Final paper guidelines

EAP101 ~ Duke Kunshan University

Final Paper: Op-ed (argumentative essay)

The Scenario

It’s the year 2022, and the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) has decided it’s time to issue a new set of English textbooks to be used in Chinese secondary schools (i.e. middle and high schools). As part of its ongoing effort to combat the “dumb English” phenomenon and cultivate a new generation of young people who can use English flexibly and naturally, the MOE has invited an international panel of renowned experts on foreign language education to give it advice on how to create a new and better curriculum.

Prominent among the invited experts is Hungarian-British psychologist and linguist Zoltán Dörnyei, one of the world’s leading researchers on second-language acquisition and the psychology of the language learner — as well as several of his former Chinese graduate students who have gone on to hold important positions in Chinese universities.

Initial reports issued by the MOE about the textbook revision process suggest that Dörnyei’s ideas about motivation and the “L2 Self” will be a key part of the philosophy underlying these new textbooks. The new curriculum, according to these preliminary reports, will call on secondary school English teachers in China to devote significant time and energy to helping students cultivate visions of their future selves as competent English speakers, using strategies like the ones proposed in Motivating Learners, Motivating Teachers.

Public reactions to these proposed changes have been mixed. Some people support them; others are against them; many people are simply confused because they don’t understand the ideas.

Your task

As one of the few young people to have graduated from a joint-venture university in China and have received your college education entirely in English—as well as one of the few young people in China who have actually read and understand Dörnyei’s work—you have a unique perspective to share. One of your classmates, who has gone on to be an editor at the English-language online magazine Sixth Tone, has invited you to write a 1000-1500 word op-ed for the magazine offering your opinion about the proposed textbook reforms. (See the section “Broad Tones” for examples of the op-ed genre.) Do you believe that it would be a good idea to remake the Chinese secondary school English curriculum based on Dörnyei’s ideas? Do you agree, or disagree — why, or why not?

Some suggestions:

  • It would be a good idea to read some of the op-eds on Sixth Tone to get an idea of the conventions of this genre

  • Since your readers will likely never have heard of Zoltan Dörnyei, you will probably need to explain his ideas at some point in your article


  • As always, follow my formatting guidelines

  • Quote Dörnyei at least once. Choose a good quote. Don’t make it the first sentence of your essay.

  • Although journalistic writing doesn’t usually involve citing sources, use the same citation practices you would in an academic paper. Use APA style. Cite quotes, facts, and ideas drawn from external sources. List your references at the end of your paper. (Include every source you cite, but not sources you don’t cite.)


Just like on the midterm, I will give you a soft grade on the rough draft that represents the grade you would get if you made no changes and handed this in as your final paper. Only the grade you receive on your final draft counts.

A good paper will:

  • Have a point 

  • Explain your ideas clearly

  • Explore one idea (or a couple related ideas) in depth rather than many ideas superficially

  • Explain Dornyei's ideas in enough detail that your imagined readers (not me) could understand the argument you're making about them. (Follow Graff and Birkenstein's advice in TSIS Chapter 2 on summarizing.)

  • Quote Dornyei at least once, not in the first sentence.  (Follow Graff and Birkenstein's advice in TSIS Chapter 3 on quoting.)

  • Support the claims you make with evidence / specific examples and details.

  • Make a convincing argument.

  • Cite quotes, specific facts, and others' ideas using APA format, and include a reference list with a reference for every source you cite. Remember: 

    • If you don't cite a source, it doesn't need to go in the reference list

    • If you cite something specific (like a quote, a number, or a specific detail) you must in include the page number.

  • Be written in English that is accurate enough that problems with the language itself do not distract me from your ideas.

Some suggestions and reminders:

  • Consider raising and answering obvious objections to your ideas. (See TSIS Chapter 5 on counterarguments.)

  • It's a good idea to explain why your ideas matter -- why people (and who, specifically?) should care (See TSIS Chapter 7, "Saying Why it Matters")

  • Explore implications ("If we do _____ / if _____ is true, then _______")

  • I’m not asking you to do a ton of research outside of what we’ve already read in this class. Theoretically, you should be able to make a convincing argument just drawing on Dornyei, your own ideas, your own experiences and observations, logic, and common sense. However, if you mention specific facts and figures that you got from an outside source (e.g. an article you read online) make sure to cite that source.

  • If you're having trouble coming up with ideas or developing them, explain your argument aloud to a friend. It can sometimes be easier to tell if your ideas make sense when you "talk them through."

  • If you're still having problems with English grammar and usage, try reading your essay aloud to yourself. It helps! Your intuitive sense of the language is often stronger when you speak than when you write.


M-Tu Nov. 26-27 (next class):

  • Give a 2 minute talk in class (I will cut you off at two minutes!) explaining your position and laying out the argument you plan to make, in a nutshell.

  • Write the first 1-2 paragraphs of your essay. Print it out and bring it to class.

W-Th Nov. 28-29 (a week from today):

  • Complete first draft due

Week of Dec. 3:

  • In-class writing workshops and peer review; work on revising your essay

W-Th Dec. 12-13:

  • Final draft due