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Assignments

Comp I
Overview

In addition to homework and a syllabus quiz, this course requires seven projects and a portfolio. The assignments for each of these projects follows with specifications and instructions. 

Rhetoric Report: Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville
Due September 22 (Canvas)

The VICE media news coverage of Charlottesville is a big, messy tangle of rhetorical strategies just waiting to be analyzed. You will choose a particular strategy, break it down into component parts, describe it in detail, and make observations about audience, purpose, occasion, modes, media, and rhetorical appeals. 

This paper is all about your observations. It does not require any further sources--just the VICE video. It is descriptive rather than evaluative, which can be a challenge when the artifact is so emotionally charged. I am looking for a relevant, narrow topic, a clear thesis (a claim with reasons; the answer to your research question), a clear organizational strategy, a logical presentation of information, cohesive paragraphs with strategic paragraph breaks, tight editing, and an academic tone. 

Instructions and Outline (aka macrostructure)

Write a paper that describes (but does not evaluate) the rhetoric that you have observed in the VICE news report on the recent demonstrations at the University of Virginia initiated by the "Unite the Right" rally. 

1. Develop your research question. It should consider how a particular group or individual used rhetorical strategies to achieve a purpose or purposes. The answer to your research question will become your thesis. 

2. Conduct further independent research. Independent means that you may find your information however you want; just be sure to make a note of everything you've read, seen, or that has influenced how you think about the topic in any way. You will list sources in the Methods section of your report. 

3. Report your observations using the following outline

A. Introduction

B. Description of Artifact: VICE video

C. Presentation of Specific Topic/Scope

D. History and context of Unite the Right event (summary)

E. Observations of Rhetorical Strategies

Audience

Purpose/Message

Occasion

Appeals (Ethos, Pathos, Logos)

Message/s

Media: Constraints and Affordances

Modes (visual, linguistic, gestural, aural, spatial)

E. Discussion

F. Questions for further research

G. Methods (a narrative description of how you got your information and a list of any sources that contributed to your knowledge about the topic other than the VICE video). 

Specifications

Length: about four pages

Spacing: 1.5

Typeface: Any standard serif type that is approximately the same size as Cambria or Times New Roman at the 12-point size

Margins: Standard one-inch margins

Heading: Upper left-hand corner

Name

Rhetoric Report

FSTY

Fall 2017

Title: Give your essay an informative title that tells your reader what it's about; centered; on the line between your heading and the first sentence of your paper. 

Outline: You will notice that the assignment template has headings (eg, introduction, etc.). Headings should look like they do in the template--bold and on their own lines. Write your heading and hit enter to start your next paragraph. 

Indents: No indented paragraphs. Indicate paragraph breaks with white space, just like this text. Look up. See how the paragraphs are separated? Yours should look like this. 

Proposal for Formal Research Paper

Now that you have considered the rhetoric employed at the Unite the Right Rally, you have probably noticed that most (if not all) of it, makes references to other political movements, groups, times, and protest events. We will be conducting library research and original research via personal interviews to argue that the specific rhetorical choices that you have observed have a history and that that history contributes additional layers of meaning to what it meant at Charlottesville. 

This proposal will argue that your topic meets the specifications for the assignment, that there is sufficient library source material, and at least one professors on campus willing to talk to you about your topic. It will present a timeline of tasks that you will need to complete and a list of resources that you will use to help you complete the paper. In short, you are trying to convince me that you've made a good choice of topics and that you have everything you need (including time) to do a good job.

Macrostructure

Instructions

Specifications

Annotated Bibliography

Now that you have reported the findings from your original research, it's time to integrate some scholarly sources. We will meet with the instruction librarian and learn to find appropriate sources for including in our conversations. We will write annotated bibliographies for our formal research papers, which will be revisions and extensions of our research reports. 

Once you have narrowed your topic, you will begin searching for credible, authoritative sources. After choosing the six best sources, you will list and annotate them. While most annotated bibliographies in MLA style look like citations followed by paragraphs, we will do ours a bit differently to make sure that the content of the annotations is consistent. Here's the template.

