revise (in the sense of "resee") as if you were reading it for the first time. Remember that I can evaluate your essay only on the basis of what you put on the page, not on what understand but don't say. So make your argument clear and complete and explain your reasoning.
For any of these questions "what happened" is not a sufficient answer. Selectively choose the events that really matter in convincing the reader that your position is correct, and explain how those selected events support your position.
A. Some historians refer to the Nixon/Kissinger foreign policy as a "return to Kennan realism," but one historian added that "Kennan's realism focused on the circumstances of Soviet power at the end of World War II; Nixon/Kissinger realism focused on the circumstances of American power at the end of the Vietnam War." It was still realism, but the reality had changed. Examine that interpretation, explain what it means, and then give your assessment of its accuracy.
B. The damage done to the U.S. by its long involvement in Vietnam could be blamed on every president from Truman to Nixon. Looking at the steps taken by all of them, explain how the responsibility for America's involvement in that war and the damages inflicted should be distributed. In other words, which presidents were more and which were less responsible and why? This question is about your understanding of the roles played by all of the presidents, not the question of the one who was most responsible. Don't limit your thinking to who was in office when the major damages were done.
A Little Advice for Writing Argumentative Essays
The most important thing is to answer the question that is asked and not some related one that you happen to know the answer to. The second important basic is to write an argument and not a narrative. This is an open-book exam: the "so what" matters much more than the "what." The facts are used as evidence so their connection to your points and your thesis is critical. Facts don't speak for themselves. Third, make sure you have a good thesis and that it is stated clearly. Finally be sure you stay focused on your thesis. Some of the advice below is designed to help you do that. When you finish your first draft, read through it carefully to make sure everything in it is relevant to making your point. If it is not or if the relevance is not clear, revise (in the sense of "re-see" not in the sense of correcting mechanical errors). The reader needs to see that you knew what you were writing about from the outset and throughout. If you seem to be searching for your point, that indicates a lack of understanding.
To make an argument, you need to have a point that needs an argument to support it. Your thesis is not the same as your topic. It is your specific position on the question at hand. It should not be some vague general statement that requires no convincing to be accepted. With questions like the ones on this exam, your thesis statement could start with something general like "Many factors had to come together to make the 1960s the decade for the "high tide of urban liberalism," but with something like that you would need to go forward with a list of the factors you intent to include and/or a number one choice as the most important, depending on how the question is stated. Ideally your thesis is something that goes beyond a list to make a point that is not so obvious. In any case, the thesis needs to be a specific position on the actual topic. To get to such a thesis, it helps to make a list of questions that need to be answered to understand the topic at hand. As you imagine how to answer your own questions, your position may emerge or you will get a better idea of what you need to know to take a clear position.
There are no hard and fast rules for arguments except that they must be constructed from words and rely on logic and evidence rather than ideology and belief. However, there is a conventional structure that you should master before you innovate too much. That model starts with an introduction that grabs the reader's attention, entices him or her to keep reading, orients her or him to the topic at hand, and lays out the thesis. In an essay of the length you are typically writing, the introduction is most likely one paragraph. In a book, it could be a chapter, but the function is the same.
After the introduction comes the actual argument. It consists of a number of points that support the thesis, each of which can be developed and explained in its own paragraph or possibly two. You should consider carefully the order in which your points should be arranged. If there is an obvious or significant counter-argument, get that out of the way first. Doing so tells the reader that you have considered the other side before settling on your own thesis. That makes you appear fair and adds to your credibility. If your thesis is that one factor was really critical or essential, it would make sense to deal with the lesser factors first and save your primary explanation for a big finish.
Finally you need a conclusion. It can be a brief windup to the final point or its own paragraph. Many times the conclusion works like a reverse funnel, moving from a restatement of the thesis in different words out to the larger importance of the topic.
When you write an essay of this type, the introduction should work like a funnel, starting with the broader subject and then leading down to your specific point about the narrow topic at hand. The progress goes like this: SubjectàTopicàThesis. For your first exam the Subject was the Cold War or the Containment policy. The Topic was the sources of American conduct or the effects of the Cold War on American life beyond foreign policy. The thesis should have been a one-sentence general statement of your explanation of what sources produced American behavior in the early Cold War or how the Cold War affected American life at home. Ideally the thesis statement would be specific enough to interest the reader in why you took that position.
The first sentence of the introduction is the "hook." There are several ways to "hook" the reader. Sometimes you can use an interesting quotation. For the example above it might be the key statement from Kennan which you would follow with an explanation of why an analysis of American conduct was worth undertaking. Or it could be a provocative fact or question. That might be something about the length and cost of the Cold War or the question of whether it was avoidable. (You would have to resist answering that question.) Or you could make a very general comment about how or why the general subject is so important. That might be that the Cold War not only drove American foreign policy for four decades but also affected almost everything else.
Whatever the "hook," the next step would be to connect it to your subject and then your topic. The introduction should usually end with your thesis. Take a position, and then make sure that everything that follows constitutes an argument in support of that position. When you finish, go back and read the argument to make sure you haven't supported some other thesis or no relevant thesis at all. The thesis and the argument need to align. It's easier said than done, but it is something you can learn to do, and something that will benefit you as you go forward in school and in your career.
One other thing that might help although I'm reluctant to dictate step-by-step instructions: Each of the major points you see supporting your thesis (and the main opposing points that you need to dismiss) needs its own paragraph. That helps the reader follow your argument. You can preview the "map" of the argument's path by making an outline. It is much easier to spot the missing points, eliminate irrelevant material, and arrange the argument in an effective form at this stage. After you have a draft, it is harder to see the structure, and you will be more resistant to making changes.
The first sentence of each paragraph is usually the topic sentence, the most general statement of the point that paragraph will make. The rest of the paragraph is there to explain and support that topic sentence. All of the topic sentences taken together should do the same for the overall thesis. Here's an example: a sample thesis that might have been used for the question on the first exam is "the conduct of the US at the beginning of the Cold War was shaped by the interaction between America's relative power and the ideology of 'liberal internationalism.'" So you would have needed a number of supporting points to show that that is the best explanation of how ideology and circumstances determined American action. One paragraph might be about the US effort to make the UN work and its subsequent use of the UN as the agent for its response to the invasion of South Korea. That paragraph should start with something like "The US took the lead in turning the wartime alliance called the United Nations into the United Nations Organization intended to support its efforts to maintain peace in the world." The rest of the paragraph would focus on US leadership in the UN and how it could be used to allow the US to act militarily against what it perceived as communist aggression. At best the paragraph would make clear how this example shows the interaction of ideology and circumstances. Ideally you could read that topic sentence, insert the word "therefore," add your thesis, and it would make sense. (The "therefore rule" could also apply to the sentences that follow the topic sentence of each paragraph. They don't lead directly back to the thesis but rather back to the topic sentence of the paragraph.)
Ideally you should be able to go through and read the first sentence of each paragraph in order and see your argument in outline, essentially "bullet points." Each paragraph would be a mini-argument supporting the topic sentence. Your argument would probably benefit from turning your initial outline into a "sentence outline." That would produce a very clear picture of the argument before you try to write it out.
You need a conclusion to let the reader know your argument is complete. You don't usually need a long one on an exam essay because of the overall length, but you don't want to give the impression that you just ran out of something to say. One way to conclude is to lead the reader out through a "reverse funnel" from the thesis to the topic to the larger subject. If you do that, try not to use the same words you used in the introduction.