Final Exam: Just Mercy

May 20, 2019

Here are some strategies for the Final Exam essay response:

As you write down notes for your 3X5 cards:

1) Analyze the question by underlining cue or key word(s) to determine exactly what the question asks
2) Rephrase the question into a topic sentence/thesis statement
3) Outline the main points you plan to cover in your essay
4) Use a logical pattern of organization and a strong topic sentence for each paragraph
5) Support generalizations with specifics/evidence
6) Beware of going off topic – respond to the prompt (see number 1)

As we’ve discussed, each of these essay questions involve a thesis statement or a claim that must be agreed with or disagreed with or modified in some way.

So think of your essay response as a single question to answer – in response to the prompt’s claim about the book.

I will be grading your essay responses for thesis statement, organization and evidence.

The final essay will allow you to put into practice skills you’ve learned over the semester:

A focused thesis statement

Topic sentences that state the main idea of each paragraph

Evidence (examples and details) that support the main idea

Transitions (words and phrases) that show how ideas are related

Summary statements at the end of paragraphs that reinforces the topic sentence and the thesis statement

Essay 3: Avoiding plagiarism

May 20, 2019

Intentional plagiarism occurs when you

copy something from a source, usually word for word, and put it into your own writing as if it were your own (without enclosing it in quotation marks or acknowledging the source of the material);

paraphrase or summarize someone else’s material without acknowledging the source; or

submit someone else’s work as your own – whether you bought a paper, printed one from the Internet, copied one from someone else, or had someone else write one for you.

Unintentional plagiarism occurs when you forget to put quotation marks around information you record in your notes; neglect to include a source for material you summarized or paraphrased from that source.

When you paraphrase information, you put it into your own words. Remember that paraphrasing doesn’t mean simply replacing a few words here and there. It means recasting the original in your own words.

Also remember that even though you express the source’s ideas in your own way, you must still give credit to the original writer by citing his or her work properly.

Although plagiarism is often unintentional, it’s your job to be as honest and careful as possible. If you’re in doubt about your use of a particular idea, study, statistics or any other borrowed material, talk to me about citing the source.

When you paraphrase or summarize one of your sources, do:

Convey the source’s ideas fully and accurately.
Use your own words and phrasing.
Convey the emphasis of the original.
Put any words from the source in quotation marks.
Include documentation.

Do not:

Use the exact words or phrasing of your source (unless you are quoting).

Include your own analysis or opinions.

Essay 3: Working sources into your paragraphs

May 20, 2019

As you finish your essay, you might be asking how to integrate the sources that you are using in your body paragraphs.

Remember that you are incorporating quotations smoothly into your body paragraphs to support – not take over – your own ideas.

Guidelines to keep in mind:

1) Quotations belong in the body of the paragraph, not at the beginning as a replacement for the topic sentence.

The topic sentence should establish – in your own words – what you are about to explain or prove. The quotation should appear later in the paragraph, as supporting evidence.

2) Let the quotation make its point: your job is to explain or to connect it to your topic sentence, not to translate it word for word.

When you use source material in Essay 3 to support your reasoning for your thesis, your goal is to integrate the material smoothly into your discussion, blending summary, paraphrase and quotation with your own ideas.

To help readers follow your discussion, you need to indicate the source of each piece of information clearly and distinguish your own ideas from those of your sources.

As we’ve discussed throughout the semester, don’t “drop” source material into your paragraphs without warning to your reader.

Introduce quotations, paraphrases, and summaries with a signal phrase, a phrase that identifies your source, and always follow them with documentation (in-text citations).

Example (I’ve underlined the signal phrase):

As Cory Booker, United States Senator from New Jersey, points out, “our federal prison population has exploded by almost 800 percent, largely a direct result of the War on Drugs — a government policy that mandated longer, more punitive sentences, often for nonviolent crimes” (2).

This practice helps readers identify the boundaries between what you are saying and what your sources are saying.

How to use a signal phrase in your sentences?

Here are three examples of a summary of an article with a signal phrase:

According to Thomas L. Friedman, the popularity of blogs, social-networking sites, cell phone cameras, and YouTube has enhanced the “global discussion” but made it hard for people to remain anonymous (23).

But you don’t have to place the signal phrase at the beginning of the summarized or paraphrased or quoted material. You can also place it in the middle or at the end:

Signal phrase at the beginning:

Thomas L. Friedman notes that the popularity of blogs, social-networking sites, cell phone cameras, and YouTube has enhanced the “global discussion” but made it hard for people to remain anonymous (23).

