The topic is( Should the US raise the minimum wage to $15/hour?) You can find a video covering most of the instructions here. Your assignment is to write a

The topic is( Should the US raise the minimum wage to $15/hour?)

You can find a video covering most of the instructions here.

Your assignment is to write a 4-5 page argumentative paper (not including works cited or the cover letter; and longer papers are acceptable) that addresses a topic of your choice affecting the United States. This assignment has two parts: an informal cover letter, and the essay.

Your paper should be an original work of your own, and not a paper reused from another class. The AI policy for this assignment can be found in the informal cover letter instructions.

I highly recommend doing the Library Instruction Tutorial for extra credit, as it will guide you through how to use NCTC’s library system, academic article databases, and navigate citations. Your instructor can also review outlines and rough drafts in advance of submitting the paper.

Informal Cover Letter (click to expand)

On a separate page at the front of your paper, include an informal cover letter, at least 1-2 paragraphs long. This is an opportunity for you to reflect or communicate additional information, in your own voice and words, about the paper. Here are some sample questions you could respond to:

  • Was the assignment confusing? Too difficult? Too easy? How do you think it could be improved?
  • How do you feel about the paper you are submitting?
  • What did you learn from doing this assignment?
  • What other topics would you like to see listed?
  • Do you feel you were fair and accurate with the opposite side?
  • Did you have difficulty finding quality sources for either side? If so, how did you address it?
  • What do you want feedback on the most? Was there a part you were particularly proud of, or perhaps recognize was not your best work and would like to know how to improve it?

Your answers help me focus my commentary, clear up some confusion during grading, and allow me to see if the assignment is at all effective or enjoyable. And for you, it means you get better feedback and the comfort of knowing that the instructor understands a bit more about the conditions you were writing under.

AI-Generated Content Policy: Our plagiarism detection tools are getting better at detecting AI-generated content, but your instructor is open to new technological advances. AI tools are filtering into the academic world, so you may be tempted to use it. I encourage you to experiment with it as a writing aid if you are interested in the technology, but you cannot use it as a method of generating your entire paper to avoid doing the work. If you use AI tools to generate any of the content included in the paper, then your cover letter MUST include a description of how you used it to improve your writing and what you learned from that process (including any flaws or errors you encountered), otherwise you will receive a grade of zero for cheating on the assignment.

Essay Instructions (click to expand)

Please be sure to read all steps before writing your paper. If the instructions are unclear or confusing, please contact the instructor for clarification.

First, pick one of the following propositions to address: 

  1. Should the US raise the minimum wage to $15/hour?

1) Title: Give your paper a relevant title rather than something generic like “Government Paper.”

2) Introduction: Your opening paragraph should introduce the topic you pick and include a thesis statement clearly taking a position (either for or against, but not both or neither) on the topic you pick below. You may wish to employ a clever hook to catch the attention of the reader, or provide a very brief synopsis of the main points you will make in defense of your thesis statement. 

3) Background: Your first body paragraph should provide relevant background information that shows you have researched the current status of the issue in the United States. For example, you may wish to outline the historical development of the issue in this country, what current laws, regulations, or court precedents are relevant, or professional definitions and descriptions of some of the key ideas, especially if you pick a highly technical issue like transportation or healthcare.

DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP. Assume you are writing for a general reader who may not know much about the issue you pick, especially how it affects the US.

4) Arguments: Make your arguments for (or against) the proposition you picked at the start of the assignment. Be sure to back up any claims that you make.

5) Counter-Arguments: Using the same issue, present counter-arguments from the opposite side. Develop this section much as you would your own side by backing up their claims (even if you disagree with their evidence–you can critique it during the rebuttal on methodological or other grounds). Please do not caricature the position just to make it easier to critique.

6) Rebuttal: Finally, offer a rebuttal of the counter-arguments you laid out in the previous step. Respond to some or all of their concerns, or what you believe the flaws were in their reasoning. You can make concessions here if you feel that some of the counter-arguments have merit, but you should still offer your reader reasons for why your position is ultimately more convincing.

