Shelley Reid .

English 302H27
Advanced Composition

Spring 2006  --  MW 3:00-4:15  --  IN 318
Professor E. Shelley Reid


Primary Text Folder

PT Analysis

PT Exercises

Secondary Text Folder

ST Literature Review

ST Exercises


Research Folder

Research Essay

Research Drafts

  Research Exercises  


Interview Report

Topic Memo




Post Script Assignment Go to Policy Page Go to Schedule


Primary Text Folder Assignments

Assignments in this folder are designed to use writing-tasks and -topics with which you are familiar to increase your awareness of the active reading, critical-thinking, drafting, revising, and editing steps that are involved in crafting a specific argument for an academic audience.  Better awareness will lead to better control of these skills even when the reading, thinking, and writing become more difficult.

Primary Text Analysis

Draft an 800-1000 word essay that analyzes in depth a small aspect/element/angle of a primary text.  You may analyze a story, poem, or essay on our reading list; a film, musical piece, or artwork (with instructor approval); a data-set or case study (with approval).   You must make an argument about how a micro element has influences that affect how readers/viewers respond to, interpret, or judge the whole.

  • Choose a text that you can read/view/listen to at least twice this week

  • Assume your audience has already read/heard/seen this text; you may summarize or describe small bits of it here and there to support your analysis, but do not spend more than two sentences at a time in summary

  • Use and thoroughly analyze direct quotations or other specific examples

  • Use the vocabulary of the appropriate field as necessary, but don't get Engfishy

  • Include the features of a formal analysis essay: title, intro/conclusion, well-organized paragraphs

Supporting Exercises:

Peer Interview Report:  Based on your in-class interviews, write a 100-150 word description for each of two people in your interview group.  The report on the person of whom you asked questions should be informal in tone and style; prepare a report on one other person that is formal in tone and style.

Summary 1:  Write a 125-150 word (exactly) summary of "Sweat."  Without directly saying so, your summary should imply either strong support for or strong disapproval of Delia's actions.

Annotation, Summary & Response:  Annotate or provide specific notes on your primary text; include at least 10 annotations in a range of styles (summaries, commentary, questions, connections, etc.).  Write a 150-200 word (exactly) summary/description of your chosen Primary Text; make it neutral and formal.  Write a 150-200 word response to the text: make your own original thoughts specific and clear.

Genre/Form Exercise:  Write a 200-250 word description and analysis of the most important formal features of your primary text:  what are they, where do you see them, and how do they affect the overall quality/impact of the text?  Where possible, use academic/professional terminology.

Research Exercise:  Write three (3) questions that scholars in your major field would ask about this text.  Locate -- and print at least one page of -- two (2) different sources that relate to your question(s); write up a short answer to at least one of the questions.

Interview Report:  Interview a practicing member of your discipline, field, current job, or future (hoped for) career to find out how s/he uses writing strategies; what kinds of situations and formats for writing are most common; what questions/topics are currently under discussion in the field; and what advice s/he has for an upcoming member of the discipline/field. 

Your interview process should begin with drafting a range of open-ended questions and follow-up questions prepared in advance.  You may conduct the interview in person or by phone or email.  If you conduct a spoken interview, you should take very careful notes, and/or ask if you can tape-record the interview.

Using an informational format appropriate to your field, draft a 1-2 page report,  memo, or feature article in which you organize and present what you learned in your interview so that someone else who is new to your field can benefit from the information.  Pay attention to visual presentation as well as words and sentences, so that the information is easy to access quickly.

Secondary Text Folder Assignments

Assignments in this folder are designed to help you take skills you already have and apply them to the reading of and writing about academic articles in your major field.  Since argumentative research writing depends on being able to actively read and synthesize arguments made by others, and to balance those ideas with your own, these assignments will lead directly into your research essay. 

Choosing Secondary Texts:  For this folder, you will need to use the GMU Library Databases to locate three academic-level articles about one issue or question related to your major field or likely profession.  Each article must

  • Be published in a reputable academic journal (not a newspaper or grocery-store magazine; not an all-purpose website)

  • Be at least 5 journal-sized pages long (you will need to print out the full text)

  • Contain an original argument that is supported by research:  it should not be just a book review, and it should have a References or Works Cited page

It will make a lot of sense to choose articles thatcould be related to your Research Topic.  However, you are not "locked in" to a research topic, or to these particular articles, by your choices at this point.  You will still have freedom to change or narrow your topic, and you will not be required to use these articles in your research.

Warm-up Exercises:

Common-Text Abstract (Summary):  Write a 125-150 word (exactly) abstract of "Managing Across Generations" (our common article).  Try to use neutral, accessible, original language (summarize the article rather than copying the abstract that's already written); be sure to include the authors' argument.

Annotation:  Print out and annotate (or download, annotate, and print) one of your Secondary Texts; include at least 10 annotations in a range of styles (summaries, commentary, questions, connections, etc.). 

Individual Abstract + Summary:  Choose one of your Secondary Texts.  Write a 100-150 word (exactly) abstract of it.  Then write a 250-300 word (exactly) summary of it.  Where an abstract focuses on just the main argument, a summary may indicate some of the steps or examples used.  Always use your own language; write from memory rather than writing as you skim through the article.