Signal phrase in the middle:

The popularity of blogs, social-networking sites, cell phone cameras, and YouTube, Thomas L. Friedman observes, has enhanced the “global discussion” but made it hard for people to remain anonymous (23).

Signal phrase at the end:

The popularity of blogs, social-networking sites, cell phone cameras, and YouTube has enhanced the “global discussion” but made it hard for people to remain anonymous, Thomas L. Friedman points out (23).

Just Mercy, Chapter Eight

May 8, 2019

This chapter takes a break from Walter’s case to explore issues involving juvenile crime and the treatment of children and juveniles as adults in the criminal justice system.

Stevenson examines the connection between childhood abuse and neglect and early criminal activity.

He’s not arguing that poverty or abuse are direct causes for criminal behavior, but he’s showing how these forces can lead to some bad consequences, and as a society, we need to recognize these forces and their impact on children.

He’s also writing about failures in the criminal justice system in protecting juveniles.

Stevenson first tells the tragic story of Trina Garrett in Pennsylvania. The last of 12 children, many born from rape, Trina grows up in extreme poverty.

Her father humiliated and beat her mother and siblings. She was nine when her mother died, and when her father started sexually abusing her and her sisters, they ran away.

They moved between relatives, each time running away from more violence or sexual abuse, and ended up homeless. Trina developed psychiatric problems, but she had no money to pay for care of these issues.

In 1976, fourteen-year-old Trina and her friend broke into a house of two friends (the friends’ mother didn’t want Trina to visit them). Trina uses matches to see and she accidentally starts a house fire. The boys die in the fire.

In court, the boys’ mother and the prosecutor insist that Trina had the intention to commit murder. But Stevenson points out that Trina’s lawyer filed no paperwork to explain Trina’s background or psychological problems or to argue to move her case to juvenile court.

She is convicted as an adult of second-degree murder. And Stevenson writes that the judge, because of mandatory sentencing laws, was required to impose a mandatory life sentence. Even though the judge feels terrible about this, saying this is one of the saddest cases he had ever seen.

(Note: Some good news on this front: Last year, a bipartisan group of senators came together to pass a bill that includes prison reform and sentencing reductions.

The bill would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses. It would also give judges more discretion to deviate from mandatory minimums when sentencing nonviolent drug offenders. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, those provisions alone would reduce the sentences of more than 2,000 people every year.)

Trina’s story gets worse and worse: At an adult women’s prison, a guard rapes and impregnates Trina. She gives birth in shackles and her son is put into foster care.

She develops several mental and physical illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, and she becomes wheelchair-bound later in life.

Trina finally wins a civil suit against the guard, and she is compensated $62,000, but he wins an appeal and the court reverses this verdict because, as Stevenson explains, “the correctional officer had not been permitted to tell the jury that Trina was in prison for murder” (151).

So Trina never receives any compensation for the rape by an employee of the prison.

Stevenson uses this case in the book to show how the system fails again and again to protect people in the system:

Local officials should have been notified of Trina’s situation when she was hospitalized for psychiatric problems, but the system left a mentally ill homeless child unattended and alone.

Trina’s court-appointed lawyer failed to argue effectively on her behalf, leaving her to be given the toughest sentence.

Mandatory sentencing gives the judge no room for showing mercy, forcing him to act against his conscience.

Stevenson, by giving us these details of Trina’s case, shows how the system deliver unequal justice:

Trina is given a life sentence for a crime she didn’t mean to commit, and the guard, who committed a crime with intent when he raped Trina, is allowed to walk away.

He finishes the section on Trina by writing that she is one of about 500 people in Pennsylvania who are in prison for life for a crime they committed between the ages of 13 and 17, the “largest population of child offenders condemned to die in prison in any single jurisdiction in the world” (151).

Stevenson then writes about a case in Florida in 1990, thirteen-year-old Ian Manuel, a homeless boy abandoned by his family, who goes with two older boys to rob a couple at gunpoint.

When the victim, Debbie Baigre fights back, Ian shoots her in the face, and the bullet shatters her jaw.

Stevenson uses this case to give another example of how a lawyer fails to educate himself about sentencing laws and mistakenly tells Ian to plead guilty to attempted homicide. Ian does as he’s told and he’s given a life sentence.

Note how Stevenson describes the conditions of solitary confinement in this part of the book, which includes almost no exercise and no human contact.

Because of this confinement, Ian develops severe emotional problems and starts cutting himself. He’s kept in solitary confinement for eighteen years.

