Overview of Writing Assignments for 214: Second Year Written Composition, Focused on Digital Literacies

Overview of Writing Assignments for 214: The Electric Word!

Topic Selection (1000 points): In 750-1000 words, describe the topic that you have selected for the Inquiry Series and the Sustained Argument and explain your interest in detail, specifically when you first became interested in the topic and why you are interested in it now. Who is the topic important to (target audience) and why does it matter (purpose)? What doesn’t the average person know about your topic, but should know to understand it more fully? What questions do you have on the topic that you would like to answer eventually?

Due September 22nd

 

Inquiry Series (3000 points): Write a series of 4 original posts of 750-1000 words each (the overall total must be between 3000-4000 words), meeting the following tasks: a rhetorical analysis, an evaluation of credibility, an analysis of stakeholders, and primary research. Each post must contain working links to sources sources with traditional MLA in-text citations and works cited. (Note: students may use the citation format from their field but must be consistent.) Students should use feedback they received on the appraisal essay and the topic proposal to improve their writing. Each student should also request detailed feedback on the second, third, or fourth post at any time during the inquiry series, and they should meet with me at least once before midterm for more recommendations on improving their writing.

About 2/3rds through the semester, students will submit their Inquiry Series by emailing Prof. Ron a reflection paper with links to their posts, examining what they have learned so far, what progress they have made, and what they need to keep improving. For submission, students must thoroughly revise all of their posts.

Individual Posts: Due October 4th, 11th, 23rd, and November 1st.

Inquiry series (reflection paper, assessment rubric, and list of comments): Due November 6th.

 

Sustained Argument (2000 points, as part of the Argument Series): Identify a specific issue within your topic, research that issue, and then compose a persuasive argument of about 1500-2000 words, giving a specific call to action to a specific group, backed up by extensive, scholarly research. Your thesis should answer the question, “Who should do what?” and include words like “should,” “have to,” “need to,” or “must.” If your advice is negative–somebody shouldn’t do something–invert it to make it positive advice. If your advice is about people changing their opinions, revise it so that your target audience actually has to do something: a call to action.

Due December 4th

 

Genre Transformation (500 points, as part of the Argument Series): Find a catchy, persuasive way to get the call to action from your sustained argument to your target audience in a new form or genre (poster, brochure, letter to an official, letter to an editor, podcast, video, song, dance, play, story, poem, painting, sculpture, or other form). When deciding on the genres you will use for this assignment, utilize the ongoing writing you have been doing on your inquiry blog series and sustained argument. Think about the various groups involved in or affected by your issue and the conversations it has spurred, as well as the different genres of writing you’ve come across in your research. Pinpoint the people/groups who would have a different view on the subject and who you think most need to hear your message. How can you best reach and convince them?

Due December 11th

 

Argument Series (3000 points): Reflections on Writing Digitally, The Sustained Argument, the Genre Transformation, a document with the best comments students have made on others’ websites, and a detailed description of any improvements you made to the Inquiry Series.

Due December 13th

 

Topic Proposal

1000 points, Due Thursday, September 22nd

 

Background

This semester you will find your own topic, currently in the news, that intellectually engages you and spend the semester exploring, researching, writing and creating content about it, so that you may become an expert on it. As your writing and content will be public, on an academic website you create, remember to pick something that will show a side of yourself you would like future teachers and employers to see.

 

Make sure the semester-long topic you pick satisfies the following criteria:

 

  1. You have an intellectual interest in the topic that will last at least 4 months.
  2. You are open-minded about the topic, able to be objective and willing to have your opinions change.
  3. You can find credible and timely research on the topic (initially from a major U.S. city newspaper or NPR station and later on in the semester from other credible sources) and you can understand this research.
  4. You have not picked something too broad (a common mistake) or too narrow so that you could successfully engage with this topic for the semester and become something of an expert on it.

