Constructing Your Argument
To start, I recommend you read positions on the issue to decide your take on it. Imagine you have just 3 minutes on CNN to convince the world they should agree with you on this issue … so you want to present your position, then follow it with “evidence” that shows its rationale, all without repeating yourself or wasting words.
Remember that this is not about presenting your opinion, it is about presenting a compelling and efficient argument. You are not stating what you think or believe, but rather, you are trying to convince others that they should share your perspective. To do this well, keep the following in mind:
1. Make sure your point is clear early on, and make sure there is one primary argument (not several). Your primary point should be obvious within the first paragraph.
2. Stay on topic. Your arguments should all focus on a central theme. For example, if you were writing an argument about legalizing marijuana and your primary argument was that legalization would lead to economic benefits for all of society, then when you give specific examples in support of this, make sure each example is tied to that economic benefit argument (i.e.) don’t suddenly start talking about social justice issues, or addiction issues, etc.
3. Provide support for your claim. Use logical arguments and evidence from at least three academic papers (i.e. peer-reviewed journal articles) to persuade the reader of your position (see the section below about citations). Anecdotal evidence is insufficient.
4. Do not fall victim to argumentative fallacies. What are they? Here is a one website that will introduce argumentative fallacies to youLinks to an external site. and here is another.Links to an external site.
5. Keep in mind that when TAs consider the strength of your argument, one of the things they will consider is how easy it is to come up with an effective counterargument. If it’s easy, then your argument is not that strong. In your argument make sure you show some awareness of the “other side” of the argument. That is, if there are clear facts that oppose your position make sure you acknowledge them, but then highlight your own facts and why you think they make your position the more reasonable one.
6. Although the work you submit in the “Create” phase is called a draft, your work should still reflect your best effort. When you try hard to create a strong draft, the comments you get help you create an even better final version. If you submit a poor first draft, you tend to get comments that say “this is awful”, which doesn’t really help you much. Two of the twelve marks for the peerScholar assignment are based on the quality of your initial composition.
Before you write your assignment you should read the rubric that the TAs will use to assess your work. Sometimes students are disappointed with their peerScholar grade and often this disappointment is the result of them not paying close attention to what it is we are looking for. To be as explicit and helpful as possible we are giving you the same grading rubric we give to our TAs when we meet with them to discuss grading of pS assignments. When you are finished any given phase, check the rubric again to ensure you have done everything to the best of your ability.
Any claim you make that is not obviously true must be backed up by a citation, in APA style. By that, we mean both an in-text citation and a reference list in APA style. If you need to learn more about APA style, check out this website.Links to an external site.
With respect to your research, you must use at least three different scientific peer-reviewed journal articles. Remember – your argument is only as strong as the information backing it up. If you’re citing something like a blog or a website article, it weakens your claims, and will not count as a legitimate source of information.
This is a good starting point if you have never searched for psychological journal articles before. If you need further assistance, please visit the UTSC library!
Part of the task is to create an efficient argument. Your argument should be between 400 and 600 words (excluding reference list and citations). If your work is noticeably outside these guidelines, you will lose marks.
These compositions are meant to be anonymous. You should not include any identifying information with your composition. DO NOT write your name or student number in the assignment, just write your composition.
If you are suspected of plagiarism, the case is sent to the Departmental Chair and the Academic Integrity Office for them to meet with you and determine what sanctions will be imposed. This is a lengthy process, and your course grade will be withheld until the integrity issue is resolved. If you plagiarize, often you don’t get just zero on the assignment — it may be the case that you lose 2 or 3 times the value of the assignment from your grade. So just don’t do it!
Here is a resource about how to avoid plagiarizing. If you feel you need more information on this, please visit the UTSC Writing Centre (AC210, across from the Library). They offer one-on-one drop-in sessions to help you with your writing!
Q: Can I use personal pronouns?
Q: Can I cite the textbook?
A: The textbook is not a primary source. You will see throughout the book that the authors provide citations for the sources of their information, and that there is a references section at the back of the textbook. You should find the original article that the textbook is referencing, read it, and use the original work for your citation
Q: Can I go over 600 words?
A: Part of your mark is for creating an efficient argument. If your work is noticeably over the word limit, the TAs will deduct marks.
Q: How should I structure my work?
A: That’s up to you.. but in general, you should use paragraphs to structure your argument. A brief introduction and strong conclusion are always a good idea!
Q: Do I need to double space / include a running head / etc.?
A: Nope, for this assignment we do require that your references be in APA style (in-text and reference list), but we aren’t concerned with spacing or the other elements of APA style for this assignment.
Q: Can I make changes to my work after I’ve submitted it?
A: You can edit it up until the deadline. Log in and click the orange “Create Phase” button, and then there is an “Edit” button on the top right.