Note: This is not a paper about a particular party, politician, or even a specific bill before a legislature, so focus your arguments on the issue itself. And since this is a matter of public policy, your arguments should generally be secular, as the federal government and states are limited from passing laws on religious grounds under the Establishment Clause. For example, many people may be opposed on religious grounds to the military draft, but their faith-based reasoning is not a secular justification for the state to abandon the practice. Protecting the rights of civilians to continue free exercise of their religion through non-violent service, however, would be secular, since it is tied to civil liberties under the Bill of Rights.

Paper Organization (click to expand)

Your paper layout should generally follow the order of the instructions, but you are free to deviate if that better suits your writing style. If you are still uncertain, a simple format is an introductory paragraph, a background paragraph, 2-3 paragraphs for your arguments, 2-3 paragraphs to present the counter-arguments, and conclude with a rebuttal paragraph or two. Clearly separating the arguments, counter-arguments, and rebuttal into distinct sections keeps the paper organized so that you can see which parts are sufficiently developed–in particular, you will want to make sure you are explaining the counter-arguments thoroughly rather than rushing to rebuttal in the same paragraph. It is highly recommended that each of your argument and counter-argument paragraphs focus on just one idea per paragraph, and then adequately back up that idea with different kinds of evidence or supporting reasoning for the remainder of the paragraph.

Transitions are hard in this paper, so two easy methods are to use left-aligned or centered bold section headings (such as Arguments for Legalization, or Rebuttal) before starting the relevant section, or to indicate a shift to the counter-arguments by discussing what your opponents in this debate believe and why they believe that, using terms that indicate the shift, such as “According to opponents of X…” or “Supporters of X argue that…” Presenting your opponent’s viewpoint as your own perspective can be a little disorienting and appear contradictory for a reader. In other words, do not tell your reader you are both for and against something–your reader would have no reason to trust you if you are inconsistent.

Formatting & Guidelines (click to expand)

All pages of the paper should be double-spaced, numbered, printed in 12 point font with no greater than one inch margins on all four sides. This will translate to roughly 250-300 words per page, depending on your writing style.

You must cite at least 5 sources in your paper, and at least 2 sources for each side.

At least one of your sources needs to be peer-reviewed or a primary source, such as a published book (not your textbook), academic journal article, law, court case, regulation, executive orders, agency report, or the summary results of an opinion poll (not a news report about the results). Secondary sources describe or comment on material from primary sources, such as textbooks, blog posts, news articles, fact sheets on websites, or documentaries. You can read more about the differences between primary and secondary sources here. Here is a resource if you are unsure when you need a citation.

Sources that will not count as part of the 5 required sources:

  • Wikipedia
  • Argument comparison websites like
  • Sources without an author (primary sources like agency reports are still fine, such as reports by the CDC, FBI, or UN)–this primarily applies to random websites you find through a search engine.
  • Images, films, social media posts, or other videos. News sources are still applicable.

Please use either MLALinks to an external site. or APA format. APA is more common in the social sciences (and is what your instructor suggests using), while MLA is common in literature when you need to reference particular page numbers throughout a work rather than citing whole works.

Please use in-text citations (not footnotes or end notes) to show which sources you are drawing from in the body paragraphs of your paper. Simply dropping the name of the author or putting quotes around cited text is not sufficient.

Please include a Works Cited page at the end of your paper–these are what the in-text citations reference. At a minimum, include the author(s) name, year of publication, article title, publication title, and website (if applicable). 

What do APA Citations look like? Here is the basic format:

In-Text Citations: “Quote goes here” (Last Name, Year). <-note the location of the period outside parentheses.

Alternatively, if you write the name of the author, you can follow it by the year of the publication as a narrative citation instead of a parenthetical citation, such as: According to noted philosopher John Rawls (1971), “insert quote here.” In-text citations should not include the full article citation. You will need an in-text citation any time you quote, paraphrase, or draw information from your sources.

Works Cited Page (will vary by type of source. Below are the most common):

  • For a Web Page: Last Name, Initials (Year). Page Title. Site name. Link
  • For an Academic Article: Last Name, Initials (Year). Article Title. Publication Title, Volume #(Issue #), Pages.
  • For a Book: Last Name, Initials (Year). Book Title. Publisher.

Do not post raw weblinks by themselves as this does not give a reader enough information, or improve the credibility of a piece of academic writing. Sort the works cited page alphabetically by last names to make it easier to find your sources.

