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Touchstones are projects that illustrate your comprehension of the course material, help you refine skills, and demonstrate application of knowledge. You can work on a Touchstone anytime, but you can’t submit it until you have completed the unit’s Challenges. Once you’ve submitted a Touchstone, it will be graded and counted toward your final course score.
* Touchstone 1.2: Write a Research Question, Thesis, and Outline
ASSIGNMENT: Following the Topic Selection Guidelines below, choose an argumentative topic to research. This will be your topic throughout the entire course, so the activities required for this assignment will provide the foundation for your future Touchstones. The topic for an argumentative research paper must be a debatable topic, meaning that it involves conflicting viewpoints. Additionally, it cannot be a topic that is already decided or agreed upon by most of society. You will need to take a firm position on the topic and use evidence and logic to support the position. Touchstone 1.2 includes a research question, a working thesis, a detailed outline, and a reflection on this pre-writing process.

Sample Touchstone 1.2 
B. Research Guidelines
 ❒ Your research question should be a single sentence, framed as a question.
 ❒ Your working thesis should be a single focused sentence, framed as a statement that takes a clear position on the research question. 
❒ Include your research question followed by your working thesis. 
DIRECTIONS: Refer to the list below throughout the writing process. Do not submit your Touchstone until it meets these guidelines.
1. Research Question and Working Thesis
Keep in mind: The research question and working thesis are the driving force behind your research and eventual argument. 
 
**Touchstone 2.1: Evaluate a Source
ASSIGNMENT: For this essay, you will select one of the sources you have found through your preliminary research about your research topic. Which source you choose is up to you; however, it should be substantial enough that you will be able to talk about it at length, and intricate enough that it will keep you (and your reader) interested.

In order to foster learning and growth, all essays you submit must be newly written specifically for this course. Any recycled work will be sent back with a 0, and you will be given one attempt to redo the Touchstone.

The introduction of this paper will involve introducing the source: Provide the author, the title, and the context (where you found the source, where it was originally published, who sponsored it, etc.)

You will then go on to evaluate the source on two levels:

Credibility: Using the information in this unit as a guide, evaluate the source’s authenticity and reliability. Look at all the information that you can find about the source to establish the author’s (or sponsor’s) trustworthiness.
Usefulness: Using a combination of summary and analysis, examine the source on a critical level. Determine what the source’s purpose (thesis) is, and how it arrives at that goal. Examine its value to you and the project you are working on. How will it help you prove your own points? How might it come in handy to back up a claim (or address a counter-claim)?

Finally, you will include a conclusion which shows your final assessments on both counts.

Sample Touchstone 
**Touchstone 2.2: Create an Annotated Bibliography
ASSIGNMENT: Using your research question, working thesis, and outline from Touchstone 1.2, create an annotated bibliography that provides a synopsis of your sources and an explanation of how you will use them.

In order to foster learning and growth, all essays you submit must be newly written specifically for this course. Any recycled work will be sent back with a 0, and you will be given one attempt to redo the Touchstone.

As this assignment builds on Touchstone 1.2: Write a Research Question, Thesis, and Outline, that Touchstone, as well as Touchstone 2.1, must be graded before you can submit your annotated bibliography.

Sample Touchstone 2.2
A. Assignment Guidelines
DIRECTIONS: Refer to the list below throughout the writing process. Do not submit your Touchstone until it meets these guidelines.
1. Annotated Bibliography
A. Topic Selection Guidelines
***DIRECTIONS: You may choose any topic you wish as long as the topic has two clear sides and is not agreed upon by most of society. Your topic should be current, appropriate for an academic context and should have a focus suitable for a 6-8 page essay.

In order to foster learning and growth, all essays you submit must be newly written specifically for this course. Any recycled work will be sent back with a 0, and you will be given one attempt to redo the Touchstone.
2. Detailed Outline
Keep in mind: Your detailed outline provides a map of the argumentative research essay that you will write, including your key claims and the sources that support them. You may not have all your sources yet, and that is fine. The outline is a way to organize your essay and determine which areas (e.g. your sub-points) will require researched evidence as support.
❒ Headings: one for each paragraph with a brief label of the paragraph’s controlling idea(s).
❒ An introduction, at least five body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
❒ Introduction includes your working thesis.
❒ Body paragraphs should each have their own unique title and key points.
❒ Conclusion includes notes on your final thoughts.
❒ Subheadings: two to five for each paragraph, below each heading, indicating key points that support the controlling idea
❒ Sources: one to three for each paragraph, as relevant, indicating the support for the key points
❒ For each source, include the author’s name and the idea or information relevant to your argument (e.g. “Lappé on mono-cropping corn/soy and production”).

