- Thu., Nov. 2: Topic Proposal due before class (category = essay4-topic)
- Thu., Nov. 6: Draft of Essay #4 due before class (category = essay4-draft)
- Thu., Nov. 9: Comments on Essay #4 due before class
- DC Trip: Practice the elevator speech version of your argument, invite listeners to debate
- Mon., Nov. 20: Essay #4 due by midnight (category = essay4-rev)
For this essay, we will return to the question that has animated our WRI 101 course: How does an individual make change in society? You will address that question using approaches, perspectives, and writing conventions from one of the disciplines that has informed your studies in the Collaboratory. You may situate your essay within literary studies/analysis, history, art interpretation, biology/natural science, or social science.
Choose a discipline that we have touched upon this semester (one listed above). Compose an essay (1250-1750 words) in which you use an approach informed by that discipline to make an argument of your own in response to the question, “How can an individual contribute to broader change?” You may understand that question broadly — you don’t need to limit yourself to the kinds of social justice issues we have focused on in WRI 101. For example, you could consider how an individual leader in an revolution makes change, how an individual gene on a chromosome changes an organism, or how a writer can alter readers’ perceptions of the world.
Although you can interpret the question broadly, you should approach it from a very specific focus. THINK SMALL. Frame your topic or question in a way that you can address it with the evidence available to you within a limited time frame. The more narrow your focus, the more you will have to say.
Your argument should be summarized in a strong, analytical thesis or crux—a statement that a reasonable person might not agree with, not see, or fail to understand without your intervention. You should develop this thesis in conversation with others, both those you agree with and those you disagree with. Support your argument with credible, authenticated evidence and counter evidence. Analyze and explain how the evidence supports your point, and discuss how counter evidence works against you. Don’t avoid evidence that contradicts your claim: engage with it, allowing it to complicate and strengthen your argument.
Write a paragraph in which you:
- identify a popular assumption or scholarly conversation within the discipline you plan to enter related to your topic (preliminary “they say”);
- articulate your central driving question, hypothesis, or thesis (provisional “I say”);
- identify the text(s) or sources of evidence you plan to focus on to make your argument;
- include a Works Cited in MLA style.
Take Gaipa’s 3 “basic steps”
- Conduct research and reading to discern what experts are saying about the issue
- Evaluate the arguments and make judgments about the position of the authors in the debate (draw a ballroom map)
- Discover where in the debate you can step in (draw a cartoon of your relationship to other experts).
After completing the first 3 steps, begin drafting your argument, following the advice in Understanding Rhetoric, adopting “moves” and templates from They Say/I Say, and applying lessons from class workshops.
- Read the relevant chapters in “Part 4: In Specific Academic Contexts” of They Say/I Say in order to find out more about writing conventions in the discipline you’ve chosen to enter (105-162).
- Write in your own voice. Don’t write any sentence that you’d be embarrassed to say to your friends at lunch in Commons (TS/IS 121-128).
- Connect the parts, so that each sentence relates to and follows logically from the previous one (TS/IS 105-118). Use the “magic sentences” to establish relationships and make distinctions, rather than relying on the vague, overused “however.”
- Use the skeleton method to make sure each paragraph begins with a strong, analytical topic sentence, and when you extract those sentences and read them consecutively, your argument makes sense.
- Create appetizing, nutritious evidence sandwiches; make sure all sentences in a paragraph relate to the topic sentence and include evidence and analysis.
- Provide metacommentary to help your readers understand how to interpret your statements (TS/IS 129-137.
- Use the templates to revise, following the checklist in TS/IS (140-143)
- Run the Writer’s Diet test to help identify passive voice, nominalization zombies, and other weak spots. Then fix the problems.
- Go to the Writing Center for help at any stage in the writing process.
Your final essay should also avoid Dr. Rigger’s Pet Peeves:
- Confusion of “populous” and “populace,” “its” and “it’s,” “they’re,” “their,” and “there,” “effect” and “affect” (but “populous” and “populace” is the worst)
- Using “lead” as the past-tense of “lead”
- “Utilize” (use “use”)
Plus Dr. Chill’s List of Forbidden Words & Phrases:
- impact, impactful
- this (as an empty pointer)
- there is/are
- however (at the beginning of a sentence or paragraph)
- is is important/significant/interesting that…
- that said
- the media (as a broad target or cause)
- I, personally,
An effective essay:
- communicates ideas in your own voice;
- crafts an argument rooted in an existing debate with a specific discipline;
- gets across the “facts” about relevant texts and contexts, i.e. the background and context about the topic to be considered;
- links topic to the question of how individuals make change;
- uses approaches, perspectives, techniques, and writing conventions of a particular academic discipline;
- offers accurate, purposeful summaries of sources used;
- intervenes in a disciplinary debate with a clear, specific, analytical thesis or crux;
- defines key terms;
- launches each paragraph with a strong topic sentence to which all sentences in paragraph relate
- organizes argument in logical fashion such that paragraphs build on one another and support the thesis without repetition or detours.
- develops your argument in conversation with others, both those you agree with and those you disagree with;
- uses well-placed quotations and evidence to support each point of the argument;
- makes effective use of counter-evidence and counter-arguments.
- makes good quotation & evidence sandwiches:
- introduces evidence and quotations with statements that identify their source, subject matter, and context.
- follows up with statements that analyze or explain how the evidence relates to your argument.
- examines evidence (especially statistics) to make sure they are reliable and accurately interpreted.
- Addresses what’s at stake in your argument: why does the debate matter? why is your perspective important and new? what difference does your approach make?
- Avoids “clutter,” clichés, and generalizations.
- Replaces passive voice with precise subject and active verbs.
- Includes any relevant images or media, appropriately sized, legible, and well-placed in relation to corresponding text.
- Is free of typos, spelling mistakes, punctuation problems, and grammatical errors;
- Includes a properly formatted works cited, required categories, and an honor code pledge.
Peer and self-critique
- Do the assigned readings and read “how to comment” BEFORE you begin commenting.
- Do not simply say, “This is an amazing essay, but I think you could provide more analysis.” Instead, identify one sentence, idea, or rhetorical strategy that you think works well. Then identify one sentence or idea that is not clear or effective and explain how to improve it. Finally, engage one ideas in the essay, asking a question to probe more deeply.
- Remember to do a “selfie” comment.