Shelley Reid


English 1113, Fall 2003, Essay Assignments

Oklahoma State University

Course Overview Short Assignments

On this VERY long, not-very-web-friendly page you will find:

Essay #1:  Issue Analysis  --  5% (25 points)

The Short Version:  Write a clearly organized and supported essay in which you

describe one or two things you very clearly remember writing, and how you went about writing it/them;

explain how your writing in each case or each step showed evidence of your own individual thinking and/or showed evidence of your trying to meet the expectations of another person or community,

and judge whether, overall, that particular balance between your choice/voice and their expectations/rules was good or not (why?).  Could someone (who?) redesign the situation to make it better (how?)  This judgment is your thesis.

Note:  You must illustrate your claims with very specific examples from your own experience and with at least three short quotations from one or more of the texts we've read for class.

The Option:  Instead of choosing a writing experience, choose another activity you participate in that combines your talent/choices with their expectations or rules.  Focus on one specific event or day (a competition, a memorable moment) to describe, explain, and judge about as noted above.  (This option is more difficult because you'll have to include quotations from our assigned essays and explain how their advice about writing or families connects with your ball game or recital.)

The Hints and Suggestions

Review your writing assignments from Week 1 as a starting point.  Rather than doing all the description at once, and then all the explanation, you should try to combine description and explanationinto each paragraph: at each step, were you doing your own thing or playing by the rules?  You may choose a middle ground for your overall judgment, but only if you do something more interesting than saying "It's a little of this and a little of that," or "I think everyone needs to do both."  You may want to judge one aspect of the writing experience as being better or worse than another.

Try to focus not just on the topic or the task itself but on how you chose to do it, how you felt or acted, and why.  You may also break the experience down into specific steps or angles and provide explanations and arguments about each one.  Remember that as you're writing this, you have to balance what you want to say with what your readers will need in order to really see what you mean. 

The Requirements & Criteria

Draft a 3-4 page essay in time for the draft workshop on August 26.  Complete Early Drafts should be typed/computer printed; bring three copies with you to the workshop.  This essay is a chance for you to "show me what you know" about writing essays:  it will be evaluated primarily on whether you have a clear, steady, main idea and judgment; lots of one-time-only specific details (including quotations); a clear and logical progression of ideas from paragraph to paragraph; and a sense of "flow" or "voice."

Folder Checklist for Essay #1 Folder, Due Tuesday September 2:

  • Exploration Essay (in-class writing, with additions)
  • Audience Analysis
  • Complete Early Draft copies (with peer comments)
  • Revised Essay (Please give your essay a title; optional works cited page)
  • Post Script
  • Any Optional Process Bonus Assignments

NOTE 1: For this class, "one page" equals approximately 250-300 words.

NOTE 2:  All drafts and essays should be typed, spellchecked, & proofread, double-spaced, using standard 12- or 14-point basic fonts and standard (1" or 1.25") margins.  Please do not include a separate cover page; please do not full-justify or right-justify your text.  See Keys for Writers, pages 152-158, for a good general model of how a college paper should be laid out.

NOTE 3:  Late or incomplete Early Drafts will not earn full credit.  If you miss a workshop entirely, or you arrive with an incomplete CED, you may lose all Draft and Peer Review points for the essay. It's your responsibility to discuss this with Dr. Reid.

NOTE 4: If your essay folder is incomplete, it will lose points; if your folder is late, the essay and all other folder parts will lose 5% of their points each calendar day.

NOTE 5:  You are expected to correct most mechanical/grammatical errors that were marked on the early draft, or your final draft may lose points.

Essay #2:  Close Textual Analysis -- 15% (75 points)

The Short Version:  Choose one of the assigned texts for this section of class, or another speech that you find and Dr. Reid approves.  Write an organized and well-supported essay in which you

describe what the author's/speaker's main purpose and main audience were and/or are now (you'll need to support your description with short quotations)

explain, using exact examples & quotations, how the author uses, misuses, or fails to use a range of argument techniques that are appropriate to the purpose (what s/he wanted to say/do) and audience (what they/you needed or expected)

and judge, overall, how successful the author/speaker was in balancing his/her needs and the audience's needs and accomplishing his/her goals.  This judgment is your thesis.

