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English 100/I: Essay Assignments


Literacy Snapshot | Definition Essay | Research Essay
Free-Choice Essay | Format Guidelines



Literacy Snapshot

Your first essay offers a opportunity to identify and isolate a meaningful encounter with the written word—a moment when something you read or something you wrote made a difference in who you are, how you act, what you believe, or what you know. 

The LitSnap is, by definition, a short essay: aim for 1.5-2 pages.  In the same way that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” your snapshot will focus on a single moment of revelation, but it will also capture the “before” and “after” in such a way as to reveal the momentousness of that moment. 

Some Ideas to Consider:

  • Write about a reading or writing “failure” that was really a gift in disguise.

  • Write about a time when writing or reading helped you to find or flee from something

  • Write about a time when writing or reading gave you the courage to stand up for something or someone.

  • Write about a time you were really proud—really proud—of something you’ve written or read.  You could also write about a time when your writing or reading shamed you.

  • Write about a time when writing or reading brought you closer to someone or pushed you further away.

  • Write about a time when writing or reading changed the outcome of something in your life or in the life of someone close to you.

Thinking Ahead to Portfolio: Some Warnings

  • This piece must stand on its own.  In other words, portfolio readers who don’t know you or the assignment must be able to understand and appreciate the tale you tell.

  • Portfolio readers—rightly—hate the from-this-I-learned conclusion and the have-you-ever-wondered introduction.  Don’t tell your readers what you figured out; recreate the event to show your a-ha.  Think film, not police report.

Associated Links:

  • Printer-Friendly Version of the Assignment

  • Conference Draft Postwrite: front | back

  • Evaluation Draft Postwrite: front | back

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Definition Essay

Your second essay offers you the opportunity to parlay all you learned in constructing your wiki page into an essay that takes a stand on the word you selected.

The definition essay is a persuasive essay: one that extends a single claim about the word—your informed opinion about the word—and that provides sufficient proof to illuminate and bolster that claim (or thesis statement).  I suspect this essay will run anywhere between four and eight pages.

Some Ideas to Consider:

  • Write about how your word has affected human behavior.

  • Write about what your word’s use says about the society in which it is used.

  • Write about why your word should be used more often.

  • Write about why your word should be used less often.

  • Write about why your word should be used differently.

Selecting a Claim:

  • Do you wish to argue that something is, was, or will be true about your word?  If so, you want a claim of fact

  • Do you wish to argue that something is good or bad, beautiful or ugly, right or wrong, ethical or unethical about your word?  If so, you want a claim of value.

  • Do you wish to argue that something about your word should change?  If so, you want a claim of policy.

Thinking Ahead to Portfolio: Some Warnings

  • Please eschew the phrases “what most people don’t know” and “most people think” and the like—unless you have considerable proof to back up that claim.  Prefer, instead, examples from your own reading and research to show the misinterpretation you wish to correct.

  • Please imbed in your essay the reason for its existence.  Portfolio readers brook very few hey-check-out-this-word essays.

Getting Started: Prewriting

  • Why did you select your word in the first place?

  • What do you know now about your word--now that you've completed your wiki project--that you didn't know or realize or understand when you first selected it?

  • Who needs to know more about your word?  Why?

  • In which magazine or newspaper can you imagine your essay getting published?  Why?

  • Does your word affect the way people act?  How and why?  (Or how come and why not?)

  • Should people use your word more often? less often?  Why?

  • How has the definition of your word changed over time?  How is that change important?  IS it important?

Associated Links:

  • Printer-Friendly Version of the Assignment

  • Conference Draft Postwrite: front | back

  • Evaluation Draft Postwrite: front | back

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Research Essay

Coming soon.  Please stay tuned.

 

Associated Links:

  • Printer-Friendly Version of the Assignment

  • Conference Draft Postwrite: front | back

  • Evaluation Draft Postwrite: front | back

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Free-Choice Essay

Your final essay is a chance to employ the skills you have developed throughout the past eight weeks to make your writing do what you want it to do. After working on different kinds of analytical writing (personal reflection, research, definition, etc.), this essay provides you with the opportunity to create your own writing prompt and to choose your own topic for an essay. For those of you who have a million paper topics rolling around in the back of your heads, this will be a welcome opportunity. For those of you who struggle to find paper topics, this will present more of a challenge--but I assure you that your brain and experience are unique and that there are many profound insights the world can gain from learning how you break down and make sense of an issue. Choosing your own essay idea allows you to use your skill at writing to achieve what you want it to, so choose carefully to make sure you like it.

You will have to pitch your essay idea to your instructor and peers: you will have to convince us of its potential. Remember that the essay must be a claim-driven analysis.

Some Ideas to Consider:

  • Choose an interesting topic and angle from your Writing the World WLE.

  • Choose a topic that has come up in one of your other classes (or in your life, the world, etc.) that you want to take a stand on.

  • Analyze a local event, controversy, organization, institution, or place to advance an argument about it.

  • Analyze a certain film, event, issue, or place and explain how it has effected you and your life (in a way that makes your audience care... not journal writing).

  • Use an assignment that you thought sounded interesting from someone you know in another English 100 course. You will have to get the assignment sheet.

Thinking Ahead to Portfolio: Some Warnings

  • If this essay contains an element of personal reflection, it may be too similar to the style of writing in your Literacy Snapshot. You will not be able to use both essays for portfolio.

  • Please don’t forget that this is still analytical writing that will need to be in-depth but still unified to make a particular point to a purposefully chosen audience.

Getting Started: Prewriting

  • What do you have to say?

  • Who needs to hear your argument?  Why?

  • What form will your essay take?

  • What will this writing you produce do?

Associated Links:

  • Printer-Friendly Version of the Assignment

  • Conference Draft Postwrite: front | back

  • Evaluation Draft Postwrite: front | back

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Updated: 05.30.08

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