 

[MLA Citation]

  • Author: Signal phrase describing author. (1 coherent sentence) 

  • Type of Source: What type of source is this? (1 coherent sentence) 

  • Audience and Purpose: For whom was this source written? How do you know? What is the problem or knowledge gap the author was addressing (in other words, what’s the big deal?, according to the author)? (Up to three coherent sentences) 

  • Main Claim: A rhetorically accurate verb (such as “asserts,” “argues,” “suggests,” “claims,” etc.), and a that clause containing the major assertion (thesis statement) of the work. (1-3 coherent sentences) 

  • Evidence and Reasons: An explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis, usually in the same order the source uses, including any refutations or concessions that the author makes. (Up to four coherent sentences) 

  • So What?: Your evaluation of the source’s primary value for your purposes on your project. (How will you use this? So what? How does this get you any closer to answering your question?) (Up to three coherent sentences)

 

 

Example

 

Fish, Stanley E. "Normal Circumstances, Literal Language, Direct Speech Acts,

     the Ordinary, the Everyday, the Obvious, What Goes without Saying, and Other Special Cases." Critical Inquiry 1978: 625.                  Web. 21 April 2015.

  • Author: Stanley Fish is a law professor, rhetorical theorist, seasoned composition professor, and former New York Times columnist concerned with, among other things, the pointlessness of “theory” and the appropriate teaching of rhetoric to current and future generations of students, especially in the context of a liberal arts institution.  

  • Type of Source: This peer-reviewed article appeared in the summer of 1978 in Critical Inquiry, an academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press.

  • Audience and Purpose: Most readers of Critical Inquiry are members of the scholarly community, people who deal with language in their work and studies: students, professors, and theorists. Fish was addressing common assumptions in 1978 (which remain prominent in 2015) about the ambiguity

Synthesis Map
Formal Paper

Gather information, and write a traditional academic research paper. This project will have 4 components. See detailed instructions for each component below.

1. Letter of transmittal

2. Annotated Bibliography

3. Abstract

4. Research Paper

Document Genre: You will format this as a standard academic research paper in your discipline, which means that you will need to follow conventions of the genre. You should have discovered what these conventions are in your research report.

 

Component instructions

1. Letter of transmittal

(Plan to write this last, AFTER you've written your paper). This is a letter from you to me explaining your processes and rhetorical choices. Letters of transmittal are common in most industries and usually accompany reports. They are a convention for the purposes of courtesy and introducing documents.  We will discuss the contents in detail in class, but the following is a basic outline. 

  • Use a formal business-letter format using the "block format." Here are instructions. We will go over them in class.

  • Address the letter to me at SEU: Beth Eakman Re, St. Edward's University, Campus Mailbox #998, South Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78704.

  • The salutation is Dear Beth.

  • Begin by stating your purpose: "I am pleased to present my X assignment." Tell me the topic and why it is exigent (relevant right now).

  • Body: Discuss your process and add a defense of your rhetorical choices. Address challenges, questions, and breakthroughs. Provide evidence--quote your own paper and cite it by page number (3). Be sure to embed your quotations as you would in a formal research paper.

  • Close with something like "I look forward to hearing your feedback

Formal Paper Revised

Multimodal Presentations
Portfolio
 
 
Comp II
Overview

Our semester will be divided into five units, each of which will culminate in a graded formal text, which, in this case does not only mean written text : Original Research Report, Annotated Bibliography, Hot Topic Research Paper, Remix, and Reflection. Each of these projects will have multiple components.

 

 

 

Research Report

"What do research and writing look like in my discipline?"

"How can I find out more?"

 

This assignment has two parts: Conducting research and then writing a report on your findings.

