Writing the introduction paragraph for Essay 3

December 3, 2018

Your ideas may change as you read more and think more about this topic. You can always revise your working thesis as you draft.

For an argument essay like Essay 3, your thesis usually will appear at the end of your introduction paragraph.

Your thesis should answer the central question of the assignment prompt:

Should the state of California pay compensation to people who have been wrongfully imprisoned?

But 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

1) listening closely to others around you
2) summarizing their positions in a way that they will recognize
3) 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 these editorials have written about state compensation laws for wrongfully convicted persons (and what Stevenson has written about wrongful convictions and the criminal justice system) 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.

So 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 recent discussions of criminal justice reform, a controversial issue is whether people wrongfully convicted should be financially compensated. While some argue that wrongfully convicted persons should not be paid restitution by the state and should not be able to bring lawsuits, others contend that states should enact better compensation laws and permit lawsuits for years or decades lost in prison.

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

Think of your introduction paragraph this way:


Incorporating opposing views in Essay 3

November 28, 2018

The key takeaway: When you consider and counter opposing arguments, you strengthen your own argument.

As we’ve discussed, you need to take a clear position on the topic (thesis).

But many writers forget about the next step, which is just as important: including and discussing opposing viewpoints and providing counterarguments.

You need to anticipate what objections your readers might have to your argument, and try to understand why they might object.

• Research Opposing Viewpoints

In the research phase, gathering evidence against your position will help you acknowledge or accommodate or refute counterarguments.

When you do research for Essay 3, don’t limit yourself to those articles that are sympathetic to your position; find sources that disagree with you.

Go into a database such as ProQuest and put in search terms as if you were arguing for the opposing point of view.
Take note of how the make their argument and their use of evidence.

When you find an article against your position, try to figure why they hold the positions they do. What evidence do they present? How do they interpret that evidence? Why might they disagree with your position?

• Incorporating Opposing Views into Essay 3

If the opposing view comes from another author, be sure to introduce the author and the point of view in a neutral way (meaning your language is not charged or biased).

Use words such as “argues,” or “suggests” or “claims” or “believes.”

You can quote directly from this counterargument or paraphrase the argument or point.

Remember, you can write concede a point when engaging with an opposing view.

“Of course, there is a point to be made that ___________.”

This is called a concession – you are conceding that the opposing view has some merit – but you can then go on to explain how the point still doesn’t change your position.

Present counterarguments to your thesis in ways that respect those who disagree. That will make your own argument stronger and more persuasive.

• You can also refute an opposing view, if you think that position is flawed or weak.

To refute a position, make sure that you first:

Introduce the view: Present the view accurately and fairly and maybe even concede that the view has some merit.

Object: Here you state why you object to this view (“However” or “Is this really true?”

Support for why you object: Here you support your objection with reasons or facts or stats or expert opinion from one of your sources.

• Where to address counterarguments in Essay 3?

There are several choices:

You could present your own argument first, and then present and counter an opposing view.

Intro + Thesis
First Body Paragraph
Second Body Paragraph
Third Body Paragraph
Opposing Argument

You could present the opposing view first, and then prove your argument is the more persuasive.

Or, you could alternate between your position and the opposing view.

Citing the most common sources in the “Works Cited” list

November 24, 2018

(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,  1993.

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, 1998.

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, owl.english.purdue.edu/owl. 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, http://www.socwork.net/sws/article/view/60/362. 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.

Review: Basics of the “Works Cited” page

November 24, 2018

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: //owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

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).

An easier, and acceptable, method is to cite the web page where you found the chart or table – for example, if you found a chart on the National Registry of Exonerations web site about current California laws on compensation.

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.

“Athlete’s Foot – Topic Overview.” WebMD, 25 Sept. 2014, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/tc/athletes-foot-topic-overview.

So the in-text citation of this chart would look like this:

The National Registry of Exonerations provides current compensation laws in California: _________________ (“Compensation Statutes”).

