English 110 Spring 2011
5th Shorter Essay: Field Research
due by noon on Friday, 1 April, to JT Olin box (not a joke)
Things are a little different with this essay assignment – you’ll have to develop your own prompt, based on the kind of writing undertaken in another academic discipline, and write an essay based on your self-designed prompt. Like so much scholarly work, this will be collaborative effort from start to finish.
With another student of your choice, you will develop an assignment prompt. (Consider academic interests – even shared classes – when you pick your partner!) Even if writing doesn’t appear to be central to the discipline that interests you, writing will be used in some form. This is why you’ll need to interview a professor and upper-level student. You’ll have to find out what typical writing assignments are (lab reports? analyses of archival material? case studies?), how they develop research questions, and what is expected in terms of process, outcomes, and presentation. What are the parameters of the assignment? Is there a prescribed form or a particular perspective on material? What constitutes source material? What exemplifies a “good” piece of writing? Next, begin developing your prompt. Pull out the requirements, conventions, and expectations of a writing assignment you might encounter in that field of study, and articulate them explicitly in your prompt. Be detailed and thorough. Only when you have a clear, detailed assignment prompt should you and your co-author begin writing the essay based upon it.
Requirements: An illuminating thesis based on specific evidence that addresses a discipline-specific prompt and unfolds according to defined discipline-specific conventions. Turn in an accompanying assignment that includes a brief prompt and a section for requirements, cautions, and permissions.
Cautions: Keep your prompt and essay original to our class. Don’t forget to make an argument – your prompt should indicate what an argument looks like for the kind of essay you write. Explain what you need to explain. Keep in mind the many differences between a typical English 110 essay and this essay.
Permissions: When designing your assignment, consider what will most help you in your academic career. You may opt to write a longer essay if you discover that an appropriate response to your prompt must be 4-5 pages instead of the standard 1½ -2 maximum (see notices below). You may base your prompt on other work you’ve done, but the resulting essay must be original to our class. You may look outside academia for a specific writing situation outside academia; such topics will require early approval.
Suggestions: Do not underestimate the utility of a thorough, discipline-specific prompt. Also, revise your self-designed prompt as you polish your essay; it’s essential that there’s a match between the final versions of the prompt and essay you turn in.
Notices: If your prompt necessitates an essay longer than 2 pages, you may write 4-5 pages instead (no in-betweens). Such essays, however, are not eligible candidates for either the Expansion essay (the first longer essay) or the Revision (the final shorter essay which offers a new grade). As with any shorter essay, you may decide to count it as participation only. Such essays are not eligible candidates for the Revision. Essays that adhere to the regular English 110 page requirement (1½-2 pages) are eligible as independent efforts for the Expansion; such essays that are also graded are eligible as independent efforts for the Revision. Any choice – graded or participation only, 1½-2 pages or 4-5 pages – must be made with your co-author.
► Reflection #1 (joint): Discuss at length the differences in conventions, requirements, expectations, and product between your assignment prompt and your English 110 prompts. What matters for your prompt? What doesn’t? What might be common errors, missteps, misconceptions, and misses for your prompt? Please address the Academic Writing Standards as pertains to voice. Did you try anything unusual in your essay that you’d like to explain? Any parting thoughts?
► Reflection #2 (independent): Discuss the co-authoring experience. How did you approach the various tasks? How did you make decisions? How did you develop a joint voice in your essay? What worked well? What proved difficult? Any parting thoughts?
Something Extra (+1/3 of 1 grade; must be completed independently)
In short order, you will have two opportunities to re-evaluate your writing (the Longer Essay: Expansion and final Shorter Essay: Revision). Here’s a (credit-bearing) opportunity to get started. What do you consider your most and least successful essays so far this term? Why has each of those essays earned its designation? In at least one thoughtful paragraph per essay chosen plus an additional concluding paragraph, consider your most and least favorite efforts this term.