How do you find better sources? I’m glad you asked!

The best sources are peer-reviewed academic journals, and you can easily find those using JSTOR (NCTC offers all students free access; you can find it when you log in to Canvas under Library Databases) and similar academic databases, or searching with a specialized tool like Google Scholar (clicking “Cited By” on a source after you search is also useful). Academic articles also tend to save you time and are much easier to cite than random Internet resources, as most of the information you need is provided in the entries. Some useful legal sources include the US ConstitutionLinks to an external site. and US Code of LawLinks to an external site., JustiaLinks to an external site., and LegiScanLinks to an external site., though you will want to consult a style guide to learn how to properly cite sections of codes of law, case law, or proposed bills. It is strongly recommended that you don’t just use Google Search (at least not without learning some basic search operators to refine your parameters) and pick the first thing that comes up–often these resources are low quality, and more difficult to do the works cited entries for. You are not limited to sources specific to the US for this assignment, as often the lessons learned in other parts of the world can be applicable here, as well.

Why do you have to cite your sources? Citations are necessary in academic writing to prevent plagiarism of others’ work, and for readers to find where you got your information, particularly if they want to consult those sources and write their own papers. As a writer, it also adds to your credibility when you are not an expert in the area, and gives you information in case you need to revisit the source later for a different assignment or to make revisions. Effective organization of your sources speeds up both reading and research, much the same way having a library classification system helps you quickly find a specific book. So even though it may be a little tedious, especially for the works cited page, it serves a valuable purpose.

Submission Instructions (click to expand)

Upload your paper with the informal cover letter as the first page. This should only be one file, not two.

All submissions will be checked by TurnItIn for plagiarism. You will receive a grade of zero on the assignment if you are found to have committed plagiarism. To avoid plagiarism, make sure you always include an in-text citation when you directly quote someone, paraphrase their words, or draw on studies and statistics to back up your claims. Your paper must be your own work, and should not have been used as an assignment for another class.

You will receive a similarity score report from TurnItIn after you submit a paper. If you notice it is particularly high, you might want to make revisions. You will have 24 hours after the first submission to make any corrections, but you must contact the instructor if you plan to do so.

Please use a .docx format.

(If you convert from Google Docs or Apple Pages, there may be some formatting issues. Don’t stress too much over this, as it is primarily the spacing on the Works Cited that is affected. An easy way to convert in Google Docs is to go to File->Download As->.docx. In Pages, go to File->Export To->Word.)

Tips for Success (click to expand)

  • This is NOT a Pros vs Cons paper. Argumentative papers are persuasive, rather than merely comparative. You need to take a side, and try to convince your reader that your position is better than the alternative, similar to how participants in a live debate before an audience would. You can find plenty of excellent debate examples online, particularly Oxford style debates. However, US election debates are usually poor quality examples by comparison.
  • Write for a general reader. Do not assume they have detailed knowledge of special concepts, events, or cultural references. If you use them, explain their relevance or define them.
  • When you make fact statements, cite your sources, especially when you reference studies or statistics. When you use stats, follow it up with analysis.
  • When you make a claim, always back it up. Freestanding claims are not very persuasive. For example, if someone says “everyone has a right to an opinion,” a reader is going to wonder why they do or where it comes from unless you defend that claim.
  • Vary the types of support you provide to your points. Over-relying on one form of evidence or approach may not convince every reader.
  • You can use personal stories, but remember that you are not considered a credible source. Relate your story to broader concepts or observations that you can back up with a citation. Go from the particular to the general.
  • Don’t put 50 ideas in one 3-page paragraph. Space your points out for better organization. It is easier to see which points are underdeveloped this way, flows better, and it keeps your reader focused in each paragraph on one idea at a time.
  • My recommendation is pick your best 2-3 points for each side, and focus on providing greater depth of support to each in its own paragraph rather than a large breadth of ideas that are ill-supported or unsupported altogether.
  • Please note that 4 is a minimum, but 5 is not a maximum page limit. If you need to go over, you are free to–within reason. Please don’t send a 50 page thesis paper.
  • please argue from both sides.Wiothout AI and plagirism…. 

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