Shelley Reid .


Honors 110.005: Assignments

Fall 2005

Major Common Asgts. Other Common Asgts. About Boost Asgts.
Writer's Review Research Description Research Specs
Research Sketch Annotated Bibliog. Research SFD
EndNote Overview Class Part./Commons Post Script Asgt.
Honors 110 Common Assignment Pages Announcements &
Folder Assignments
Course Schedule

Click the link for each assignment below to see the assignment description.

Major Common Assignments

Museum Analysis Assignment (Boost)

50 points

Due September 22

Research Log Assignment (Boost)

50 points

All Parts Due October 6

Research Proposal Assignment (Boost)

50 points

Due September 29

Complete Draft, Research Essay (Boost)

100 points

Due November 10

Revised Draft, Research Essay (Boost)

100 points

Due December 8

Minor Common Assignments

Website Evaluation (Boost)

25 points

Due October 13

Source Evaluation (Boost)

25 points

Due October 20

Oral Presentation (Boost)

25 points

Due November 29-December 6

NoteProcess Assignments given throughout the semester are designed to help you take small steps toward completing the major assignments, so that there is no point at which you have to go from zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds, or have to worry about "what the teacher wants" from an assignment.  They are also designed to give you credit for doing the "perspiration" part of an assignment, rather than grading you mostly on whether you're a naturally talented writer or not.

These short assignments, such as the Folder Assignments (FAs), in-class assignments, and Post-Script assignments, are required for most Major and Minor Common Assignments, and will weigh in at 10% of the available points; they will be graded primarily on on-time completion

Thus, for the Museum Analysis assignment, the Museum Analysis Notes and Essay will be worth 45 points, and the process assignments will be worth 5 points.

Class-specific assignments

Writer's Review Essay

10 points

Due September 8

Research Thesis and Sketch

5 points

Due October 25

Endnote Bibliography

10 points

Due October 27

SFD, Research Essay

10 points

Due November 1

EndNote Overview

10 points

Due December 1

Commons and Class Participation

30 points


Assignment Boost Options: Writing and Thinking in the World

For most common assignments this semester, you will have the option of boosting the assignment toward the kind of writing that happens outside the classroom, when real people write for other real people in order to get something specific taken care of.

Boost options don't necessarily require more work or more writing skill; instead, they require a different kind of work, and a way of imagining the assignment beyond the boundaries of writing-for-school. 

I believe that for many students, boosting an assignment will add to your engagement and interest in the assignment; it can give you a chance to try something you haven't done before in high school; and it can help prepare you for a wider range of academic and professional writing. 

However, because boost options may require you to stretch your brain, to do a different kind of research or writing than the regular assignment options, or to work outside your comfort zone, I'll add a grading-boost to even out the experience between boosters and regular assignment takers.  This is a trade-agreement rather than "extra credit":  you agree to try something new, and I agree to spot you some points in case the new thing doesn't work out quite as you planned.  Thus, if you engage fully with the requirements of the boost-assignment, I'll raise the final assignment grade by up to five percent of the total grade -- taking a B+ essay (89%) up to an A essay (94%).

You are not required to boost any assignment this semester; you may boost more than one if you wish.  Beyond the grade-boost, I will not give boosted assignments (or the students who choose to do them) any special treatment; you can just as easily earn an A and earn my respect by completing each assignment exactly as it is described.

Common Assignments

Proposal Assignment50 points

A proposal is usually both a forecast of the future -- what you believe, based on current data, will or should occur -- and a request for your audience's approval or agreement with that forecast.  It is thus part description and part argument: you need to persuade an audience that what you propose is reasonable and plausible.

In a 500-1000 word essay, propose a course of action that you plan to take to complete the Research Essay assignment for this course.  You will need, of course, to explain the topic/question/problem that you intend to investigate, and to argue for the importance, interest, and/or personal relevance of investigating this issue. 

In order to convince your audience -- in this case, me -- to approve your proposal, you will need to provide evidence that you already know a fair amount about the general issue(s), that you have plans for gaining the information you will need, that you are likely to be able to complete the project as planned given the time and resources you have to work with, and that you can be flexible as needed.

If you include information about or from sources that you have already located, you should provide a Works Cited list, in MLA or APA format.

