What am I in college for?
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Purpose and Topic of Essay#1
This first assignment will address a topic that should be near and dear to your hearts: “What am I in college for?” More specifically, you will report what a selection of authors believe is the purpose of a college education. Note the word “report.” This means that instead of offering your own opinion about this topic, you’ll be looking for connections expressed among the different readings and then discussing these connections in your own essay. This kind of intellectual work – making connections – is known as synthesizing.
Final draft, minimum of 1,150 words (count does not include heading and works cited entries). Your essay needs to include citations from at least three of the assigned readings, though you will probably need to use more to effectively present the information. Essay must include a title; an introduction which describes the context/basis of research; thesis which sets out your specific focus; body paragraphs; a conclusion; and a Works Cited page. You must correctly cite your sources using MLA format.
Assignment Overview: Essay #1 (Expository – Reporting Information)
For starters, read the assigned essays, taking careful and concise notes (the more notes you have, the easier it is to write a rough draft). Check over the definitions of Thesis, Body Paragraph, Citation, Essay, Parenthetical Citation, Topic sentence, Revision, Proofreading, and Works Cited Entries on the Citation Page.
What You’ll be Doing for Our First Essay Assignment
For many, our approach to writing in this course will seem foreign. Instead of just slapping words on a page and then handing in the essay with a “one down three to go!” attitude, you’ll actually learn how to research, plan, draft, revise, and proofread an essay. In other words, you’ll learn the basics of college level writing.
If this sounds like work, it is. But we’ll be breaking an essay into parts, doing work in class, and, in general, providing the time and instruction necessary for effective thinking and writing. Students remark that if they complete the homework assignments, the essay writes itself. If they don’t complete them . . . . have you heard of the phrase “crash and burn”?
To avoid trips to the burn unit, the home and class work will take you through a series of steps before actually drafting the essay. First you’ll be gathering research and reviewing essay steps and essential parts. This will take about two weeks.
You’ll spend another week or so reviewing your notes, deciding on a central focus for your essay (called a thesis), and pulling out quotes from the essays to support your thesis.
With all of this material in front of you, the next step – writing the rough draft – will be easy. No more scratching your head deciding what to write or being worried about word counts: you’ll have much of the work already done.
We’ll spend the next week revising your essay – moving from a focus on getting it done, to a focus on making it interesting to a reader. Then, after careful proofreading, you’ll hand in the essay.
Purpose of Essay
This first assignment will address a topic that should be near and dear to your hearts: “what am I in college for?” More specifically, you will report what a selection of authors believe is the purpose of a college education. Note the word “report.” This means that instead of offering your own opinion about this topic, you’ll be looking for connections expressed among the different readings and then discussing these connections in your own essay. This kind of intellectual work – making connections – is known as synthesizing.
Note that you will not merely summarize the essays in a paragraph – we’re going for higher order thinking skills here. The goal, as noted above, is on connections among different essays. Thus, your paragraphs will not focus on individual authors or essays, but on an idea noted by at least two authors/sources and contained in the essays you’ve read.
This kind of writing is a basic part of academic writing; you’ll encounter it in assignments such as a review of current research on neonatal care in Nursing, or a description of the latest interrogation techniques in Criminal Justice.
And speaking of objectives . . . remember that the goal in this essay is to remain objective: your purpose is to report on the ideas and opinions of others, not state your own. You’ll be using phrases such as “Educational critics argue,”
“The writers believe,” “Professors agree that,” to separate yourself from the material you’re presenting.
And speaking of words and phrases brings me to the next topic: discourse.
communication of thought by words; talk; conversation:earnest and intelligent discourse.
a formal discussion of a subject in speech or writing, as a dissertation, treatise, sermon, etc.
Linguistics. any unit of connected speech or writing longer than a sentence.
verb (used without object), dis·coursed, dis·cours·ing.
to communicate thoughts orally; talk; converse.
to treat of a subject formally in speech or writing.
Higher education, as a field of its own, also has a discourse that you need to familiarize yourself with and then use in your own essay. Academic writing assumes that you’ll dive into the particular field of study, expanding your thinking as you expand your vocabulary. This expansion is connected more broadly to thinking as the 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein noted, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”
To help enlarge your world, you’ll notice at the end of the Writer’s Notes a section labeled “Discourse.” You’ll include words that that are associated with the topic of higher education.
To get started on the discourse of education, note how often the word “critical thinking” appears in the readings. What does it mean?
The Writing Assignment: Essay #1
You will write an essay which extracts a central idea on the purpose of college from the assigned readings. As noted above, this essay will not include your own opinion: you’ll be objectively reporting the information. You must decide the most effective way to categorize the information these writers offer in order to effectively communicate their ideas to your readers.
The most important part of this assignment – and all assignments involving reporting information – is narrowing down your topic. You’ll encounter many different views of what a college education should be: your job is to focus on one of them. And since the focus is on reporting information from others, it may be a view you don’t even share.
Much of this essay will consist of cited material – it’s what readers expect when you’re reporting information from other sources. And “cited” is crucial here: this essay will involve paraphrasing, summarizing, and using direct quotes to incorporate words and ideas from others into your own writing. Your job will be to select, organize, and then explain the ideas of the writers. That last part, the explanation, is where your own voice comes through. After completing this assignment, you will have received instruction and practice in the text-based writing that is at the core of college level composition.
Again, remember that your purpose is not to present all of the information you’ve read or argue with the views expressed in the readings; instead, it’s to narrow down and find connections among the readings and then to objectively present their views to your readers.
Unfortunately, this kind of writing can have a narcotic effect on readers so use examples, specific details from the essays, and specific descriptions to keep the reader from using your essay as a pillow.
Assume that your readers have not read these essays; it is your job to focus on one connection among them and show the connections so that the reader doesn’t have to read them all.
At the core of writing for others (as opposed to journals or diaries) is getting feedback. This feedback allows you to test ideas and writing techniques, refine your thinking, and finally, present this in clear prose.
To help you with this, there will be two forms of feedback for each essay comments from myself, and help from the Virtual Writing Center if used.
After successfully completing this assignment, you will have learned how to
annotate readings and accurately summarize their main points
recognize and define the key terms (discourse) of a particular topic
find connections among different readings and organize them in categories
decide on an organizing principle, expressed in a thesis and forecasting/divisions statement, which effectively communicates information from a group of readings to a reader
accurately summarize, paraphrase, and use direct quotes in your writing while establishing credibility of sources
correctly document sources using MLA parenthetical citation
begin to identify your grammatical error patterns
revise an essay to suit the expectations of your readers
use analogies, comparisons, and detailed examples to help readers understand material from other sources
separate revision from proofreading
manage your time and complete each draft by the assigned due date
To receive a passing grade, you must successfully complete the following:
Organization: A thesis and forecasting/division statement which clearly states a central theme you will focus on and how you will explain it; topic sentences that group your information into logical categories which refer back to the forecasting/division statement.
Content: Clear definitions of any specific terms; specific examples that connect to your thesis; accurate summarizations, paraphrases, and direct quotations of the sources; body paragraphs focused around a clear topic sentence; descriptive language and explanations to clarify your sources and keep reader from dozing off; and clear in-text references to identify a particular writer with his or her idea.
Proofreading: Sentences that are clear and no more than 5 major errors (these include sentence fragments, run-on sentences, verb-tense error, subject-verb agreement error, unclear phrasing, and spelling/wrong word error. Formatting errors. Each documentation error counts as 1/2 of a major error).