The Option:  Write a report to someone (real or fictional) who needs to give a persuasive speech.  Describe the purpose and audience this person will face, explain the strategies that worked or did not work for one of our assigned speakers, and recommend a few specific strategies that this new person should therefore adopt or avoid, learning from the experience of a previous persuasive speaker.  (You may use "I" and "you.")

The Hints and Suggestions

Remember, you are judging the author's success as a speaker, not reacting to his/her ideas.  You will need to draw on the language in Creating America and Writing Worth Reading about appeals, assumptions, assertions, examples, and refutations to make your argument. 

 You should write for a reader who has read the text already; do not summarize the text's main points.  Try to begin each paragraph you write with a judgment about what the author or the essay is aiming to accomplish or succeeding/failing to do. 

Try to judge the text based on what the author wanted or needed to accomplish.  Consider what kinds of changes the author is hoping to create in his/her listeners' minds or actions.  Does the author have more than one purpose?  What obstacles is the author up against, and how does s/he cope?  You may also consider that the success or failure may not be "all or nothing":  can you pinpoint some places or goals where the author does a bit better, and others where s/he is not so successful?

Show your work!  Be sure that you slow down and explain your reasoning step by step, like showing your work in a calculus problem.  (If you're ever too clear, I promise I'll tell you, no penalty!)  Choose your quotations carefully, and take time to explain to your reader exactly which words in the quotation are effective (or not) and why you think this is true.  You will probably need to give two or three examples from different points in the author's text to support a single argument of yours.

The Requirements & Criteria

Draft a 5-6 page essay for the workshop; bring three copies.  Be sure to follow the conventions for quoting and paraphrasing texts; remember that a quotation by itself isn't evidence until you connect it to your thesis or judgment (no Unidentified Flying Quotations!).  In addition to being evaluated on having a clear judgment, evidence, and organization, Essay 2 will be evaluated on the freshness and completeness of your arguments about the text you are analyzing -- on your understanding of the text's ideas and strategies as well as its effects on a reader -- and on connections you make between the text and your judgments.

Folder Checklist for Essay #2

  • Essay #1 stuff
  • Exploration Essay #2
  • Audience Analysis
  • Complete Early Draft; Other Draft(s) and Peer Comments
  • Revised Essay with Title & Works Cited List
  • A copy of your chosen speech with plentiful annotations
  • Post Script
  • Any optional Process Bonus assignments

Essay #3:  Connect-and-Conclude Analysis -- 20% (100 points)

The Short Version:  Write an essay drawing connections and conclusions about two assigned texts' arguments.  Unless you receive approval from Dr. Reid for taking another angle, you must address our class theme in some way:  how does each author investigate or judge the balance between individual expression/choice/action and the rules/expectations/needs of a larger group?  In your essay, you will

describe a problem that the authors help you identify in balancing individual/group needs in their particular area of expertise

explain, in an organized fashion using specific quotations, how each author's ideas, examples, or arguments contribute to our understanding of the complexity of the issue and/or the possibility of providing a solution

and judge what readers learn from reading both authors rather than just one -- do we find that one is right/better, that one helps us understand the other, or that both aspects are needed to complete a full picture?  This judgment is your thesis.

Note:  You will need to use at least one of the texts chosen for your group's Reading Focus Collection.  You must analyze two texts that you have not written about before.

The Option:  Draft a short (200 word) specific scenario based on an example from your own life, or created from your imagination, that relates to the authors' topic.  (This scenario does not count toward the length/word requirement of Essay #3.)  Use it as a focal point for your connections and conclusions:  how would each author most likely react to or analyze the elements of this scenario?  Would you (or others in the scenario) agree with the authors?  This essay must also meet the general Essay #3 requirements.