Grading:  This assignment will be evaluated in two ways.  First, I will either approve, conditionally-approve, or not approve your research area.  Separately from that, I will assign a grade to the proposal itself based on its attention to detail, its demonstration that you are prepared to make this forecast a reality, and its overall organization and clarity.

You may be required to revise this proposal to have your research area approved.  You will be allowed also to revise the proposal for a new grade.

Class-Specific Assignments

Writer's Review:  10 points

Writers who are aware of their strengths and resistance points always have an advantage over writers who "just do it" and take what they get at the end.  As a warm-up to a discussion we'll be having all semester -- "How do you write? What most frustrates you as you write?  What do you do best as a writer?  How can you learn to write better?" -- and as a warm-up to the draft, review, & revise process that we'll be engaging in, you'll begin by drafting a Writer's Review essay.

For this assignment, you'll write a 500-1000 word essay in which you

  • describe one or two memorable writing experiences

  • explain why the experience(s) was/were particularly memorable for you personally as a writer

  • and make a judgment about a key characteristic (or two) that defines you as a writer (this judgment is your thesis)

You might wish to consider, for instance, what most satisfies or frustrates you as a writer; whether you prefer to write with clear guidelines from someone else or to experiment with your own approaches; what motivates (or unmotivates) you to write; how your strengths as a writer balance out or are separate from your weaknesses; or some other pattern or factor that turns out to be important. 

The best papers, for me and for you, will dig around a bit to discover something that's not immediately obvious:  that is, while it may be obvious that you procrastinate until the last minute, exploring why you procrastinated in this situation -- what were the benefits? what were the risks? -- may help you productively re-view yourself as a writer.

Grading:  You'll receive a specific essay rubric outlining the grading for this assignment.  Generally, though, this essay is a chance for you to "show me what you know" about writing essays (and to learn, in a low-risk environment, "what I want" from an essay).  It will be evaluated primarily on whether you have a clear, steady, intriguing main idea and judgment; lots of one-time-only specific details; a clear and logical progression of ideas from paragraph to paragraph; and a sense of "flow" or "voice." 

Boost:  Join a conversation about writing and thinking that's already going on in the world around you: incorporate at least three short, carefully selected quotations from one or more of the readings assigned in class the first two weeks.  Be sure that they directly enhance your own points rather than just being "add-ons."

Schedule: Bring two copies of your "SFD" draft to our second class meeting on 9/1. 

Bring your copies (and at least one question) to a Conferencing Open House session during the first two weeks.

Revise your essay, complete a Post Script, and turn your folder in on 9/8.

This essay may be revised if you wish, after it is graded, to earn a higher grade.

Folder Checklist:

  • Draft copies, Peer Review comments, and Post-Script (10% or 1 point)

  • Final Essay (90% or 9 points)


Research Thesis and Sketch:  5 points

As a first step in the long process of going from ideas to essay, put together several sentences that describe the context and argument of your research essay.  You may wish to hone the language to make it a one- or two-sentence thesis, or you might wish to more generally describe the elements of the writing situation:  audience, purpose, problem, and claim.

Also, using a list, a set of sentences, a flow-chart or visual, or a formal outline, sketch out one possible plan for how the essay might develop.  What are the main elements you know you want to cover, what order might they go in, and what sources will be most important for each element?  (Most sketches should identify at least 6-7 elements.)

Bring three copies to class.  Include all three copies in both of your Research Essay folders.

Grading:  This assignment will be evaluated primarily on completion by the due-date.


EndNote Annotated Bibliography:  10 points

For at least six sources that you think are strong sources for your research essay, print out an annotated bibliography (MLA style) that includes the following elements for each source:  the citation, the keywords, some summary information (what is the source's main argument/information?), and some evaluative information (in what ways is the source reliable/relevant?).  Also submit a disk or online copy of (this section of) your EndNote library.

Information about how to automatically print out all of these elements from your EndNote library will be provided. 

Note:  If you are including this kind of information in your EndNote library each time as you enter each source, it should take less than 30 minutes to complete this assignment.

Grading:  This assignment will be evaluated on the completion of each element for each source.  Citations should be mostly correct; keywords should include official as well as logically chosen personal words; summaries should address the argument of the source as well as the general topic; and evaluations should note at least two or three indicators of quality/relevance.

