This writing assignment is to craft a critical essay. Choose some aspect of modern American culture and investigate it. Using both library and field research investigate the aspect of culture you have chosen.



Writing Project: Critical essay

This writing assignment is to craft a critical essay.  Choose some aspect of modern American culture and investigate it.  Using both library and field research investigate the aspect of culture you have chosen.  Look into its history, social impact, causes, effects, etc.  Remember that this is an investigation, not an argument.  Delve into the issue and research it, but don’t argue one way or the other.  Choose your topic carefully.  It must be narrow enough to focus your essay, but broad enough to write a 6-8 page essay.

Some of the qualities of this essay are:

-          It will probably be more informal than research papers you have written in the past.  You are welcome to be fairly informal, but remember that this is an academic research essay.

-          Most critical essays use narrative as a form of organization.  Go beyond mere description of the issue through telling details and anecdotes, much as a short story does.

-          The essay should be focused around a question about one aspect of modern American culture and its possible meanings. 

-          Use your question as a guide for both your library and field research.

-          Even though you are writing about the culture, don’t lose your own voice in the voices of others.

-          You should have at least 6 references from a variety of academic sources.  These sources must be appropriate and relevant based on your experience, observation, interviews, reading, and web research; get beyond Google and Wikipedia.  We will talk about what makes a good source in class. 

-          You are welcome to use MLA or APA format.  Again, we will talk about correct formatting in class.

-          You are welcome to use visual devices (pictures, graphs, charts, etc.), just make sure they don’t distract from your point.  This essay especially lends itself to visual devices.

-          The final draft (in the portfolio) will be 6-8 pages long.


Key dates:

-          September 1:  Bring a topic (or two) to class.  We will do an exercise that will help you to decide on your topic and, hopefully, narrow it down some for you. 

-          September 8:  "Personal" draft due.  You will need to bring a copy (either paper or electronic) to class for in class workshop.  For this first draft, don't worry about sources; it is just a personal exploration into the aspect of culture you have chosen to write about.  This is a chance for you to explore your own views, ideas, and thoughts about your topic.  At this point page length is not important.  You just need a draft to bring in to class for workshop.

-          September 15:  "Research" draft due.  Create an annotated bibliography from the sources you have found.  Since this is an annotated bibliography, you will include all of the sources you have found whether you plan to use them or not.  Just upload this draft to blackboard; we will not workshop this draft.

-          September 22:  "Full" draft due.  Take your "personal" draft and add your research sources to create a full-blown research essay.  You will need to make the dialectical move of going back and forth between your personal take on culture and what the research says about the culture.  Bring in a copy (either electronic or paper) that you are able to mark on for in-class workshop.

-          September 29:  Conference

Instruction Files

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