Defining the Conversation

Project 3: Defining the Conversation

To academic writers, books, articles, and presentations on a topic function as a kind of ongoing conversation. Participants in these conversations exchange ideas, build on them, challenge them, and reshape them into new questions. Like any conversation, these scholarly conversations have a set of (sometimes unwritten) rules that make them work. The people who participate in them may never engage with each other face-to-face, but in their scholarly work they share certain assumptions about how ideas should be presented, about the kinds of evidence they should use, and about the types of questions they should address.

In order to participate in these conversations, you’ll need to know first, how to find them, and second, how to contribute to them once you do. Thinking rhetorically about your project can help you figure out how to do both, whether you are writing for the academic community in general, or for a specific disciplinary community.

–Lisa Ede, The Academic Writer, p. 168, 170


In this project you will begin to research a specific aspect of the conversation you selected in Project 2, to define for readers in more details what the conversation is. This project will not be a report, but an analysis of the conversation, one where you will continue to use the synthesizing skills that we practiced in Project 2. In other words, you are defining the conversation by deciding which voices to include and what area to focus on (not by giving us a definition of your topic). This project is designed to help you “challenge” your own perspectives and prepare for your extended research-based argument in Project 4.


Research (read, review, re-read, write) at least three academic sources that represent multiple perspectives on your sources’ overarching topic; be sure to include at least one naysayer. Rather than summarize each source in its entirety, you will select themes that are common to two or more of the sources; in other words, select areas where they are having the same conversation, present the conversation, and then analyze their conversation (you are defining the conversation by selecting which parameters to include; your stance does not need to be completely neutral, but your focus should be on exploring the conversation, not defending your position). Your conclusion should hint at where you hope to take the conversation with your next and final persuasive research project.

Visual: Additionally, experiment with incorporating at least one visual, image, weblink, audio clip, or other type of media into your paper. Do not think of this as “adding” a visual just because you’re supposed to; rather, consider how a visual might help you define the conversation and refine future arguments. We’ll discuss and demonstrate possible ways for doing this more in class.

Requirements for Project 3

· Length: 4-5 pages (at least 3.5 pages of your original writing) in correct MLA format (including font, spacing, page numbers, and in-text citations,)

· At least three academic book chapters, or peer-reviewed journal articles, & one type of media source

· A Works Cited page as the last page of your document (but not part of the page count)

Option for Revision

As you continue researching this topic, you may find that you need/want to incorporate more sources into this project to better help you define the conversation. You may also decide to remove sources (visual or print) that don’t help you establish your point.

Examples for starting out:

One way (not the only way) to approach this Project is:

– Education: Describe how Deborah Tannen defines: argument in college works; argument culture; helpful and/or damaging aspects of education. Now bring in Freire or hooks, placing their ideas in “conversation” with Tannen’s. Describe how one of these authors would criticize or support Tannen’s view. What solutions or changes to the current education system (in 2018) can be suggested, based on what each of these authors promote or argue for in their work?

In your above description, use your own words primarily, while also integrating one or more meaningful quotations and/or paraphrases from your sources.

– Sports and Social Issues: Describe in your own words, Fischer or Butterworth’s definition of nationalism. Do both authors see it similarly? What differences are there, if any, and what are their consequences? Choose one or both authors to describe (in their words, as well as your framing) one or two aspects, manifestations, of the U.S. military presence in NFL games and ceremonies. Why is it important to keep, or get rid of, such ceremonies or customs in sports? What helpful or harmful consequences exist?

As noted in the Education example above, your words should be dominant in framing and outlining the “conversation” about this issue, while characterizing each source in detail and in their own words (quoting them in small amount while framing those quotes with signal phrases, analysis, etc.)

– Technology: Describe how either Twenge or Goldsmith would define a certain term related to technology, social media, social interaction. Use smaller, meaningful quotations from the source(s), framed by a lot of your own (longer) analysis and explanations. For example, what evidence exists in the chapter by Twenge, that she views similarly or differently Goldsmith’s idea of what “wasting time” online is? What would each author (in your view – there is no wrong answer here, just supported or unsupported answers) recommend to an individual today, for example, if you had the two authors in a room with a young person and his/her cell phone? What limits, settings, or practices would the two authors’ conversation include?

NOTE: In all these examples above, notice that you as the writer have a lot of power in setting the scene, defining the parameters or limits of conversation – who gets to speak, and when and where and to what extent. Your own voice or views may be staying in the background (compared to Projects 4 and 2), but your position as “editor” or “manager” of this 4-5-page essay is important and powerful in shaping the conversation’s content.

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