The Hints and Suggestions:

You need to go beyond "similar and/or different."  (Those are descriptions and facts, not arguments.)  Assume, too, that your reader has read both texts; do not spend excessive time summarizing.  Create an argument that depends on both texts:  what did you learn, and what should your own readers learn, by reading these two texts together that they could not have learned just by reading one text alone?  Answer the question:  "So, what?"

You need to accurately to represent the ideas of the two essays, noting both main points and relevant sub-points or examples.  Try not to caricature either of the authors:  don't reduce complex arguments down to simple catch-phrases.  At the same time, you need not address every single point made by each author; narrow your focus to help you choose an angle.

The Requirements & Criteria

Draft a 5-6 page essay for the workshop on October 18; bring two copies.  The crucial criteria for this essay are your ability to create a new argument to focus your comparison, and to balance consideration of each text in an organized manner -- in addition to using and explaining your quotations effectively, showing that you understand the intent and effect of each text, and producing clear, interesting, organized, and well-developed ideas.  (With all of our sentence-level revision practice, this essay should have very few errors and some lovely sentences!)

Folder Checklist for Essay #3

  • Essays #1 & #2
  • Exploration Essay #3
  • Audience Analysis
  • Complete Early Draft, Other Draft(s) and Peer Comments
  • Revised Essay with Works Cited List (title?)
  • Annotations of 4pp. from each article (8pp. or 4 xerox sheets total)
  • Post Script
  • Process Bonus assignments?

Essay #3 Reading Focus Topic:  ______________________________

Dr. Reid's Two



Two Class Texts:




My Choice:


Essay #4:  Further Analytical Connections -- 25% (125 points)

The Short Version:  Building on skills you developed through writing Essay #3, plan, draft, and revise an essay that draws from three separate sources to present a recommendation or judgment about independence and interdependence, rules vs. expression, group identity or personal identity, or some other conflict between the needs of an individual and the needs of a larger community.

describe the specific issue or problem-angle to which all three sources contribute analysis:  instead of trying to address the whole national/global problem, narrow your topic to an intriguing angle that will allow you to "dig deeply" rather than "skim widely"

explain, in an organized fashion using specific quotations, how each author's ideas, examples, or arguments combine to aid our understanding of the complexity of the issue and/or provide a possibility of solving a problem

and judge what your readers should learn/understand/do about this particular aspect of this issue -- based on your careful reading of ideas in this tiny, three-text world, what do you recommend as the best way to react?  This judgment is your thesis.

Note:  Do not include your own personal experience as a central source for this essay.  If a specific incident you actively participated in sheds great light on one point, you may include it in a very limited, focused way, but your experience must be supplemented by additional analysis.  You should, however, make your own judgment clear.

Sources:  One source must be a substantial piece from Creating America.  In preparation for 1213, you should find at least one of your three sources outside the classroom textbooks: 

Text Sources

Web Sources

Other Sources

newspaper article

news online

movie, video, song

magazine article

organization website

art, advert., photos


scholarly website

survey, interview

If your source is a print source -- or a web-page or lyric that can be printed -- you will need to include a photocopy of it in your essay folder.  If you have a non-print source, you will need to include careful notes, descriptions, or a summary in your folder.

The Option:  The topic, texts, and specific focus of this essay are already significantly open to you.  If you have an additional or alternate structure -- you would like to include a website or visual component, for instance, or you would like to draw connections to other class projects or extracurricular activities -- you may submit an additional written proposal to Dr. Reid (conference recommended).


You will very likely find you have more to learn and thus more interesting things to say  if at least one of your sources is an "oddball."  Try to choose at least one source that is from a different time period, that is much more (or less) local than the others, that presents an alternate view, or that explores a topic that is related but not obviously so.

This is not a "research essay" where you are reporting just what everyone else says.  Here, you become the expert and teach your readers what you think they need to know.  Nor is this an "all about" essay ("all about Plato/WWII/Spam"):  focus on a tension or problem particular to your three sources.

