Social Studies Information Booklet: Writing a Position Paper Essay. Written Response - Essay Assignment

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1 1 of 9 Introduction Social Studies Information Booklet: Writing a Position Paper Essay As you progress through your senior high school social studies courses you will be required to write position papers in which an opinion must be expressed on a relevant and important issue. At the conclusion of Social Studies 30 you will have to write a position paper for the Government of Alberta Diploma Examination. This essay is worth 30% of the examination mark and 15% of the final blended mark in Social Studies 30 (a blended mark is the 50/50 combination of the mark you receive from the school and the mark you achieve on the diploma examination). It is very important that you work to develop your essay writing skills to the highest possible degree, considering the value that is placed upon this skill. This booklet will assist you in becoming a better essay writer. Keep this booklet for present and future reference. The Essay Assignment The Social Studies essay is a position paper. You are required to take a position on an issue and defend it, using appropriate and supportive argumentation and examples. Below is a sample of the type of assignments that appear on diploma examinations. Written Response - Essay Assignment Choose one of the following issues for your essay. Be sure to indicate your choice in the space provided on the back cover. Only one of the two essay topics is to be written. Topic A Some people believe that democratic governments should allow the presence of extremist political movements or organizations within society. Others believe that democratic governments must protect society from the beliefs and programs of extremists by banning their activities. To what extent should democratic governments restrict the activities of extremist political movements in their societies? In your essay, take and defend a position on this issue. OR Topic B During the twentieth century, many nations have surrendered aspects of their sovereignty to participate in supranational organizations. Other nations have been unwilling to relinquish aspects of their sovereignty to such organizations, preferring to retain full freedom of action. The preamble helps you focus your thoughts on the topic. This is the essay topic. These are the essay instructions. The Topic B essay follows the same format as the Topic A essay. To what extent should nations sacrifice their sovereignty in order to participate in supranational organizations? In your essay, take and defend a position on this issue.

2 2 of 9 Social Studies 30 Part B: Written Response Description Part B consists of an essay assignment worth 30% of the total examination mark. You are to take and defend a position on either Topic A or Topic B for your essay. If you write on both topics, only the first will be marked. Evaluation Your essay will be evaluated according to these four categories Exploration of the Issue Defence of Position Quality of Examples Quality of Language and Expression Instructions Use blue or black ink if you are hand writing your essay. Be sure to indicate your choice of topic in the space provided on the back cover. Additional Instructions for Students Using Word Processors Format your work using a 12-point or larger font such as Times, New York, or Courier. Double-space your final copy. Staple your final printed work to the page indicated for word-processed work in this booklet. Make revisions directly on your final printed work. Hand in all work. Indicate in the space provided on the back cover that you have attached word-processed pages. A page similar to this appears in the examination booklet before the assignment. This is the only reference made to the scoring criteria used to evaluate your essay. (Included in this booklet is a detailed copy of the scoring guide used by markers.) Reminders for Writing Plan your essay. Focus on the issue under discussion. Establish a clear position or thesis that will direct and unify your essay. Organize your essay in a manner that will effectively defend your position. Defend your position by supporting your ideas and arguments with specific evidence drawn from your knowledge of social studies. Edit and proofread your writing. Complete your essay on the following pages. Space is provided for planning and drafting and for your finished work. The reminders for writing are not to be taken lightly. The quality of your essay should be better if you follow the advice provided by experts in essay construction. It is advisable to plan and prepare your essay before completing a finished copy.

3 3 of 9 The Evaluation of Your Essay Before writing an essay you should be aware of how it will be evaluated. Every diploma examination essay is marked by two experienced Social Studies teachers. Each marker is unaware of the grade assigned to the essay by the other. A computer score sheet is completed by each marker, and the computer calculates the average grade. If there is a wide discrepancy between these grades, the computer automatically calls for a third reading by another marker who has not yet read the essay. It is the duty of this marker to determine the final grade for the essay, in consideration of the grades previously assigned. If you receive an essay grade that you believe to be unfair you have the right to appeal. In this case your essay will be read again, by two teachers (who were not among the original markers). The grade they assign will be the final grade received. It is important to note that an appealed essay mark may increase, stay the same, or drop. You must accept the decision of the appeal markers even if it means a reduced mark. The position papers you write in school for your course will be graded using the same scoring categories and criteria. When you receive a grade for your essay it will be divided into the four categories, with a mark provided in each. Along with reading the personalized comments provided by your teacher, you should refer to the scoring descriptors that apply to your grade in each category to gain valuable comments about the quality of your essay. On the following pages a copy of the written response scoring guide and descriptors is provided. This is the guide used by examination markers.

