March 2010 Archives

Before you start churning out paragraphs, I want us both to be sure that you have chosen a thesis for Paper 3 that you can adequately support with credible academic evidence.

The last few research assignments were designed to get you started on this exercise.  You have already annotated at least some of your sources, either as reflection papers for the Rereading America selections, or marginal notes for the academic article printouts.

I will assess your ability to identify, assess, and cite information from credible sources, to help your progress on Paper 3.  You do not have to commit to using exactly these sources in your paper, and once you submit an acceptable annotated bibliography, you won't need to re-submit it each time your list of sources changes.

Upload both parts in a single word processor document, to the slot on

1) Updated Thesis Statement

Include the most recent version of your thesis statement. Name the author(s) whose selection in Rereading America inspire(s) your thesis.
  • I'll need your thesis in order to be able to provide you with the most helpful feedback on the quality and usefulness of your sources.
  • Remember that I've asked you to make a claim about an issue that arises directly from something you read in Rereading America, so a strong and clear thesis will be about a specific essay (rather than about "people" or "America" or any other general subject).

2) Annotated Bibliography

  • Include five credible sources (including at least two recent -- since 2005 -- academic articles).
  • For each source, include
    • A full MLA Works Cited entry (see SF Writer for details)
    • A short paragraph assessing the value of the source. (Questions you may consider: what are the author's credentials? was the source written by experts in the subject, for other experts? does the source carefully cite outside sources for every statistic or claim, and are those sources credible sources? )
    • A short paragraph, including one or more quotations, that summarizes the content you plan to use in your paper. (You don't have to know exactly what quotes you will use, or how you plan to integrate the quotes; just give me an idea of what passages will help you make your own original argument.)

There's nothing to prepare for this unit; we'll just talk about oral communication.
Come to class prepared to discuss your progress in STW so far.  We will look ahead to the final writing self-assessment essay.
This assignment asks you to test your research question, by bringing in two academic sources that offer different answers (or at least, different approaches) to your question.

What recent academic studies have been conducted on (detailed subject)?

A research question differs from a thesis statement.

You write the (final) thesis statement after you have finished all your research.  You ask yourself, "Based on the research I was able to find, what can I prove about my topic?"

You write the research question before you start your serious research.  You ask yourself, "What do I not know at this moment, that I need to know in order to choose a stance in the issue?"

If you already know what your thesis will be, before you even start writing, then chances are you will write a normative thesis -- something that expresses your opinion about they way things ought to be, rather than an analytical thesis -- something that explores the reasons why things are they way they are. 

Preliminary Research Question:

How does TV advertising affect women?

Once you have established that advertisers are free to publish whatever images of women they want because the First Amendment guarantees that Congress will not pass a law restricting what publishers choose to publish, you'll see that "Advertisers should stop degrading women" is a vague claim.  But If you study what happens to a small country that had TV introduced to it for the first time, and you track health statistics from that country, 10 and 20 years after the introduction of TV, you might note an increase in suicide attempts, or an increase in eating disorders. But how do you know it was the TV advertising that caused these problems? Maybe it was the TV programs, or maybe at the same time TV came to this country, large numbers of youths went overseas to college, and that was where they picked up their bad habits.

Note the difference between:

  • "Advertisers should stop harming women" (which is a normative claim that presumes, but does not prove, that advertisers are harming women)
  • "Advertisers lower women's self-esteem by displaying false images of unhealthy models, whose hair and make-up and even body fat are digitally altered." (that's analytical, but how do we measure self-esteem?)
  • "Advertising directed at women presents an unattainable image of female beauty, by using underweight models, professional hair and makeup staff, and digital photo manipulation." (That's an uncontroversial observation. Who can argue against that, and it is necessarily bad that photographers want their photos to look better than real?)
  • "What academic studies have investigated the effects of advertising on women's health?" (This last one IS a research question.)

This pre-writing portfolio is very different from the others we've done -- we're not yet ready to start talking about a thesis.  We're still looking at sources at this stage.