(* Students who have not yet used their “participation only” options should do so now; the final Shorter Essay, the Revision, provides an opportunity to change the grade on another Shorter Essay as well as earn a separate grade.)
Tentative Homework Schedule, by Due Date
As you move through the process of developing an assignment and writing your 4th Shorter Essay, your rate of progress may differ from your classmates. The following due dates should be considered minimal – what’s listed is the LEAST you must complete by the date indicated. Generally, a polished and through prompt must be turned in before Spring Break, as well as plans for working on the essay and a plan for the essay, and the essay (with a revised prompt) is due Friday, 1 April. Toward that end, the following guidelines might be useful. All interviews must take place before Spring Break, and ideally, before class on Thursday, 10 March. Although process may vary, at the least, you will need a discussion of your own preliminary expectations and plans for class on Monday, 8 March; a response to comments on your proposals for class on Tuesday, 9 March; printed interview notes for class on Thursday, 11 March; a detailed working plan of the essay for class on Monday, 29 March; several paragraphs for class on Tuesday, 30 March; and a read-aloud version for class on Thursday, 1 April (the due date).
Due Friday, 4 March
The 4th Shorter Essay (Critique) is due by 10 am to my Olin box; please turn in all process work (photocopied selection, starters, exercises, drafts, outlines, false starts, reflection) with your final essay.
Due Monday, 7 March
Before today’s class, inventory the writing assignments (essays, lab write-ups, exams, whatever) you’ve completed for Whitman classes OTHER THAN English 110. Make a list, and for each writing assignment, try to list all you remember about working on them, including the following: stated tasks (what the prof asked you to do), hidden tasks (what you had to do in order to meet the stated requirements), assumptions (anything you were expected to know without being told), process (how you went about completing the assignment), and requirements for formatting and presentation. Bring this to class.
Read Tough, “What It Takes To Make a Student”, New York Times Magazine, 26 Nov. 2006 (Livingston)
Due Tuesday, 8 March
Consider your plans and expectations for writing in the discipline you’ve chosen. With your partner, make a list of everything you expect and bring this to class.
Read Chapman, “God or Gorilla”, Harper’s, February 2006 (Dakota and Kyle)
Due Thursday, 10 March
Bring to class a polished prompt for your essay, all interview notes, as well as a plan for working on your essay and some hierarchical plan of your essay (an outline, for instance, or even bulleted paragraphs).
► Erika Meitner reading, 10 March at 7 pm, Kimball
Enjoy your Spring Break! No classes 12-27 March
Due Monday, 28 March
Bring to class printed copies of your interview notes, a detailed plan of your essay and any work completed thus far, and your (revised) assignment prompt.
28 March, Jonathan and Jeremiah: Anderson, “The Taliban’s Opium War” (New Yorker, 9 July 2007)
Due Tuesday, 29 March
Bring to class two printed copies of several paragraphs from your essay-in-progress.
29 March, Siena: Armstrong and Crage, “Movements and Memory” (American Sociological Review, Oct. 2006)
* Sign up for colloquia in class via email by 9 am (see below)
Due Thursday, 31 March
Bring to class two printed copies of a read-aloud version of your 4th Shorter Essay.
Due Friday, 1 April
Your 5th Shorter Essay (Field Research) is due today by noon to my Olin box; please turn in all process work (drafts, notes, exercises, starters, outlines, false starts, drafts and final prompt, reflection) with your final essay.
Coming up . . . final article discussion, colloquia, and two projects that require reimagining past essays
4 April, Philip & Elliott lead discussion of Pollan’s “Unhappy Meals” (New York Times Magazine, 28 January 2007)
Your first Longer Essay will begin with any shorter essay (unless you took the long option with the 5th Shorter Essay) that you would like to revise, embellish, elaborate, and expand. The ultimate length of this essay must be three times the original (minimum!), but that’s a deceptively simplified way to look at this task. A better approach will be to consider how ideas must be rethought, scope broadened, new material found, and transitions recast in ways that require the additional length.