3. Reflection
❒ Have you displayed a clear understanding of the research activities?
❒ Have you answered all reflection questions thoughtfully and included insights, observations, and/or examples in all responses?
❒ Are your answers included on a separate page below the main assignment?
C. Reflection Questions
DIRECTIONS: Below your assignment, include answers to all of the following reflection questions.

Learning to conduct research is important because it is a skill you will use both in academia and in your professional life. It improves critical thinking and empowers you to find information for yourself. Consider the process of researching as a whole. What was the most challenging aspect of the process for you? (2-3 sentences)
The working thesis statement is a proposed answer to your research question. It should clearly identify a debatable topic and take a position on one side of that topic. Analyze the effectiveness of your working thesis statement. (3-4 sentences)
A detailed outline is an effective tool for laying out the progression of an argument. It allows you to consider the arrangement and organization of your ideas, as well as choose places to incorporate outside source materials. Review your detailed outline and summarize the argument you’ve presented. (3-4 sentences)
You will use the same topic on three of the remaining Touchstones in this course. What kind of feedback would be helpful for you? What are specific questions you might have as you go deeper into the research process? (2-3 sentences)

D. Rubric
Advanced (90-100%)Proficient (80-89%)Acceptable (70-79%)Needs Improvement (50-69%)Non-Performance (0-49%)
Research Question
Pose a meaningful research question on a debatable topic.Constructs a precise and focused research question relative to a current and debatable topic.Constructs a focused research question relative to a debatable topic.Constructs a research question relative to a debatable topic; however it is somewhat too broad or too narrow for the assignment.Constructs a research question; however, the question is too broad or too narrow for the assignment and/or it is not debatable.Does not construct a research question, or constructs a research question that does not meet any of the rubric criteria.
Working Thesis
Propose a focused working thesis.Includes a working thesis that takes a well-articulated, clear, specific position on one side of an issue.Includes a working thesis that takes a clear, specific position on one side of an issue.Includes a working thesis that takes a clear position on one side of an issue; however it lacks specificity.Includes a working thesis; however, it lacks specificity and does not take a clear position.Does not include a working thesis, or includes a thesis that does not take a position.
Detailed Outline
Present a detailed outline that includes coherent headings, subheadings, and source placement notes.Outline is thoroughly developed and clearly labeled with effective notes, such that the reader can easily see how the essay will build its argument; all necessary elements of the outline are present.Outline is well-developed and labeled with sufficient notes, such that the reader can get a sense of how the essay will build its argument; all necessary elements of the outline are present.Outline is primarily well-developed and labeled with sufficient notes, such that the reader can get an overall sense of how the essay will build its argument; however, a few necessary elements may be unclear or missing.Outline is not fully developed and/or labeling and notes are often unclear, such that the reader cannot easily get a sense of how the essay will build its argument; several necessary elements of the outline are unclear or missing.Outline is not developed and/or labeling and notes are unclear or absent, such that the reader is unable to see how the essay will build its argument; most necessary elements of the outline are unclear or missing.
Style
Establish a consistent, informative tone and make thoughtful stylistic choices.Demonstrates thoughtful and effective word choices, avoids redundancy and imprecise language, and uses a wide variety of sentence structures.Demonstrates effective word choices, primarily avoids redundancy and imprecise language, and uses a variety of sentence structures.Demonstrates generally effective style choices, but may include occasional redundancies, imprecise language, poor word choice, and/or repetitive sentence structures.Frequently includes poor word choices, redundancies, imprecise language, and/or repetitive sentence structures.Consistently demonstrates poor word choices, redundancies, imprecise language, and/or repetitive sentence structures.
Conventions
Follow conventions for standard written English.There are only a few, if any, negligible errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.There are occasional minor errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.There are some significant errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.There are frequent significant errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.There are consistent significant errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization, and usage.
Reflection
Answer reflection questions thoroughly and thoughtfully.Demonstrates thoughtful reflection; consistently includes insights, observations, and/or examples in all responses, following or exceeding response length guidelines.Demonstrates thoughtful reflection; includes multiple insights, observations, and/or examples, following response length guidelines.Primarily demonstrates thoughtful reflection, but some responses are lacking in detail or insight; primarily follows response length guidelines.Shows limited reflection; the majority of responses are lacking in detail or insight, with some questions left unanswered or falling short of response length guidelines.No reflection responses are present.
E. Requirements
The following requirements must be met for your submission to be graded:

Double-space the outline and use one-inch margins.
Use a readable 12-point font.
All writing must be appropriate for an academic context.
Composition must be original and written for this assignment.
Plagiarism of any kind is strictly prohibited.
Submission must include your name, the name of the course, the date, and the title of your composition.
Submission must include your research question, working thesis, outline, and reflection questions.
Include all of the assignment components in a single file.

Acceptable file formats include .doc and .docx.

F. Additional Resources
The following resources will be helpful to you as you work on this assignment:

Purdue Online Writing Lab’s APA Formatting and Style Guide

This site includes a comprehensive overview of APA style, as well as individual pages with guidelines for specific citation types.

Frequently Asked Questions About APA Style

This page on the official APA website addresses common questions related to APA formatting. The “References,” “Punctuation,” and “Grammar and Writing Style” sections will be the most useful to your work in this course.

APA Style: Quick Answers—References

This page on the official APA Style website provides numerous examples of reference list formatting for various source types.

Sophia Pathways for College Credit – English Composition II
SAMPLE TOUCHSTONE AND SCORING

Logan Stevens

English Composition II

December 1, 2019

Research question: How should ethical concerns direct the choices that people make about

eating meat?

Working thesis statement: For ethical and environmental reasons, people should limit their

beef consumption, and the beef that they do eat should be humanely raised, locally sourced, and

grass-fed.

Detailed Outline

I. Working Thesis in Introduction: For ethical and environmental reasons, people should

limit their beef consumption, and the beef that they do eat should be humanely raised,

locally sourced, and grass-fed.

A. Hook with description statistics on beef consumption.

B. Introduce two concerns: humane treatment, environment

Source: Davis and Lin on statistics on beef consumption in the U.S.

II. Ethical Issues

Comment [SL1]: Hi Logan! This is a very good
research question. It is relevant, debatable, and
is adequately focused for a paper of this length.

Comment [SL2]: This is a very well-constructed
thesis statement. You take a very clear stance on
the issue, indicating how you plan to argue one
aspect of the research question.

Sophia Pathways for College Credit – English Composition II
SAMPLE TOUCHSTONE AND SCORING

A. Animals feel pain

B. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations)

C. Inhumane treatment of domesticated cattle

Source 1: Grandin and Smith, paragraph 2

Source 2: Pollan on ethical conflicts, paragraphs 32 and 40

III. Environmental Issues

A. Mono-cropping: feed for cattle and transport

B. Manure: contamination, transport, ground water

C. Antibiotics: rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria

Source 1: Lappe on mono-cropping com/soy and production, page 22

Source 2: Sager on manure issues, paragraph 7

Source 3: Palmer on antibiotics, paragraph 12

IV. Health Benefits of Grass-Fed

A. Higher in vitamins A and E and contains half the saturated fat and more omega-3

fatty acids, all of which fight cancer and heart disease

B. Cows are healthier, so their meat is healthier to consume.

C. Note that organic is a separate category.

Source 1: Ruechel on health benefits, page 235

Source 2: Sager on organic note, paragraphs 10-15

V. Environmental Benefits of Grass-Fed Beef

A. Local production is better for the climate

B. Forage is better for the climate than corn/soy

C. Some meat consumption is good for the planet.

Comment [SL3]: Good. You are indicating which
sources you plan to use in support of your
discussion and highlighting the specific part of
the source which will be used here. This helps
you to find exactly what you need when you are
writing your final paper. Well done.

Comment [SL4]: Your argument is progressing
in a very logical manner so far.

Sophia Pathways for College Credit – English Composition II
SAMPLE TOUCHSTONE AND SCORING

Source 1: Lappe on climate change, page 11

Source 2: Pollan on local and diverse, end of article

VI. Counterargument

A. Rainforest razing in South America – increases carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

and depletes the ozone layer

B. Travel distance from S. America & Australia is environmentally negative –

depends on fossil fuels

Source 1: Brown and Funk, and Sage, on issues w/grass-fed cattle in the

developing world.