 

Your Task

In 750-1000 words, describe the topic that you have selected for the Inquiry Series and the Sustained Argument. In the first few lines, give your main point (your thesis), naming the topic and explaining its importance. In the body of your essay, answer most of the questions below. Please keep in mind that this is not a laundry list of questions to answer, but rather areas of discussion that you should cover at some point in your essay.

Significance

 

Who does or should the topic be important to (target audience)? Why does the topic deserve further exploration? What doesn’t your target audience know about your topic, but should know to understand it more fully?

Interest

When did you first become interested in this topic? Why are you interested in it now? How might researching and writing about this topic benefit you in your major, potential major, or possible career?

Inquiry

Are you open-minded about the topic? (If you are undecided, you will have more room for intellectual exploration.) What do you already know about this topic? What would you like to know about this topic? What questions would you like to answer about the topic for yourself and your readers? What doubts do you have about the topic? What confuses you? What makes you uncomfortable when thinking about the topic and why?

Currency and Conversation

Are credible sources (as represented by The New York Times) currently writing about the topic? What are they saying? What issues and controversies are they addressing? Name and describe in detail at least two articles from the last twelve months from The New York Times related to the topic. Be sure to give the title with working hyperlinks (check them) and the authors’ names (credit the authors or not credit for you.) Present their relevant main points and most persuasive evidence. Analyze the evidence and explain how it addresses the points you would like to make.

Give specific evidence that shows you can satisfy the following criteria:

  1. You are open-minded about the topic. (You should not have strong opinions about the topic or you will not have as much room for intellectual inquiry.)
  2. You can successfully engage with this topic for the semester. (It should be narrow enough that you can become something of an expert on the topic over the semester, covering most important aspects. Most students will need to make their topic more specific. On the other hand, the topic should not be so narrow that you might lose interest.)

Assessment Rubric

Goal: The website, About Page, and first post represents the type of well-organized, well-supported writing one would expect to find on an academic website.

1=strongly disagree; 2=disagree; 3=neutral; 4=agree; 5=strongly agree 1 2 3 4 5
The topic of the website–narrow enough to cover thoroughly in five posts and a paper–is clearly stated in the title, About Page, and the beginning of the first post.
The website and post demonstrate connective writing: a blogroll, working hyperlinks to articles from NYTimes.com, detailed descriptions of those articles with substantial factual content, quotes in quotation sandwiches, and analysis and explanations of relevance of evidence.
The post has multiple points of entry: catchy title with keywords, headings, main idea up top, topic sentences that relate directly to the main idea, short paragraphs, and keywords or phrases that announce the topic of the paragraph in bold.
The importance of the topic is explained, the potential audience named, and the interest for the student-writer described in detail.
The writing is clear, specific, detailed, and relatively free of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.

 

 

Inquiry Series

3000 points, Due November 6th

Background

Now that student-scholars have selected a topic and explained their historical, present and future interest in the topic, it is time to explore the topic through a series of academic moves in preparation for the Sustained Argument to follow. They should use this series to explore the topic with an open mind before they make any final decisions on their opinions regarding the topic.

Students are not allowed to change their topics at this point unless they improve or refine them. If students do want to change focus, they should discuss it with Ron right away to get approval.

Your Task

Write a series of 4 original posts of 750-1000 words each (the overall total must be between 3000-4000 words), meeting the following tasks: a rhetorical analysis, an evaluation of credibility, an analysis of stakeholders, and primary research. Each post must contain working links to sources sources with traditional MLA in-text citations and works cited. (Note: students may use the citation format from their field but must be consistent.)

Each post should have a specific title with keywords, headings, a main point or purpose clearly stated in the beginning, topic sentences that connect to the main point with keywords or synonyms, short paragraphs, and images to enhance the topic (images that you did not take or produce must be credited to their source in captions with working hyperlinks).

Second Post: Rhetorical Analysis of a New York Times Article or Blog Post

Write a detailed rhetorical analysis of about 750-1000 words on an article from The New York Times or a post from the New York Times blogs related to your topic. Try to find an article that challenges you, causes you to rethink some or all of the views you held on the topic.