The Requirements & Criteria

Draft a 6-8 page essay for the first workshop on Nov.15; bring three copies (with title & correct citations).  Revise that draft and bring two copies of an "advanced draft" for the editing workshop on Nov. 22.  As with Essays #2 and #3, you will need to develop a central claim, summarize and analyze the main ideas of the sources, and integrate other authors' words and ideas into your own.  Your analysis should show an awareness of the rhetorical strategies that your sources are using, and should demonstrate that you know how to use multiple strategies to reach and persuade an audience.  In Essay #4, you will also be responsible for responding to counterarguments, and for creating specific conclusions or recommendations that help give your reader new insight into a complex issue. 

Folder Checklist for Essay #4:

  • Essays #1, #2, & #3: Explorations, CEDs and Final copies w/grade sheets)
  • Exploration Essay #4 & Proposal for Essay #4
  • Audience Analysis, Post Script, Complete Early Draft
  • Advanced Draft (with substantial revisions), Other Draft(s), Peer Comments
  • Annotations of 4pp. from each source, copies of used pp. of outside source
  • Revised Essay with Works Cited List (title?)

Exploration Essay #4:  Write a full, thoughtful, "grappling" paragraph for each of threedifferent possible topics you could use for Essay #4.  You should begin with a connection to an assigned class text that you could use as a jumping-off-point.  For each text/topic, explain what your questions are, what problems exist, or what issues get raised that are important; note why you're interested or who is affected by these issues; speculate about what arguments different people might make on the topic and what kinds of sources you could use or look for to help you see the issue clearly.  Conclude with a fourth paragraph:  which idea do you like best so far, and why?

Proposal, Essay #4:  In a 2-3 page typed document, explain your idea for Essay #4, and convince Dr. Reid that it is a good project for you to undertake.  Use direct language and a formal tone; be as specific as possible about your plans.  Your proposal should have a title ("Proposal to Investigate X") and five sections, each about a paragraph long, with a sub-header:


What is the issue?  What angle will you focus on?  Who cares about this?


What three texts will you be using?  why did you choose them?  how will each contribute?


Who might disagree with you, or have alternate views, and what are their best reasons?  how will you respond?  how will you persuasively support your response?

Persuasive Summary: 

Why should Dr. Reid approve this essay?  What assurances can you give that you'll do good work on it?

Annotated Bibliography

Cite the three sources you currently plan to use.  Under each citation, annotate: write a sentence or two summarizing this text.

Write For Real Assignment:  5% (25 points)

What do you want to write/say?  To whom do you wish to write/say it?

Your write-for-real assignment may take nearly any form: essay, letter, poem, webpage, screenplay, advertisement, proposal, resume, scholarship application, short story, song, video, alternate history, pamphlet, script, review, directions, memoir, etc. 

It must meet the following basic specifications:


It must have -- or very strongly seem to have -- a real reason for being:  something that really needs to be said to an actual someone who needs to see/hear it


It must be sharable with the class as a whole:  not too private or too offensive to present in a classroom situation


It must have "oomph" equivalent to about a 3-page essay.  Length is one measure of substance; so is technical difficulty, originality, emotional risk, research, trying something new, craftsmanship, etc.


It must be something you are willing and able to revise significantly after receiving peer feedback -- if your poems come from The Muse and are untouchable thereafter, choose something else to do!

It will be graded on the following scale:

3 points

Meets basic specifications

5 points

Reflective Analysis #1:  Defending "Substance"

5 points

New draft ready for each in-class workshop

5 points

Significant revisions completed

2 points

Reflective Analysis #2:  Post Script

3 points

"Substance" achieved

2 points

Final polish and presentation

Bonus:  2 points for proof of publication/delivery to actual audience

Bonus:  2 points for being voted "Best in Show" by the class






Last updated January 2007 Email Shelley Reid