Mapping the Controversy Prompt


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In this assignment, you will trace the argument around a controversial issue that affects or has affected the Clemson community; or another community which you have received permission from me to write on. You will not take a position on the issue at this time–that’s the next major assignment. Instead, you’ll conduct research on the historical conversation about a controversial issue to determine who the stakeholders are and what kinds of arguments they made/are making. What counts as “historical” will depend on your focus. If you are interested in arguments about desegregation at Clemson, for example, you’d need to look back at documents (for example, old issues of The Tiger in Tigerprints) from around 1963. If you are interested in arguments about development in the surrounding community, you don’t have to go as far back; you could instead focus on debates around particular developments and construction projects. The controversy you choose can build on what you wrote about in the Landmark Analysis, but it does not have to.

What is a controversial issue?

For our purposes, a controversial issue is an issue of public concern on which people disagree. To avoid going too broad, it can be helpful to frame your controversy as a question: for example, you could research something like “should Clemson build more bike lanes?” or “How can Clemson support green transportation?” rather than just “Clemson traffic.” A controversy should have more than two sides. Even if it looks like there are only two sides–for example, “yes, we should build more bike lanes” and “no, we shouldn’t”–there are probably more nuanced versions of each position to examine.

For our purposes, the positions on this controversy do not all have to be what we would consider “reasonable” or well-argued. For example, if you are researching the debate about desegregation at Clemson, you are going to read some morally repugnant arguments. But, unfortunately, public discourse is not always reasonable, and identifying the issues in these debates–the problematic assumptions and values that they espouse–can help us better understand the stakes of these controversial issues.

Where do I find arguments?

That depends on the controversy! For many controversies, you will need to search the archives of local publications (including newspapers, blogs, etc.). What counts as an “argument” here is broad. You want to find op-ed pieces, but you may also find information about protests, art projects, or other movements that respond to the controversy at hand. If a text or collection of texts makes claims, implicit or explicit, about what people should believe or do about an issue, that counts as an argument.

What should this paper actually look like?

Your goal in this paper is to make an argument about the argument you’ve found. You’ll want to answer the following questions:

What are the dominant positions on this issue? (the ones that circulate the most, that seem to have some support–not weird fringe positions that one person wrote about on their blog)
What reasons do stakeholders provide to justify their positions? What values and beliefs about the world do these reasons suggest?
What aspects of this issue are highlighted in public debate? Which aspects are obscured?
Your thesis, then, will make a claim about what you’ve uncovered in answering these questions. An example might look like this: “The debate around cycling infrastructure in Clemson, South Carolina has some discussion of budget concerns and environmental benefits, but it is mostly focused on constructing cyclists and motorists as enemies whose rights are fundamentally opposed. The debate seems to be more about the identities of ‘cyclist’ and ‘motorist’ than about actual bike lanes.”

The rest of the paper will be devoted to supporting your thesis with evidence from the arguments you’ve found in your research. Like our prior paper, this one probably isn’t going to work as a 5-paragraph essay. Instead, think about the points you need to make and the evidence you can provide for them. For example, for the thesis above, you might have an overview of the debate, then some examples (2-3 paragraphs) of budgetary and environmentally-centered arguments, then most of the paper would be centered on arguments about cyclist and motorist identity and what those identities seem to mean to those stakeholders. Your conclusion should give some sense of why your findings should matter to the reader.


Your paper should:

Make an argument, with a clear thesis, about the debate you discuss
Answer the questions listed above in the course of making your argument
Use evidence from at least 4 arguments to support your thesis
Use MLA citations throughout and in a Works Cited page
Be about 1500 words long, double-spaced, in a legible font
A B paper must meet all of the above criteria for content and format. An A paper will meet all of the above criteria and do one or more of the following:

Demonstrate exceptional insight into the debate you’re discussing
Effectively use one or more relevant readings from class to describe tropes/themes that you see in the debate
Effectively use rhetorical terminology discussed in our textbook to describe what is happening in the debate
Mapping Rubric:

10………………………..Spelling/Grammar (Is it coherent?)

10………………………..Thesis is present and relevant

10………………………..Overall flow of paper (is it coherent, consistent, and connected?)

10………………………..General conclusion is present

30………………………..Does your paper explains at least four different sides to the argument?

15………………………..Is your paper in the proper format for MLA/APA/Chicago?

15………………………..Do you have at least FIVE sources cited in both in-text format and in the bibliography?





ALSO, yes it’s argumentative, but it’s not making an argument.  It is looking at both sides of an argument. Do the renaming of Tillman Hall at Clemson University. There are people who want it renamed and don’t want it renamed. Dive into that.

Make this an A paper.

For more information on Desegregation at Clemson read this:

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