Critical Thinking Essay #3
Students will improve their ability to develop an effective argument and support that argument with sound reasoning based on information found in scholarly sources.
Your Critical Thinking Essay #3 will develop a three to five-page* argument that makes a value statement about an issue of social justice. (*Quality is more important than quantity. The “works cited” page falls outside the scope of the minimum/maximum number of pages requirement.)
Start by reading the two assigned documents:
- Day of Reckoning
- My Whole Soul Is In It
Your focus for this essay is to explore matters of social justice prior to 1876. As you read, keep in mind that our nation was founded on the idea that all persons have rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (see the excerpt of the Declaration of Independence on the last page). How can events in our nation’s past inform us about the processes of moving causes of social justice forward to ensure these rights for all people? What particular social issues were important to people at different periods of our history? What did they do to try to effect change? How long did it take? What were the challenges/hurdles? Were there setbacks? What can we learn? How can we use those lessons today? Choose a particular topic that interests you and develop a statement* that you can support with credible source materials.
*This statement must “take a position.” It must be an argument that you can use as the thesis for this writing assignment.
If you need more detailed help in understanding what a Critical Thinking Essay is and how to write one, this website is an excellent source of information: “How to Write a Critical Thinking Essay: A Complete Guide.”
Potential Topic Parameters: the circumstances of replacing the Articles of Confederation with a new Constitution for the United States of America, the election of George Washington as the first President of the United States of America, and/or the installation of the first President of the United States of America. This is not an exhaustive list, it is merely intended as a “jumping off” point to help you see possible topic options. You may select a topic inspired by some other element of the assigned readings that is significantly different than those mentioned here.
Thesis: develop an argument that makes a value statement about your topic
Reasoning: provide at least two reasons that support your thesis
Sources: utilize three to five academically credible (peer-reviewed) sources
Formatting: this assignment must be typewritten, following MLA Guidelines
- – Thesis (Analysis): one sentence substantial enough to demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the topic
- – Thesis (Position): presents a logical argument in support of or in opposition to an issue
- – Reasons: provide at least two in-depth explanations of the argument (no more than four)
- – Sources: use three to five peer-reviewed scholarly materials that are topically appropriate; they generally support and/or directly provide specific data used in the Reasons and/or Thesis
- – Citations & Works Cited Page: proper credit for the sources of information used in your essay and proper formatting are essential. For detailed information, consult the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) onMLA In-Text Citations.
- – Composition: clarity and concision
- – Mechanics: grammar, spelling, and punctuation
- – MLA Format Guidelines: margins, line spacing, font type, font size, & heading
Detailed Instructions for Your Essay
Topic: This provides the general direction and scope of your proposal. Developing a clear topic is primarily intended to help direct your writing—maintaining clarity and concision. Elements of your topic or information closely related to it will likely show up in the opening sentences of your introductory paragraph, but in no way should you explicitly state your topic (i.e. you should not write “the topic of this essay is…” or anything similar to that phrase.)
Thesis: One sentence that takes a position on a topic and presents an argument (value statement) in support of or opposition to an issue.
Despite the considerable experience he had as an officer in the British colonial militia in the six years preceding and the nine years during the French & Indian War, George Washington had no formal military education, which made the exceptional leadership and strategic skills he employed as Commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and his ultimate victory over the British an accomplishment of outstanding historical achievement that has rarely been matched.
(Note how this thesis demonstrates an extensive knowledge of the topic—an awareness of Washington’s military experience from 1748 to 1783. This is something that is developed through considerable research and reading about the topic. While your thesis may not be quite this long or demonstrate as full of an understanding of your topic, this is what you should be aiming to accomplish. This level of scholarship is appropriate to a college graduate—the goal you are seeking to achieve. It is appropriate for you to attempt to develop something that approaches this outcome.)
Reasons: These support your thesis and each one is a topic sentence of an entire paragraph that follow the introductory paragraph. They answer the question, “Why?” The example thesis is complex. Because of this, there are several options about which we could ask the question, “Why?” Your thesis may or may not offer as many choices, depending on what you come up with. In this situation we could ask any of the following, “Why were Washington’s leadership and strategic skills so exceptional? Why was Washington’s victory over the British an outstanding historical achievement? Why has that achievement rarely been matched?” We could come up with reasons for all of these. But for this project, choose just one question. And keep the scope of your project in mind—if you are finding it really easy to come up with lots of reasons, then it is likely that you need to narrow your topic. Start this section by clearly stating the question.
Question: Why was Washington’s victory over the British an outstanding historical achievement?
Reason 1) [See the sample on the next page for fully detailed examples.]
Reason 2) [Ditto…]
Sources (3-5): These are appropriate to the level of scholarship this assignment requires. They may consist of books and/or peer-reviewed periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers, etc.). List them according to MLA citation guidelines. You may use the two assigned articles as two of your sources, but you are not required to use them for this essay.
Excerpt of the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
For the entire text:
Social Justice Issues | Examples and Solutions | Pachamama Alliance
9 Biggest Social Justice Issues of 2020 (yu.edu)
Examples of Social Justice Issues Facing the World (yourdictionary.com)