Analytical Writing Topics, Sample Scored Essay Responses* at Selected Score Points, and Reader Commentary Issue Topic 1



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Analytical Writing Topics,

Sample Scored Essay Responses* at Selected Score Points, and Reader Commentary
Issue Topic 1
"Our declining environment may bring the people of the world together as no politician, philosopher, or war ever could. Environmental problems are global in scope and respect no nation's boundaries. Therefore, people are faced with the choice of unity and coop­eration on the one hand or disunity and a common tragedy on the other."

Essay Response - Score 6
Cooperation-or Tragedy?

The solution to the world's growing environmental problems may have to wait awhile. It has been said

that "environmental problems are global and respect no nation's boundaries." Unfortunately, pollution and its consequences still fall to large measure on those least likely to do anything about it: poor countries willing to sacrifice anything in order to sit at the table with the world's wealthy.

As far as the industrialized nations of the world are concerned, the world is a big place. Environmen­tal destruction taking place outside their borders may sometimes be fodder for government pronouncements of concern, but few concrete actions. Deforestation of the Amazon, for instance, is of vital concern to all

those who wish to continue breathing. But the only effective deterrent to this activity, the restriction of international aid money to those countries showing net deforestation, has been stalled in the United

Nations by those unwilling to "interfere" in the internal politics of other nations.

Because of the differential impact of polluting activities around the world, and even in different regions of a single country, many governments will undoubtedly continue to promulgate only modest environmental regulations. Costs to polluting compa­nies will continue to carry as much weight as the benefit of a pollution-free environment. Particularly in the current political climate of the United States, the well-documented expense of today's pollution ­control measures will be stacked against the unknown long-term effects of polluting actitivities. "Why should I spend millions of dollars a year, which causes me to have to raise the cost of my goods or eliminate jobs, if no one really knows if air pollution is all that harmful? Show me the proof," an air polluting company may demand.

Realistically, it won't be until critical mass is achieved that the hoped for "choice of unity and cooperation" will be a viable one. Only when the earth as a whole is so polluted that life itself becomes increasingly difficult for a majority of the world's people will there likely be the political will to force global environmental laws on governments world­wide. But the optimists (read: environmental activ­ists) among us continue to believe that the world can be shown the error of its ways. They continue to point out that the sky is probably falling--or at least developing a big hole. The world, as a whole, ignores them.

One would hope, however, that governments, perhaps through a strengthened U.N., could some­how be forced to realize that when the Earth reaches the critical mass of pollution, it may be too late to do anything about it. That would be a "common trag­edy" indeed.

Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 6

This excellent response displays an in-depth analysis of the issue, conveyed through the skillful use of language.

While acknowledging that environmental prob­lems are serious and of global dimensions, the discus­sion explores the complexity of international coop­eration. Such cooperation, the paper argues, runs into a variety of problems, and the writer offers persuasive examples to support that point:



  • the unwillingness of nations to "interfere" with other nations through political measures such as restriction of foreign aid

  • inadequate environmental regulations, which are caused both by "the differential impact of polluting activities" between countries and regions and by the difficulty of comparing the "long-term effects of polluting actitivities" with the more easily documented, short-term costs of reducing pollution.

*Responses are reproduced exactly as written, including errors, misspellings, etc., if any.


The paper distinguishes itself in part by its excellent organization. The first paragraph analyzes the claim and announces the writer's position; the second and third paragraphs provide clear examples supporting that position. The skillful use of a quotation from a business person vividly illustrates the economic impact of pollution controls. The last two paragraphs bring a sense of closure to the essay by continuing the theme announced in the first paragraph-that cooperation must wait until more dire circumstances produce the political will necessary to reduce pollution.

Transitional phrases-"because," "however," "for instance"-help guide the reader through the argu­ment. Also, effective sentence variety and the use of precise vocabulary help clarify meaning and confirm the score of 6.


Essay Response - Score 4

Our declining environment may bring the people of the world together as no politician, philosopher, or war ever could. Environmental issues are a growing concern in our country today. It is an issue that concerns every person, no one is excluded.

Facing and solving environmental issues calls for unity and cooperation. Prejudices should be put aside in this time of need. Without unity our world as we know it will not exist in twenty-five years. People as a whole need to take action. Without unity and cooperation little will be accomplished.

There are many environmental issues we are facing today. For example, recycling is a simple and effective way to help the environment. If everyone did a small part the results would be enormous. Recycling is a good example because it is something every single person is capable of doing.