Your goal for this assignment is to demonstrate that you can
  • evaluate the sources you find online
  • locate and analyze an academic article that you find though the Reeves webs site.
Bring a printout to class.

Quick overview: I'm asking you to name a research topic, find and briefly analyze two online sources, find and analyze in greater depth one academic article, and supply a complete Works Cited list for those three sources. 

Details in a bit... but first, a brief... 


·         Textbooks are written for beginners.

·         Academic articles serve a different purpose.

·         The length, depth, vocabulary, and organization/format of an academic article are all part of what makes the article valuable to experts. (Putting the needs of beginners first would damage the authority of the source.)

Like Papers 1 and 2, the Research Paper (Paper 3) asks you to take and defend a position that is:
    1. debatable (not obvious)
    2. evaluative (not summative)
    3. analytical (not normative) 
    4. about the readings (not about the general topic of the readings).
Unlike Papers 1 and 2, Paper 3 expects you to go outside the Rereading America textbook, demonstrating your ability to find, evaluate, and incorporate credible sources (including scholarly publications). Today's assignment will ask you to look for some credible sources, starting with online sources, and finishing with a detailed analysis of an academic article.    

The Assignment:
  1. Identify a research topic. ("Gender" is too broad.  "Gender in the workplace," "Gender in the factory workplace" and "Gender in the U.S. auto industry" are progressively more precise.)  Write your topic on a cover page.
  2. Conduct an internet search for your topic, using any method you wish. 
    1. Print out two good sources for a research paper on your chosen topic.
    2. Identify the author, date, and publisher of each source. (Circle or highlight this information in the printout.)
    3. On the printout, write down reasons why you feel this source is "good."  
      1. What is the purpose of the site? (How do you know?)
      2. Can you trust this site? (Can you trust what a posting on the "Mushroom Hater's Forum" has to say about mushrooms? What about a government document that reports statistics on mushroom harvests? What about a magazine article that describes a new treatment for a mushroom disease?) 
  3. Conduct a library database search for your chosen topic, using the steps we went over in class Monday. (At the bottom of this page I've posted a review.
    1. Find one, recent, academic article, and print out the full text.
    2. all the information I ask for in the next few steps, there's a good chance that the article you've found is not an academic article.  It might be an interview, a personal essay, a book review, or almost anything else.
    3. Draw a box around the author's thesis.
    4. Underline the main idea of each paragraph.
    5. In the body of the paper, locate, circle, and number the first five citations. (For example, if the author cites Haydar, Morgan, a US Census report, a Lady Gaga video, and Kilbourne, circle each reference and number them one through five.)
    6. In the Works Cited or References section, locate, circle, and number the matching bibliographical entries (that is, find where the author has listed the full information for Haydar's source, and write a "1" in the margin, and do the same for each of the other sources).
    7. evidence that the author uses to support his or her thesis.
  4. On your cover page, provide an MLA-style Works Cited list for the three sources.  Reminder:   See this full sample MLA style Works Cited page, and details on citing electronic sources in MLA style.

Steps for Finding a Peer Reviewed Article

Review: the writing process.
What is academic research?
How and when do we research?
How does "researching a topic" differ from "looking up the answer"?
What is "peer review"?

Due Today:

Paper 2 Revision

Rescheduled from March 19. Submit to
Due Today:

Research Workshop

In class Friday, I asked everyone to do the following for Monday (Mar 22).

  1. Choose a subject that you know well enough to consider yourself an expert. (Any subject is acceptable -- it does not have to be academic.)
  2. Find a writing sample that's intended for experts in your subject. (An expert would read this document in order to learn from other experts, or in order to participate in an activity on an expert level.)
  3. Find a different writing sample that is intended for beginners. (A beginner would read this document in order to learn from the experts, or in order to participate in an activity on a beginner level.)
Examples might include a book, magazine or newspaper story, or a web page.  Bring your documents to class, and be prepared to discuss what makes the beginner document appropriate for beginners, and what makes the expert document appropriate for experts.

