Natural/Unnatural Essay

Natural/Unnatural Essay
Paper Details
– Question: “Water, fire, pigs, certain plants and carbon are variously
considered natural or unnatural depending on the situation.
Pick one or a subset of these entities and explain:
• the numerous ways in which it is or is not perceived as natural in
different circumstances;
• the different meanings of nature involved (and/or the different
“lenses†at work); and
• how these different perceptions of the entity’s naturalness alter how
different human groups want to manage it.
– Criteria:
o Clear identification of main points of disagreement involved in a
selected controversy
o Skillful analysis of the underlying framings of Nature
o Appropriate use of evidence to support argument
o Knowledgeable engagement with academic literature
o Clear structure and presentation
o Quality of written expression
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Introductory notes for EITA final essay
Overview of assessment
– Style: Academic essay
– Due: Week 12, Wednesday May 25, 5pm
– Worth: 40%
– Length: 2000 words (excluding references)
– Question: “Water, fire, pigs, certain plants and carbon are variously
considered natural or unnatural depending on the situation.
Pick one or a subset of these entities and explain:
• the numerous ways in which it is or is not perceived as natural in
different circumstances;
• the different meanings of nature involved (and/or the different
“lenses” at work); and
• how these different perceptions of the entity’s naturalness alter how
different human groups want to manage it.
– Criteria:
o Clear identification of main points of disagreement involved in a
selected controversy
o Skillful analysis of the underlying framings of Nature
o Appropriate use of evidence to support argument
o Knowledgeable engagement with academic literature
o Clear structure and presentation
o Quality of written expression
Introduction to the topic
This essay is about the issue of what we consider to belong in any given
situation. Think about a given place (eg your home, a lecture theatre, a railway
station) and time and ask yourself: What is considered “natural” in that place?
“Unnatural”? Why? By whom?
Places are a useful way to think about the different situations in which specific
things are or are not viewed as natural. As Anne-Lise discussed in her lecture,
places are spaces and times that we imbue with particular meanings – such as
being “our place”. So one way of thinking about what is natural, is thinking about
what and who is “in place” or “out of place”, and why?
In any given place, there is no one right answer as to what is appropriate or
natural. This is for three reasons. First, place is subjective – this is part of the
point about places being full of meaning: we all understand them differently.
Nevertheless, culture means that we sometimes share meanings – and so
understand that certain places mean certain things, at least to others (we don’t
need to agree with dominant meanings). Secondly, places are typically mixed up
and messy and it is only our attempts to mentally categorise them that leads to
essentialised views in which certain things are recognised and valued but others
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are not (eg our attempts to see or frame degraded urban creeks as natural, or
our attempts to see cities as free of wild nature despite the abundance of living
things that may be around us). Thirdly, any place can be “home” to positive and
negative features. A place may be natural, for instance, but does that make it
desirable or undesirable? As we know, dualisms such as Human/Nature are
slippery – the Naturalness of a thing may be valued positively or negatively. For
example, as we’ve discussed, cities can be seen as beacons of Humanness (as a
transcendence of Nature): sophisticated, modern, brightly lit places that are
home to human cultural expression, creativity and democracy. In this light,
statues, museums, city halls, magnificent gardens and skyscrapers are in place.
But cities can also be seen as dark, debased, pits of sin and misery, home to
corrupt politicians, gangsters, rats and disease. In this light, nuns, tourists,
eagles, and meadow flowers, to name a few things, might be seen as out of place.
Likewise, as Pete discussed in his lecture, wild places can be seen as (and were
once almost exclusively seen as) “the darkness” beyond the city wall, the home of
bestial people and behaviours. But now wild places are more often seen as places
of tranquility, a home to which all humans need to return to find their true inner
selves. From such a perspective, artificial chemicals or domestic animals are seen
as transgressive, while wild rats may be valued as part of the natural ecosystems.
In this assessment task, we want you to think about one of the “elements of
nature” above – Water, fire, pigs, certain plants (please choose one plant case
study) or carbon – and consider where and when certain variants of it are
considered to be in place or natural, and where and when certain variants of it
are considered to be out of place or unnatural. This will require you to look
closely at the relationship between the entity in question and “its environment”
over different settings. For example, methane is considered natural and useful in
some settings, but is undesirable when in the form of bubbles in rivers (thanks
CSG), odorous gases (thanks human digestion, land fill), or at levels above a
certain point in the global atmosphere (thanks meat eaters and industry!). Even
when methan is produced by beautiful wetlands, and so is “natural” in source, its
mixture into the atmosphere may make it a management issue in light of
greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets.
In your essay, we would like you to discuss at least one situation in which your
entity is viewed as natural and at least one in which it is viewed as unnatural,
and note what is meant by naturalness in each situation.
To help you with the process, we’ve put together some basic essay writing
guidelines.
Essay guidelines
Getting started
Make sure to always read the assessment criteria as this is what you will be
marked on. Make sure you always read the essay question and ask for
clarification if you need. A good start is to pick one of the five entities and
brainstorm all the different meanings or forms it has and start to think about
why. For example, most have “tamer” forms than others…
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Research
You need to do some serious background research on your topic to canvass the
range of ways in which it is viewed (we want you to be comprehensive) and to
come up with real world examples for each of the different situations you
discuss. You need to back up your research with academic sources (See Box 1).
At the end of the document, you need to list all of the references you have cited
so that readers are able to quickly see who you are citing and to follow up your
references if needed. These need to adhere to academic protocol. See:
• Study and Learning centre resource on paraphrasing, in-text referencing:
https://emedia.rmit.edu.au/learninglab/content/referencing
• Library Referencing guides:
http://www1.rmit.edu.au/browse;ID=8rwjnkcmfoeez
Box 1. Academic sources
What is an academic source?
Scholarly (academic) information is in-depth, accurate, well researched and
written by academics and researchers. Scholarly information is found in sources
such as books and journals. Some scholarly information, such as journal articles,
may have gone through a peer-review process.
What is peer-review?
Articles published in peer-reviewed (or refereed) journals have been through a
formal approval process. This means that an editor and subject specialists have
reviewed the article before it has been accepted for publication. This guarantees
the quality of the research. If you are unsure whether a particular journal is peerreviewed/refereed,
check the database, Ulrichsweb.com or ask the Library.
Publications that meet these criteria are often academic:
peer reviewed
published / edited by a university or scholarly society
reports research
contains a bibliography and references other works
Articles from these publications are usually NOT academic:
newspapers
magazines and trade journals
newsletters
journals published weekly or more frequently very short articles (eg one or two
pages)
articles without a bibliography
Writing
No matter how innovative your ideas or how well you have researched your
essay, if you don’t communicate it well, you are not going to get the audience
response you deserve. Remember when you are writing an essay that you are
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communicating to a group of readers. Think of yourself as the teacher trying to
get your students to understand something. Keep the writing simple and logical
and let the ideas shine on their own.
As a starter, see this study and learning centre resource:
https://emedia.rmit.edu.au/learninglab/sites/default/files/academic_style.pdf
The key to a strong essay is its skeleton: its structure. There are innumerable
variations on how to structure an essay but all are linear tracts of writing with a
beginning, middle and end. So write your essay remembering that your readers
do not have all your background knowledge but are encountering each idea in
the order you present them. Do not presume too much, repeat yourself
unnecessarily, or jump all over the place!

