Writing Assignments

WRITING 410: Major Essay

Overview:                  This 6-8 page (1800-2400 words) essay gives you the opportunity to reflect on your experience as a reader, which provides a way to explore book historical questions on material you’re very familiar with: your own books. (Book historians often define “books” broadly, to include any written materials, in print or in electronic form; we will follow their precedent here.)

Part I:                   This is an empirical essay based on primary evidence, so prior to writing the essay, you must create a catalog of your reading material. To make the evidence manageable, inventory only the reading material you currently are in possession of: what’s in your room or house at the University and what you have on your computer, e-reader, or other electronic device. Do not include individual articles from magazines or journals. Enter the information into the spreadsheet provided on Google Drive, making each entry as complete as you can. Due Tuesday, January 28.

Part II:                   Write an essay in which you reflect on and draw conclusions about the data you’ve collected about your reading. Because you must include in the essay a table that summarizes the data from your spreadsheet, your writing should not report or summarize the data as much as focus on interpreting the meaning of patterns within the data and drawing some conclusions from them. We will share and discuss these drafts with classmates. Workshop on Thursday, January 30.

Part III:                   Enter the data from your spreadsheet into the shared spreadsheet on Google Drive. Together in class, we will create a table that summarizes this data and discuss its significance. Copy your data to the shared spreadsheet by Thursday, January 30.

Part IV:                   Write an epilogue to your essay, in which you compare your individual data to the compiled data of our whole class. What can you learn by looking at your reading materials and experience in light of the larger set of data? Due Thursday, February 6 on CTools Assignments, along with a reflection on your writing process.

Practical considerations

A Google spreadsheet has been created and shared with you on Google Drive. Please rename the file using your own first and last name and save a unique copy on your own Google Drive.

This spreadsheet has column headings that describe each variable you should identify for each work. (I’ve created some; we’ll create others together.) I’ve used the comment function on the spreadsheet to provide more detailed information about each variable. If you are uncertain about something or it just doesn’t seem to fit into a category, please bring your questions to class so we can resolve them together. THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM. Data collection is often messy and requires judgment on the part of the researchers. Our goal will be to create a consensus about how to classify ambiguous works.

Another spreadsheet is in our shared folder on Google Drive, titled “SHARED data sheet Essay 1.” That’s where everyone will upload their individual data.

When making your inventory of your reading materials, please include ONLY the following:

  • Materials in your possession right now, on campus
  • Books, magazines, journals, newspapers, and electronic books, magazines, journals or newspapers that you have DOWNLOADED onto a computer or reading device.

For efficiency and simplicity, please do not include ANY individual articles from newspapers, magazines, or journals.

If you cannot complete all variables for a work, leave cells blank.

Criteria for Evaluation (15,000 points)

Content and Ideas (5,000 points)

  • Interesting, insightful, and complex central argument (2,000)
  • ideas are well developed and well supported by evidence (2000)
  • quantitative information and analysis are relevant to the argument (1000)

Structure and organization (5,000 points)

  • strong central focus; subpoints connect to central focus  (2000)
  • paragraphs have distinct topics and are coherently organized (2000)
  • paragraphs come in logical order, linked by effective transitions (1000)

Presentation of quantitative information (2,000 points)

  • data summarized in an easy-to-read table (1000)
  • method of data presentation enhances essay’s argument (1000)

Presentation of argument (3,000 points)

  • Sentence-level writing is efficient, clear, concise, and nuanced (2000)
  • Careful proofreading & formatting using MLA style (1000)

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