The Works Cited entry for this in-text citation would be:

“Compensation Statutes.” National Registry of Exonerations, 21 May 2018, http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/  CompensationByState_InnocenceProject.pdf.

If you wanted to cite a state law, simply name the statute law in your sentence. Legal documents are not required to be cited in a Works Cited page.

Do not italicize the titles of laws, acts, or similar political documents or put them in quotation marks. Capitalize them as you would any other source title.

For Essay 3:

California Penal Code Section 4900


California Senate Bill 618

I would recommend just citing the web page or the source where you found the reference to this current code, rather than trying to list the California state web site.

So you could, for example, cite the above web page if you want to cite this code number

The in-text citation would look like this:

(“Compensation Statutes”).

Basic features of an essay arguing a position (Essay 3)

November 6, 2018

What are the key elements of this type of essay?

• A well-presented issue

To inform readers about an issue’s seriousness and arouse readers’ concern, writers may

give examples or statistics that show how many people are affected by the issue and how they are affected

use scenarios or anecdotes that resonate with readers’ own experience and raise their concern

quote authorities or research to show that the issue deserves attention.

• A well-presented position

Are the statements asserted to be facts widely accepted as true and complete?

Are cited authorities or sources trustworthy?

• An effective counterargument

Does the writer respond to possible objections readers might raise?

Does the writer acknowledge other concerns or other points of view?

Does the writer concede an objection and modifying the argument?

Does the writer refute readers’ possible objections?

• A readable plan

Essays arguing a position need to explain the issue, provide a reasoned argument, and counter argue objections. To make sure their essays are easy to read, writers usually include the following:

a forecast of the argument

key words introduced in the thesis and a forecasting statement

topic sentences introducing paragraphs

repeated use of key words

clear transitional words and phrases

Ways to respond to an argument (Essay 3)

November 6, 2018

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 the state should pay some restitution, but I cannot agree that ________.”

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


Disagreeing 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 disagreement can be tricky. 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
another’s arguments is based on questionable assumptions, etc.

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

The author is mistaken because he overlooks _____
The author’s claim that _________ rests upon the questionable assumption that __________
I disagree with Stevenson’s view that __________ because __________
By focusing on ________ the author overlooks the deeper problem of _____________


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
point out unnoticed implications or
explain something that needs to be understood.

The important thing is to open up some difference or 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 _____________

The author’s position 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.


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 overriding assumption that _________________________

Although I disagree with the authors’ specific point, I fully endorse their 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 authors’ 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 as I said before, whether you are agreeing, disagreeing or both agreeing and disagreeing, you need to be clear as possible in the introduction to your essay.

Web resources for Essay 3

November 6, 2018

“State makes it hard for wrongly convicted to be compensated for lost years.” San Francisco Chronicle, Feb.2018.


National Registry of Exonerations (U of Michigan)


The Brennan Center for Justice

The Equal Justice Initiative

The Sentencing Project

Purdue OWL MLA citation guide

November 6, 2018

Attached below is a PDF copy of the Purdue OWL citation guide for the Modern Language Association (MLA) format.


More tips for writing Essay 2

November 1, 2018

Make sure your introduction explains the author’s purpose in writing the book and how these rhetorical appeals help him achieve that purpose.

Is Stevenson’s purpose in writing the book to inform? To persuade? To raise awareness?

For your introduction, ask yourself: Why do writers use the appeals to logic, emotion, authority? Answer that question in your introduction.

It’s probably a good idea to define the appeal that you are discussing. What, exactly, is the appeal to logos? Pathos? Ethos?

In your body paragraphs, explain why the appeal to logic is important for his purpose?

Why is the appeal to emotions important for his purpose?

Why is it important for him to establish his experience or knowledge or credibility?

Indent body paragraphs 5 spaces.

Write a title that connects with the essay topic and prepares the reader for what your essay will cover.