Be sure to give titles with working hyperlinks (check them) and authors’ names (credit the authors or no credit for you). In your introduction, briefly introduce the topic, then give the main point of the article. Your thesis, which should appear near the top of the post, should explain how effective the writer is in persuading readers of this point. Address the rhetorical situation: author, audience, purpose, and setting. (See OWL at Purdue’s “Rhetorical Situation.”) In the body of the post, make sure to analyze the logic and structure of the argument (including a discussion of how the sub-points relate to the main point and the effectiveness of the evidence) and the rhetorical techniques the writer used to persuade the reader. Include specific examples and quotes from the article to illustrate your points. Analyze arguments and evidence. Include specific examples and quotes in quotation sandwiches with citations.

Due October 4th

Third Post: Evaluation of Credibility of a Non-Scholarly Source

Write a detailed analysis of credibility of about 750-1000 words on a non-academic blog or website, one that is not affiliated with a university, a government organization, or a respected news source. Be sure to give the title and provide hyperlinks (check them) and credit the authors and organizations behind the blog or website. In your main point, either show that the source is credible or expose it as noncredible and explain why. Find out who are the writers or organization behind the blog or website, and carefully analyze their specific credentials. Do more research on the authors to find out more information about them and to learn what other sources say about them. Check the credibility of the sources that they quote. Chase down 5-10 pieces of evidence to their primary sources to see if they are accurate and used fairly. If not credible, discuss why the arguments are invalid, why the arguments are irrelevant or unimportant, why the evidence is inaccurate, incomplete, or misrepresented. Include specific examples, facts, statistics, names, dates, places, anecdotes, summaries, paraphrases, and quotes in quotation sandwiches.

Due October 11th

Fourth Post: Analyzing Stakeholders

Your goal in this post is to consider your issue as a set of differing economic powers, political pressures, personal investments, and values, all of which produce different arguments about an issue. Using at least two scholarly sources from the library databases, as well as other sources of your choice, write a post of about 750-1000 words on what different groups are saying about the issues, focusing especially on those who have the money and power in your topic. Don’t forget to include working hyperlinks and credit authors. If you include non-scholarly sources, be sure to discuss their credibility.

Questions to consider: Which arguments about your topic receive more attention in the media? Who is making these arguments? What arguments receive less attention? Who is making these arguments? How does the money and power control and frame the discussion? How do those with money and power influence public opinion and policy? How do they use their money and power to get what they want? How does money and power affect their rhetorical strategies? Look at various individuals and organizations who approach the topic from different angles, but focus especially on the groups or individuals that are blocking positive change with the power and resources they have. Why are they opposing change? What ulterior motives might they have? What are their goals and intentions? Be sure to back up every claim with detailed factual evidence.

Due October 23rd

Fifth Post: Primary Research

Write a post of about 750-1000 words on one of the following choices. You may also use a different genre for this post, for example, a podcast or video; in these cases, the requirements remain the same.

1-Interview: Interview someone doing work on your topic. To prepare for the interview, carefully review “General Guidelines for Conducting Research Interviews.” Write an organized article on your findings. You may present the tapescript as an addendum to your interview, but I am mostly interested in an organized analysis of the interview. Integrate the interview into cohesive, academic paragraphs and analyze the comments of the interviewers, explaining their relevance to your points.

2-Survey: Conduct a survey of at least 50 participants to ascertain public opinion about your topic. To prepare for the survey, carefully review “Good Practice in the Conduct and Reporting of Survey Research.” Write an organized article on your findings with cohesive, academic paragraphs, analyzing the findings and explaining their relevance. Charts are very useful, but they should be used to support a detailed textual analysis.

