GSW 1110: Introduction to Academic Writing Essay Assignment #1: Justifying an Evaluation Dr. H. Diehl, Fall 2010 DUE DATES Rough Draft (for Peer Evaluation Only) Final Draft Tuesday, September 9, 2010 Thursday, September 16, 20101 INTRODUCTION “What’d you think of Saw III?” “Have you had Dr. Diehl for class? Is he a good teacher?” “You read Angels & Demons, right? Would you recommend it?” “Where’s the best place to eat lunch on campus?” Nearly every day we are asked to make evaluations of people, places, events, and/or experiences. From movies to professors to books and restaurants, we are asked to provide an opinion regarding our experiences of such matters. (You may have even asked someone else a question similar to those listed above at one time or another.) When we provide our opinions on a person, place, event, or experience in the hopes that that opinion will influence another person’s behavior or decisions, we are offering an evaluation. Along the same lines, when we ask others for their opinions on a person, place, event, or experience, we are soliciting an evaluation that hopefully will assist us in making some important decision. Not all evaluations are verbally delivered. Reviews of books, movies, CDs, television programs, and theatre performances are regularly published in magazines, newspapers, and even academic journals. If you’ve ever flipped through the pages of Entertainment Weekly, for example, then you’ve seen first-hand the wealth and variety of critiques that are offered to consumers on a regular basis! We seek out the opinions of “experts” whose reviews are published in such periodicals because we want to ensure that our hard-earned money will be spent wisely and that we will not waste our limited free time (and energy) on something unworthy of our attention. Is Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince captivating enough to spend $9.75 on a movie ticket (not to mention roughly the same amount—or more—on concessions)? Should I purchase the new Nicholas Sparks paperback novel or should I save my money for the new Danielle Steel that will be released in hardcover next month? Does El Zarape serve high quality food in generous portions for a reasonable price? The first essay that you will be asked to write for GSW 1110 is similar to these types of oral or written “reviews,” though it is different in some important ways. How specifically is an evaluation essay different than these other types of evaluations? Let’s turn our attention to a definition of the Evaluation essay to learn some of these important differences. TOPIC SELECTION This semester in GSW 1110, you will be asked to devote a significant amount of time to researching the various topics on which you will be asked to write. As you conduct research for these writing assignments, you will need to seriously consider the relevance, credibility, and accuracy of the sources you discover in order to determine which of those sources can assist you in building the strongest possible argument to support your case. When evaluating source materials, you need to begin by asking yourself: Is this a “good” source? Of course, to answer this question, you must first have a working definition of what constitutes a “good” source. After all, the definition of this term shifts from one context to another, just as it varies according to specific audiences and writing purposes. For example, an employee of 1 Essay #1 will not be eligible for revision following instructor’s evaluation of the final draft. Essay #1 will not be collected in rough draft form by the instructor. JUSTIFYING AN EVALUATION: ASSIGNMENT SHEET * GSW 1110: INTRO TO ACADEMIC WRITING * FALL 2010 PAGE 2 the federal government who is drafting a bill on gun control reform to be sent before Congress would probably not cite an article from Time or Newsweek magazines, since such popular periodicals might be informative for a mass audience, but would not hold much sway over Congressional representatives. So, what constitutes a “good source” in an academic setting? To answer this question, you must of necessity turn to those basic questions that we use to critically analyze the logic undergirding any given argument—be it spoken or written. Some of the guiding questions that shape a critical response to an argument include: What are the issue and conclusion? And does the conclusion follow logically from the issue?; What are the reasons? Are the reasons relevant to the issue? Do they logically support the conclusion(s) drawn?; Are any words/phrases within the argument ambiguous?; What are the value conflicts and assumptions? And do those value conflicts and assumptions impinge on the argument and logic in any questionable ways?; What are the descriptive assumptions? And do those descriptive assumptions impinge on the argument and logic in any questionable ways?; Are there any fallacies in the reasoning?; How good is the evidence?; Are there rival causes?; Are the statistics deceptive?; What significant information is omitted?; and What reasonable conclusions are possible? (taken from M. Neil Browne and Stuart M. Keeley, Asking the Right Questions, 9th ed.) For the Evaluation essay, you will be asked to critically analyze the article “Do Students Go to Class? Should They?” by David Romer (available in .pdf on our course Blackboard site). Specifically, you will need to identify and explore two or three aspects of Romer’s essay for evaluation and your thesis must in some way respond to the basic question: Is this a “good” academic resource? In