With no family, Ian reaches out to Ms. Baigre. She accepts his apologies and becomes his friend and even argues for him to be released.

But the State refuses her pleas to soften Ian’s sentence.

The State’s unwillingness to reconsider contrasts with Ms. Baigre’s forgiveness, which is amazing, as she is Ian’s victim.

Ian’s mental health issues are clearly related to his confinement, yet rather than treat his issues or remove him from confinement, the prison’s only recourse is to keep him in solitary.

Stevenson gives another case as an example of these problems: Antonio Nuñez grows up in Los Angeles with a horrible, physically abusive and neglectful father. As a child, he was put on probation for nonviolent offenses.

Stevenson writes about the incident when, in 1999, a drive-by shooter injures Antonio and kills Antonio’s older brother, who was coming to help Antonio.

Antonio goes to live with relatives in a safer community in Nevada, where his grades and behavior improve.

But his probation officer orders him back to California, where his behavior suffered.

Some older men pressure him to join a fake kidnapping scheme. When undercover police started chasing their van, Antonio’s friends give him a gun and order him to shoot at them.

Antonio is charged with aggravated kidnapping and attempted murder of police. The judge argued that Antonio was a violent gang member, and sentenced him to life in prison.

The judge sees Antonio as hopeless. He fails to see Antonio – as Stevenson portrays him to his readers – as a youth who is still developing.

But Stevenson wants to show his readers that there’s a connection between changes in Antonio’s environment and changes in his behavior, suggesting this should have been considered.

In the next section, Stevenson writes about how the criminalization of youth wasn’t as common in the past – with the important exception of black boys.

He tells the story of George Stinney, in South Carolina in 1944, a black fourteen-year-old who helped locals search for two missing white girls.

George told the search party that he’d seen the girls earlier looking for a place to pick flowers. When they were found dead in a ditch the following day, George was arrested for murder because he was the last person to see them.

Word got out, and a lynch mob chased George’s family out of town. The sheriff claimed that George confessed to the murder. In a courtroom where no other black people were allowed, George’s lawyer offered no defense and he is found guilty and ordered to be executed in the electric chair.

And Stevenson gives a heartbreaking detail at the end of this story: When George was executed, he was so small he had to sit on the Bible he’d carried with him in order to reach the electrodes. (Stevenson notes that years later, a wealthy local white man confessed to the murder.)

In the next section, Stevenson criticizes the theory about “super-predators,” young people who were hardened and capable of adult-sized crimes with no shame.

This theory was picked up by the courts, and they started trying more children as adults and sending them to adult prisons.

Mandatory laws were established in some states that forced relocation of children already serving time in juvenile detention to adult prisons.

Later, experts discovered a proportionate decrease in juvenile crime during the 1990s and determined there had been no basis for this “super-predator theory.” As Stevenson writes: “This admission came too late for kids like Trina, Ian and Antonio.”

Stevenson includes this section about “super predators” to show how social scientists can influence public opinion and the criminal justice system.

He’s arguing that researchers and the media have a big role in perpetuating the beliefs that will have real-life consequences.

Stevenson finishes this chapter by giving updates on the people in this cases:

EJI helped Trina reconnect with her sisters and son, which Stevenson writes “strengthened her in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible.”

Despite his learning disability, Antonio asked Stevenson to send him books that would help him “better understand those around him.”

Ian had used his time in solitary to become an avid reader and writer of short stories and poetry. Stevenson arranged for a photographer to take Ian’s picture for a report about juveniles serving life sentences.

Ian writes Stevenson a heartfelt letter saying he “cherish[ed]” his visits, as he does any human interaction. Ian politely offered to send Stevenson one dollar from his small commissary in exchange for copies of the photos, saying they would mean almost as much to him as his freedom.

Stevenson wants to demonstrate that these young people are not monsters but have a lot of potential and their lives can be changed or improved if we don’t discard them as useless or hopeless.

Review: The Works Cited page for Essay 3

May 8, 2019

As the essay assignment explains, you must cite 3 scholarly sources and Stevenson’s book in your essay, so that means you need a total of at least 4 sources cited in your essay and then listed on your Works Cited list.

If you claim that thousands of people have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned, you need to give your reader the exact number and the source of that number.

By proving an in-text citation of this type of evidence shows that you’ve done your research and that you can give your reader evidence to back up your claims.

This alphabetized list of works cited must appear at the end of your Essay 3.

Let’s review the “Works Cited” page:

Use “insert header” in your word processing software to place your last name and page number in the upper right corner.