3-Experiment: Conduct an experiment to test a hypothesis you have about your topic. To prepare, carefully review “How to Conduct Science Experiments.” Make sure you are following ethical principles if you include animal or human subjects and that you have taken all necessary safety precautions. If you have any doubts about the experiment, seek guidance from educators or professionals in your field. Once you have completed the experiment, organize your findings with cohesive, academic paragraphs, analyzing the findings and explaining their relevance. Don’t simply present a list of findings.

4-Observations: Purdue Online Writing Lab defines an observation: “Observations involve taking organized notes about occurrences in the world. Observations provide you insight about specific people, events, or locales and are useful when you want to learn more about an event without the biased viewpoint of an interview.” (Purdue OWL) Organize your findings with cohesive, academic paragraphs, analyzing the findings and explaining their relevance. Don’t simply present a list of findings.

Due November 1st

Reflection Paper on the Inquiry Series

After you have reread and revised all of your posts for connective writing, multiple points of entry, main idea, organization, topic sentences, evidence, examples, textual support from other writers, clarity, specificity, grammar, spelling, and punctuation, write a 500-750 word reflection paper that analyzes your inquiry series. Provide links to the five main posts in the series and any additional posts that add substance to your website, answering the following questions:

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your level of self-discipline in terms of keeping up with the workload while participating in an online course? One would mean not very well. Ten would mean exceptionally well. If you gave yourself a high rating, describe some of the things you have done to stay organized. What advice would you give to classmates who are having a harder time keeping up. If you gave yourself a lower rating, what could you have done differently to have been more engaged with the work of the class? Describe your action plan for staying engaged with the course from today until you submit your Final Portfolio.
  2. What has been easy or difficult for you during the writing process of the inquiry series? What approaches or techniques have worked well for you? What obstacles have you faced in the writing process? What do you think you should do differently in other writing projects for this class and other classes?
  3. Has the nature of your posts changed in the past four or five weeks? What changes do you notice, and how might you account for those changes? What ideas or threads in your posts do you see as worth revisiting and deepening?
  4. What are you most proud of? Where are you showing growth as a writer by communicating something important to your reader? What obstacles in your writing are you starting to overcome? Quote specific passages as evidence.
  5. What obstacles are you still struggling with? When readers seem confused by your writing, what aspects of your writing do you think interfere with their understanding? What do you need to keep working on? Quote specific passages as evidence.
  6. What writing skills have you gained that you can use in other classes and in your future career? How can you translate the skills you have gained in this class to other classes?
  7. What do you think of the hybrid nature of the course and online writing as the principal form of writing? What is working well for you in the course and what suggestions would you make so that the class functions more effectively in the second half of the semester and upcoming semesters?

Due November 6th

Assessment Rubric

Goal: Each post represents the type of well-organized, well-supported writing one would expect to find on an academic website.

1=strong; 2=good; 3=developing; 4=needs work; 5=no evidence 5 4 3 2 1
The reflection paper is a thoughtful, self-reflection on progress and areas for improvement.
Posts have multiple points of entry: catchy titles with keywords, headings, main ideas up top, topic sentences that relate directly to the main ideas, shorter paragraphs, and keywords or phrases that announce the topic of the paragraph in bold.
Posts contain links to titles of source materials, authors are credited, quotes are cited, in-text citations are used, and works cited list sources.
Substantial evidence in the form of examples, anecdotes, facts, and summaries supports every claim. Evidence is analyzed and relevance explained.
The writing is clear, specific, detailed, and relatively free of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. Sentences have strong sentence focus and active verbs.

 

 

Sustained Argument

2000 Points, as part of Argument Series

Due December 4th

 

Background

At this point in the semester, you have spent quite a bit of time exploring a topic of interest to you. It is now time to take things to the next level. You will create a sustained argument, a research paper making a research-based persuasive argument about an important issue or controversy related to your topic, which you will then break up into about four posts on your website. Although this assignment is a more traditional academic essay, you should still adapt it to conventions of online writing: headings, images (with sources credited in a caption with working hyperlinks), very brief introduction, and shorter paragraphs. Keep in mind that most online readers only spend a few moments on a website, so deliver your main message quickly and offer those who linger multiple points of entry.

