Happiness Debate Essay (compare/contrast/primary sources)

Happiness Debate Essay (compare/contrast/primary sources)

What makes people happiest? Watching the sun dissolve like a ball of fire into the evening sky? The ultra clean, metallic smell of a brand new car? Travel to exotic locales? Career advancement? Spending time with a significant other? This essay assignment will give you an opportunity to conduct a bit of your own research on happiness, and compare and contrast the responses of a few people around you with your own specific ideas.

Pick some area of happiness to compare-

For example,

  • Happiness across generations
  • Relationships (couples dating, married, divorced OR married different lengths of time)
  • Jobs (two people who went to college, two who did not OR people in differing levels of the same company)
  • People who went far away to college and people who stayed home
  • Military (different branches, rank OR active duty/ non-active duty)
  • Different financial backgrounds
  • Cultures (two people from the US, two people from other places)

Essay Construction

Once you have interviewed your primary sources, you need to analyze the responses for similarities and differences based on your chosen demographic variable(s). Successful essays must incorporate pertinent quotes from primary sources into the essay. We will discuss how to do this correctly using MLA style in class. Finally, you will have the option of sharing your personal opinion on your particular happiness debate by taking a personal argumentative position in your thesis statement and developing it throughout your essay, or you will build your thesis stance around you’re the results of your interviewees’ responses. If you choose the personal approach, you might agree with your primary sources, disagree or be somewhere in between. Your argumentative position will of course dictate the thesis, content and organization of your essay.

Predrafting Exercise #1

  • How do you define happiness?
  • What is the purpose of your essay? Or…What aspect of happiness are you interested in finding out more about?  (Consider this carefully, as it will dictate your thesis & is more open ended than it has been with previous essays)
  • What kinds of messages about happiness does society deliver?
  • Is it useful or important for people to create a definition of happiness? Why or why not?
  • Make a list of the people you can interview for this project/paper.
  • How do you think your interview subjects will respond? (answer this before interviews)

Interview Questions

To begin generating content for this essay, you will need to interview four primary sources about happiness. Primary sources provide original material, which has not been filtered by an author’s evaluation or interpretation. In order to construct your interview questions, you will need to:

  • Create four to six open-ended interview questions on happiness.
  • Questions should be constructed with an overall focus in mind: happiness in the work place, happiness in relationships, happiness at different life stages, etc.
  • Ask the same questions of all your primary sources to ensure the legitimacy of your comparison.
  • Determine demographic variables to use as points of comparison: gender, age, education level, income level, etc. before choosing primary sources (Use at least one).

Pre-drafting Exercises  #2

1. Generating Content (You are always welcome to use clustering/branching, freewriting, etc. to generate content as well)

  • In what ways are your primary sources responses similar for each of your questions?
  • In what ways are they different?
  • Do you notice any trends? What are they?
  • Do you notice any similarities/differences in your primary sources’ responses versus the happiness message prevalent in the society at large?
  • Considering all your responses together, what is your overall argumentative position? You might agree, disagree or be somewhere in between.

2. Organization

Based on your primary source responses, use the point by point or subject by subject outline format to create an outline for the essay.

Evaluation Criteria – When I grade your essay, I will be evaluating how well you execute the following:

Essay Construction: (40 points)

  • Does the introduction capture the reader’s attention and locate the reader in the essay’s specific subject matter about happiness? (10 pts)
  • Does the writer provide a clear thesis that articulates the essay’s purpose and takes an argumentative stance on happiness? (5 pts)
  • Has the writer used the Classical Oration structure and adhered to logical organization pattern throughout the essay? (10 pts)
  • Does the writer successfully use topic sentences to move the essay forward and fully develop the comparison between primary source responses in body paragraphs? (5 pts)
  • Does the writer include a well-constructed conclusion that wraps up the essay in a meaningful manner? (10 pts)

Compare/Contrast Technique: (45 pts)

  • Does the writer adequately explain the questions posed to primary sources? (5 pts)
  • Does the writer discuss similarities and differences among primary source responses? (15 pts)
  • Does the writer adequately identify trends in responses and point toward a larger definition/idea about happiness (among this small sample of respondents)? (15 pts)
  • Does the writer integrate primary source quotes/paraphrased material effectively? (10 pts)

Technical Execution (25 pts)

  • Is the essay relatively free of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors? (10 pts)
  • Is the essay two and 1/2 double-spaced pages in length? (5 pts)
  • Do sentences flow and sound natural to the “hearing” ear? (5 pts)
  • Are word choices appropriate, respectful, and natural? (5 pts)
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