 

Research

Because this section focuses on information literacy, we will be looking at strategies for gathering information. We will meet with Brittney Johnson, an SEU librarian, for some interactive workshops, and then we will perform original research of our own by interviewing experts (professors or professionals in the disciplines) and other students to learn what writing and research look like in your discipline. For example, if you are an anthropology major, what kinds of research and writing will you do as an undergrad that are unique to the discipline? What kinds of research and writing do academics and professionals in the field do? How do they report their analysese and findings? What makes "good writing" in these specific contexts? What are the conventions?

 

When you've gathered your data, see if you can identify trends. Do students and professors say any of the same things about research methods or writing? What seems significant to you?

 

You will also need to do some experiential research (reading in your discipline) and locating at least one alternative source as an example of how this research is presented to a broader audience than just other experts. Examples of this would be newspaper articles, documentaries, TED Talks, readings, expert presentations, etc.

 

Report

When you've gathered the information through your research, you'll analyze your data and draw conclusions. Here's how to do it.  When you've completed your analysis, you'll share your findings by writing a report. Your audience for this document will be broader than the last assignment's. This time your audience will include other undergraduate students, both here at SEU and, at least theoretically, at other universities.

 

Document Genre: You will format as you would empirical scientific information, which is a type of formal report common to both business and academia, which means that you will need to follow certain conventions of the formal report genre. Click here for a template. Yours should look like this.

 

Specifications

Length: 2500-4000 words (approximately; do not fill space just to spill space; clarity and conciseness are more important than a word count). 

Spacing: 1.5

Paragraphs: block format (no indents, indicate paragraph breaks with vertical white space like you see on this page)

Citation format: Include a Bibliography (cite documents, interviews, media, etc.) MLA style

Submission: Paper and Canvas

Peer review feedback sheet: Yes

Due Date:

Point Value: 100

Annotated Bibliography

Now that you have reported the findings from your original research, it's time to integrate some scholarly sources. We will meet with the instruction librarian and learn to find appropriate sources for including in our conversations. We will write annotated bibliographies for our formal research papers, which will be revisions and extensions of our research reports. See further instructions below.

 

 

Formal Research Paper

Gather information, and write a traditional academic research paper. This project will have 4 components. See detailed instructions for each component below.

1. Letter of transmittal

2. Annotated Bibliography

3. Abstract

4. Research Paper

Document Genre: You will format this as a standard academic research paper in your discipline, which means that you will need to follow conventions of the genre. You should have discovered what these conventions are in your research report.

 

Component instructions

1. Letter of transmittal

(Plan to write this last, AFTER you've written your paper). This is a letter from you to me explaining your processes and rhetorical choices. Letters of transmittal are common in most industries and usually accompany reports. They are a convention for the purposes of courtesy and introducing documents.  We will discuss the contents in detail in class, but the following is a basic outline. 

  • Use a formal business-letter format using the "block format." Here are instructions. We will go over them in class.

  • Address the letter to me at SEU: Beth Eakman Re, St. Edward's University, Campus Mailbox #998, South Congress Avenue, Austin, Texas 78704.

  • The salutation is Dear Beth.

  • Begin by stating your purpose: "I am pleased to present my X assignment." Tell me the topic and why it is exigent (relevant right now).

  • Body: Discuss your process and add a defense of your rhetorical choices. Address challenges, questions, and breakthroughs. Provide evidence--quote your own paper and cite it by page number (3). Be sure to embed your quotations as you would in a formal research paper.

  • Close with something like "I look forward to hearing your feedback

 

2. Annotated bibliography

Scroll down or click here for instructions.

 

3. Abstract

Like your letter of transmittal, you will write this AFTER you've written your paper. An abstract is a short paragraph that tells readers what your paper is about. These are very common in academic writing; you've seen them with journal articles you've found through the library databases. They allow readers to quickly determine if this source is relevant to their own work. Yours should be approximately four sentences long. The first sentence will orient your reader and establish the exigency of the topic. It might look something like this: "According to the Equal Justice Initiative, almost ten percent of people sentenced to the death penalty in US have later been exonerated by DNA evidence and the percentage increases if race is considered." The second sentence tells us where your research enters this conversation. It might look something like this. "To see if this trend is true in the state of Texas, this research paper will examine records from the Department of Justice, scholarly research, and news accounts." This paper will argue that race is a strong predictor of capital punishment sentencing and make recommendations for how college students might act to challenge the problem of racism in the criminal justice system." More or less.  Here's what OWL says about how to write them. Yours in more descriptive, but WILL include conclusions. Recommendations are optional.