This assignment is revisable for a new grade.

SFD of the Research Essay:  10 points

Complete at least 4-6 pages' worth (1200-1800 words) of your research essay.  You do not need to start with a perfect introduction, but do include some statement of your argument near the beginning.  You do not need to include or fully develop all the points you eventually plan to have, but please include some indications of what you still plan to do:  "This paragraph will have more data about ___" or "Need to add counterarguments here."  All source material -- quoted or paraphrased -- must be cited in the text of the paper.  At least three or four paragraphs need to be fully-developed to earn full-credit for this assignment.

Grading:  Drafts that are satisfactorily complete -- they meet the length requirement, they include some well-supported argument and analysis, and they show the beginnings of an orderly progression of ideas -- will earn at least a "B" (8.5 points).  Drafts that are late or incomplete may face significant deductions.  Quality of analysis rather than quantity of pages will be important if you are aiming for an "A":  your draft should already show that you are integrating information from multiple sources, analyzing and responding to that source information, and/or investigating gray-areas or complexities.


Your main focus this semester is to engage in research about a problem -- not just a topic -- with the goal of being able to gain enough knowledge to make an informed recommendation for change or action that could help illuminate and alleviate, if not entirely solve or eliminate, the problem. 

There are lots of different kinds of research, and many ways that the outcome of thoughtful research can be expressed.  When you research tennis rackets or computer systems or sports cars, you express your conclusions by turning over your hard-earned cash in exchange for a product -- or by writing a quick email to your cousin who is the one doing the shopping.  When you research candidates for a local election, you express your conclusions by going to a rally or voting; the research you begin with the help-wanted pages can reach its final conclusion in your taking a job. 

The expression of the research is an outgrowth of the motivation and purpose of the research.  Whereas in school, one may say, "I need to write a 10-page paper, and thus I shall do research about Aristotle until I come up with enough material," in nearly every real-world setting, the process is the exact opposite:  "I need to find out about ___ in order to ___, so when I'm done finding out, I'll ____ ."

Your research assignment, then, begins just as that:  an assignment to do some research.  And because this class will emphasize the connections between the "rehearsal" that we do here and the "real world performance" that you are preparing for, I hope sincerely that you will begin by asking yourself:

            What do I, personally, really want to do (or know, or find out, or change, or improve) today?

It's true that in this section of Honors 110 as in all the other sections, we are thinking even now a bit about the end product.  You will at the end of the semester be expected to produce a document that is about 3300-4000 words long (12-15pp) with a bibliography of at least 12 sources believed credible by your audience, that demonstrates your capabilities in managing academic argument and synthesis, and that reveals your always-improving critical-thinking skills.  (See the opposite side of this handout.)

Here's the thing, though:  if you choose an actual problem rather than a topic, finding all of 12 interesting sources and writing all those 4000 words about the issues and sub-issues raised won't be the main challenge.  Any real problem, if you really start to think it through rather than just going through the motions, if you're committed to unraveling it, could have volumes written about it (and probably already does). 

The real problem is that you only have 15 weeks, and you're a heckuva busy person, and just like you would decide only to recommend two possible computers to Cousin Mary, rather than six or seven, because you don't have the time to spend your whole life helping out a distant cousin, you also have to decide to set some limits on your work this semester.  In the Honors 110 class, we've set the limit perhaps a little higher than you would have, J but the principle is the same:  we set the size of the project to give you an idea of how far you should be going before you decide to move on to the next project.

The length requirement and the sources requirement are thus really "scope of your question" guidelines -- and believe it or not, these guidelines actually serve to shrink the size of the problem you can address.  Now that you're in college, where people get insanely jazzed over very tiny things, and demand answers to the nitpickiest of questions, and always have "a fourteenth point of view" to discuss, you can't successfully give a history of World War II in three pages.  In three pages, you can analyze a single telegram that a president sent a general (maybe!).  Since nobody wants to change, arguments for change have to go deep to be successful.

Brian and I promise:  If you choose a problem to work with, one you're actually interested enough in to stay energized through the semester, we can get you to the product, all 12 pages and multiple viewpoints and 12 sources of it. 

And so we recommend:  choose a problem close to home, a small angle of a larger problem, something that affects you or your group/team/workplace/family/school/community, something where, as Margaret Mead famously said, "a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens could [make a positive] change."



