For 9.1.18

Transform your opinion essay into an academic essay

Compare and contrast two or more dimensions to your first

We discussed the differences between …

  • An opinion essay for school, where you adopt a position and make it your own: great for getting started
  • An opinion essay for newspapers, where you are trying to inform and persuade a larger public
  • A description without opinions, like a report, where your opinion is hidden
  • The retelling of someone else’s story as if it were our own, as many do when making presentations
  • The academic essay, where you stand back and complicate whatever you started out with following one or more strategy

Task Prompts for Different Levels

In class, we discussed how Andrijana’s opinion is readily contradicted: where she argued, following her source, that we all are self-interested, seeking to maximize our own profits, we explored how our parents, for example, did not do so: they often do what’s best best for you, even if it costs them

  • I went looking for trouble: I searched for “contradictions of …” plus her topic and found many writers who challenged the position of her sources
  • There are many other examples of this, for example, when citizens devote themselves to public service, taking time out from their jobs to help others

On our Dropbox, look for the “Wolcott Steps …” handout, Step 1, “Identify the Problem, Relevant Information, and Uncertainties”. There you will find prompts, inviting you to:

  • “Explain why people disagree about …, |
  • “Explain why x can’t be known with certainty”
  • Create a list of information about … a list of issues relate to …

In this way, you respect your original opinion by transforming it into a hypothesis, a problem over which reasonable people disagree, and you enter into a conversation with yourself and others and so learn how to transform your opinion into something far more interesting and invite others to discuss it with you.

  • Review the “Wolcott, Steps …” as it offers “prompts’, a bunch of alternative ways of exploring your issue, and follow one of them.

Craft 3, Planning, From Topic to Questions

In class, we discussed how Gloria’s interest in passion might be problematized and historicized by asking how her first opinion about passion might be seen differently

  • I offered the example of how differently music from different periods represents or conveys passion, that the passions of our parents, for example, might well be different from our own

Take a look at “Chapter 3, Planning …” in the Craft folder on our Dropbox, and explore how differently research projects might be organized. Note the many different kinds of questions they invite you to ask, including,

  1. Narrow your topic to something specific you might be able to explore in limited time …
  2. Ask lots of questions until one “catches” your interest
  3. Identify what kinds of questions your readers might ask, and to do that you do well to ask a partner to respond to your opinion
  4. Start looking for data on your topic and see where this might take you, become a detective …

Your homework for next week …

By academic writing we mean first and foremost research, asking questions and looking things up …

  • Since the world is big and we are small the thing to do is work your way through such guides as I have identified above until you find something that interests you AND which interests others
  • The absolute best way to do this is with a partner: present your idea, ask them what they think of it, and make this conversation part of your protocol
  • Accept your limits, you can’t write a book in a week, nor solve all the world’s problems, but you can do one little thing to complicate your initial opinion