Author Topic: Writing a Normative Paper  (Read 8210 times)

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Offline mhenehan

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Writing a Normative Paper
« on: March 15, 2017, 01:54:01 PM »
I'm a poli sci prof switching to teaching ESL.  I have taught social science writing to L1 college students and am thinking that I can adapt this to high-level ESL students.  I have never taught ESL though!  So I do not know if this would be feasible.  I know it would be helpful for succeeding in my poli sci courses!  I would love to get feedback.  This is not exactly persuasive or argumentative; normative is a little different. 
The Normative Paper
Curricular goal:
Learning how to do research papers and avoiding plagiarism by learning how to attribute facts, theories, and opinions to authors.
Level, rationale, and goals:
This lesson is conceived for a program for English language learners who are working on preparing to go to college (pre-college ESL).  This is the kind of writing that a college freshman would be expected to produce on his own.  The newspaper sources are usually written at a high school diploma level.  The commentary magazine sources are aimed at a college-educated audience.  English learners would have the basic capability to do the work entailed, but would not know how to go about it without significant specific guidance.  Thus, the goal is for students to learn how to communicate in writing an opinion on a substantive issue that is sufficiently backed up by outside sources to persuade a reader.
What follows should take at least one week, and then the remaining assignments at the end over the following week or two, while class moves on to other topics.   
·       [/font]gain facility in reading an opinion/editorial (op-ed) piece in a newspaper and identify key arguments/positions;
·       [/font]learn how to search for specific types of sources, in this case, opinion pieces in commentary magazines aimed at a college-educated audience;
·       [/font]formulate a normative argument that is based on one’s opinion, supported by empirical evidence and arguments found in outside sources, and culminates in a prescriptive recommendation.
·       [/font]Either one op/ed piece for the whole class, or one for each group of four students.   
·       [/font]An op/ed piece that the student will read - from a newspaper, whether campus, local, regional, or national on a topic related to public policy, such as the environment, education, foreign policy, relations between or among certain nations, terrorism, oil, energy policy, welfare, health policy, religion, immigration, law enforcement, race relations, states’ rights, civil rights, taxation, regulation of corporations, etc.  The same one for all would be boring, and a different one for each student would be unmanageable.  The teacher could provide five different op/ed pieces, one for each group of four students:  i.e. four copies each of five different op/ed pieces.  One sample is attached here:  an opinion piece from 2011 on President Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya.  [Note: for college or pre-college students.  I would not do such topics with refugees or even immigrants.  Potentially too painful or divisive.]
·       [/font]Attached is one op/ed article and citations for two possible commentary articles.
·       [/font]Documentary video sources
·       [/font]Prepared ahead of time:  results of sample searches one topics other than the five assigned that students will use as models for their own searches.
Pre-reading: Vocabulary
·       [/font]Definition:  A normative paper presents a substantive description of the facts and problems relevant to a particular issue (for example, a public policy issue), presents different arguments from outside sources and evaluates them, takes a position and argues for it, and makes a recommendation for action (e.g. policy change).
·       [/font]Presentation in class on technical terms:  Normative, empirical, prescriptive, evidence, argument, opinion, recommendation, substantive issue, persuasion
·       [/font]Students are responsible for looking up substantive terms in their op-/ed pieces on their own, but in class if possible.
During reading:
·       [/font]What is the topic?  What is the point of view of the author, as indicated in the title, first sentence, and last sentence?  What is the affiliation of the author?
·       [/font]Students read the op/ed piece individually
·       [/font]Back in the group:  What are the key words or concepts in the op/ed piece that will be used when you search for other articles?
·       [/font]In their groups, students compare ideas on which one or two points in their piece seem most convincing.
Presentation:  How to do precise and narrow library searches for articles on particular subjects in specified publications.  [Presumably with on-line school, public, or university library]
Homework:  One half of the members of each group read one article from The American Conservative, The National Interest, or The National Review.  The other half read one article from The Nation, The New Republic, or The Progressive.
DAY 2 
The same groups discuss how well the author’s claims in the op-ed piece hold up against the article they read (which could be up to four different articles), and share with each other how their sources challenge the author (they should be different!).
Teacher presentation and discussion:  Why is there a pattern of agreement and disagreement among the articles?
This would be a good time to sit back and watch something from documentaries on the four or five topics, such as clips from An Inconvenient Truth, etc.
Homework:  Everyone reads an article from the other group of magazines.
·       [/font]The same groups discuss how well the author’s claims in the op-ed piece hold up against the second article they have read.
·       [/font]Individuals write out four well composed sentences, each making one point or argument.
·       [/font]In pairs, they read each other’s and give feedback.
Remaining assignments and activities:  full references, draft of body, draft with conclusion, then introduction, then imaginative title, self-review, reading aloud to oneself, peer review, fermentation (sitting in teachers’ drawer for a week and then revised), teacher feedback, revision, etc.
The same assignment can be ratcheted up for use in an EAP class for current college students by raising the level from an op/ed piece to a public policy piece in one of the magazines cited above, and moving from using opinion magazines for the paper to using academic articles and publications read by policy makers.  The level can be lowered by using an op/ed piece and two letters to the editor over the following days.  There is no “research,” but there is still attribution. 
Marie Henehan