Inquiry Subject:  A problem that can be affected, if not solved, by the work of ordinary people like yourself.**

Inquiry Product: A researched essay of at least 12 pages (3300-4000 words), accompanied by a bibliography of at least 12 fully credible sources, at least half of which are cited in the paper, aiming to make a thoughtful recommendation for change/actionto a specific audience that can help positively affect the problem.

Some general characteristics of a successful recommendation for change:

  • Makes a clear "original" argument (we'll talk about what this means)

  • Supports the argument with relevant information from reliable sources

  • Demonstrates awareness and understanding of multiple viewpoints

  • Anticipates and responds to reader questions or resistances

  • Analyzes/judges information rather than only reporting it

  • Synthesizes information from several sources/viewpoints rather than only listing it

  • Answers the reader's final question:  "Well, so what?"

Some characteristics of a formal, academic, written recommendation for change:

  • Engages the reader in the problem

  • Presents your direct claims and sub-claims in a logical manner

  • Develops each idea thoroughly for a reader who can't "read your mind"

  • Supports claims with evidence that is judged to meet the highest standard

  • Handles outside source-material ethically and fluidly

  • Shows awareness of complexity, difficulty, and incongruity

  • Knows the field and "plays the game" just enough to let the audience trust the writer as "one of us"

  • Attends to the details of words and sentences to smooth the reader's path toward understanding

Inquiry Process:  Required Research Project Elements & Events

All Assignments Due in Final Project Folder

(Most also have earlier individual due-dates)

  • Preliminary topic list

  • Preliminary conference

  • Research Log

  • Topic conference

  • Research Proposal

  • Fish or cut bait conference

  • Thesis and sketch of essay

  • Annotated Bibliography (EndNote-based)

  • SFD draft

  • Revision plan 1

  • Complete Research Draft (at least 10pp, fully-functioning, works-cited & source copies included)

  • Revision conference

  • Revision Plan 2

  • Complete Final Draft + 2-page reflection (Post Script) + all drafts, source copies, early assignments

** If you're deeply passionate about a topic that's strictly an academic question—whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays, or the evolution of Freud's theories across his oeuvre, or Napoleon's military strategies -- you can pursue that area of inquiry without having to recommend a practical change/action, but you'll still need to be investigating a problem rather than reporting on a topic.

EndNote Overview:  10 points

In an informal response, 300-500 words, look back on and review (judge) the work you did with the EndNote program this semester.  You may base some of your response on answers to the "Post Script" questions that you've encountered earlier in this semester.  Try to provide specific examples of steps or events that influence your answers.

Please also include several sentences addressing one or more of these "overview" questions: whether you believe EndNote positively or negatively affected your research in this class, whether you believe that EndNote is an appropriate tool for college students like you, and/or whether you imagine that you will use EndNote again in the next several years.

Note:  You do not have to give EndNote "two thumbs up" in order to earn an "A" on this assignment.  "Going off on a rant" isn't appropriate in this context, but thoughtful critiques and/or honest discussions of problems will be as valuable for you (and for me) as rave reviews. 

Grading:  This assignment will be graded primarily on the thoughtfulness of and supporting detail for your observations.

Commons Participation and Class Participation:  25 points

Our class listserv,, is designed to be an extension of our classroom community.  In a writing class it is imperative that you come to know, trust, and rely on your peers, because they (not the teacher!) come closest to providing an authentic, peer audience for your writing.  If you earn A's on essays but cannot connect with your peers when you write, then you've only learned to "play the academic game," not to write for Real People.  Both our real and our virtual conversations should help build your ability to connect to, rely on, and support a community of learners and writers.

To earn a "B" for class participation (10.5 points), you need to attend all required conferences, and attend (in body and brain) at least 85% of class and lecture meetings (roughly 27/32).

To earn a "B" for Commons participation (10.5 points), you need to post at least fourqualifyingposts to the commons listserv.  A qualifying post must

  • be at least 150-200 words long,

  • respectfully engage your audience of peers, and

  • provide advice -- about surviving at GMU, understanding our reading/writing assignments, or finding useful campus resources -- that your peers can use, or provide insight about an issue we're discussing in class that might expand your peers' understanding or help them hone their own ideas

You may at any point also post school-related questions to the Commons list -- thus enabling a fellow student to help you out and earn Commons credit.