Go to the Purdue OWL resource online for tips and a current overview of the MLA 8th Edition (a PDF of the guide is on the course web site).

The Purdue OWL web site: //

Click on “Research and Citation” then click on “MLA Style” then click on the link “MLA Formatting and Style Guide.”

Write a properly formatted list of all the sources you quote/paraphrase/summarize in your list of Works Cited.

If you are not citing a source in your paper, you don’t need to include it in this list.

Center the heading Works Cited at the top of the page (not italicized or underlined or bold or in quotation marks).

Double-space your list.

List entries alphabetically by the author’s last name – or by the first word (omit the article such as a or the) of the title if an author is not given.

Each entry should begin at the left-hand margin, with the other lines in the same entry indented one-half inch from the margin.

Remember to italicize all book and periodical titles (Just Mercy).

Put quotation marks around the title of articles (“Paying for Lost Years Behind Bars”).

Note: If you want to cite a chart or a table or a figure from one of your sources, you have two options:

One is to actually print the chart or table into your essay:

In-text reference example:

In 1985, women aged 65 and older were 59% more likely than men of the same age to reside in a nursing home, and though 11,700 less women of that age group were enrolled in 1999, men over the same time period ranged from 30,000 to 39,000 persons while women accounted for 49,000 to 61,500 (see table 1).

Consider this as a page on a web site:

For an individual page on a Web site, list the author if known, or use the title of the article is there is no author. Follow this with the information about the web site: Name of web site, date of publication, URL.

Here’s how to cite the most common sources:

(The Purdue OWL Guide has a YouTube channel for videos on “MLA Formatting: The Basics” and “MLA Formatting: In-Text Citations” and “MLA Formatting: The Works Cited Page.”)

• MLA Works Cited: Books

The basic form for a book citation is:

Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publisher, Publication Date.

Book with One Author

Henley, Patricia. The Hummingbird House. MacMurray, 1999.

Book with More Than One Author

When a book has multiple authors, order the authors in the same way they are presented on the title page of the book.

The first given name appears in last name, first name format; subsequent author names appear in first name last name format.

Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. The Allyn and Bacon Guide to Peer Tutoring. Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

If there are three or more authors, list only the first author followed by the phrase et al. (Latin for “and others”) in place of the subsequent authors’ names. (Note that there is a period after “al” in “et al.” Also note that there is no period after the “et” in “et al.”).

Wysocki, Anne Frances, et al. Writing New Media: Theory and Applications for Expanding the Teaching of Composition. Utah State UP, 2004.

Two or More Books by the Same Author

You might have a situation where you use two works by the same author in an essay.

If so, list the works alphabetically by title. (Remember to omit articles like A, An, and The.) Provide the author’s name in last name, first name format for the first entry only.

For each subsequent entry by the same author, use three hyphens and a period.

Palmer, William J. Dickens and New Historicism. St. Martin’s, 1997.

—. The Films of the Eighties: A Social History. Southern Illinois UP,

Book by a Corporate Author or Organization

A corporate author may include a commission, a committee, a government agency, or a group that does not identify individual members on the title page.

List the names of corporate authors in the place where an author’s name typically appears at the beginning of the entry.

American Allergy Association. Allergies in Children. Random House,

Book with No Author

List by title of the book. Incorporate these entries alphabetically just as you would with works that include an author name.

Encyclopedia of Indiana. Somerset, 1993.

• MLA Works Cited: Periodicals in Print

Article in a Magazine

Cite by listing the article’s author, putting the title of the article in quotations marks, and italicizing the periodical title. Follow with the date of publication. Remember to abbreviate the month.

The basic format is as follows:

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Periodical, Day Month Year, pages.

Poniewozik, James. “TV Makes a Too-Close Call.” Time, 20 Nov.
2000, pp. 70-71.

Article in a Newspaper

Cite a newspaper article as you would a magazine article, but note the different pagination in a newspaper.

Brubaker, Bill. “New Health Center Targets County’s Uninsured
Patients.” Washington Post, 24 May 2007, p. B1.

Anonymous Articles

Cite the article title first, and finish the citation as you would any other for that kind of periodical.

”Business: Global Warming’s Boom Town; Tourism in Greenland.”
The Economist, 26 May 2007, p. 82.

An Article in a Scholarly Journal

Author(s). “Title of Article.” Title of Journal, Volume number, Issue number, Year, pages.

Bagchi, Alak. “Conflicting Nationalisms.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s
Literature, vol. 15, no. 1, 1996, pp. 41-50.