order to answer this question, you should probably begin your thinking process by considering what, in your mind, constitutes a “good” academic source, perhaps even jotting down a working definition of that term so that the criteria by which you evaluate sources are clear in your own mind. (FYI: Your definition should probably take into consideration a specific audience of readers for whom this essay would/would not be a “good” academic resource. In other words, not all audiences would define source usefulness in the same manner.) A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE For the Evaluation essay, you will more than likely make use of the most basic organizational plan in expository writing: the introduction-body-conclusion structure. Below I provide a scratch outline of this form: I. Introduction a. Attention-Getting Device (e.g., fact, quotation, anecdote, scenario, etc.) b. Interest-Creating Discussion c. Thesis = Position + Map/Plan II. Summary (Purely Informative Overview of the Article Being Critiqued) a. Author’s Thesis (IN YOUR OWN WORDS) b. Author’s Main Ideas (IN THE ORIGINAL ORDER AND IN YOUR OWN WORDS) III. Main Idea #1 a. OBSERVATION (a.k.a. Topic Sentence)—The first reason why ________’s essay is/is not a “good” academic resource is because _______________________________. b. CITATION (a piece of textual evidence—quoted, paraphrased, or summarized— that supports your Observation, or topic sentence) c. INTERPRETATION (an explanation of WHAT the textual evidence says—basic summary—and how the textual evidence supports your topic sentence— analysis—that should always be IN YOUR OWN WORDS) d. EVALUATION (a mini-conclusion for the paragraph that summarizes the basic content and links the idea back to your thesis position) IV. Main Idea #2 (same OCIE structure as above) JUSTIFYING AN EVALUATION: ASSIGNMENT SHEET * GSW 1110: INTRO TO ACADEMIC WRITING * FALL 2010 PAGE 3 V. Counterargument a. OBSERVATION (a.k.a. Topic Sentence)—Although I have made a compelling argument for why _______’s essay should/should not be considered a “good” academic resource, some readers would argue the opposite view because _______________________________. b. CITATION (a piece of textual evidence—quoted, paraphrased, or summarized— that supports your opponent’s Observation, or topic sentence) c. INTERPRETATION (an explanation of WHAT the textual evidence says—basic summary—and how the textual evidence supports your topic sentence— analysis—that should always be IN YOUR OWN WORDS BUT FROM THE VIEW OF YOUR OPPONENTS) d. EVALUATION (a response to the counterargument that brings us back to your argument) VI. Conclusion a. Summary of Argument (Overview) b. Final Thought (the mirror image of your Attention-Getting Device) SUBMISSION GUIDELINES The following are considered submission guidelines for your essay assignments for GSW 1110: Do not include a title page. At the top of the first page of the draft, include a double-spaced header (not in the actual header section of the page) of four lines that includes: Your Name, Your Instructor’s Name, Course Designation, and Date (inverted). Beneath the double-spaced header, type the title of your essay. The title of your essay should be centered. It should not be bolded, underlined, or italicized, nor should it be typed in a larger (or smaller) font than the rest of the draft. Type the essay in a readable (and not unreasonably sized) font. Double space the body of the essay and use 1” margins on all sides of the printed text. Fully develop the essay (min. three pages), using at least one source (the article that you have been assigned to critique). Include within the body of your paper no fewer than two main ideas (no more than three) and one counterargument. Also make sure that you include an introduction, a background/summary paragraph, and a conclusion. Include page #s (along with your last name) (e.g., Diehl 4) in the right-hand corner of the header. Include a Works Cited page that lists all of the sources that are directly cited within your essay. The Works Cited page should conform to MLA guidelines, including (but not limited to): o Begin the page with the title “Works Cited” (sans quotation marks) centered. This title should not be bolded, underlined, or italicized and it should be typed in the same font and font size as the rest of the text. o Double (not quadruple) space the entire page. o Begin each entry flush with the left-hand margin. Second and subsequent lines for individual entries should be indented one tab or ½”. (Use the ruler, rather than the tab key or the space bar to ensure consistent formatting.) o Alphabetize your source materials by last name of author (or by whatever comes FIRST in the entry, with the exception of articles like a, an, and the). o Follow MLA format for citing your entries. Please note that any essays that do not fulfill all of the abovementioned submission guidelines will not be accepted and will earn an immediate “NP.” JUSTIFYING AN EVALUATION: ASSIGNMENT SHEET * GSW 1110: INTRO TO ACADEMIC WRITING * FALL 2010 PAGE 4 CONCLUSION Save all pre-writing, drafts, peer review drafts of this essay to include in your portfolio at the end of the semester. If you need help as you are writing, then please feel free to drop by my office during regularly scheduled office hours, or schedule an appointment with me (if you cannot make regularly scheduled office hours). Also, remember that you can schedule appointments at the Writing Center to work individually with a tutor. Good luck and happy writing!