Unit 4: Common Ground Essay

[Finding Common Ground Essay–Schedule]

DUE: Friday, June 3rd

We have spent this whole quarter thinking about the intentional ways we write ourselves—through our stories, our memoirs, and our art. Now it is time to think about the unintended ways.

The final paper for English 1A requires you to “Find Common Ground” between two sides of a contemporary issue.

Your paper will be one of the debates listed below, all of which come with a pro paper and a con paper.

After you have read both of these carefully, you are tasked with finding their common ground. As the guidelines in the SMG say, your objective is to “analyze the position essays to understand their author’s main points of disagreement and to suggest ways to build common ground on shared values, concerns, needs and interests” (197). This can be a very challenging or even untenable task with some topics and between some extreme points of contention. Try to pinpoint the ideological disagreements and differences in perspective that make accommodation unlikely or impossible by asking yourself questions like: What are they actually debating? Where does this conflict originate?

NOTE: This is NOT an argumentative essay, where you have to pick a side and explain why it is the correct side. For the purposes of this paper, there is neither a right or wrong side, just groups of people debating. That is why maintaining an objective view on the topic is going to be so important in this paper. Instead of arguing, use dominant impressions to get your point across.

Because the articles provided are rather general and speak expansively about the debate, it will be very beneficial for you to root your paper in a specific example. That is why you are responsible for finding ONE current news story about some aspect of this debate. Although you are only discussing one story, it would be helpful to find multiple stories on the same topic from multiple journalists or newspapers. This way you will have a more expansive understanding of the news story.


Select your topic from one of the three provided below. The Pro and Con articles are located on iLearn–PDF Readings–Finding Common Ground Essay Readings.

  • Celebrity Culture
  • Social Media
  • Zoos
  • Junk Food

For each reading there is an article that takes a positive approach to the topic and one that takes a negative.

Key Components

  • Informative Introduction and Conclusion: Review in-class discussion from
  • Probing Analysis
  • Fair and Impartial Examination
  • Clear, Organized Structure


If you want to know what an A paper looks like for a Finding Common Ground Essay, refer to the paper entitled “Lost Innocence” by Jeremy Bernard (SMG 178-182)


  • 1,500 words minimum (~5 pages), though most A- and B-level papers will be longer.
  • Clearly articulates the debate’s dimensions, including a definition of what is being debated, discussion of both sides of the debate, and thoughtful incorporation of your current news event.
  • Meets MLA guidelines for structure and style (see Purdue OWL MLA Guide: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/)
  • All of your sources must be sited within your paper using MLA In-Text Citations. In addition, you are required to include a Works Cited page, which is not included in your final word count. It should include both of the provided articles (the information is located at the bottom of the last page) and articles relating to your current news story.


Excellent Good Satisfactory Needs Improvement Needs Vast Improvement
Informative Introduction and Conclusions
Probing Analysis
Fair and Impartial Examination
Clear, Organized Structure
Grammar/Mechanics/Syntax/MLA Format/Works Cited