 

4. Research paper

Informed by your research and the hot topics you've found in your field of study, write a paper on a topic that interests you, that you feel is important, and that you think other people should know. You will need at least FOUR SCHOLARLY sources, at least ONE AUTHORITATIVE source, and at least ONE INTERVIEW. All of these must appear in your annotated bib. Additionally, your paper must be accompanied by a works cited page (this is just your annotated bib without the annotations).

 

 

Specifications

Length: 4-6 pages

Spacing: Will be dictated by the style manual used in your discipline (MLA, APA, Chicago)

Paragraphs: Ditto

Citation format: Ditto

Peer review feedback sheet: Yes

Submission: Paper

Due Date:

Point Value: 200

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Reverse outline exercise

 

A reverse outline is a map of a paper-in-process made by labeling/summarizing each paragraph into a single sentence. When you are writing, you are necessarily zooming in to work with details—sentences, words, and punctuation. It is easy to lose sight of the argument as a whole. A reverse outline enables you to zoom out, like a painter stepping back from a large canvas to see the big picture.

 

How to create a reverse outline:

 

1. Number each paragraph in your draft.

 

2. On a separate sheet, write the numbers in a column on the left side of the paper. Write your thesis or major claim at the top of the page.

 

3. For each paragraph in your draft, ask “what is this paragraph about?” or “what point is this paragraph making?” and write the answer beside the number on the separate sheet.

 

4. When you’ve done, you have an outline of the paper.

 

Why is this useful?

1. Process tells you if your paragraphs are unified and developed.

a. If you have trouble summarizing a paragraph in one sentence or less, you probably have too many ideas in the paragraph. Break it up into two or three paragraphs, or get rid of the extraneous material.

b. If your summary is the same length as the paragraph, the paragraph is probably underdeveloped. Either develop the ideas further or consider whether it is part of an earlier or later paragraph.

c. If you can take a sentence from the paragraph to put into your outline, you are making excellent use of topic sentences, and your writing is probably already clear.

d. Look at your summaries. Would it make your paper clearer if the summary was at the beginning of the paragraph? i.e., use the summaries to create topic sentences

 

2. An outline is a summary of your argument, which you can use to analyze, develop, and if necessary, improve your argument.

a. Does each paragraph support or relate clearly to your thesis or main claim?

b. Read your outline out loud. Does each paragraph follow logically or does it seem very choppy or jumpy?

c. Look for repetition or paragraphs that seem every similar. Maybe they should be combined?

d. Do any paragraphs seem unrelated to the rest? Reconsider why they are there.

e. Are there gaps in the argument? Key words in the claim that don’t appear in the outline? Maybe you need to add more ideas—or revise your claim.

 

 

Remix

In this class, you have learned some threshold concepts about writing that help writers be more aware of their own heuristics. For this assignment, your purpose will be to explain one of these concepts to a particular audience: next fall's incoming freshman class at SEU. You'll use multiple modes of rhetoric to customize your message for this specific audience and purpose.

 

How can you best package this message to reach them? You will work in groups to develop an effective presentation in class and submit a written explanation of your rhetorical choices. See the details of the multimodal remix assignment here, including concepts and definitions.

 

Specifications

Length: Presentation of no more than five minutes in class, written component 2-3 pages.

Submission: Paper and Canvas (written component)

Due Date:

Point Value: 100

 

Reflection

What have you learned this semester about writing in your discipline? about writing in general? about your hot topic? about rhetoric?  about yourself as a writer? about yourself as a researcher? Look back at your assignments. What has changed? What are you really good at? Where have you improved? What are your challenges? How will you use what you've learned as you continue in your education and toward your career?