There are many ways people of any age, race, or sex can contribute to help the environment. Emis­sions testing for exhausts on automobiles is one way to help keep unnecessary pollutants from contami­nating the air. Very few cities require emissions testing for automobiles. Columbus, for example, does not require emissions testing. My small hometown of Amherst, Ohio does require this test.

1 believe the government needs to implement stricter regulations regarding environmental issues and also increase the funding that is allotted for it. Mandatory recycling laws with a stiff penalty for breaking the law is one solution. Funding for groups to do research is imperative. Without research there


is very little we would know about anything includ­ing diseases and microorganisms.

People of the world need to understand the situation our generation and generations to come are faced with. This understanding needs to come from education. The United States has always been a forerunner in wars, peace talks, etc. It is now time for the United States to be the leader in solutions to environmental concerns. The greatest barrier in any situation is communication. If we communicate with each other and work together instead of apart results would be seen. Education is another great concern, especially in underdeveloped countries and third world nations. There is a lack of education in many of these countries. Education is the key to success.

In summary 1 would like to emphasize the impor­tance in unity and cooperation on global concerns such as the environment. Also education is very important in making headway. I also believe the government should get more involved in these issues.

Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 4

This paper presents and supports an adequate analysis of the issue. After stating the need for cooperation on the environment, the writer proposes several very

specific remedies for environmental problems: recycling, emissions testing, research., education, and communication. The detailed description of emis­sions testing is useful; however, the other remedies (recycling, research, etc.) are not developed fully or persuasively.

In some areas the response suffers from needless repetition. Paragraph six, for example, moves from education to communication and back to education. The conclusion, moreover, adds little, merely repeat­ing earlier statements.

The control of grammar and usage is generally competent, but the sentences tend to be choppy. Although most of the ideas are stated clearly, the relationship between the ideas is not always made clear: "Also education is very important in making headway. ] also believe the government should get more involved in these issues."


Essay Response - Score 2

Environmental problems will require a joint efferct amoung people to solve, however, environmental problems may not cause people to come together. Should the problems continue for an extended period of time before any effert is made to solve them, they


will reach a point of no return no matter how people come together to work on it. When this happens there will be increased shortage in our natural resouses. As supply of our resouces goes down and demand remains the same or goes up there wi1l be increased presure to claim what resouces remain. So instead of people working together to solve the problem, they wi1l be fighting for what's left by the problem.

To solve this, people need to come together before the problem reaches a state of no return. This may be hard to do since the effects of environmental prob­lems are not yet felt by a large degree Offelt at all) by everyone. At this point in time many feel it is not there problem to worry about since it does not immediatly effect them. To remidy this people should become more aware of their current environment.


Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 2 This response is seriously flawed. Its strongest feature is a fairly clear position: it agrees with the claim that

environmental problems wi1l require cooperation and presents a scenario for what will happen if there is no cooperation-conflict over diminishing resources. However, the writer offers little support for that position. Threatened "resources" and the "effects of environmental problems" are mentioned but not specified, and the paper provides no examples of how people might "come together" to address the problem or how they might "become more aware of their current environment."

Some of the sentences are worded clearly ("So instead of people working together. . ."), but others are so flawed by imprecise word choice that the meaning is difficult to understand: ". . . not yet felt by a large degree (if felt at all) by everyone."

Also, run-on sentences (the first sentence, for example) and unclear pronoun references add to the confusion, reinforcing the score of 2.


Issue Topic 2

"Both the development of technological tools and

the uses to which humanity has put them have created modern civilizations in which loneliness is
ever increasing."
Essay Response - Score 6

Technology, broadly defined as the use of tools, has a long history. Ever since Erg the caveman first conked an animal with a rock, people have been using

technology. For thousands of years, the use of tools ')g
allowed people to move ever closer together. Because fields could be cultivated and the technology to store food existed, people would live in cities rather than

in small nomadic tribes. Only very lately have Erg's descendants come to question the benefits of tech­

nology. The Industrial Revolution introduced and spread technologies that mechanized many tasks. As a result of the drive toward more efficient production and distribution (so the ever larger cities would be supported), people began to act as cogs in the techno­logical machine. Clothing was no longer produced by groups of women sewing and gossiping together, but by down-trodden automation's operating machinery in grim factories.

The benefits of the new technology of today, computers and the internet, are particularly ambigu­ous. They have made work evet more efficient and knit the world together in a web of information and phone lines. Some visionaries speak of a world in which Erg need not check in to his office; he can just dial in from home. He won't need to go to a bar to pick up women because there are all those chat rooms. Hungry? Erg orders his groceries from an online delivery service. Bored? Download a new game. And yet...