To earn an "A" for this part of the course grade, you can "go beyond" the B-level grade in both or either section(s):  You can post more to the class list (not always "dead seriously," but always respectfully in the spirit of a "commons" where everyone goes for support and resources); you can exceed the number or -- better! -- exceed the minimum standard of class meetings attended (by participating more in discussions, taking the lead in group work, asking questions, demonstrating that you've carefully done the required reading, etc.). 

This is one grade with two components:  if you're the quiet-thoughtful-type in class, but you have a steady presence in the virtual Commons, you can balance one set of contributions with the other.  Excellence in one area will "spill over" into the other, though minimum presence in each one is expected.

Post Script Assignment

This assignment should be completed after you write an essay or assignment.  Answer three or four of the following questions or question-sets. Your analysis should total about 200-250 words of informal but thoughtful prose.

1.  What (if anything) was most difficult about writing this essay/assignment?  why?  what was easiest?  why?

2.  What didn't you understand about this essay/assignment going into it?  Do you understand better now?  What helped you cope with the confusion or solve your problems—something in class? in a book? a specific comment?

3.  What do you think is the strongest part of this essay/assignment? where do you come closest to affecting your reader the way you'd like to?

4.  What changes have you already made in the essay from its earlier draft(s)?  What (if anything) did you learn as you were writing/revising?

5.  Describe any place where you decided not to heed a reader's advice (even Dr. Reid's!) because you had a good reason, or any place you think you "broke the rules" for a reason, or any place that you decided it was more important to focus on what you had to say rather than what they wanted you to say.  Explain how/why you made this decision.

6  Where, if at all, are you still having difficulties?  What other changes or additions might you make if you had an extra week of peace and quiet to work in?  What (if anything) might you do differently the next time you write a similar assignment?

7.  If you have questions for Dr. Reid, or would like extra feedback on a specific part of this essay, or if there is anything else you'd like to note about the essay or how you came to write it, please ask/explain.

Boost Options:  Consider Real People

Museum Boost: Notes and Essay

  1. Notes: Pay attention to, and take some notes on (at least 100-150 words), how the NMAI creators work to engage the real people who walk through their doors, and how those people (you included) respond.  You may observe the reactions of other visitors to a particular element of the museum, report an overheard conversation, and/or note down any element of an exhibit you were studying that surprised or excited or disappointed you.  Consider our discussion of ethos, pathos, and logos: which of these appeals do you think the designers are emphasizing at this point?
  2. Essay:  In your essay, incorporate some analysis of the response(s) of actual humans you observed into your discussion, at least at two points in the essay, as you consider overall not just what stories the designers intended to tell, but what stories were heard and understood by the audience in the museum.

Research Log Boost:  Do at least 2 of the 3 Boost Paragraphs described below

Doing academic research is a little like going to a party in a new city where you don't know most of the people, but where you'd really like to make a good impression.  During the first part of the party, you may do a lot of eavesdropping, trying to find out what kinds of things these people think are interesting, and what their primary beliefs are.  You may not want to start a conversation with "How 'bout those Red Sox?" in a group of Yankees fans!  And you may not want to talk about football at all if most of the conversations are about politics and the stock market.

As you review the rather lifeless printed sources for this assignment, do your best to imagine that these are the scripts for a lively, person-to-person conversation about topics that are high stakes.  Try to "get to know" the people behind the texts.

Parts I and II:  Who's at the party?  As you scan sources, look for clues about which 4-5 types of people keep showing up as key players in this topic.  Are they scientists, politicans, high-school teachers, business owners?  Men or women or both?  Stodgy professors or ordinary Joes?  In a brief Boost Paragraph, list the (kinds of) people you think are participating, and describe a few of the clues that helped you decide.

Parts III and IV:  What language are they speaking?  Mostly, they'll be speaking English (or Engfish), but you'll start to notice that the people involved -- the article/book writers and the librarians who choose the Subject Headers -- have a whole different vocabulary from your everyday version of English.  In a brief Boost Paragraph, note 2-3 examples where the contrast ("I say soda, you say pop") is most notable, and theorize about the causes and/or effects of these differences, from your position as a "newbie" at the party.

