ENGL 205 Intersession 2018:
Social Issue Project Prompts
An important part of a university education is learning how to identify, think critically about, and
respond in writing to important public issues. Our ENGL 205 class focuses on writing in various
settings. For your projects this semester, choose a social issue or controversy, one related to your
field of study or some other issue about which you deeply care. Choose wisely since this topic
will accompany you for the whole length of the course. You will explore this issue for different
purposes and in different genres. Examples of social issues can be found on Blackboard in the
January 5th folder by clicking on the “60 Powerful Social Issue Ads” link.
Your goal this semester is to develop four distinct projects, that, when read
together, form a complete argument. Each project will argue your stance on
your social issue in a different way. It may be helpful to think of these projects
as a portfolio, each piece attracting a different kind of reader who will be persuaded by different
I am asking you to create four different pieces that together shape a coherent whole so that your
reader can get a sense of how the pieces connect and what the overall frame or question is. In order
to define this frame or question for yourself, you will write an introductory piece, i.e. a proposal.
All four pieces should be balanced, meaning contribute equally to the entirety of the project. In
other words, approach each part with equal diligence so that each piece contributes meaningfully
and significantly by adding something to the argument in a way that no other approach could.
The evidence used must fit the genre, i.e. is more academic in the last two pieces than in the first
one. Still, each piece must show that the writer has researched the topic thoroughly enough to
persuade the reader that the presented perspective is valid. The evidence must be presented fairly
and add enough depth to further the reader’s understanding. This means that the writer (a) cannot
rely on one or two pieces of evidence and (b) must use scholarly material to gain credibility.
Each project is specifically outlined in the remainder of this document. There are two samples on
Blackboard: one on the death penalty and one on handwashing. I will refer to the samples
throughout this document.
Rough Draft Due: Wednesday, January 3rd
Final Draft Due: Sunday, January 7th
Begin with a short (approximately 1½ pages) proposal, including a short description of the issue’s
context and a bibliography of the sources you intend to use. The bibliography, of course, will be a
work in progress and will need to be amended once you approach the next parts of the project.
Below is the skeletal outline for your proposal. Your proposal should be written in PARAGRAPH
FORM. I have filled in the outline with sample information for global warming. Your proposal of
course will be on whatever social issue you choose. There are two sample proposals in essay form on
Blackboard, one on the death penalty and one on handwashing. This outline was adapted from your
“Proposals” textbook reading. Your outline points are bolded below:
• States problem: Our global temperature is rising
• Presents solution: We need to lower the emission of greenhouse gases
• describes implications (ways to implement solution): Everyone should buy an electric
car/trade in their current car for electric
• Examines a precedent: In 1980, Toyota came out with Prius which emits 50% less
• Concedes a problem: not everyone can afford an electric car
• Refines proposal: for those who can’t afford a new car, they should get in a carpool with
someone who does have an electric car
• Describes what will happen without change: without the change, our temperature will
continue to rise and there will be dire consequences
• Reiterates solution: buy electric!
Project 1: Profile
Rough Draft Due: Wednesday, January 10th
Final Draft Due: Sunday, January 14th
Trimbur, “Profiles” (Chapter 7: 214-249)
Trimbur, “How Form Embodies Purpose” (Chapter 17 495-518)
Trimbur, “Visual Design” (Chapter 19: 531-557)
For your first paper, CHOOSE A PERSON, GROUP, PLACE, OR EVENT that is central to
the social issue you wrote about in your proposal. You will discuss how this group, person,
etc. is central to your social issue by explaining the person’s relevant experience, the
organization’s mission/goals, the place’s significance to the social issue, or the event’s
relevance to the social issue. This is NOT a formal argumentative essay! Instead, you will take a
“snapshot” of your profile topic and explain how that topic is pertinent to your social issue. THE
EXPLICIT ARGUMENT ON YOUR STANCE ON YOUR ISSUE WILL COME LATER AS A
SEPARATE PROJECT (COMMENTARY).
For example, the student who chose the death penalty as her social issue chose the Innocence
Project as her profile subject. The Innocence Project is an organization that works to overturn
wrongful convictions of inmates. Notice that she discusses how the organization was founded, what
the organization does, and specific cases that the organization helped to overturn. NOTE THAT
THE STUDENT IS NOT YET ARGUING AGAINST THE DEATH PENALTY OUTRIGHT.
SHE IS ONLY DISCUSSING THE INNOCENT PROJECT’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE
As an another example, the student who completed her projects on handwashing decided to profile
Myriam Sidibe, a woman who advocates for children to wash their hands to avoid spreading and
acquiring oftentimes deadly diseases. Again, THIS STUDENT IS NOT YET ARGUING THAT
WE NEED TO WASH OUR HANDS; INSTEAD, SHE IS DISCUSSING ONLY MYRIAM
SIDIBE AND HER CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE HANDWASHING CAUSE.