 

While many guidelines for what constitutes "good" (effective) writing are shared across disciplines, others are unique to particular genres or communication tasks. What are these rules, guidelines, or heuristics? Now that you have finished your first year of college writing, what is your theory of writing? What are your strategies for approaching research and writing tasks as an undergrad? Use the Big Concepts you've learned to inform this discussion.

 

Write me a letter arguing that you've grown as a scholar and writer, using specific examples as evidence. Answer the questions above and use this opportunity to remind me of your best work.

 

Document Genre: Letter from you to me (you should be able to do these in your sleep by now).

 

Length: 750-1000 words

Spacing: 1.5

Paragraphs: block format (no indents, indicate paragraph breaks with vertical white space like you see on this page)

Peer review feedback sheet: No

Submission: Paper

Due Date: no later than the start of our finals period (see the final exam calendar)

Point Value: 100

 

Peer Review Workshop

There are no such things as good writers, just good rewriters. First drafts are like the products you see when cats cough up hair balls: they hacked the thing out, but it's not pretty. Revision (big picture changes) and editing (surface error correction) are what turn hairballs into works of art. They've got to be cleaned up and combed out multiple times. Please read "Shitty First Drafts."

 

One of the most helpful things you can do to become a better writer is to participate in peer review workshops. Extensive research shows this to be true for both the writers and the peer editors. Seeing where other people's writing could improve makes you more able to see those areas in your own writing. It's harder than it looks, though. So, here are some instructions.

 

 

What you'll need

3 printed copies of your paper

3 printed copies of this feedback form* with the "author" section filled out

writing instruments--pens, pencils, highlighters

*Authors fill out the top part and reviewers fill out the bottom part. Authors should pay particular attention to the question of what kind of reading/feedback do you need. What are your challenges as a writer? Do you, like me, write horrendous introductory paragraphs? Do you struggle with developing your ideas thoroughly? Do you wonder about word choices, clarity, or conciseness? It's a LOT easier to give helpful feedback when you know what you might be looking for. If you aren't sure, look at my comments on your papers.

 

Instructions

  1. Writers will distribute copies of their papers and feedback forms to reviewers

  2. Writers will take turns reading their papers aloud

  3. As writers read aloud, reviewers will read along on their own copies, making check marks at any point where there is something that works or something that needs work.

  4. After the writer is finished reading, reviewers will take a moment to look back over their check marks and make notes on the feedback form.

  5. Reviewers may ask specific questions about the text and writers may answer them briefly.

  6. Then, each reviewer will read his or her comments and questions to the group with no interruption. Writers, you just have to sit there and listen.

  7. Repeat until each paper has been read. At the end, return marked up papers and response forms to writers.

 

Tips

The most helpful feedback centers around Focus, Content Development, and Organization, not just surface errors.

  • Focus: Does the paper have a clear purpose or thesis that holds the whole thing together? Are there parts whose relationship to the main idea is unclear? Do the introduction and conclusion work together?

  • Content Development: Are each of the points thoroughly explained? Could the writer provide more information? As a reader, do you have questions? (Sometimes as writers we forget to state the obvious.)

  • Organization: Does the paper have a clear path that leads logically from beginning to end? Do readers have enough information from one sentence or paragraph to understand the next one? Is there a clear forward progression or do some parts go in circles?

  • All together, these elements should make sure that every single word is advancing the paper's purpose and moving the reader toward the conclusion. If any word can be cut without losing meaning: cut it.

 

Now What?

Take your marked up copies of your paper and your feedback forms home and use them (along with your other resources) to revise and edit your papers.

How to Line Edit

Because readers want writing that is graceful and clear

  • Make sure that each sentence is a complete thought that supports the purpose of the paragraph

  • Make sure it's clear why you move from one thought to the next

  • Use the most precise language possible

  • Omit redundancy. Instead of saying the same thing two different ways, pick one. 

  • Make sure there aren't any shifts in point of view or tone. 