Many people, myself included, are a little queasy about that vision. Erg may be doing work, but is it real work? Are his online friends real friends? Does anything count in a spiritual way if it's just digital? Since the Industrial Revolution, we have been haunted by the prospect that we are turning into our machines: efficient, productive, souless. The newest technologies, we fear, are making us flat as our screens, turning us into streams of bits of interchangable data. We may know a lot of people, but we have few real friends. We have a lot of things to do, but no reason to do them. In short, the new technology emphasizes a spiritual crisis that has been building for quite some time.

As I try to unravel which I believe about the relative merits of technology, I think it is instructive to remember technology's original result. A better plow meant easier farming, more food, longer lives, and more free time to pursue other things such as art. Our newest technology does not give us more free time; it consumes our free time. We are terminally distracted from confronting ourselves or each other. We stay safe, and lonely, in our hO1lleS and offices rather than taking the risk of meeting real people or trying new things.


While I am certainly not a Luddite, I do believe we need to look for a bit more balance between technology and life. We have to tear ourselves away from the fatal distractions and go out into the world. Technology has given us long lives and endless supplies of information. Now we need to apply that information, use the time we're not spending conking our dinner with a club, and find our reasons for living.

Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 6

This outstanding response displays cogent reasoning,

insightful, persuasive analysis, and superior control of language. The response immediately identifies the complexities of the issue and then playfully explores both the benefits and the drawbacks of technological developments over the course of human history. The writer maintains that a "balance between technology and life" is necessary if humans are going to abate the loneliness that is part of modern existence.

In contrasting the intended purpose of technology at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution with the end result of the use of today's technology, the writer skillfully expands the initial position and makes a sound point: While technological develop­ments have helped society in a practical way, they have contributed to a spiritual crisis that has been building for quite some time.

The analysis is tightly organized. With well­chosen examples and a character called Erg, the response moves well beyond a listing of examples, developing the analysis over five focused paragraphs, each building on the previous one. The conclusion-­that as a result of technology the individual begins to lose sight of the need to connect with fellow citizens in a meaningful way-follows directly from the preceding paragraphs, while adding substantive analysis.

This writer is clearly in command of language and syntax, varying the sentence structure to express concepts succinctly. Word choice is generally precise and often highly effective, as in the following ex­amples: "down-trodden automation," and "haunted by the prospect that we are turning into our ma­chines: efficient, productive, soulless."
Essay Response - Score 4

Looking at the above statement, I see a lot of truth to

the statement. There are many ways that society has used the advanced technology in order to isolate
themselves. It mayor may not be a consious move, but the results are all the same. The isolation occurs in a variety of ways and in all different areas. By computerizing factories, there are more and more people working long hours by themselves, with there only companion as a computer monitor. Although the company may be getting better production, the question that needs to be ask is at what cost to their employees.

It is not only the management of big factories that are responsible for this isolation. This lonliness can be seen in many other settings. With the growing popularity of the television, the nation is seeing a decline in families talking and an increase in watch­ing the television. Not only can this result in a generation of "coach potatoes", it is also causes less communication and a feeling of isolation from everyone that a person cares about.

So far technology has entered the work place and the horne, it has also entered the social relm. When you go to order food in the drive-thru, who is or better yet what is it that you talk to? It is a machine, although there is a person on the other end, you are still reciting your order to a machine. If it is ten o'clock at night and you need money, there are ATM's. All of these gadgets may be very nice and convient, but they result in lack of human contact.

Although it might be easy to blame technolgy for our feelings of loneliness, it is Just a cop out. By looking at all the ways technology causes isolation, it is still people who choose to use these convenient methods. If a person wants to have human contact, all they have to do is go inside to the bank or go inside the resturaunt to order. What it basically boils down to, is that it is our choice whether or not we use technology. It is a scary thought to think maybe one day we might live in a society where you will never have to leave your house. That by using FAX ma­chines, computers, modems, and the telephone a person would never have to have human contact to get their job done. The thing is that if that is not what we as a society wants, we are the ones to speak out and change the outcome.

Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 4

This is a competent discussion of the issue. The position presented in the first paragraph-that "there are many ways that society has used the advanced technology in order to isolate themselves"--is adequately sustained, but the examples are not always


clearly relevant (e.g., in the case of paragraph one's "computerizing" of factories, the decision to use the technology is not made by the individual worker.)

