Norton “Study Space” for Chapter 1 Lowi

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Assignments will often consist of an essay reacting to a reading, exercise, or some other prompt. Essays should be 800-1000 words. (Roughly 2 1/2 double-spaced pages; you can find the “Word Count” in Microsoft Word(c) by clicking on the “Review” tab–it is the 4th option.) Use parenthetical citation, for example (12)–to refer to an idea or discussion on page 12 in the Lowi text or one of the assigned readings. If you use both, simply include the author’s last name (ex. (Lowi, 12; or Putnam, 4). For sources other than those assigned, use name and page numbers and include a full citation at the bottom of your essay. NOTE: The goal is to “show you read,” rather than to display your genius. Assignment 1 introduces you to the Norton “Study Space” that accompanied and earlier edition to our text. Click on this link: Study Space. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

The best way to develop your writing, and make a good grade, is to begin with some simple standards:

1. Have a “substantive” thesis: this means that you not merely “describe” what you are going to talk about (or restate the question like some high school teachers advise), but that you make an argument–one that can be proved false or true (falsifiability). This should be prominent in the first paragraph. See the tips from Hamilton College to get off to a good start. Note: while the tips suggest that you are clear about the organization of your essay, they do not advocate merely describing what you will talk about–i.e. make an argument.

2. Use a topic sentence in each paragraph that advances your substantive thesis. For example, if you argue that “America is best understood as a melting pot, where one’s character and choices are more important than genes or geography,” you might start the second paragraph with: “America was founded by immigrants and refugees who chose to emphasize the things they shared, rather than their cultural or hereditary differences.”

3. Use evidence, this should often be references to the text (this has the added benefit of showing you read and that you can use a text to support arguments) but also may refer to news articles, arguments, etc. This is what persuades others that your thesis is true (rather than false).

4. Avoid the passive voice (forms of “to be”), the first person (“in my opinion,” “I believe,” “I agree with,” etc.), and unnecessary qualifiers (like “very” and “somewhat”–especially “very”).

The assignments will often be graded using a rubric that weights these standards heavily, though considerations of content, effort, and creativity will at times weigh in as well.

Each chapter in the Study Space includes a chapter outline, a practice quiz (Quiz+), key terms flashcards, and “Politics in the news.” Do not use the chapter outline as a substitute for reading the chapter; it is, after all an older edition, but it can help you organize your thoughts. Use the “Quiz+” practice quiz in addition to the one at the end of each chapter in your text. There is no guarantee these questions will be the same as those on your quizzes, but the questions often are developed by the same people who developed the test-bank for our text. The key terms are optional, but some students find flashcards helpful. Lastly, the “Politics in the news” link provides articles from The New York Times on topics relevant to the chapter topic. For those who find the NYT to be biased and who want more balanced coverage, consider Real Clear Politics, a news aggregator that includes both liberal and conservative sources. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Remember, the point is always to show that you read and understood the authors (of your text, or the news articles, etc.) and then to argue using evidence. Avoid using the first person (e.g. “I believe abortion is wrong” or “In my opinion, Donald Trump is certifiably crazy”); your opinion is important, but not because it is your opinion. What is important is the argument you make for your deeply-held beliefs and the evidence you use to support them.

For the first Assignment, read Chapter 1 in Lowi, and work through the Study Space items (especially the outline, quiz, and news articles). Write an essay that asserts a position on: “Who are Americans? Your essay can deal with whether the United States is best understood as a ‘melting pot’, where immigrants are assimilated as ‘Americans’, or a ‘mosaic’, where there is no distinctively ‘American culture’ that must be maintained or privileged. Or, it could deal with citizenship, immigration, refugees and visas, border walls, Sharia law, a world without borders, or even the shared principles that may or may not cut across cultural lines. Again, SHOW YOU READ.

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