Source 2: Pollan (and possibly Lappe) on “season” for beef

VII. Conclusion

A. Grass-fed is better on both ethical and environmental grounds, but the real answer

is to eat less beef overall.

B. Emphasizing respect for animals solves ethical dilemmas

Source 1: Pollan on eating less and the ethics of being choosy, paragraph 82

Reflection Questions

1) Learning to conduct research is important because it is a skill you will use both in

academia and in your professional life. It improves critical thinking and empowers

you to find information for yourself. Consider the process of researching as a whole.

What was the most challenging aspect of the process for you? (2-3 sentences)

Comment [SL5]: Good. It is important to
present the counter-arguments in order to
establish a balanced perspective on the issue.

Comment [SL6]: Excellent. This summarizes the
main points you have made throughout your
essay and ties the discussion back to your thesis
statement.

Sophia Pathways for College Credit – English Composition II
SAMPLE TOUCHSTONE AND SCORING

One of the most challenging aspects of researching for me was how much time it took to

find all of the different types of sources for this paper. It was also very difficult to assess

each source and determine whether the information it provided was credible and useful

for my essay. I really thought this would only take an hour or two, but it ended up being a

much more involved process. Now I know that if you want to really learn about an issue,

it takes more than a quick web search for information!

2) The working thesis statement is a proposed answer to your research question. It

should clearly identify a debatable topic and take a position on one side of that topic.

Analyze the effectiveness of your working thesis statement.

My working thesis statement is one sentence that presents one side of a relevant and

debatable argument. In addition, I tried to be as specific as I could. Instead of simply

saying “People should not eat beef” I stated that it was for ethical and environmental

reasons. I offered an alternative for what should be done if people would not avoid beef

completely. I really tried to explain why this issue was important and discuss what could

be done to improve the situation.

3) A detailed outline is an effective tool for laying out the progression of an

argument. It allows you to consider the arrangement and organization of your ideas,

as well as choose places to incorporate outside source materials. Review your

detailed outline and summarize the argument you’ve presented.

I start by laying out the ethical issues and inhumane treatment of mass-produced cattle

and discuss the environmental concerns of feeding and transporting cattle. I then switch

Sophia Pathways for College Credit – English Composition II
SAMPLE TOUCHSTONE AND SCORING

to discussing the health and environmental benefits of grass-fed, humanely raised beef.

The counterargument outlines a few issues that still exist with grass-fed beef and the

conclusion reiterates that eating grass-fed beef is better but eating less beef is the more

environmentally friendly option. I think that the argument progresses logically in this

way and I think that the information I provided in my introduction and conclusion will be

very helpful in introducing and summarizing the topic.

4) You will use the same topic on three of the remaining Touchstones in this course.

What kind of feedback would be helpful for you? What are specific questions you

might have as you go deeper into the research process?

I’m pretty confident in the information I provided, but I would like additional insight into

the structure of my essay. I think that my outline is clear, but I am not sure if it will make

as much sense to someone who is not as familiar with the topic. I would also like some

guidance on my use of formatting. I tried my best to use APA guidelines, but I’m not as

familiar with these Comment [SL7]: You’ve done a really great job
with these things. It can be difficult to strike the
right balance in providing enough information in
the bibliography and outline, but you have
summarized the sources well and your outline
clearly shows how you plan to develop your
topic. Your formatting is also very precise and
adheres to all the conventional guidelines. Very
well done!

Sophia Pathways for College Credit – English Composition II
SAMPLE TOUCHSTONE AND SCORING

Touchstone 1 Rubric and Feedback

Rubric
Category

Feedback Score
(acceptable, needs
improvement etc.)

Research
Question

Your research question is very precise and
represents a relevant and debatable topic.

8/10

Working Thesis

Your working thesis is also very clear and you
clearly state which side of the issue you plan to
take.

9/10

Detailed Outline Your outline is clearly labeled and demonstrates

the logical progression of your argument. You
have provided sufficient notes so that the reader
can easily see how you plan to use each source
to support the discussion in each section. You
also include all of the required components.

14/15

Style

Your tone is consistent and informative.
5/5

Conventions Your use of English conventions is consistent.

5/5

Reflection You thoroughly answer all questions and provide
insights, observations, and examples in your
responses.

5/5

Overall Score and Feedback: 46/50

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