  • Avoid cliches and figurative language. 

  • Above all, be clear. 

 

Annotated Bibliography

Once you have narrowed your topic, you will begin searching for credible, authoritative sources. After choosing the six best sources, you will list and annotate them. While most annotated bibliographies in MLA style look like citations followed by paragraphs, we will do ours a bit differently to make sure that the content of the annotations is consistent. Here's the template.

 

[MLA Citation]

  • Author: Signal phrase describing author. (1 coherent sentence) 

  • Type of Source: What type of source is this? (1 coherent sentence) 

  • Audience and Purpose: For whom was this source written? How do you know? What is the problem or knowledge gap the author was addressing (in other words, what’s the big deal?, according to the author)? (Up to three coherent sentences) 

  • Main Claim: A rhetorically accurate verb (such as “asserts,” “argues,” “suggests,” “claims,” etc.), and a that clause containing the major assertion (thesis statement) of the work. (1-3 coherent sentences) 

  • Evidence and Reasons: An explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis, usually in the same order the source uses, including any refutations or concessions that the author makes. (Up to four coherent sentences) 

  • So What?: Your evaluation of the source’s primary value for your purposes on your project. (How will you use this? So what? How does this get you any closer to answering your question?) (Up to three coherent sentences)

 

 

Example

 

Fish, Stanley E. "Normal Circumstances, Literal Language, Direct Speech Acts,

     the Ordinary, the Everyday, the Obvious, What Goes without Saying, and Other Special Cases." Critical Inquiry 1978: 625.                  Web. 21 April 2015.

  • Author: Stanley Fish is a law professor, rhetorical theorist, seasoned composition professor, and former New York Times columnist concerned with, among other things, the pointlessness of “theory” and the appropriate teaching of rhetoric to current and future generations of students, especially in the context of a liberal arts institution.  

  • Type of Source: This peer-reviewed article appeared in the summer of 1978 in Critical Inquiry, an academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press.

  • Audience and Purpose: Most readers of Critical Inquiry are members of the scholarly community, people who deal with language in their work and studies: students, professors, and theorists. Fish was addressing common assumptions in 1978 (which remain prominent in 2015) about the ambiguity of some language and the (supposedly) inherent straightforwardness of other language.

  • Main Claim: Fish argues that there is no such thing as unambiguous language, that context always determines interpretation, and that we will never be able to reduce any sentence to its “most basic” meaning because even that relies on a situational context. Therefore, it is possible for a sentence to have a singular, literal meaning, but we have to accept that the singular, literal meaning can and will change depending on the context in which the sentence is presented.

  • Evidence and Reasons: Fish uses a series of diverse examples to support his assertions, beginning with an anecdote about a born-again Christian baseball player, Pat Kelly, whose new worldview provides the context for everything that happens in and around him, making it impossible for him not to see divine intervention in his famous double home run game on May Day 1977 (625-627). He goes on to discuss the various interpretations of John Milton’s Samson Agonistes (some say Christ is referenced in the piece, others say the lack of direct mention means he’s not), short phrases in various contexts (the difference in the meaning of the phrase “PRIVATE MEMBERS ONLY” on a faculty club door and in an English classroom), and the “letter of the law” in a specific inheritance case (is the point to provide orderly distribution of property to to ensure that a murderer doesn’t inherit from the grandfather he murdered?) (627-634). The next two sections deal with the different ways in which the same sentence can be interpreted when delivered by the same person: “I have to study” could be a complaint, a mere statement, a rejection of a proposal to go to the movies, or any number of other sentence types based on the context in which it is uttered (635-644). In all of these examples he identifies and refutes possible arguments against his claims, each time bringing his readers along with him as he imagines contexts outside of what we accept as “normal.”

  • So What?: This early work showcases Fish’s ability to articulate his theory against theory in somewhat lofty, but still reasonably attainable terms. It also provides a sort of starting point for my examination of the evolution of his rhetorical theory and pedagogy, which have remained impressively consistent over the course of nearly four decades.