In this course, I ask you to write three papers, all at least 1500 words. Moreover, we will spend some parts of our meetings together to talk about writing strategies and processes.

Rather than giving you specific topics for these papers, I ask you to build papers around questions you think are interesting. Your paper should be directly linked with our course materials (readings and films) or discussions, and is not a research paper. By this I mean that you should not need to do any extra research to produce this paper, but think and write about something that relates to our course materials. If you’re having trouble figuring out what you might want to write about, I suggest you think about things that have struck you as particularly surprising. Surprise can be a great place to start analysis because it enables you to reflect on your expectations and how they might not have been correct. You can also look back over all the discussion questions you and your colleagues have created throughout the semester. Do any jump out at you as great questions worthy of a longer answer? I am always happy to talk through possible paper topics and I recommend you make an appointment earlier rather than waiting until the last minute.

Please know that I am quite aware that figuring out your own paper topic -- as opposed to just having one assigned to you -- takes a lot of work. That’s one of the reasons why I designed assignments to give your an opportunity to show me all the thinking and work you’ve done.

All papers should be uploaded to Canvas / Assignments.

Thesis Statement Drafts
For each of the papers, I ask you to turn in a draft of your thesis statement two weeks before the paper is due. As we will discuss in class, a thesis statement is the first paragraph of your paper and summarizes the main point, significance, and stakes of your paper. You will get my comments back well before your rough draft is due, and you are welcome to make an appointment to talk with me in office hours.

Please remember that the thesis draft you turn in is never a contract. You are not obligated to continue with that particular topic or direction. If, after thinking about it more or reading my comments, you want to change your topic, you are welcome to. To get full credit, you need to turn in a paragraph, not just a sentence summing up your main point.

Rough Drafts
Given my firm belief that attention to process improves everyone’s writing, you are required to turn in a rough draft of each paper. As long as you turn it in on time (on Friday), you will get my comments back by Monday. This should give you enough time to revise, talk with me in office hours, or talk with your friendly peer editors.

Rough drafts can be hard to describe. To get credit for this assignment you need to make a solid effort at a rough draft. Every time I assign one, at least one student wants to clarify what I mean by “a solid effort.” By this, I don’t mean that you need to turn in a perfect paper, or even a completely finished paper. But you do need to write enough that it is a real attempt -- you need to attempt to write out / write through an idea that you’re thinking might work. You need to write long enough to give yourself either a firm sense that your plan is working or that it isn’t working at all. You need to have enough of a beginning that you can begin to see the difference between what you thought you’d write and what you’re actually writing. For this paper that would be at least 1200 words, which is about four double-spaced pages. You absolutely need to have a thesis statement.

Optional Writing Group
As explained below, all students are required to participate in peer editing for the final (third) paper. That said, I can imagine that some students might want to share works-in-progress with peers for the two earlier papers as well. If you would like to be part of an optional writing group with your fellow students, please email me. I will put all students who are interested in touch with each other and can offer some guidance for how to share writing with each other.

Peer Editing
When you turn in the rough draft of your third and final paper, you will also share with two other students in the class. These groups will be shared with you well before the assignment is due. In class, I’ll describe how the process of peer review will work. When you give me this rough draft, you’ll also email the same draft to two or three fellow students. You’ll get comments and suggestions from all of us, which you can use to revise the paper before its due date.

Peer editors are welcome to make suggestions directly on the paper (either printed out or in digital form), but also need to make a document that directly answers the following questions. Share that document with the paper’s author and me (which is how you’ll get credit for the assignment). I imagine that your answers will amount to about a page of text, but feel free to write more than this.

Questions to answer for each of the papers you read:

1) What do you understand to be the main point of this paper? How would you rephrase this point in your own words?

2) What assumptions is the author trying to challenge? Do you get a clear sense of a stasis that s/he is writing against? If so, do you find the thesis compelling? Did you agree with the stated stasis before you read this paper? Is the stasis a straw man?

3) What evidence or examples does the author use to support his or her claims? Does this evidence make sense to you? Did it make you think of anything else the author doesn’t mention?

4) What kind of authorial tone does the paper have? Does the tone fit the style of argumentation? Would a different tone make more sense?

5) Do you have a clear sense of the stakes of this thesis or argument? Why does the author think this is an important question to ask? Do you agree? Is this an important question to ask?

6) What surprised you about this paper?

7) What most impressed you about this paper?