4 4 of 9 Written Response Scoring Guide and Descriptors 1. Exploration of the Issue (5 marks) Writers explore the issue by demonstrating an understanding of its significance and complexity throughout their essays. 1. Understanding of the depth and breadth of the issue Does the writer demonstrate an understanding of the issue? 2. Thoughtfulness Does the writer recognize the importance of the issue and its significance in an historical and/or contemporary context? Is the writer aware of the complexity of the issue? Does the writer establish an appropriate and meaningful context for the position taken? Score Scoring Descriptors 5 Excellent: The exploration of the issue is insightful and mature. A perceptive discussion of the significance of the issue and its complexity is comprehensively developed. The context established reflects a thorough understanding and internalized appreciation of the issue. 4 Proficient: The exploration of the issue is clear and adept. A competent discussion of the significance of the issue and its complexity is capably developed. The context established reflects a sound understanding of the issue. 3 Satisfactory: The exploration of the issue is straight-forward and conventional. An adequate but often generalized discussion of the significance of the issue and its complexity is developed. The context established reflects an understanding of the issue that is generally clear. 2 Limited: The exploration of the issue is incomplete or lacks elaboration. The discussion of the significance of the issue and its complexity is superficial and lacks development. The context established may be difficult to discern, indicating a vague or confused understanding of the issue. 1 Poor: The exploration of the issue is minimal. Discussion of the significance of the issue and its complexity is disjointed, inaccurate, or extremely vague. The context established may be difficult or impossible to determine, indicating a minimal understanding of the issue. The preamble to the assignment has been copied but has not been elaborated on. INS Insufficient is a special category. It is not an indicator of quality. It should be assigned to papers that do not contain a discernible attempt to address the issue presented in the assignment or that are too brief to assess in this or any other scoring category. 2. Defence of Position (10 marks) Writers take and defend a position on the issue by developing and organizing logical and persuasive arguments. 1. Evidence of a position Does the writer present a clear position with respect to the assignment? Does the writer deal consistently with the issue under discussion? 2. Logic and Persuasiveness Does the writer select appropriate evidence to defend the position taken? Does the writer draw a relationship between the evidence selected and the position taken?

5 5 of 9 Does the writer apply well-chosen and relevant historical or contemporary knowledge to develop and support the position taken rather than reiterate memorized information and facts in the apparent hope that such facts might support a position? Does the writer base arguments on reason, conviction, and scholarship rather than on uninformed belief and/or unsupported assertions? Does the writer base arguments on valid assumptions and premises that support the creditability of the conclusions? What depth of analysis and elaboration does the writer demonstrate? Does the writer organize related arguments? Does the writer develop the essay logically and coherently? Has the writer avoided irrelevancies, digressions, and redundancies? Score Scoring Descriptors 5 Excellent: The defence of position is based on well-considered, convincing and logical arguments revealing a confident writer. The arguments presented are consistent and forceful, demonstrating maturity, insight, and/or originality. The evidence chosen is deliberate and judicious, serving to support the arguments developed and the position taken. A strong relationship between the position, arguments, and evidence is established and maintained throughout. The content is ordered and controlled in such a way as to convincingly reinforce the writer's arguments. 4 Proficient: The defence of position is based on sound arguments. The arguments presented are logical and competently developed. The evidence chosen is appropriate, serving to support the arguments given and the position taken. A clear relationship is established between the position, arguments, and evidence. The content is ordered in such a way that the writer's arguments are clearly discernible. 3 Satisfactory: The defence of position is based on one or more adequate arguments. While the arguments are generally sound, they may lack in persuasiveness and consistency. The evidence chosen adequately supports the arguments given and the position taken. The relationship between the position, arguments, and evidence is generally established. The content is ordered in such a way that the writer's arguments are generally identifiable. 2 Limited: The defence of position is based on simple assertions rather than on the development of supportive ideas or arguments. If arguments are presented, they are of questionable logic or are repetitive, unspecific, contradictory, simplistic, or based on uninformed beliefs. The evidence given may be related to the issue under discussion but may be largely unrelated to any arguments made or to the position taken. The relationship between position, arguments, and evidence may be difficult to determine. The content is ordered in such a way that the writer's arguments are contradictory, vague or redundant. 1 Poor: The defense of position is weak: i.e., the position is hard to determine or little or no attempt is made to defend it. The writer has so misunderstood the issue that the arguments and evidence presented are related to the position taken, but are largely unrelated to the issue under discussion. The evidence chosen may be inappropriately applied to the development of any supportive argument or to the position taken. The content is disorganized and leaves in doubt the writer's intent. 3. Quality of Examples (10 marks) Writers select, accurately develop, and apply relevant social studies examples to support their position. 1. Accuracy How verifiable or factually accurate is the information in the selected examples? Does the information presented reflect perceptions of reality that can be supported?

