Paper 2 Prompt


Chris Richards recently posed “The Five Hardest Questions in Pop Music,” reinvigorating debates that have raged among music fans for more than a decade. Critics at Aesthetics for Birds (a website devoted to aesthetics and philosophy of art for everyone) took up these questions, providing brief but thoughtful extensions, critiques, and dissents of Richard’s views. Now it’s your turn to join the conversation.

The Task

Write a paper in which you play the role of a professional music critic coming-to-terms with what has been written in response to one of the “five hardest questions in pop music.”

First, in at least 2 opening paragraphs, fairly and accurately represent the full map of the debate by summarizing the starter points or questions in Chris Richards’s piece and the gists of of the Aesthetics for Birds critics’ responses. Then, following the examples of the Aesthetics for Birds critics, narrow your readers’ focus to one or two of the most important issues or questions in the debate and explain why you chose to address the issues you did. Next, come-to-terms with each of the critics whose views shaped your thinking. Conclude this section of your essay, by presenting your answer to the question as responses to the critics. Your thesis should extend and/or counter views already existing in the debate. Use the complaint + pitch structure to make help you connect your thesis to the views of other writers.

Body paragraphs should focus both on 1) coming-to-terms with the AFB critics’ approaches to answering the question and 2) forwarding and countering their views to advance your own (likely related) answers to the question.

Your conclusion should highlight your contribution to the debate and say why what you wrote matters to people interested in addressing these questions.


To write this paper, you will need to:

  • Gather information and perspectives by reading and writing about the views of other writers on this topic (some of whom you may disagree with).
  • Fairly and accurately represent the current state of the conversation by mapping (understanding and synthesizing) the key points of debate in the conversation.
  • Move the conversation forward by formulating and developing your own point of view as a response to what other writers have written.
  • Use direct quotation and paraphrase to bring the ideas of at least 3 other writers into your paper.
  • Make 3 forwarding moves (illustrating, authorizing, borrowing, extending) and 2 countering moves (taking another, uncovering values, or dissenting).
  • Use repeating keywords to build conceptual coherence in and among your paragraphs.
  • Use pivotal words and pointing words to connect sentences to one another.
  • Use signal phrases with good signal verbs to mark the shift into another writer’s voice and voice markers to indicate your view of the ideas you’re forwarding or countering.

Successful students will:

  • Complete all homework assignments on time.
  • Use homework assignments to deepen your understanding of the debate and practice designated reading and writing skills.
  • Submit a complete draft that meets word count expectations by class time on Friday, March 13.
  • Participate effectively in peer review and class discussion.
  • Thoroughly revise and develop their work after initial drafts.
  • Meet or exceed final word count expectations.
  • Support classmates’ efforts.
  • Write between 1250-1750 words.
  • Use MLA manuscript formatting and citation style.

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