The purpose of your profile is “to make concrete and personal what would otherwise remain
abstract and remote” (Trimbur 209). Even though your profile presents the chosen entity as seen
through your eyes, your text should avoid “I” and focus on your subject and describe it in a variety
of rhetorical strategies (details, tropes, narrative, dialogue etc.) and by using appropriate appeals,
structure and tone. This profile does not aim at an academic audience but rather at a general reader.
Still, your use of sources needs to establish your ethos as a writer. Finally, include a visual of your
topic/subject in your profile.
Criteria for the profile essay
• 3-4 pages
• well integrated quotations/paraphrases
• clear organization and cohesive paragraphs
• correctness in grammar and mechanics, adherence to MLA standards
• engaging style of writing, employing a variety of rhetorical strategies
• works cited page
Project 2: Fact Sheet
Rough Draft Due: Wednesday, January 17th
Final Draft Due: Sunday, January 21st
Trimbur, “Reports” (Chapter 8: 250-286)
A Fact Sheet is a short (1-2 pages) report, using facts, graphics, bullets, etc. to inform and persuade
in a neutral/objective tone and with the help of visual aids. Fact sheets communicate quickly specific
points and information, strongly relying on logos. In short, they are simple arguments using a
combination of visual and text written and targeted at a specific audience (girls, boys, parents, voters,
young, old) or a wide range, a general audience, of readers.
For this project, you will do some additional research on your topic, finding EXPERT sources to
establish your ethos (scholarly journals, respected organizations, government agencies, books by
noted professionals), thus shedding a new, more factual light on the social issue of your choice.
You can format the Fact Sheet any way you’d like. However, you do need to use footnotes (see
Blackboard for help with this). You can use subheadings to separate your facts, a T-chart to
compare two different ideas about your social issue, a flow chart, any format that you think will be
most effective in conveying your argument. You will NOT, however, comment on any of the
facts. The facts should speak for themselves and point the reader to your social issue and
your stance. Please see Blackboard for the death penalty and handwashing examples.
Criteria for this project:
§ a 1-2-page Fact Sheet (depending on your layout)
§ at least 6 professional sources
§ reports on your social issue,
§ uses text written in columns, pictures, graphs, boxes, etc.,
§ carefully employs elements of visual design (such as colors, fonts, etc.),
§ and uses Chicago Style Footnotes to Cite ANY
Project 3: Commentaries
Rough Draft Due: Wednesday, January 24th
Final Draft Due: Friday, January 26th
Trimbur, “Commentary” (Chapter 9: 287-313)
After you have profiled and thoroughly researched your topic, create TWO commentaries. Your
purpose is to critically analyze and interpret your social issue and to help your readers to
understand it and its implications. Since you will write for two different sets of readers, this
assignment will also give you the experience of how writers must shift the same material as well as
their tone, style and use of appeals in order to fit a new rhetorical situation.
Your first commentary will be a 6-8 page argumentative essay. This is your chance to finally give
your explicit argument about your social issue! In our Blackboard examples, one student explicitly
argues against the death penalty, giving several reasons why she thinks we need to abolish it, and the
other students gives a clear argument about handwashing being a viable solution to many of the
The goal for Commentary #1 (essay commentary) is to put everything together that you’ve been
working on this semester into one coherent, sustained argumentative essay. For Commentary #1,
you CAN REUSE MATERIAL FROM YOUR PREVIOUS PROJECTS (PROPOSAL, PROFILE,
AND FACT SHEET). Most students find it helpful to return to the proposal from the beginning of
the semester, and expand upon what they’ve written, adding facts from their fact sheet, and using
their profile topic as an example. However, depending on your social issue, you will determine
what (if any) material from your pervious projects will be most useful to you. There are samples on
Blackboard to help you. The Essay Commentary is worth 150 points toward your overall course
• Clear thesis about your stance on your social issue
• AT LEAST FIVE (5) relevant, scholarly sources to support your reasoning (can reuse
sources from profile and fact sheet and/or find new sources)
• Comprehensive analysis and exploration of the chosen issue
• Written for a clearly defined audience
• Clear organization of cohesive paragraphs
• Correctness in grammar and mechanics
• Works cited page (does not count toward page count)
• MLA format
Your second commentary will be a creative commentary. For the creative commentary, you can
choose from different genres, such as formal commentary or parody, a commentary aimed at a
specific social or age group, a visual such as a cartoon commentary (of your own making!), a twitter
message, or a more literary commentary such as a poem. There are no limits to your creativity with
this project. You can literally create anything you’d like, as long as your social issue and your stance
are clear. The only thing I ask is that you CREATE SOMETHING. Simply taking an image or video
off of Google will NOT suffice. There are lots of examples on Blackboard to help you. The creative
commentary is worth 50 points toward your final grade.
• Clearly explores the social issue
• Social issue and stance can be clearly identified
• Has some creativity! Have fun with this!
NOTE: Both commentaries will receive SEPARATE grades and have SEPARATE submission
links on Blackboard and are both due the last day of our class, Friday, January 26th.