6 6 of 9 2. Comprehensiveness What breadth or depth of understanding does the writer demonstrate by developing specific examples or applying a range of relevant examples? Does the writer use the information in the examples to qualify judgements, form hypotheses, or speculate about the unknown? Note: Examples from social studies content may be historical and/or contemporary and may be drawn from the study of Canada and/or other nations. Students are encouraged to refer to current events when appropriate. Score Scoring Descriptors 5 Excellent: The selected examples are comprehensive and specific, revealing a mature and insightful understanding of content and its application to the assigned issue. The examples are relevant and accurate, and are chosen deliberately, demonstrating a sophisticated knowledge of social studies content. 4 Proficient: The selected examples are purposeful and usually specific, revealing a competent understanding of content and its application to the assigned issue. The examples are relevant and accurate, indicating a solid grasp of social studies content. 3 Satisfactory: The selected examples are largely conventional, revealing an adequate understanding of content and its application to the assigned issue. The examples are relevant but may contain some minor factual errors, or there may be a mixture of relevant and extraneous information. Understanding of social studies content is generalized rather than specific. 2 Limited: The selected examples are unfocused or inappropriate, revealing a vague understanding of content and its application to the assigned issue. The examples are potentially relevant but contain inaccuracies or extraneous detail. Understanding of social studies content demonstrates confusion or oversimplification. 1 Poor: The selected examples are either irrelevant or so scant, overgeneralized, or inaccurate that they indicate a poor or almost complete lack of understanding of content and its application to the assigned issue. The examples contain major and revealing errors, indicating a minimal understanding of social studies content. Some examples selected have been copied verbatim from the multiple-choice section of the examination without elaboration, or the issue has been so misunderstood that the selected examples are largely inappropriate for the issue under discussion. 4. Quality of Language and Expression (5 marks) Students communicate clearly and effectively, demonstrating control of syntax, mechanics, conventions, and select, accurately develop, and apply relevant social studies examples to support their position. 1. Syntax and Vocabulary Does the writer use correct, appropriate, and effective syntax and vocabulary? ( Syntax is the way in which words are combined to form phrases, clauses, and sentences. Vocabulary is the collection of words used, including social studies terminology.) 2. Conventions Does the writer use correct or appropriate grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation? Note: When marking this dimension, markers should consider the effectiveness of the total impression created by the writer. Proportion of error to the complexity and length of the response must also be considered.

7 7 of 9 Score Scoring Descriptors 5 Excellent: The writing is skillfully structured and fluent. Vocabulary is appropriate and effective. Syntax is controlled and varied. The relative absence of error is impressive under the circumstances, and minor errors do not detract from the clarity or effectiveness of communication. 4 Proficient: The writing is clear and generally fluent. Vocabulary is appropriate and specific. Syntax is controlled. Minor errors do not reduce the clarity of communication. 3 Satisfactory: The writing is clear. Vocabulary is adequate but tends to be general rather than specific. Syntax is generally straightforward. Despite minor errors, the student demonstrates control of conventions. 2 Limited: The writing may lack clarity and is ineffective. Vocabulary is inappropriate and/or imprecise. Syntax is awkward. Errors indicate a lack of control of conventions. 1 Poor: The writing is frequently unclear. Vocabulary may be inaccurate and is imprecise. Syntax is uncontrolled and confuses the reader. Errors impede communications. Writing Your Essay When preparing your essay remember that it will be marked using the above scoring guide, therefore be sure that your essay: Explores the issue by recognizing its complexity and significance, Provides a clear position that is supported by logical and persuasive arguments, Applies relevant social studies examples to support the position taken, and Communicates clearly and effectively using social studies terminology and demonstrates good control of writing conventions. Building a good essay is like building a good bridge. You must move the reader from one point (no knowledge of your position) to another (full knowledge of your position). Like a bridge it is important that your essay is built with the strongest possible material but also, that the materials are assembled in the best possible way. The best materials in the world will not build a strong bridge if not used properly. Before a bridge is built it must be planned. The same applies to essays. The first step to take, once you understand the topic, is to plan your essay. There are a variety of ways that an essay can be organized. Below are two general approaches. 1. Inductive Reasoning - you present your thesis (position) at the beginning of your essay. To defend your position you present a series of arguments using supporting evidence and examples. You may choose to use an in depth analysis of a specific example, or provide a survey of examples (see below). 2. Deductive Reasoning - you lead the reader to your thesis by presenting argumentation and examples that support and prove the thesis. As with the previous style you may choose a single example extensively developed, or a survey of examples (see below). In developing your essay, you may choose to follow one of (or a combination of) the following strategies: A. Comparison and Contrast - you argue your position by means of comparing and contrasting different examples and evidence. By demonstrating the faults with other choices, and the advantages of your own, you prove your position to be the best.