Part V:  What or who is missing?  As the new arrival, your main task is to find out where you can enter the conversation without just repeating what everyone already knows, or saying something irrelevant that makes everyone stare at you.  One way to do this is to look for gaps in the conversation that you might be able to fill.  In a brief Boost Paragraph, describe any kinds of people or perspectives that seem to be missing from the conversation you've seen/heard so far, any kinds of argument or evidence that isn't being considered, any long-term or long-distance causes or implications that nobody seems to be talking much about.  How could you contribute?

Proposal Boost

In the world outside of academia, proposals are a Big Deal, and appearances can be as important as content.  If you propose that the US government fund your zoo or your R&D project or your outreach center, for instance, you might be asked to submit dozens or hundreds of pages of information, and you will nearly always be required to follow a specific format, right down to the margins and the page numbering.

As preparation for thinking about following someone else's format, in spirit and down to the last letter, the Proposal Boost assignment presents a formal set of guidelines for you to follow.  Try not to be alarmed at the lengthy descriptions below: in essence, this format asks you to address the same issues as the regular proposal assignment does, just "dressed up" a bit.  Your final proposal will be about the same length:  500-1000 words.

The specifications listed here are required, exactly as noted, for this assignment.


• computer printed, double spaced, 1" margins, 12- or 14-point font

• 2-4 pages long, stapled

• leave the first page unnumbered (number all subsequent pages, starting with "2," at the top)

• write in sections, each about 1-2 paragraphs with an appropriate heading (see bold below)

• keep the writing style/voice formal and concise; keep quotations, stories, and explanations to a minimum length

• add extra "white space" before each header to clearly separate sections

Main Header:   

• centered near the top of the first page (no separate title page; no quotation marks); pay attention to line-breaks in the title so as not to strand words or break up phrases

• first line(s):  concise and descriptive title, including the phrase "Proposal to Investigate..."

• next line:  "Submitted to Dr. Reid"

• next line:  "Submitted by [Your Name]"

• next line:  "[Date]"


• describe the general topic and, if possible, the problematic situation, question, or controversy to be addressed

• explain why it is relevant and/or important (now) to you and/or to your audience

• briefly describe the (kind of) argument you hope to make, and the audience that you intend to address

• describe the kind of recommendation for change that you currently plan to make: who should do what? why?


• describe your intended research and writing process for this essay in a careful series of steps; consider what you know from your Writer's Review and from the syllabus

• refer to the kinds of sources you intend to locate, to the comprehensiveness and/or reliability of any sources you may already be familiar with, and/or to any non-textual information you intend to locate, for writing this research essay


in table form, give an approximate time schedule for this essay project (at least 6 steps; at least two steps that don't involve a class-day deadline)

• organize according to steps/ideas in your methods/introduction sections

• leave adequate time for planning and revising your essay


• readers must understand the limits of your investigation: what won't you address as you research and write? why?

• what problems will remain unsolved even after your research & recommendations?

• what might need to be done in future investigations?


• re-emphasize the importance of your project and its benefits

• indicate your awareness of feasibility issues and concerns about completing this research essay—what difficulties you may face, what alterations you may need to make, what information might not be available—and note your confident-but-realistic plan for coping

• indicate your openness to questions or suggestions

Website Analysis Boost

One challenge of entering a roomful (or internet full) of strangers is that you don't really know whom to trust.  You can listen to a specific person and consider his/her intelligence, information, education, or sources; you can ask around a bit to see if anyone else in the room can vouch for the person.  But that may not be enough to convince you to invest your money in the person's Fabulous New Project, or to invite the person to house-sit for you while you go to Aruba.  When it's really important, you may want to do a fuller Background Check.

For one of your website sources, do a more extensive background check.  Your goal is to find at least three other webpages or other sources that either confirm or dispute the reliability of your source and/or his/her/their information.  You might do a search on the author's name or organization to see what other upstanding or shady deals they are involved in.  You might double-check the reliability and accuracy of a source that the author cites, or see if other mostly-reliable sources seem to give about the same kind of information.  If the author has published this information (or has published other information) in a journal or in an online collection of information, you could browse to seek what other kinds of documents or arguments are also published in that journal or collection.  If you're really fortunate, you'll find an actual testimonial:  a blurb that endorses (or accuses) the author or site directly:  " is the best source available on contemporary American film, bar none; I use it myself every week" -- Francis Ford Coppola.