Your Task

Identify a specific issue within your topic, research that issue, and then compose a persuasive argument of about 1500-2000 words, giving a specific call to action to a specific group, backed up by extensive, scholarly research. Your thesis should answer the question, “Who should do what?” and include words like “should,” “have to,” “need to,” or “must.” If your advice is negative–somebody shouldn’t do something–invert it to make it positive advice. If your advice is about people changing their opinions, revise it so that your target audience actually has to do something: a call to action.

Selecting an issue: Part of the challenge here will be to find a relatively narrow issue within your topic to discuss. An “issue” is not the same thing as a “topic.” A topic defines an area of interest, like baseball, light pollution, or art therapy. An issue, on the other hand, involves a question or matter upon which there is some dispute or disagreement. Issues within the topics just named might include “Why should the National League require professional baseball players to submit to random drug tests?”, “How should city governments limit light pollution through laws?”, and “How can the American Psychological Association encourage multiculturalism in art therapy?” Reasonable people might answer these questions very differently, and that makes them debatable issues.

Sources: Since you are building on foundations you laid in the Inquiry Series, you may draw on previous posts, especially your primary research, to develop and support your argument, but you must reshape it to fit the new context. Simply copying and pasting a previous post into your argument is self-plagiarism. You must provide new concepts and insights and shaped them into a new argument. You must also add new research from the library, library databases, college-affiliated websites, and respected news sources like The New York Times. You may include other sources as long as you briefly evaluate their credibility. (Note: exposing non-credible sources is a strong move in an argumentative paper.)

Suggested structure: Your series of posts could look like this, but this is just a suggested structure and does not need to be followed. Allow the structure of your essay to rise naturally out of your argument:

 

  • Introduction to your issue – Present your main thesis giving specific advice to a specific group in the first few lines, and offer readers the essence of your argument in a few lines. Identify the question you are addressing. Name and describe your target audience. Explain why the issue matters and why your target audience should care about this issue in particular.
  • What different people and organizations think about this – Who are the respected (and disreputable) people and organizations writing about the issue? Present their opinions objectively and fairly with evidence to support their opinions. Explain the source(s) of disagreement. What arguments seem to be favored by what groups at this time? That is, which communities are making which arguments? How are their interests served by these arguments? How does money and power affect their judgments?
  • What is your position on the issue? – Building from your analysis of the arguments and evidence presented in the previous post, create and support your argument in carefully staged steps with substantial, credible evidence drawn from respectable sources.
  • Call to action – Give specific, detailed, step-by-step advice with explanations and examples to a specific group in the form a positive call to action. Create a how-to guide so that your target audience will know exactly what they need to do. Keep in mind that you will actually have to reach out to your target audience in the Genre Transformation which follows, so keep in mind that they may actually receive your advice.

 

Assessment Rubric

Goal: The Sustained Argument represents the type of well-organized, well-supported writing one would expect to find in an academic, research-based, persuasive argument.

1=strong; 2=good; 3=developing; 4=needs work; 5=no evidence 5 4 3 2 1
The thesis, which appears near the beginning of the first post, gives specific advice to a specific group as a positive call to action.
The paper presents a logically organized persuasive argument, presenting multiple sides of the issue fairly but showing how the writer’s central argument is the best approach.
Clear, specific title, subtitles, headings, main ideas for each section, and topic sentences all relate directly to the thesis.
Substantial evidence in the form of examples, facts, anecdotes, summaries, and quotes with links to titles from research supports every claim. Evidence is analyzed and relevance explained.
The writing is clear, specific, detailed, relatively free of grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. Sentences have strong sentence focus and active verbs. Lists are grammatically parallel.