Genre Analysis:  Write a 250-300 word description of the most important formal features of academic articles in your discipline, based on what you see in your three Secondary Texts.  Refer to the Devitt article on WebCT:  you should address overall format, kinds of argument/evidence most used, sentence-level language/style issues, and citation style/format.

Literature Review Essay:  Draft an 800-1200 word essay that synthesizes the information about your Secondary Text Topic that the three secondary texts provide.  Your essay should not be organized article-by-article; instead, it should go subtopic-by-subtopic:  what issues do all three texts address?  what issues are addressed by some or none of the texts?  Each section or paragraph should

  • Announce the subtopic, and note which texts refer to or agree with the idea ("All three texts list characteristics of Generation Y students, though they don't agree on the exact ones.")

  • Describe the main similarities/differences in how each article discusses or argues about the issue

  • Provide paraphrases or short quotations from the articles to support your description

  • Cite the articles appropriately in the text and at the end, using MLA or APA format

You should have a brief introduction that identifies the general topic; gives the title, author(s), and main point of each essay; and presents a descriptive thesis that announces the main ideas you plan to discuss (why these?).  You should have a brief conclusion in which you explain how/why this information will (will not) be useful for your research during the rest of the semester.  Be sure to include a references or works cited list.

Research Folder Assignments

Research Related Assignments

Assignments in this section of the course are designed to take you through the steps of researching and arguing your case by drafting, revising, and editing an 8-10 page (2000-3000 word) essay.  The basic specifications are

  • Topic related or tangential to your current major field and/or likely profession
  • 8-10 page target-length, or as needed in your field
  • Argumentative rather than just informative
  • Includes or lays the ground for a "writing-for-change" element, where possible
  • Research based:  cites at least 5 sources, including scholarly sources and including at least one credible opposition or alternate-view source
  • Follows scholarly genre expectations and citation style appropriate to your field
  • Thoroughly proofread and polished

For more information on the Essay and the Publication, see the Research Essay Assignment handout.  Due 5/1.

Research Essay Drafts:

Wed. 3/29

Intro Paragraph, Points, Annot'n :  Draft one possible introductory paragraph for your essay:  reach your audience, provide background, give an argument.  List 5 possible sub-points you could expand on in your essay.  Annotate (comments x 15) one article (at least 8 pages long) you're likely to use for your research. Paper & electronic copy.

Mon. 4/3

S----y First Draft:  3-5 pages of writing on your topic, including your intro, that begins to incorporate sources and make arguments.  Include a Reader's Guide:  what 3-4 responses or suggestions do you most want from your readers?  Post to WebCT.

Mon. 4/10

Complete Early Draft:  6-8 pages of writing on your topic, including beginning, middle, end; counterarguments; specific recommendations; in-text citations; some rough-edges OK.  Also include a Reader's Guide.  Post to WebCT; email copy & Post Script #2, 3, 6 to Prof. Reid.

Mon. 4/17

Publication Draft:  1-2 pages of information, targeted to a nonspecialist audience, already beginning to be formatted as needed. Include 1 parag. describing audience & goal.  WebCT.

Mon. 4/24

Advanced Draft:  8-10 pages, fully formed, thoroughly argued; title, works-cited or references page; reaches out to "move" reader.  Bring 2 paper copies.

Related Exercises: Assignments:

  • For 3/29:  Log on to  Under the Book-Related Resources, choose Tutorials; read and take notes on the tutorials for Chapters 10, 13, and 15.  Expect an open-note quiz on 3/29.
  • For 4/5:  Log on to Under the Book-Related Resources, choose Tutorials; read and take notes on the tutorial for Chapter 11.  

                ALSO: Under Writing Resources, choose Avoiding Plagiarism Tutorial.  The two focus areas for this assignment are Knowing Which Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism.  Each one has a tutorial and an exercise (quiz).  Your goal is to complete, submit, and print-out each exercise, scoring at least 70%, to turn in for class.  If you're confident about what to cite and when, you can skip the tutorials; if you'd like some review, read or skim the Tutorial before you complete each Exercise.
  • For 4/12: Log on to  From Book-Related, choose Guides; read and take notes on Evaluating Sources, Info from Sources, and Works Cited.  Expect an open-note quiz on 4/12.
  • For 4/19:  Log on to  Under Writing Resources, choose Exercise Central and click on Exercises in the top tabs.  Your goal is to complete, submit, and print out for class three completed Exercises on which you score at least 70%.  To make this assignment valuable to you, try to choose topics related to errors you know you make; where possible, choose a Level 2 exercise.  (If you make few errors, consider choosing an exercise under Sentence Style or Word Choice.)  If you have questions about a grammar issue, try reviewing a Tutorial first.

Research Reflection #1:  Due 4/12 (600-800 words; Post to WebCT)

In an informal but organized and thoughtful response, using specific examples from your research,

  • Explain what has been hardest/easiest about finding sources so far, the best strategy you've learned/used, and what advice you'd give to a new 302 student just starting his/her research; and
  • Explain, using source-evaluation criteria discussed in the BR chapter or Guide, what makes two of your sources highly reliable & useful, and what makes one of your sources less reliable/useful; and
  • Set out a plan for your final round of research:  what do you still need to know, and how will you find it?




