The Social Dilemma Essay Instructions

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You probably have quite a bit of experience reading and summarizing. Since grade

school, you have been writing book reports and suffering through summer reading

programs. Reading, comprehending, and summarizing are vital skills. At the college

level, however, simply regurgitating material is insufficient. One of the most important

benefits of a college education is the ability to think critically. Understanding someone

else’s ideas and then responding to them is one of the most common tasks you will

encounter in your college classes. And although your future employer may never ask

you to provide a literary analysis of The Scarlett Letter or a research paper about global

warming, you will be expected to exercise critical thinking skills on a regular basis.


Write a summary-and-response essay about the documentary, The Social Dilemma. You

are not being asked to discuss whether you like/dislike the film or agree/disagree with

the ideas set forth in it. Instead, you are being asked to deconstruct the film and assess

the validity of the arguments set forth in it.

The summary portion of the essay should be fairly brief, preferably limited to


introductory paragraph but certainly no more than one body paragraph. Your


should take up the bulk of the paper.


• For this essay, you will incorporate two secondary sources. You may use The Social

Dilemma rebuttal articles as your sources, or you may choose your own sources

after conducting research. You must properly incorporate these sources into the

essay, using signal phrases to introduce the sources and using parenthetical

citations to credit the authors. You also will include a Works Cited page with correct

MLA citations for each source. In addition, you must properly cite The Social


• You must adhere to the formatting guidelines set forth in The MLA Handbook, 8th

edition. Be sure that all margins measure 1 inch and that you use the Times New

Roman 12-point font. You should also follow MLA formatting guidelines regarding

the page heading, running header, page numbering, etc. Finally, your citations must

conform to MLA citation style.

• The essay’s assigned length is 1,000−1,200 words.


Step 1. Grab some snacks and watch the film. The first time you view the film, do not


notes. Just enjoy it (hopefully) like you would any other movie.

Step 2. Watch the movie a second time. This time, you should pay close attention to


director’s argument. In addition, you should try to identify the director’s purpose and


audience. Take notes. Write down any relevant facts or statistics.

Step 3. Write a response to the film. Some questions to consider:

• What did you think about the film?

• Do you agree or disagree with the ideas set forth in it?

• Does the director convincingly prove his thesis? If not, why?

• What are the director’s underlying assumptions?

• What is Orlowski assuming that you will agree/disagree with?

• Does Orlowski omit information that would damage his argument? If so, what

information does he omit?

• What rhetorical strategy/strategies does Orlowski use? (See for more information about

rhetorical strategies).

Step 4. Complete the “Deconstructing a Documentary Film Worksheet.”

Step 5. Write the summary portion of the essay. Do not write the film equivalent of a


report. Instead, identify the director’s thesis and then summarize the evidence he uses

to support

that thesis. Be objective. Do not allow your own thoughts to creep into your summary.

Step 6. For the response section of the essay, choose one of the following strategies

for writing a

response essay:

• Analyze the effectiveness of the director’s argument – In this case, the response

analyzes key features, such as the clarity of the main idea; the organization of

the argument; the quality of the supporting evidence; and/or the effectiveness of

the author's style, tone, and voice.

• Agree or disagree with the director’s argument – Often, responders react to the

ideas or the argument of the essay. In this case, the responders show why they

agree or disagree with what the director says.

• Interpret and reflect on the director’s argument – The responder examines the

underlying assumptions or the implications of the director’s argument. Often the

responder reflects on how his or her own experiences, attitudes, and

observations relate to the film.

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