 

Genre Transformation

500 points, as part of Argument Series

Due December 11th

 

Background

So far this semester you’ve done extensive research on topics of individual interest, shared the information and insights cultivated from this inquiry with your peers both in person and through the website platform,  and molded your inquiry into a sustained argument. Continuing our look at how writing changes from one social context to another and how genres help people achieve their shared goals, our final synthesis project gives you the opportunity to explore how your message can be communicated to the target audience of your sustained arguments and what genres will best suit your message. How can you best reach and persuade them?

Your Task

Find a catchy, persuasive way to get the call to action from your sustained argument to your target audience in a new form or genre (poster, brochure, letter to an official, letter to an editor, podcast, video, song, dance, play, story, poem, painting, sculpture, or other form). When deciding on the genres you will use for this assignment, utilize the ongoing writing you have been doing on your inquiry blog series and sustained argument. Think about the various groups involved in or affected by your issue and the conversations it has spurred, as well as the different genres of writing you’ve come across in your research. Pinpoint the people/groups who would have a different view on the subject and who you think most need to hear your message. How can you best reach and convince them?

Draw on our knowledge of each audience to consider the genres that are most likely to speak to those groups (such as a pop song for teenagers, a letter to a politician or other official, or a Public Service Announcements in the form of poster or brochure for mothers of young children). How can you utilize the conventions of a genre of your choice to influence this reader?

Your texts may be print or multimodal. If your text is available online or as an attachment, be sure to double-check that your links/attachments work before sending them to me, and bring either your laptop or a printed version when we share our projects in class.

Assessment

This assignment will be assessed holistically according to the degree that they accomplish the following:

  • present a clear and consistent message or point of view that is persuasive and specific.
  • encourage your reader to act using a range of specifically targeted appeals and evidence (ethos, logos and pathos) to back up your claim.
  • purposefully work within the conventions for the genres you’ve chosen – meaning the genre you are working in should be clear to me as a reader, and familiar to the audience that would be reading it and correctly formatted to their own mode (ex: brochures should be printed so that they fold in the way you want your sections organized and images should be properly placed).

 

 

Reflections on Writing Digitally

500 points, Due December 11th

 

Background

In order for people to learn, they need to reflect on their learning, so I would like you to reflect on your experience this semester. From your reflection, I can also start to think about ways for me to improve the class.

Your Task

Write an essay, about 500-750 words, reflecting on your growth as a writer, researcher, reader, and critical thinker and examining your experience with the hybrid and blogging aspects of the course.

Personal reflection: Reflecting back over your work this semester, analyze your growth as a writer, thinking about how your writing identity has changed and predicting how you will adapt what you have learned to other classes.

Your reflection should explore your writing practices and identity as a writer at the beginning of the semester (What beliefs about writing did you hold when we began this semester? How would you describe your writing at the beginning of the semester? What strengths and obstacles did you bring to this class?); your current writing identity (How has your writing changed over the course of the semester? How do you currently read and write? How has your writing identity changed?); and your future writing self (What writing or blogging do you aspire to? How do you see yourself developing as a writer in the future? What do you need to keep working on?)

Ground your reflections in concrete examples drawn from your own writing and experiences. What passages from your writing best illustrate your strengths as a writer? Which passages illustrate your struggles or challenges as a writer? Which blog post was most effectively revised, in your view? What did you learn from the revision?

How does the writing you have been doing in the class relate the writing you were asked to do in other classes and the writing you will be asked to do in your major and career? How will use what you have learned in this class in your other classes, major, and future career?

Reflections on the class: I gave you a lot of individual written feedback this semester (which was a lot of work). To what degree did my written individual feedback (as opposed to general feedback I gave the whole class) help you revise and improve your writing and critical thinking skills? If you were to teach this hybrid 214 class, what would you change and how would you change it? Why? What were the most effective aspects of the course to engage and help you and other students learn? Why were they effective?

 

Acknowledgements: The outline for this course and basic ideas for writing assignments were created jointly by Doreen Deicke, John Holland, Niki Turnispeed, Kory Lawson Ching, Jennifer S. Trainor, Dana Lomax, and Ronald B. Richardson.

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