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.

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