We would like you to structure your essays with subheadings. The first section
needs to be the Introduction (See Box 2). You can then move on to deal with key
arguments in turn, backed up with evidence, using subheadings as required. The
end is where you draw the threads of your discussion together and provide a
conclusion to your argument. A useful rule for the conclusion is: don’t introduce
any new material. Just summarise clearly and succinctly the main points that
emerged from your argument.
Box 2. Essay Introductions
The introduction of your essay prepares the reader for the journey, so you need
to introduce the topic and your approach to it. Be concise. At a minimum, your
introduction contains the what, why and how of your work. It should: outline the
context; show that you understand what the question is; briefly outline how you
propose to develop your argument and the analysis and clearly state what your
argument will be.
The following template works well for introductions and may help you when
you are first learning how to write them. Write one or two sentences in the
introduction covering each of the following areas:
* Theme: Welcome and grab the reader. Talk generally about the broad topic,
and then move to the way that you’ll be limiting the scope of the discussion –
for example the time or place or specific example that you’ll be examining.
* Research Question: Quickly cover the actual research question that you are
answering in the essay. You can use phrases like, “In this paper I ask the
question, or, “This research is concerned with the issue of…”.
* Rationale: Contextualise the research – why does it matter?
* How: Tell the reader how you will answer the question/ approach the
research in this essay. You can use words like “First,
…examine…Second…using…discuss…”.
* Argument: What will your argument be?
Besides having a clear logic and structure to your essay, you need to have a clear
logic to your paragraphs (Box 3) and sentences.
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Box 3. Paragraphing
A well-built paragraph moves smoothly from one statement or fact to the next. It
makes the argument clear, and it’s easy to follow. It also links well with the
paragraphs before and after it. In this way, the whole argument flows clearly and
convincingly, and is easy to follow.
One of the easiest models for writing paragraphs is the WEED model (Godwin,
2014).
* W is for What. The first sentence of your paragraph should make it clear what
subject you are covering – this is known as the topic sentence/claim.
* E is for Evidence. Articulate the theory and reference it and then reference it.
* E is for Example. You should consider whether you need to provide examples
to illustrate your subject.
* D is for Do. You need to provide a conclusion to your paragraph – this may be
a summing up, or stating the implications of your evidence, such as why the
subject supports your argument.
It doesn’t matter whether your evidence comes before your examples.
Sometimes it’s more appropriate to give an example to define your subject
before including your evidence.
Editing and presentation
Editing your work for punctuation, expression and grammar is essential. Read
your essay aloud to make sure that it is clear and easy to read. Pay particular
attention to long sentences, clumsy clauses, and ambiguous expression. When we
are the author, we are already aware of what we mean. But someone unfamiliar
with the work can often detect unclear passages or phrases more quickly. It can
also help if you leave the essay for a few days and then read over it ‘with fresh
eyes’. Also use your eyes to carefully check spelling and to proof read. Don’t rely
on your computer’s spell check to pack up, puck up, pock up or pick up your
mistakes. Read your essay closely, and have someone else read it.
In terms of presentation, it is recommended to ask your teacher how they would
like you to present your work. Some guidelines to present your work clearly are:
* Font size: 12pt font
* Spacing: 1.5 or 2.0 paragraph spaced
* Font type: Standard eg/Arial, Calibri or Times New Roman
* Margins: Standard
* Header or Footer: Include student name, student number, title of
assessment
* Number and name all tables and figures clearly and refer to in the
text
* We would like you to save the file as a Word doc named as: your
name.EITA2016.Finalessay
General Resources
* https://gussskillscentral.edu.au/guss-essential-assessment-guide-forcommencing-higher-education-undergraduate-students/
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* https://emedia.rmit.edu.au/learninglab/smarthinking – The
Smarthinking Writing Centre provides students with comprehensive
feedback on their writing by e-tutors within a 24-hour turnaround.
Cited Reference
Godwin, J. (2014) Planning your essay. 2nd edn. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

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