• MLA Works Cited: Online Sources

An entire web site

Editor, author, or compiler name (if available). Name of Site. Version number, Name of institution/organization affiliated with the site (sponsor or publisher), date of resource creation (if available), URL or DOI. Date of access (if applicable).

The Purdue OWL Family of Sites. The Writing Lab and OWL at Purdue and Purdue U, 2008, Accessed 20 Nov. 2018.

Article in an online magazine

Author Last Name, First Name. “Title of article.” Title of the web magazine, publisher name, publication date, URL. Date of access.

Article from a newspaper web site

Author Last Name, First Name. “Title of article.” Name of Web site. Sponsor/publisher of website, date of publication, URL. Date of access.

An Article in an Online Scholarly Journal

For all online scholarly journals, provide the author(s) name(s), the name of the article in quotation marks, the title of the publication in italics, all volume and issue numbers, and the year of publication and date that you access the source.

Include a URL, DOI, or permalink to help readers locate the source.

(DOI, or digital object identifier, is a series of digits and letters that leads to the location of an online source. Articles in journals are often assigned DOIs to ensure that the source is locatable, even if the URL changes, and the 8th ed. of the MLA guidelines now uses these in citations. If your source is listed with a DOI, use that instead of a URL.)

Dolby, Nadine. “Research in Youth Culture and Policy: Current
Conditions and Future Directions.” Social Work and Society: The International Online-Only Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, 2008, Accessed 20 May 2018.

An Article from an Online Database (or other Electronic Subscription Service)

Cite articles from online databases (e.g. LexisNexis, ProQuest, JSTOR, ScienceDirect) and other subscription services as containers. The word “container” is used by the MLA guidelines to simply mean the larger place in which the source is located.

So provide the title of the database italicized before the DOI or the URL. Provide the date of access.

Langhamer, Claire. “Love and Courtship in Mid-Twentieth-Century
England.” Historical Journal, vol. 50, no. 1, 2007, pp. 173-96. ProQuest, doi:10.1017/S0018246X06005966. Accessed 27 May 2018.

Critical reading workshop: A persuasive research essay

May 8, 2019

Below are reading questions for Farrey’s article, “Does Norway Have the Answer to Excess in Youth Sports?”

• Well-presented issue:

How does Farrey present the issue in a way that prepares readers for his argument?

• Well-presented position:

Is his position on this issue clear?

What examples does he use, and how do these examples support Farrey’s position?

How does he try to establish the credibility of his sources?

• An effective counterargument:

Does he acknowledge others’ concerns or point of view? Does he concede those views? Or try to refute them?

• A readable plan:

Does he help his readers follow the twists and turns of his argument?

Does he use key words in his thesis?

Does he use topic sentences that introduce paragraphs?

Does he use clear transitional words and phrases?

How effectively does he conclude his argument?

Essay 3: Incorporating an opposing view

May 3, 2019

There are three methods of recognizing opposing views in an argument essay:



and refutation

When you acknowledge an opposing viewpoint, you admit it exists and show you have considered it.

On the school uniform issue, readers who oppose your position on mandatory uniforms could argue that banning a uniform won’t get rid of peer pressure because students will just use other things to get status – iPhones or backpacks, etc.

You could acknowledge that point by admitting that peer pressure will always be there.

When you accommodate an opposing view, you acknowledge readers’ concerns, accept some of them, and incorporate them into your own argument.

In arguing for felony voting rights reforms, you could accommodate readers’ views that people have given up their right to vote by committing crimes by arguing that once felons have served their time, it would be wrong to lock them out of the democratic process, and in fact might increase the likelihood that they will commit future crimes.

(You would need to support this claim with evidence from one of your sources.)

When you refute an opposing view, you demonstrate the weakness of the opponent’s argument.

You might refute the logic of these felony disenfranchisement laws by arguing that these laws don’t promote public safety as the promoters of the laws would say; you could point to statistics to show that felons who are banned from voting are, in fact, more likely to re-offend.

(Again, using evidence from a source to support that point.)

Essay: Providing reasons and evidence

May 3, 2019

Make sure your body paragraphs present reasons supported by convincing evidence.

A reason is a statement that backs up your claim. It answers the question: Why do I have this opinion about the issue?

(In the above examples from the Heritage Foundation and the New York Times, the writers give reasons to back up their claims.)

An example: Let’s say you wanted to write an argument essay where you argue that high school uniforms should be mandatory.

You come up with three reasons:

The uniforms 1) reduce clothing costs for parents; 2) they help eliminate distractions in the classroom; and 3) they reduce peer pressure.