Argumentative Research Essay

The basic specifications:

Topic related or tangential to your current major field and/or likely profession

8-10 page target-length, or as needed in your field

Argumentative rather than just informative

Includes or lays the ground for a "writing-for-change" element

Research based:  cites at least 5 sources, including scholarly sources and including at least one credible opposition or alternate-view source

Follows scholarly genre expectations and citation style appropriate to your field

Thoroughly proofread and polished


Argumentative essay with a "writing for change" element: The most powerful and useful kind of writing, and the most common kind of writing outside university classrooms, is writing that addresses a real problem close to the author's heart or field-work and aims to persuade real human readers to change their minds, their affiliations, and/or their actions.  People who write grant applications, letters to state legislators, new curricula proposals to school boards, bylaws for neighborhood groups, informational notes for relatives who need to make key decisions, stories for a local newspaper about the effects of new businesses moving into town, essays for magazines on community development or for collections about women's roles, or even New Year's Resolutions, are all writing for change.

Outside of college classrooms or required workplace writing, people rarely sit down to go through the angst and agony of writing simply to recite information:  all about Beethoven, all about gene therapy, all about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, all about current health and safety laws.  Instead, people gather information in order to put it to work:  informing voters or business-owners to encourage them to take action; informing doctors, educators, or other professionals so that they can change their behavior; informing politicians or foundations so that they will allocate funding; informing colleagues so that they will stop being close-minded and start perceiving new opportunities.  We use the most reliable, most relevant information we can find to argue for change.

What does "change" mean for my field?  Some of you may immediately see a practical, non-scholarly application for the kind of information you're interested in gathering:  how to expand training for nurses or restaurant owners, how to improve office procedures, how to argue for more funds for research or treatment.  In such a case, arguing for a visible change is the easy part; doing so using a more scholarly format like the ones used in articles you've been reviewing recently may be more challenging.

Some of you may be more interested in "pure" research that is directed more at colleagues in your field:  arguing for a new reading of an older text, for instance, or for a slightly different categorization of a disease or drug than is currently preferred, or for the surprising value of an underappreciated text, program, or research approach.  In this case, presenting a scholarly argument, like the arguments you'll review in this class, should be fairly straightforward.  You'll need to resist the temptation simply to repeat what others think, however.

Either way, you can argue for a change.  Either way, you also need to think ahead to the "Publication Project," in which you will provide a short summary + argument (written and/or oral) that is targeted to a more general, not-so-scholarly audience.

The topic specs:  As you choose a topic, consider questions or issues that have special interest to you, to people in your intended profession, and/or to people in your community.  Find a problem that needs solving, a pending decision that would be better for being better-informed, a question that's still open or that should be re-opened, or a change you think should be made on behalf of a person or group of people. 

Think small:  I know that 8-10 pages can seem like an overwhelming amount of writing, but scholarly writing most often values depth over breadth.  The angle you take and the recommendations you make, even if the general information you're interested in has national or global connections, should be modest in scope.  You might also choose a specific audience who can help make this change happen as your target audience, and consider specific argument strategies to help "deliver" your ideas to them. 

Vague changes ("make the world a better place") or vague audiences ("all adolescents/Buddhists/teachers/dog-lovers") will make achieving success with this kind of writing very difficult.  This is not a general-audience "position paper," so generalized topics -- particularly topics about which people hold very unshakeable opinions, such as the death penalty, abortion, gun control, environmental protection, violence, freedom of speech, whether Martians have rights, etc. -- or topics that most people already agree on (Shakespeare should be taught in public schools; nurses should all try to be ethical) are not appropriate for this essay.

You will have time to investigate the complications, options, and sources of resistance to change, and to conduct research (in or out of the library) to find ways to address those ideas.  You may need to alter the scope or focus of your project as you develop your essay.

Research "Publication":  A 1-2 page (or equivalent) vehicle for delivering the key information from your research project to a non-specialist audience and/or an audience that can help make change happen.  (White paper, speech + handout, PowerPoint presentation, formal abstract, letter, feature article, flyer/pamphlet, podcast, web page, etc.)

Tentative Research Timeline


Wednesday, Feb. 8

Memo describing three possible research topics


Conferences, Feb. 13-18

Initial Research Topic choice


Wednesday, March 8

Research Proposal


Wednesday, March 29

Research SFD


Wednesday, April 5

Research Complete Draft


Monday, April 24

Research Final Folder


April 24-May 1


ProposalIn 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 Assignment presents a formal set of guidelines for you to follow.  Your final proposal will be about  500-800 words.  Your audience is Professor Reid; your goal is to obtain approval for your research project.

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


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


• 2-3 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 to you and 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 or argument that you currently plan to make: who should do, say, believe what? why?




• describe your intended research and writing process for this essay in a careful series of steps


• 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 may 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


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 Prof. 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 Prof. 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.



Last updated January 2006. Email Shelley Reid