Persuasive Research Essay: Debunking A Conspiracy Theory
MINIMUM LENGTH: 2000 words, including abstract
“Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.” -Richard Hofstadter
Essay Requirements
1. Identify a contemporary conspiracy theory and argue against it. “Contemporary” means that the theory must have been hatched in this century (since 2000). Take advantage of the election season, which constantly offers new conspiracies on both sides of the aisle! Remember, a conspiracy involves at least two people and a theory has not been factually proven and widely accepted.
2. At least two relevant quotes from Richard Hofstadter, Elaine Showalter, and/or Mark Fenster must be appropriately integrated to provide a critical framework for your topic.
3. At least five researched, valid sources must be cited to describe background and context, examine the known evidence, and support your arguments (see source details below).
4. The paper must be preceded by an abstract of no more than 350 words. An abstract is a brief overview of your essay.
Research Process & Source Details
• Explore links in the Module One Overview page and websites on conspiracy theories, critical thinking and skepticism in the second Module One folder in Canvas for topic ideas.

• Sources may NOT include Wikipedia,,, or any other general-knowledge outlet.
• Sources may include fringe conspiracy sites but must also include more traditional, verifiable sources to provide a
balanced and critical viewpoint.

Writing a Persuasive Research Essay
• Your essay’s introductory paragraph should briefly present the theory, including those who promote the idea, their arguments or narrative, and why you don’t buy it.
• The body of the paper should provide examples from your research to support your negative opinion of the theory. Review the formal structures for evaluating arguments that are presented in the Unit 1 Overview to help you take apart the evidence presented by your particular paranoid spokespeople. Who are they, and why might they be pushing this conspiracy theory? What are they afraid of, and why? What is their expertise on the subject, if any?
• Develop only one major example per body paragraph, using topic sentence to transition to each new subtopic and example, and conclude with what readers should take away from cited material in terms of your paper’s analysis.
• The conclusion should wrap up the essay’s arguments; it should not introduce new examples nor contradict the essay’s thesis and make a final pitch against the conspiracy theory (don’t hedge at the end).

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