Any topic (writer’s choice)


Instead of taking an exam for our midterm, we will be working on a research-based argumentative essay, which will be due in its final form at the end of the semester. For the midterm component of this project, you will be gathering and organizing your research and working out your main arguments and your counter-arguments. The actual drafting of this essay will come later.


For your topic, you must choose either a specific ethical dilemma (like the cases of Dax Cowert or Teri Schiavo) or a broader ethical issue, such as environmental ethics, euthanasia, abortion rights, etc. You are free to choose your own topic, but my advice is that you should choose something small and limited in scope, and ideally something that has been written about by many well-educated and knowledgeable people. Don’t take on all of environmental ethics, for example, it’s too big, and don’t choose a dilemma that’s only relevant to your own life, that’s too small. If in doubt, please discuss this with me. Our live session will be the perfect opportunity for this discussion.


For this assignment, you will submit a Word document containing the following 4 sections:

1. A clear thesis statement that makes the main claim that you will be defending in your essay. This should be one sentence that captures the complexity of your argument and makes clear what position you will be taking and defending.

2. Two separate arguments based in two separate ethical theories that we have discussed so far. These arguments will be two different ways of supporting your thesis.  For example, you might first take a utilitarian approach and second a deontological approach to your argument.

3. Two separate counter-arguments to your thesis. These are arguments that someone else might offer as a way of denying your thesis. Imagine that you are making your claim to another person who is well-educated on your topic but who holds a different position on it. What would that person argue?

4. A Works Cited page containing the Works you intend to cite as you develop your arguments and counter-arguments. Your essay should include at least 10 credible sources.


Create an outline, and only an outline. Do not write out a full draft yet. That will come later. For reference, please see the example outlines here in this module.

Begin with a title.

In the introduction section, include a very brief overview of the different positions common to your argument.

Include your thesis statement.

List each paragraph you will include. The entries in your outline should be just your topic sentences of each paragraph. No more.

Include the Works you will cite in each paragraph as a Works Cited entry below the topic sentence.

Then include the complete Works Cited page as the final page.

That’s it!

Be sure to study the example outline posted in this module.


All work should be done in MLA format. Please reference the MLA materials posted in the early modules here in Canvas, or reference the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), or consult with me directly. The formatting is important because it helps you present your ideas in a recognizable and easy-to-follow style.


A good outline for an essay like this should take you 2-5 pages, depending on how many points you wish to make, how many counter-arguments you wish to deal with, and how many sources you intend to include. There is no official length requirement, only a quality requirement. Generally speaking, more detail is better and therefore longer is better–not because length is what you want, but because a fully-detailed and well-planned essay will require a longer, rather than a shorter, outline.

The overall length of the final essay can vary, and again there’s no requirement for length. However, after having read over 10,000 of these through the years, I can tell with confidence that the best ones will require 6-10 pages. I don’t think more pages will help, and I’m certain fewer pages will not allow for enough detail to adequately cover your topic.

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