Shelley Reid .


English 1213, Fall 2003, Short Assignments

Oklahoma State University

Overview Page Essay Assignments

On this long, not-very-web-friendly page you will find the assignment prompts for Reading Analysis assignments and Research Log assignments.

Reading Analysis Assignments:  5% (5 points each; max. 25 points total possible)

Reading Analysis (RA) assignments are designed to prepare you to write the essays.  They should demonstrate that you read the whole text, and that you read it carefully and actively.  Although they will not always require complete sentences or formal paragraphs, they should be at least 300-350 words in length  They should be typed or, in an emergency, neatly handwritten. Please label each one at the top of the page:  Reading Analysis #1, etc. 

You will be responsible for remembering to turn in your RA assignments on time. 

RA assignments will be evaluated primarily based on your thoughtfulness and thoroughness.  Each one will be worth 5 points; your lowest score will be dropped.

All Reading Analysis assignments will include a "Six Sentence Summary," except where noted.  Writing a summary is a common academic assignment, and it will help you as a reader and writer by letting you slow down and set out the author's ideas. A Six Sentence Summary may contain slightly more or slightly fewer than six sentences, but should contain:

An opening sentence that gives the full author's name, the full essay title (in quotation marks) and the main argument or point (not just the general topic) of the essay

Middle sentences that identify, in order, 2-3 of the author's significant sub-points; including any key example(s) or in-depth point(s) of evidence

A closing sentence that makes clear (without repeating your first sentence) the author's conclusions, reasoning and/or recommendation to his or her audience:  what does s/he expect his/her readers to think or do, and why? 

Remember: a summary should be in your words, not quotations from the author.  (If the author has coined a short, powerful phrase -- "compassionate conservatism" -- you may include it).  Summaries are generally formal writing -- no opinions, no first person, no slang -- even when the other parts of a Reading Analysis may be informal in style. Yet you should try to use your own clear, ordinary language rather than trying to sound overly dramatic or philosophical.

All Reading Analysis assignments will include 3 Exploration Questions, except where noted.  The goal of this class is not to teach you some dry information about technology, but to help you develop your skills as a reader and thinker, as a questioner and researcher, as a citizen who doesn't just follow the crowd when they all jump off a cliff.

You should write real questions that you do not immediately know the answer to.  You may write factual questions about the author's topic (what didn't the author tell you?  what other information is relevant?), interpretive questions about the author's meaning (is something unclear?  does the author imply arguments or present biases that should be investigated?), or challenge-questions that go to the author's credibility (why did the author focus on this?  how will it work in the real world?) 

Avoid vague discussion-style questions that nobody but teachers really care about, such as "Is privacy really important?" or "How do Randall's ideas connect to your life?"  Ask the questions Rikki or Jerry or Oprah or Simon would ask:  "How much does this cost?  Who makes these rules?  What exactly can someone own? What else has Turkle written?"

Bonus 10%:  You may do one (not both) of the following for any RA assignment: 

Do some research to find the not-too-obvious answer, or part of the answer, to one of your questions (no credit given for "gimme" Q&As):  be sure to cite your source. 

Find and copy out the definition of three words the author used that were unfamiliar to you; for one word, explain why you think the author chose that word and not another

RA #1:  Two Column Log.  See separate handout.

RA#2:  Researcher's Reading ("Believing/Doubting").  (This and all future RAs should be typed.)  Write a six-sentence summary of Gardner's or of Turkle's article.  (See the previous page for instructions on the Six Sentence Summary format.)  Then write a full paragraph in which you assume the author is sane, intelligent, and right:  give examples/quotations from his/her text and explain how and why they convince you that this is something worth paying attention to. 

Next, write a full paragraph in which you assume that the author is off-base, unknowledgeable, overly concerned or picky, unclear, and/or just loony:  give examples/quotations from his/her essay and explain exactly how and why they concern you.  Finish with 3 Exploration Questions: what issues or facts could a researcher follow-up with after reading this article?  Remember your bonus option.  Turn in an annotated copy of the article along with your RA.

RA#3:  Connection Analysis A.  Choose two of the assigned readings from Speculations that have a connection.  Write one joint-summary paragraph:  describe the arguments the two texts address so we can see how they are connected to one another (this may take somewhat more than six-sentences).  Your first sentence might read something like this:  Joe Smith's article "School" and Jane Black's article "Martians" both address the issue of what defines intelligence

Then write two full paragraphs, each judging the two texts in a different way.  For instance, you might argue that, on one topic, one text explains or clarifies the other; you might argue that the two texts combine to produce a new understanding; you might argue that one text is more reliable or accessible than the other; you could argue that the second text appeals to a wider audience than the first.  Be sure to support your judgments with specific examples and short quotations from each text. Add 3 Exploration Questions. (Remember your Bonus option.)

RA #4:  Connection Analysis B.  Choose two more assigned texts you haven't yet written about that have a connection.  Write a joint-summary paragraph (see RA #3 above for details.)  Write an argument paragraph explaining what Text 1 shows you that Text 2 doesn't, and explain why that information is important.  Write a second paragraph explaining what Text 2 shows you that Text 1 doesn't, and explain the importance.  Finish with three Exploration Questions.  (Bonus?)

RA#5: Outside source judgments.  Refer to your outside source (source #3) for Essay #2.  Write a six-sentence summary.  Write a full paragraph analyzing why and/or how this source is useful to you in writing Essay #2:  what does it add that the other texts didn't have?  Then write a full paragraph in which you analyze some of the reasons that this text is not an ideal source for this project, and/or in which you explain specifically what kind of source you really wanted, and how that would have added to your thinking on this topic. Add Exploration Points (bonus?).

