Unit 1 Assignments

This page contains copies of the prompts for each of your assignments in Unit 1. You can find sample essays for each assignment in your copy of Controversies. 

Consult your own class syllabus for your deadlines; feel free to approach your instructor with any questions about the assignments.

On this page:

Assignment Prompt: Research Summaries

In Unit 1, you will write three research summaries. These will teach you the basics of summarizing and documenting your research. They will also help you to record the research that you will present in Essay 1.

Assignment Overview: 

Write a one-page (8.5 x 11) paper summarizing a specific source you discovered in your research. Put your name in the top left-hand corner, and list the writer’s name and the full citation information of the piece you’re summarizing; set margins at 1 inch, spacing at single, and font at 12 pt. Do not exceed one page in length. 


Offer a concise but thorough summary of the position this source is advocating. Stay as close to the text as possible, quoting the writer’s exact words at times to tie both you and your readers to the original text itself—cite page numbers for any quotations in parentheses after the quote (just the page numbers; no “pp.” or “p.”). Your aim is to hand your readers your understanding of WHAT this text is arguing for. Phrases such as “Smith says/notes/ states,” or “according to Bell,” etc., will help you designate what is called intellectual property. 

You will not have room to cover all the points a writer makes, so you will need to synthesize the information for us, tell us what position the writer is advocating, and then offer quotes from the text itself to demonstrate (to show us) that the writer is arguing what you say she or he is arguing. Do not offer your own comments, opinions, or arguments about what the text says, and do not offer a rhetorical analysis of the writing. Stick to content: What is the writer saying in this text? What position is he or she advocating?

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Assignment prompt: Mapping A Controversy Essay  

The major assignment in Unit 1 is the mapping a controversy essay. This assignment will teach you to summarize, synthesize, and document your research. It will also prepare you for the rhetorical analysis that you must write in Unit 2 and the persuasive essay that you must write in Unit 3.


Your purpose in this 5–7 page essay is to map out the various positions within your chosen controversy, stating clearly what those positions are and then highlighting the relationships among them. Do not—no way, no how—present a one-sided view, as if those who argue certain positions don’t know what they’re talking about. If this is really a controversy, there are several legitimate positions possible, and your job is to articulate each position’s most compelling arguments.

One way to avoid bias in this paper is to give each “side” an equal opportunity to present its position from its own perspective. Be sure to attribute statements to their original speakers or organizations: Use phrases such as “According to…“ and “As stated by…” Also, use verbs that indicate that someone has stated a particular position, such as: “argues,” “advocates,” “asserts,” and “contends.” Such verbs will indicate that the argument you are presenting is not necessarily your own.

Your audience for this essay will be concerned and interested but not particularly informed citizens who are looking to you to provide an unbiased lay of the land.


In the first few pages, you’ll want to sketch out the basics of this controversy for your audience and offer a sense of its significance. For example, you may want to explain what events turned this issue into a controversy, whom this controversy affects, how the outcome of the controversy may affect them, and why this controversy is important to others (why should anyone else care?).

In the following pages, you’ll need to accomplish both of the following:

  1. Describe the positions ranging across the entire field of the controversy or the various proposed solutions to the controversy: What should we do to fix the problem? Or describe the various positions concerning some sub-topic within the controversy: For example, assuming that marijuana has medicinal purposes, in what cases or by what guidelines should its use be considered legal? Feel free to choose any of the approaches presented, but once you choose, stick to it throughout.
  2. Indicate the points of agreement and disagreement among the viewpoints.

Don’t forget to document your sources according to the MLA documentation guides in your handbook. Conclude with a reiteration of the relations among the various positions.

Minimum Requirements:

For a C or above, your essay must:

  • be 5–7 pages long, typed, double-spaced; have 1-inch margins, and name, class, and date at the top left-hand corner of the first page with title centered two lines below the date
  • strategically and effectively incorporate at least three sources, at least two of which are print sources
  • summarize and analyze all positions fairly, without advocating or slanting
  • document all sources accurately (in text and on Works Cited page) according to MLA guidelines
  • cite at least three sources, two from print venues, such as a newspaper or magazine
  • be written effectively and coherently, with few errors in grammar or mechanics
  • have been peer-reviewed at the in-class workshop
  • be turned in on time and be accompanied by all previous drafts, prewriting exercises, and written peer reviews

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