You may weave your background-check information into your general analysis, or you may add a separate paragraph at the end describing your sleuthing.  Be sure to note your end-result:  do you trust this source? Note:  Searching thoroughly and finding nothing can be as helpful as finding clear references.  If you look everywhere you can think of and don't come up with any verification, you can still complete this assignment by describing what you did not find and what you think the implications of that informational-black-hole are.

Source Analysis Boost

People who write up research live long, rich, complex lives beyond the boundaries of the writing they present to you.  They have beliefs, preferences, background knowledge, educational experiences; they like or dislike anchovies on their pizza; they swim laps in the morning and forget to take out the trash.  When they write, the best of them also try to imagine that their readers live long, rich, complex lives.

In an imaginative -- and perhaps sometimes purely fictional -- leap, write up two brief bios related to one of your sources.  In one, describe the author of the source; in the other, describe a single person who represents that author's Target Audience.  (An audience is anyone who reads or views a text; a target audience is the kind of person whom the author most wants to reach or most believes will choose to read his/her text.)  Give each person a name and some defining features; support at least some of your features with references to the source itself ("anyone who writes ___ is clearly the obsessive type, because…" or "someone who's interested in reading ___ would certainly drive a Jeep, since….").  Add a concluding sentence or two:  what happens when you imagine these two Real People participating in this conversation?  Does it alter the way you see this source?

Research Essay Boost #1:  Complete Draft Boost

You can do a lot of research without ever meeting up with a real human being.  For the introverts of the world, this can be a real relief, but all this solitary thinking can undermine our connection to our communities.  If you're trying to make change in the world, you should probably step into the world once or twice to connect with the people who might be affected by -- or might lead -- that change.

To counterbalance the solitary approach, conduct either an interview or a survey as you work toward writing your complete draft, write up the results for your Draft Folder, and incorporate some of that information into your complete draft.

You should schedule a conference with me or with Brian to go over your interview/survey questions before you conduct the interview/survey, and to discuss strategies for and the ethics of surveying/interviewing people.

You may interview someone in the community who could be affected by your recommendations, someone who works at an organization that is already taking action (or not taking action), or an expert in the field (perhaps a GMU professor) who can shed some light on the issues you are investigating.  (Unless your best friend or roommate or sister is particularly an expert in or particularly affected by your issue, you should find someone else to interview.) 

Your survey should produce responses from at least 15-20 people; you may need to distribute more surveys than that in order to get 20 of them back. 

Research Essay Boost #2:  Revised Draft

Almost nobody outside of school completes a large research project, revises it, prints it up nicely, shares it with one other person, and then puts it in a drawer (or bin), never to be seen or acted on again.  People conduct research so that they or others may benefit from it; if they spend time tidying it up, they do so in order to better share it with others. 

For this Boost Option, you will need to share (some of) your research results with a real person who has the ability to publicize and/or take action based on your research.  As you polish up your academic-style researched argument, consider other possible audiences for your work. Then write a formal letter that is directed to a real audience -- someone or some organization with a name and a mailing address -- that is or could be involved in your research project.  You might choose the editor of a local newspaper, a local official or group that could work for change, or a local politician; you might choose a club or group that includes part of your audience. 

Using standard one-page, single-space, business-letter format (look it up!), briefly summarize the issue as you see it, and briefly recommend and explain the change you are arguing for or the way in which the audience of your letter -- not, perhaps, exactly the same as the audience for your essay -- should take note of and respond to this problem.  Also enclose an easy-to-read one-page "white paper," handout, abstract, bullet-list, summary, or action plan (with or without citations, depending on what you believe your audience needs) that gives some of the more specific, usable information from your project. 

Because writing up this letter and summary can help you focus your attention in a way that benefits your academic writing and your class presentation, this assignment is due on November 29.  Submit two copies:  one copy to be graded, and one formal copy (sign your letter!) along with a stamped, addressed envelope so I can mail the letter to the addressee. (No boost for no risk taken: If the mayor is your uncle or the church-group leader is your next-door-neighbor, consider writing to someone else.)



Last updated August 2005.Email Shelley Reid