Also, the reasoning is not developed as fully as it would be in a response at the score level of 6 or 5.

While organization is adequate, the response lacks the organized coherence of ideas that exemplify a 5 essay. Transitions, within and between paragraphs, are not always logical. The last paragraph could be much more clearly focused: since several sentences repeat the same idea-that "it is our choice whether or not we use technology"-and the purpose or meaning of others (e.g., the last) is not immediately clear.

In general, ideas are presented clearly, although awkward phrasing sometimes contributes to vague­ness (e.g., "By looking at all the ways technology causes isolation, it is still people who choose to use these convenient methods"). Lack of sentence variety seems to inhibit the communication of ideas (e.g., many short sentences are often used where one or two compound ones could make the points more effectively). Overall, however, this is an adequate response to the topic.

Essay Response - Score 2

Computers of all shapes and sizes, p.c.'s, laptops, faxes, phones, the list never ends. All considered by our society as great technological advances. Not many would argue that the development of these tools has not advanced our world in smile ways. However they certainly seem to be making our world one in which contact with our fellow man is less and less necessary. Though some may be more comfort­able not having to engage in direct contact, it is questionable whether this is beneficial to society as a whole. The very least result could in fact be a very lonely world, but it may result in more significant problems.

Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 2

This response is seriously flawed. The analysis of the issue is extremely limited, and there are serious

problems in sentence structure. The writer's position, never clearly stated, seems to be that as a result of technological developments, "contact with our fellow man is less and less necessary." However, the implica­tions of this statement (and others) are never explored or developed. Furthermore, the list of technological advancements does not support or clarify the writer's already tenuously held position. 60
Each new sentence could serve as a springb( thoughtful analysis but instead takes the res further from the apparent premise.

This response received _ score of 2, not b( language problems, but because reasoning, ar and development are extremely thin and ins\


Argument Topic
"Six months ago the region of Forestville ir the speed limit for vehicles traveling on the highways by ten miles per hour. Since that e took effect, the number of automobile accid that region has increased by 15 percent. But speed limit in Elmsford, a region neighborin Forestville, remained unchanged, and auton accidents declined slightly during the same: month period. Therefore, if the citizens of F want to reduce the number of automobile ae on the region's highways, they should camp, reduce Forestville's speed limit to what it W8 the increase."
Essay Response - Score 6

The agrument is well-presented, but not the: well-reasoned. By making a comparison of tI of Forestville, the town with the higher spec and therefore automobile accidents, with th of Elmsford, an area of a lower speed limit al subsequently fewer accidents, the argument

reducing Forestville's speed limits in order te accidents seems logical.

However, the citizens of Forestville are f,' consider other possible alternatives to the in car accidents after the raise in speed limit. S alternatives may include the fact that there

reliable cars traveling the roads in Forestvil!, the age bracket of those in Elmsford may be

conducive to driving safely. It is possible tha are more younger, inexperienced, or more d unsafe drivers in Forestville than there are ir Elmsford. In addition, the citizens have faile consider the geographical and physical terra two different areas. Perhaps Forestville's higl an area of more dangerous curves, sharp turn many intersections or merging points where

are more likely to occur. It appears reasonabl therefore, for the citizens to focus on these tJ spots than to reduce the speed in the entire: Elmsford may be an area of easier driving CO] where accidents are less likely to occur regar the speed limit.
A six-month period is not a particularly long time frame for the citizens to determine that speed limit has influenced the number of automobile accidents in the area. It is mentioned in the argument that Elmsford accidents decreased during the time period. This may have been a time, such as during harsh weather conditions, when less people were driving on the road and therefore the number of accidents decreased. However, Forestville citizens, perhaps coerced by employment or other requirements, were unable to avoid driving on the roads. Again, the demographics of the population are important. It is possible that Elmsford citizens do not have to travel far from work or work from their home, or do not work at all. Are there more people in Forestville than there were sic months ago? If so, there may be an increased number of accidents due to more automo­biles on the road, and not due to the increased speed limits. Also in reference to the activities of the

population, it is possible that Forestville inhabitants were traveling during less safe times of the day, such as early in the morning, or during twilight. Work or

family habits may have encouraged citizens to drive during this time when Elmsford residents may not have been forced to do so.

Overall, the reasoning behind decreasing Forestville's speed limit back to its original seems logical as presented above since the citizens are acting in their own best interests and want to protect their safety. However, before any final decisions are made about the reduction in speed limit, the citizens and officials of Forestville should evaluate all possible alternatives and causes for the increased number of accidents over the six-month period as compared to Elmsford.

Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 6

This outstanding response begins by noting that the argument is "well presented." It then proceeds to discuss possible alternative explanations for the increase in car accidents and provides an impressively full analysis. Alternatives mentioned are that

. the two regions might have drivers of different

ages and experience;

. Forestvil1e's topography, geography, cars, and/or

roads might contribute to accidents;

. six months might be an insufficient amount of

time for determining that the speed limit is

linked to the accident rate;
. demographics might playa role in auto accidents; . population and auto density should be consid­

ered; and

. the times of day when drivers in the two regions

travel might be relevant.

The points are cogently developed and are linked in such a way as to create a logically organized critique. Transitions together with interior connections create a smoothly integrated presentation. For the most part, the writer uses language correctly and well and provides excellent variety in syntax. The minor flaws (e.g., using "less" instead of "fewer") do not detract from the overall high quality of the critique. This is an impressive 6 paper.

Essay Response - Score 4

At first look, this seems to be a very well presented arguement. A logical path is followed throughout the paragraph and the conclusion is expected. However, upon a second consideration, it is apparent that all possibilities were not considered when the author presented his conclusion (or at least that s/he did not present all of the possibilities). There are numerous potential explanations for why the number of acci­dents in Elmsford decreased while the number in Forestville increased. Although it seems logical to assume that the difference in the percentage of accidents was due to the difference in whether or nor the speed limit had been increased during the speci­fied month, this does nor necessarily mean that the speed limit should be reduced back to what it origi­nally was in Forestville. The author does nor state two specific pieces of information that are important before a conclusion such as the one the author made is sound. The first is that it is not expressed whether the speed limits in the two neighboring regions had had the same speed limit before Forestville's speed limit had been increased. If they had originally been the same, then it is reasonable to conclude that Forestvil1e's speed limit should be reduced back to what it was before the increase. However, if the two region's speed limits were initially different, then such a conclusion can not be made. The second piece of information that is necessary for the present argument is the relative number of accidents in each of the areas prior to the iRcrease in speed limit. For the author to make the presented conclusion, the number of accidents should have been approximately equal prior to the increase in the speed limit in Forestville. If the two missing pieces of information
61
had been presented and were in the author's favor, then the conclusion that the author made would have been much more sound than it currently is. In conclusion, the argument is not entirely well rea­soned, but given the information that was expressed in the paragraph, it was presented well, and in a logical order.

Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 4

This competent critique claims that there are "nu­merous potential explanations for why the number of accidents in Elmsford decreased while the number in Forestville increased." However, the author discusses only two points:

. whether the speed limits in the two regions were

originally the same; and

. the number of accidents in each region prior to

Forestville's raising the speed limit.

Although the response appears at first to be well developed, there is much less analysis here than the length would suggest. The first third and last third of the essay are relatively insubstantial, consisting mainly of general summary statements (e.g., "A logical path. . . conclusion is expected" and "If the two. . . more sound than it currently is"). The real heart of the critique consists of minimal development of the two points mentioned above. Therefore, although two important features of the argument are analyzed and the writer handles language and syntax adequately, the lack of substantial development keeps this critique from earning a score higher than 4.


Essay Response - Score 2

The argument gives statistics of increases in automo­bile accidents since the speed limit increased six months ago on the highways of Forestville. The


argument also gives a statement of how the neighbor­ing region of Forestville, did not increase or decrease the speed limit. It remained unchanged and automo­bile accidents declined slightly during the same six­month period. The argument may appeal to those who have been effected by the increase in accidents, but it does not give an emotional appeal overall. We are relying on the authors statistics but we don't know where they came from and if they are reliable. The argument needs more examples and illustrations to get his point across to more people. It is suggested that the citizens of Forestville campaign to reduce Forestville's speed limit to what it was before the increase, but it is usually hard to start a campaign. One person needs to take action. If the author is a citizen of Forestville, maybe he should take the initiative.
Reader Commentary for Essay Response - Score 2 This seriously flawed critique presents only one idea relevant to an analysis of the argument: "The argu­ment needs more examples and illustrations to get his point across to more people." Everything else in the essay is either summarizing the argument, speculating, or offering advice. The result is a response that is clearly on topic but that provides no analysis of the line of reasoning in the argument.

In addition to the lack of analysis, the writing is weak. The organization is loose, although not illogi­cal, and intended meaning is sometimes unclear (e.g., ". . . but it does not give an emotional appeal over­all."). For these reasons, the response deserves a score of 2 according to the scoring guide.

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