Each of these reasons would need to be supported by evidence, facts, statistics, examples, personal experience or experts.

Linking your evidence to reasons helps readers see how the evidence supports your claims.

Do the same in Essay 3: Come up with reasons why to take the position that you do, and then use your research and reading to find evidence to support each reason.

Visual your body paragraphs this way:

Topic Sentence: Reason why you take your position
Summary statement
Transition to your next reason

Essay 3: Writing the introduction

May 3, 2019

You might be asking yourself: How do I begin Essay 3? How do I get started?

Remember what we said in the beginning of the semester: that effective academic writing resides not just in stating your own ideas but in

listening closely to others around you
summarizing their positions in a way that they will recognize
responding with your own ideas in kind

Think of essay writing as entering a conversation: using what others say (or might say) as a launching pad or sounding board for your own thoughts.

You’ve read, for example, what David Nichanian and Jean Chung of the Sentencing Project have written about felony disenfranchisement laws, and you are entering that conversation, responding to what they have said.

So think of Essay 3 as a response to the arguments of others.

Many writers make this rhetorical move explicit in their writing with sentences like these:

Some argue that _______________________. According to this view, _______________________. My own view is that ______________. Though I acknowledge that _____________, I still maintain that _______________________.

These are rhetorical moves that allow you to engage in the kinds of critical thinking that you are required to do in this class and at the college level.

What’s also good about this move is that it eliminates the fear of the blank page: What am I going to say? How do I begin?

When you enter a conversation, that rhetorical move provides your opening move.

If you’re stuck getting started, try using a template such as this:

In recent discussions of ____________________, a controversial issue is whether _____________________. While some argue that _________________, others contend that ________________.

Look at how this template works perfectly for Essay 3:

In discussions of voting rights, a controversial issue is whether people convicted of felonies should be allowed to vote. While some argue that felons have given up the right to participate in elections, others contend that the laws regarding felons need to be reformed.

This summary of what “they say” about this topic would by followed by your thesis.

Think of it this way:


Taking a position in Essay 3

May 3, 2019

There are many ways to respond to others’ ideas, but let’s focus on the most common:



or some combination of both

It’s a good idea to begin your response in Essay 3 not by launching into a mass of details but by stating clearly whether you agree, disagree or both, using a direct no-nonsense formula such as:

“I agree” or “I disagree” or

“I am of two minds. I agree that some ex-felons should but allowed to vote, but I cannot agree that ________.”

Once you make a clear statement like this, readers will have a grasp of your position.


You need to do more than just echo views you agree with. It’s important to bring something new to the conversation.

You could cite some personal experience or explain something that needs to be understood or note a startling fact from your research.

The important thing is to open up contrast between your position and the one you’re agreeing with rather than just repeating.
Here are some templates:

I agree that ___________ , because in my experience _____________


Stevenson’s position on the topic is useful, because it sheds light on the problem of _________

But be aware that whenever you agree with someone’s view, you are likely disagreeing with someone else’s.

It’s hard to align yourself with one position without implicitly positioning yourself against others.


Disagreeing may seem like one of the simpler ways to respond.

This can easily generate an essay – find something you can disagree with in what has been said about your topic, summarize it, and argue with it.

But you need to do more than just disagree – you have to offer persuasive reasons why you disagree.

After all, disagreeing means more than just saying “no.”

To turn a response into an argument, you need to give reasons to support what you say because another’s argument fails to take relevant factors into account, or a writer’s arguments are based on questionable assumptions.

Here are some templates for Essay 3 in a response that is disagreeing:

David Nichanian’s claim that _________ rests upon the questionable assumption that __________

I disagree with Stevenson’s view that __________ because __________

By focusing on ________, the author overlooks the problem of _____________


This last option is helpful because it gets us beyond the simple agree/disagree format that can oversimplify complex issues.

If you respond with a “yes and no” or “on the one hand I agree, on the other, I disagree” enables readers to place your argument in context.

Templates for this type of response:

Although I agree with the author up to a point, I cannot accept his claim that _________________________

Although I disagree with the author’s specific point, I fully endorse her overall point that ________

You could call this a “Yes, but” and “No, but” kind of response.

My feelings on this issue are mixed. I do support the author’s position that ______ , but I find Stevenson’s argument to be equally persuasive.

This is a good template when you’re dealing with complex issues.

But the point I want to emphasize is that whether you are agreeing, disagreeing or both agreeing and disagreeing, you need to be clear as possible in your introduction.