Context: We will now turn our attention to the topic of conspiracy theories. As many of you know, conspiracy theories can be a lot of fun; for example, many people believe in UFOs and ghosts. However, conspiracy theories can also be potentially harmful or even lead to worse consequences like death. In an article we will be reading called, “Conspiracy theorists, Far-right Extremists Around the World Seize on the Pandemic,” the authors claim (in reference to COVID-19): ‘“Honestly, it’s a dream come true for any and every hate group, snake oil salesman and everything in between,’ said Tijana Cvjetićanin, a fact-checker in the Balkans who has watched ultranationalist groups promoting hate-filled messages on social media about the coronavirus, often against Jewish communities.” As you can see, this is a controversial issue and can definitely have real-world ramifications.
Writing Assignment (worth 100 pts.): You will write a five-seven page, research-based, informative and argumentative essay, in which you focus on one conspiracy theory (or multiple conspiracy theories if they connect to a larger subject–like mass shootings, pandemics, war, religion, etc.). You are required to have at least five sources for this essay (two of which must be from this Unit and the rest will be additional sources based on your own research). There is more information on sources later in the Prompt.
The Purpose of this Essay: To inform your audience about a conspiracy theory and make an argument about how this conspiracy has impacted or influenced society. To help you create and formulate your thesis and argument (once you decide on your topic), I would suggest answering the following questions. They should also be addressed throughout your essay, but please do not organize your essay as if each paragraph is answering a different question.
- What are the origins of your conspiracy theory? What are the main points or parts of this theory?
- Who and/or what started this theory?
- When was this theory created, and how long has it been going on for?
- Is there any truth to this conspiracy?
- What types of effects has this conspiracy had on society?
- What should be done by social media, the individual, or other groups to prevent these conspiracy theories from spreading?
Writing a Strong Argument: Keep in mind, to build an effective argument, you need to present the best positions/claims, which support your ideas as well as demonstrate why the best positions against your ideas (the counter argument) are insufficient. If you email me with a question or comment about this essay assignment, I will give you two extra credit points. Also, the more articles you read, the more familiar you will become with this subject, so even if you already have certain ideas about conspiracy theories, try to be open to diverse perspectives and ideas. In the end, this will make you an effective critical thinker.
Now, many of these conspiracy theories have been around for many years (anti-Semitism and Holocaust deniers) and others are quite new (QAnon and COVID-19). There are no restrictions, but you might think about choosing one that is more recent (say, in the past 10-15 years).
Requirements for Sources:
- Your essay must have at least five credible/reliable sources (at least two from our class and three from your own research). You may have more than five, but no more than eight
- You must include at least one article from the electronic databases (they can be accessed through the library’s homepage)
- You can use magazines, newspapers and books
- Limit your use of general websites (Yahoo, CNN, etc.)
- Do not use general encyclopedic works (e.g., the dictionary, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Wikipedia) in your essay
- You may also conduct interviews and perform surveys
- Start researching as soon as possible
**Remember that a well-researched paper will include a variety of sources. Also, for academic papers, books and scholarly journals tend to provide the most credible information.
In the end, a successful essay should have:
- A thoughtful, analytical and persuasive purpose
- A thesis statement which makes a claim about your topic
- Cohesive, focused, body paragraphs with topic sentences that support your thesis
- At least five credible sources (two from this Unit) but not more than eight (see requirements above)
- Summaries, paraphrases, and direct quotations of your sources
- A Works Cited page and in-text citations using MLA format
- A logically progressive structure
- Audience awareness (persuade and educate your readers)
- A consistent style (sentence variety, minimal repetition, engaging and meaningful word choices) and an appropriate tone (more formal and tempered—not arrogant or preachy)
- Few grammatical errors
- 5-7 pages typed (this does not include your Works Cited page), double-spaced, and formatted in MLA style
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