8 8 of 9 B. Challenge Opposing Arguments - you present arguments, examples, and evidence that defend a position contrary to your own, then refute them with logical criticism and appropriate examples. C. Climatic Order - you begin with your weaker arguments and evidence and lead up to your strongest arguments and evidence. D. Surveying a Variety of Examples - you use a variety of historic, current, and/or philosophical examples to support the thesis adopted and defended. If using this method, be sure that you are providing relevant and important information, and not just skimming over all you know in an effort to impress a marker. A marker is looking for examples that clearly relate to, and support, the thesis of the writer. E. In Depth Use of One or Several Examples - you select and use, in greater detail, one or several specific historic, current, and or philosophical examples. If using this method, be sure that you are not using too much information from a single example. The entire history of the Soviet Union may be interesting, but perhaps only some parts of that history are relevant to your topic and thesis. Be selective, even when using an in-depth focus on one or several examples. Make sure that you draw the necessary connections between the examples and the arguments for which the examples are being applied. Below is a sample plan for an essay. This plan represents only one of many possible essay models, and planning models. Some writers prefer to plan using a webbing diagram others by simply listing ideas in columns, or boxes. Use the method with which you are most comfortable, but remember that planning helps you to stay focussed on the issue and to avoid unnecessary repetition. Introduction identify the issue and its significance recognize conflicting viewpoints and the logical assumptions underlying each viewpoint (Why is this issue complex?) state your thesis on the issue under discussion Body supporting argument #1 supporting evidence and examples for argument #1 supporting argument #2 supporting evidence and examples for argument #2 Three would be supporting argument #3 enough supporting evidence and examples for argument #3 (supporting argument #4) (supporting evidence and examples for argument #4) summary of main arguments explain and refute the main argument of the other point of view Conclusions restatement of thesis in light of supporting arguments, evidence and examples

9 9 of 9 Some Important Tips to Remember When Writing a Position Paper for the Diploma Exam Write in a formal rather than informal style. Do not use slang vocabulary. Always read the essay assignments before beginning the diploma examination. There may be information in the multiple-choice questions that will assist you in preparing your essay. Just be sure that if you do quote or take information from the multiple-choice questions, that you clearly footnote (other otherwise indicate) this information in your essay. Do not try to pass off others ideas as your own. Plan your essay before you begin to write. This will help you keep your essay on track. You may choose to prepare a rough copy of your essay, but if in a time crunch it may be wiser and more time efficient to prepare an outline. Often there is little difference between the contents of a rough copy and the final copy, so why write it twice? If you do write a rough copy read and revise it in its rough state, then produce your good copy. Present your arguments in a fashion that is organized and effective. You are not restricted to a single approach of writing. You may draw on your familiarity with the format of other written assignments in both social studies and English courses. The four criteria listed in the scoring guide are not intended to be used as an outline for the order of the essay content. For example, the exploration of the issue mark is based on an evaluation of the entire essay, not just the introduction. The social studies essay is not a personal response essay, but a position paper. Avoid overly emotional responses since they may weaken the argumentation. Never start your essay by simply restating the preamble to the essay assignment, or the essay question. Simply copying out what has already been written will not impress markers. When there is a choice, select the essay topic you feel more comfortable writing, not the one feel is easier or more difficult. Present the position you believe in, not a position you feel the marker will prefer. You will be more convincing if you are writing with conviction.

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