For your 6th (and final) Shorter Essay, you may choose any of your first five essays (unless you took the long option with the 5th Shorter Essay) to revise. Return to the original prompt for specific requirements, but also begin thinking about which essay you will best be able to revise in the time allotted (by late April). If your revision earns a higher grade than the essay upon which it’s based, your revision grade will count twice and the original grade will be dropped entirely. If the revision grade is the same or lower, it will count only once and the original grade will remain. You will need to know which essay you’ll revise and bring a portion of it to class the week of 18 April.
As you’re doing so much thinking about “good writing”, it’s time to begin preparing for another opportunity for you to test ideas and develop your writing: another colloquium. This time, however, you will include your audience in the experience more fully, by leading the class in a writing exercise that aids the process of expansion or revision. You and your partner will be in charge of class for about 15 minutes. How you use this time is up to you, provided you accomplish the following tasks:
Lead the class in an activity designed to aid some aspect of revision and / or expansion (this includes giving instructions, allowing adequate time for students to accomplish enough of the exercise to understand it, and taking questions and comments as needed)
Show how your exercise is, if not directly applicable to expanding an essay, clearly useful for other kinds of revision.
You may find it useful to demonstrate with your own work (either from a past essay or example you create for this purpose); some exercises might demand that students provide their own work. You may ask for any reasonable preparation from your classmates (emailing you examples in advance, for instance, or bringing to class a revised introductory paragraph, but not completing an entirely new essay). How you structure your classmates’ time (lecture, class discussion, paired or individual work) is your choice.
Proposals will be due via email to email@example.com by 9 am on Tuesday, 29 March. Your proposal should include a title for your exercise, a discussion of both what you intend to do with the class and how it will help them with their writing, and any homework assignment you need your classmates to prepare for your exercise. You may not partner with anyone you worked with on the 5th Shorter Essay (Field Research), and you may only pair up; I will assign a third student to one pair. Two groups will lead exercises on Tuesday, 5 April (slots 1 & 2), and three groups will be scheduled for Thursday, 7 April (slots 3-4-5); please rank slots according to your preference. You may find it useful to “reserve” a topic with an early proposal.
As you develop your self-designed 5th Essay Prompt, consider:
Conventions of discipline:
Is there a particular perspective on material? (theoretical framework)
What constitutes acceptable source material? (statistics, critical texts)
How should source material be documented? (MLA, APA, etc.)
Is there a prescribed essay form? (lab report)
Are there formatting requirements? (differences from English 110)
What does an idea or argument look like? (differences from English 110)
Parameters of assignment:
What is the intended audience? (define peers)
What is the occasion or situation for writing? (literature review)
How is the essay limited in structure or approach? (compare/contrast, question)
How is the essay’s scope limited in argumentation or idea? (address x but not y)
How is the essay’s scope limited by length? (1½ -2 pages OR 4-5)
How is the essay’s source material limited? (one text, a set of data, primary sources only)
What constitutes “good writing”?
Are there specific things the essay should do?
How are different aspects of an essay valued?
Format for your prompt:
The Prompt Description is a discursive section that contains background or context information about the project as well as triggering questions / ideas for the essay.
Requirements are notes about the essay’s approach, form, source material, mechanics, and presentation – everything necessary to begin writing the essay and check later drafts for essential components of assignment completion.
Cautions are warnings of likely pitfalls – directions that might be tempting in the course of developing ideas and writing but shouldn’t be taken without understanding repercussions or shifting expectations for the essay.
Permissions are allowances – directions that might be tempting in the course of developing ideas and writing and can be done, also with an understanding of repercussions and shifting expectations for the essay.
All of the above sections are required for your final prompt.
Suggestions and Notices are frames and consequences – these categories are optional, and should only be used if pertinent to your prompt.