RA#6: Going public.  Write a letter that is directed to a real audience that is involved in your Essay #4 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 the "ordinary Joes" you're looking for.  Using standard one-page, single-space, business-letter format (see KW), briefly summarize the problem as you see it, and briefly recommend and explain the change you are arguing for or the way in which your audience should take note of this problem.  (No six-sentence summary or Explorations needed.) 

One-point bonus: bring in a second copy (sign it!) and a stamped, addressed envelope for me so I can mail the letter to the addressee.  Additional one-point bonus if your letter is published or you receive a letter back before the end of the semester.  (No bonus for no risk taken: If the mayor is your uncle or the church-group leader is your god-mother, write to someone else.)

Research Log Assignments:  10% (50 points max. possible)

Researching can be a lonely business -- and yet many people who do research really want someone else to benefit from their hard work.  In 2004, people who are working on an idea or a project who want feedback often publish their thoughts, rants, and arguments on the Web through a "Blog" (Web Log).  We won't go quite that public this semester, but we'll use the class Blackboard site ( to create and respond to mini-blogs about the research we're doing.

Research Log Posts should be at least 200 words, following the assignments below. Satisfactory responses will engage the topic seriously and cover all angles of the Assignment.

Research Log Responses should be at least 150 words, focused on one or two issues.  You may respond to a question or issue that the author raised; give specific advice or sympathy based on your own research experience; explain what intrigues or entertains you; argue with or question the author's ideas or those of his/her sources.

Research Log Main Assignments are due by noon on the assignment day.  Responses are due by noon on the assignment day (see syllabus schedule -- earlier responses encouraged!).

Research Log grades will be determined by the following scale:

To earn an A- (45/50 pts.)

Complete all 5 Required Posts satisfactorily and on-time,

and post at least two pairs of Responses on the official dates,

and post at least three additional responses at some point.

To earn a B- (40/50 pts.):

Complete all 5 Required Posts satisfactorily (4 on-time)

and post at least two pairs of Responses on the official dates

To earn a C- (35/50 pts.):

Complete at least 4 Required Posts satisfactorily (3 on-time)

and post at least once on each official Response date

To earn a D- (30/50 pts.)

Complete at least 3 Posts and two responses satisfactorily.

Failure to complete at least D- work may result in the loss of all points:  0/50


R-log #1: Three-source evaluation:  Read the section in KW about evaluating sources.  Do a general internet search on your Essay 3 topic (you may need play with some key words to widen or narrow your search) using a basic search engine like or 

Click-through to at least 15-20 hits; from these, choose a Really Good website, a Pretty Good website, and a Pretty Bad (but still generally on your topic) website. In three full paragraphs (one per website), referring to the criteria and explain what makes each website Good or Bad for someone doing academic research on your topic.  Give examples; try to focus on the quality of the information more than on whether the site is pretty.  Conclude with an overall judgment:  what advice do you have for someone doing research (on this topic) on the web?  Give the URL web-addresses for each source.

R-Log #2:  Research in process.  Describe one or two of your recent adventures in finding sources for Essay #3 -- try to focus on at least one aspect of researching that was difficult, on a problem that you solved, or on a problem you're still having.  Give enough detail that everyone can "see what you mean." 

What information do you/did you most need?  why?  how would it help you?  What information did you find?  What key words, databases and other steps did you use to find it?  About the process:  what was hard? what helped out? was a particular librarian or database helpful?  what might you do differently or similarly next time?  About the product:  is what you found reliable & relevant?  why/why not?  is what you found accessible & comprehensible?  what do you still need to find?  Conclude with an overall judgment:  How's your own research going?  what advice do you have for someone doing this kind of research?

R-Log #3:  Sussing out the opposition:  Choose one of your sources for Essay #3 that makes or includes an argument that goes against the change you hope to recommend, that portrays the situation as not needing change, that suggests that the topic isn't really linked to ordinary people, or that describes the situation as being very different from the way most of your sources do.  Briefly summarize the opposing viewpoint, even if it is just a piece of the overall article. 

Then take a few sentences to "get inside" the opposing viewpoint:  what fears or desires motivate this view? what might be good or at least understandable about it? which opposing view is likely to be the strongest, the most difficult for you to refute? why?  Take another few sentences to consider your informed response to this opposition or alternative: using the evidence you've gathered so far, what resistance can you overcome? what additional evidence might you need? where might you have to compromise?  Conclude with an open question to your readers:  where do they stand on this question?

R-Log #4:  Informed Rant:  Since you can't "go off on a rant" in Essay #3, go ahead and get it off your chest.  What interested you in this topic?  What arguments or recommendations do you hope to make about it, and why?  How are your arguments connected to your own life, and to the information you've found in your sources?  What do you want to say on this topic, and who do you want to say it to?  Remember that this is still a classroom discussion:  rant on, but avoid insulting or offending your classmates or people they might know & love.  Conclude in a way that opens up the discussion to your readers.

R-Log #5: Feasibility analysis.  Choose one of your Essay #3 sources that proposes at least one solution or course of action: briefly summarize its ideas about what people should do. Write a full paragraph that analyzes -- and challenges, if necessary -- the feasibility of the solution: can it be done?  You might consider issues of time & money, of personnel or training, of opposition resistance.  Write a second full paragraph that analyzes -- and/or challenges -- the effectiveness of the solution:  will it actually improve the situation?  what evidence shows, or is needed to show, that the idea will actually work?  Conclude in a way that reaches out to your readers.

Last updated June 2008.Email Shelley Reid