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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Sanwo English 1A: Writing Your Paper

The purpose of this research guide is to help students with beginning their argumentative papers on themes in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks . This guide will cover the basics of argumentative & informative essays, how to develop and narrow a topic, finding articles and books for the assignment, citation, and how to get help if you get stuck.

What is an Argumentative Essay?

One of the most common college assignments is the argumentative essay. An argumentative essay is an essay on a debatable topic where you make a claim and then use reliable evidence and reasoning to back up your claim. Your goal is to persuade your audience to see the validity of your argument and to agree with you.

Essays that are the most successful in arguing their side of the issue have the following:

  • A verifiable claim (your thesis statement)
  • Evidence to support that claim or thesis
  • Explanations of how your evidence supports your claim

Evidence for your Henrietta Lacks assignments will come from your 7-10 peer reviewed sources as well as any additional sources you choose to use (i.e. books, newspaper articles, statistics, educational and documentary videos) and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

For more information, visit the OWL at Purdue or talk to Mrs. Sanwo. 

Summary of Your Assignments

As you read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, you'll be looking for debatable topics that are either brought up in the book or are related to topics broached by the book. Pick something that you're interested in because then you'll want to do your research.

Then you will need to select 7-10 scholarly/peer-reviewed sources representing the different viewpoints of your topic. You will use these articles for the following assignments:

  • Essay 2: Researched Argument
    • Argue your viewpoint, supporting your argument (thesis) with what you've learned from your 7-10 scholarly/peer-reviewed sources. Address your opposition by acknowledging, accommodating, and refuting their viewpoint. Use your ethos and logos to lend your argument more credibility. 

      This essay will be written in stages with multiple pre-writing activities. This essay should be between 2000-2500 words.

  • Essay 3: Your Choice
    • Option 1: Argue the opposite side of the topic.
    • Option 2: Informative essay about your topic.

What is an Informative Essay?

If you select option 2 for Essay 3, you'll be writing an informative essay. An informative or exploratory essay allows the writer to investigate a topic more thoroughly, gather information, and share that information with your audience (your teacher and other students). This essay doesn't ask you to take a stance and defend your position. Rather, this essay presents an objective view of a topic that is meant to educate rather than influence.

Good informative essays:

  • Set the context in order to tell your audience about your topic and to frame the information in a way that informs the reader of the scope of the information you'll be covering
  • State why the main idea is important in order to convey to your audience why they should care about your topic and keep reading
  • State your research question in order to define what you want to learn about your topic and why you and other people should be interested in it

For more information, visit the OWL at Purdue or talk to Mrs. Sanwo.