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Course Documents

Paper 1: Definition argument

Length: ~800 words

Formatting: for this and all your other assignments for this class, please following the directions on Formatting Guidelines for Written Work.

The task:

For our midterm paper, we will collaborate to write a book, "My Country and My People, 2019 edition"—a contemporary introduction to Chinese culture for outsiders. In order to do this, we first need to explain precisely what we mean by "Chinese culture." 

Your job, in Paper 1, is to answer the question: In our book, how shall we define "culture"? In what way shall we define it in order to make our book as meaningful and interesting as possible to read—and to write?

You will need to propose a definition and make an argument for why we should define it that way. Your audience is me and your classmates, and your goal is to try to persuade us why your definition is the best for the purpose of writing this book. (I will actually have you read and respond to each other’s essays, so you are writing for your classmates as well as me.)

Though I and your classmates are your primary readers, write in such a way that someone not in this class could understand what you say. Based on class discussions, we will ultimately choose one essay to be a preface to our book. Write in such a way that you could imagine it serving as a preface.

Questions to consider:

  • What do we mean when we say "culture"? 

    • Make sure to discuss some existing definitions of culture, such as the ones on the handouts you've been given. Which definitions do you find most useful, and why? How is your definition similar to those that you've seen, and how is it different? 

    • What aspects of "culture" should fall within the scope of this book -- what would be most meaningful to focus on? And what aspects of culture should we not include?

    • Please include your own definition of culture for the purposes of this book, formatted as a formal definition like the one on Handout 2.

  • How is your choice of definition related to the potential readership for this book?

    • Who should we be writing for, exactly?

    • Why will defining "Chinese culture" in the way you propose make this a better book, from the perspective of those readers?

How you’ll be graded:

A successful (A) paper will:

  • Consider how other people already define culture (think of this as the “They Say” part of your argument)
  • Define “culture” clearly and thoughtfully, and present a compelling argument for why you’re defining it this way
  • Include your own formal definition of culture like the one on Handout 2
  • Give the reader a clear picture of what kinds of things will be in the book, and what kinds of things will not be in the book
  • Observe my Rules of Thumb (this is just the stuff you should have learned in EAP101)
  • Be written in English that is accurate enough that problems with the language do not distract much, if at all, from your ideas 
  • Not be plagiarized
  • Follow my formatting guidelines
  • Cite your sources and include a reference list (Note: you may use whatever citation style you prefer as long as it is consistent )

For information on how I grade your written work and on the marks I use when correcting it, see Grading Scheme for Written Work and Austin’s Editing Marks.