Writing With Substance: You Can Haz it! SRSLY!

Reading and Writing Assignment 10

The topic of your final paper--the culmination of what you've learned over the course of the semester--will discuss and make arguments about a current problem, debate, or recent development either in higher education itself or in some other context that a specific academic field is poised to help address.   

Under this broad framework, you may choose a topic that you find interesting—but you must be able to make the case that this topic is somehow of interest to your audience, the Hofstra community at large, and relevant at this specific moment in time. It must, therefore, meet a condition rhetoricians call kairos. Your audience includes members of WSC 1 as well as other students, professors, and staff members, so you will need to have sound reasons and evidence that this audience will care about your topic as much as you do for me to approve it--and you must be willing to craft a written discussion of the topic that will make the case for its local implications. That is, you must address your topic as something that matters specifically to our community here.

As I've noted in the opening paragraph above, you will need to take one of two primary approaches to choosing a topic. For ideas on the first, you might visit Higher Education news sites, such as Inside Higher Ed or The Chronicle of Higher Education, where you will find numerous articles on topics that may be of interest, such as the rise of online education and MOOCs; violence on college campuses; cheating/plagiarism; government initiatives such as “No Child Left Behind” or “Race to the Top”; changes in foreign language instruction; the impact of standardized testing on colleges or secondary schools; the ed-tech promises of machine grading; or the textbooks and E-textbook industries. Or, you could focus more specifically on your chosen field of study/major and talk to your current professors about the kinds of research that they are pursuing or could help you pursue. What are scholars in your favorite academic disciplines arguing about currently? What directions do scholars in your major think the future of your field will take? 

For the second approach, you will simply need to figure out an academic angle from which to consider a particular problem or trend that you think will be of interest to your audience. Take, for example, Natalia Cecire's blog post on Beyonce's album, in which she uses the close reading skills and historical knowledge she has gained as a scholar of English Literature, history, and culture to analyze the way it comments upon and raises questions about race and women's labor in professions that hinge on the display or performance of the body. Or, for another example, see Tressie McMillan Cottom's essay on "Hick-Hop," in which she examines a pop cultural phenomenon through the lens of Sociology, or her discussion of shifts in the university's relationship to the working public over time in "The University and the Company Man." You might, along similar lines, explain how your academic major or minor can assist in producing a solution to a problem in . Papers that make broad claims (“Chemistry helps design drugs that will cure common diseases!”) run the risk of losing audiences’ interest, so think narrowly about what your chosen field of study can do on a smaller, yet potentially more meaningful scale.  For instance, somebody studying Biology might suggest that Biology professors and students at Hofstra could help look at the way coastal communities on Long Island can be better prepared for the environmental impact of industry by studying and then educating the public about water contamination. 

Basic Requirements:
  • Your paper will be 5-6 pages long with 1” margins and typed in an academically appropriate font (12pt Times New Roman is a safe choice) in its final form. It should be double-spaced and carefully proofread; it should also adhere to the MLA format shown in the sample MLA paper and Works Cited available through the links (Purdue OWL and UTexas Writing Center) on Blackboard.  
  • Your paper should engage with the history of your topic in some fashion and make at least one arguable claim about the present and future of your topic. (The kinds of claims you will make will vary based on your topic and your interests, but I will help you develop an argument or arguments!) 
  • Your paper must substantively draw on multiple (more than two) credible sources; at least two of your sources should be peer-reviewed scholarly essays from academic journals. 
  • Your paper must have a works cited page that documents your sources and is formatted according to MLA style; a missing works cited page will result in an automatic 5 point reduction in your draft grade and a full-letter grade drop in your final paper grade if you persist in leaving it out!
Some tips:
I strongly suggest that you do not use a 5-paragraph structure; 5-6 pages is far too long a paper to have only 5 paragraphs. Use as many paragraphs as you and your readers need for the arguments you intend to make. 

Explain why your topic is important and relevant for your audience, with sound reasoning and persuasive evidence.

Discuss the topic substantially enough that your readers not only see why it matters at this moment in time but also that they learn more specific information about it. In order to do so, you’ll need to provide background/historical information both to inform your readers and to demonstrate that you have done the necessary research to speak with authority on the matter.

Maintain your own credibility as an author in your essay’s tone, diction, style, and content. Remember that part of your job is to develop your own ethos as a writer and thinker––that is, you also need to convince me and your classmates that you have a good understanding of the topic and that you have thought critically about it.

Avoid any potential diversions of reasoning (argumentative fallacies).

Grading Criteria
I will evaluate your essay according to how effectively it:
  • demonstrates thoughtful consideration of this prompt and listed Options;
  • establishes the significance of your topic for your assigned audience;
  • shows your ability to research a subject thoroughly;
  • embodies the ideals of academic argumentation that we have discussed in class;
  • demonstrates an understanding of how to integrate quotations grammatically and strategically, with the use of attributive tags and analytical commentary;
  • supports all claims with sound reasoning and strong evidence
  • structures claims and evidence in an effective manner, demonstrating attention to matters of organization;
  • and adheres to MLA formatting guidelines. 
I will also evaluate your essay based on the quality of your prose; I will be looking for prose that is clear, precise, and sophisticated; please try to produce a final draft that is largely free of grammatical or mechanical errors. 

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