Rhetorical Appeals in Just Mercy

Stevenson’s Appeals to the Emotions in Just Mercy

The use of ethos, pathos and logos in Just Mercy

Draft focused topic sentences that respond to the essay assignment topic and unify your body paragraphs. Your topic sentences for this essay should explain why the author uses that specific rhetorical appeal, and why the appeal is important for him to achieve his purpose in writing the book.

Use your topic sentences to move your reader from one idea to the next and one paragraph to the next.

Stevenson uses the appeal pathos in order to _______________.

In addition to pathos, Stevenson appeals to logos as a way to ___.

And finally, Stevenson also appeals to ethos to establish ________.

When you cite an example of the book, remember to give the passage a little set-up and context, so the reader understands what scene you are talking about. (Pretend your reader has not read the book – that’s a good rule of thumb for doing an effective analysis like this.)

And also, make sure that you analyze the example you discuss. Don’t get bogged down in summarizing what’s going on in the passage – try to explain the interaction between the author and the reader.

What emotions, for example, is the author trying to rouse in the readers?

Why does the author give a bunch of facts, stats, numbers in the book?

Why does he talk about his background or his training?

What impact does this material have on the reader?

In every body paragraph, explain to your reader how the appeal connects to Stevenson’s purpose in writing the book.

Use your conclusion paragraph to summarize what you’ve just discussed in terms of the author’s use of these appeals. Also, explain what the book would be like without these appeals.

Incorporating quotations into Essay 2

October 29, 2018

As your assignment hand-out explains, you need to cite at least three examples from the book to complete your rhetorical analysis.

This means you have to bring in examples and quotations from the book in your body paragraphs to support the thesis you are making about his use of rhetorical strategies.

Integrating the words or ideas from another source is a big part of academic writing, so this essay will help you develop that skill.

Careful integration of quotations also helps you avoid plagiarism – the use of another’s ideas or words without attribution.

But remember the rule here: Never introduce a quotation into your essays without first introducing the quote, citing it, and explaining it.

This means that you will never begin or end a body paragraph with a quotation.

Think of this formula: Introduce, Cite and Explain.


When introducing your quote, you need to provide the context of this quote as well as show the source of the quote.

In this assignment, you need to introduce the means of appeal or the rhetorical appeal that Stevenson uses in the passage you are about to discuss.

The quote cannot do the work for you; you must provide your reader with some idea of why you have chosen to use this quote.

You should also tell your reader who is speaking or where this quote came from in the book and the relationship this person or source has to the point you are making.


You need to provide in-text citations for all the references from the book that you use in your essay: (Stevenson 27).


Stevenson explains ________________ (27).


After the quote, explain the significance of the quotation. How might it relate to your thesis about Stevenson’s use of that rhetorical appeal?

It is your responsibility as the writer to interpret the quote for your reader and provide the significance.

Here’s a good formula to keep in mind when using quotations in your body paragraphs:

Introduce it: Before adding in your quotation, introduce it with a signal phrase and a reporting verb (argues, claims, suggests, points out)

Example: Stevenson points out that …

Quotation: After you have introduced your quotation with a signal phrase or reporting verb, integrate your quotation.

Example: Stevenson argues that our criminal justice system “traumatizes and victimizes people when we exercise our power to convict and condemn irresponsibly” (12).

Explain it: Now that you’ve integrated your quotation, explain why the quotation is important to your thesis.

What do you think the quotation means? How does it connect to your thesis about the author’s use of rhetorical appeals?

A good rule to remember: Your explanation should be at least as long, or longer, than the quotation itself.

If you include a quotation without any sort of introduction, your reader won’t understand how the quotation connects to your paragraph (even if it makes sense to you).

Below are some signal phrases and reporting verbs you can use to introduce your quotations (your Pocket Style Manual also has a list of these):

Signal Phrases

Stevenson explains that
Stevenson demonstrates this by
Stevenson acknowledges

Points out