I'll pick the topic of classic computer games; I will pick a sample "beginner" and a sample "expert" document, and I'll post a few questions that should help you think usefully about the samples you bring to class Monday.

Here is an example of a beginner writing sample:
Adrew Vestal and Nich Maragos, "Magic Words: Interactive Fiction in the 21st Century"
What is the purpose of the site that published it?  Is the typical reader reading this page for pleasure, for school, for work?  How does the typical reader know whether this is a "good" piece of writing?

Here is an example of an expert writing sample
Terry Harpold, "Screw the Grue: Mediality, Metalipsis, Recapture."
What cues from this site help you figure out the purpose? Why does the typical reader of this document want to read it?  How does the typical reader of this document know whether this is a "good" piece of writing?
Group Work: Use quotations to present a non-obvious, debatable claim about the readings -- not about the general topics ("gender" or "society" or "people") that the readings mention. Bring a single printout to class Friday.

1 Press and Wolfson
2 Wolfson and Bambara
3 Press and Vazquez
4 Wolfson and Vazquez
Assigned Text:

Reading 3-6

Press (815)

Assigned Text:

Reading 3-5

Wolfson (98)

Complete this assignment in

The assignment asks you to read three peer papers, and use the PeerMark commenting tools to leave comments and highlight passages.

Instructions: getting started with PeerMark; using comments.

I will accept these reviews until Tuesday morning.
Assigned Text:

Reading 3-4

Bambara (270)

Assigned Text:

Reading 3-3

Vazquez (472)

Due Today:

Paper 2 Draft

Minimum 3 pages.  (The revision will be 3-4 pages.)
Use brief quotations from  your sources, cited with efficient use of MLA style, in order to make complex connections between the sources you choose to support your claim.

NoIn the essay "The Full Title of an Essay Fills Lots of Space" by Maxwell Wordsworth Fuller, it talks about how easy it is to bury your own thoughts when you introduce quotes in inefficient ways. In a passage on page 128, Fuller writes, "Keep in mind that your instructor wants to evaluate your own thoughts, not your ability to quote somebody else's thoughts, so quote just the juiciest, most meaning-laden passages from your sources, and use the brief MLA style parenthetic citation, rather than spelling out the full title and the full name of your source."  This quote shows how important it is to cite your sources efficiently.

The author of the above passage uses a wordy, wasteful formula that includes
  • the full name of the source
  • the full name of the author
  • an introduction
  • a long quote (a full sentence or more), and
  • an explanation of the quote.
The author has managed to churn out about 110 words, but where do you see any evidence of original thought?

NoCiting your sources in proper MLA style can help you focus tightly on making an argument.  Because "your instructor wants to evaluate your own thoughts," you can "quote just the juiciest, most meaning-laden passages from your sources" (Fuller 128).  Efficient citations will let you "spread your intellectual wings a little wider" (Jones 213), because you'll have more room to make "the kind of connections your instructor expects to see in successful academic writing" (Lee 43). While learning the details of MLA style may feel like a pain, the space it saves gives you room to demonstrate your true strengths as a writer.

In about 102 words, the author of the above passage has introduced brief quotes from three different sources, using those brief quotations to help present a claim about MLA style.  The quotations exist in order to support a claim that is related to the readings, but can't be found, in its full form, in any one source. 

The second passage uses sources to support an argument, while the first passage simply cites sources mechanically, as part of a formula that produces a lot of words.

Assigned Text:

Reading 3-2

Hughes (848)

Assigned Text:

Reading 3-1

Turkel (353)

Is your thesis directly about one (or more) of the readings we looked at for Unit 2?  (Does it actually make a claim about something one of our authors had to say?  If instead the thesis makes a general claim about gender, about something that would be true whether you had read any of the essays or not, that's a sign your thesis could be more focused.)

Does your thesis make a non-obvious, debatable claim? (Avoid "people should stop discriminating" or "people should get over their hangups" -- those are like my dislike of mushrooms.)

Does your blueprint lay out the pattern you plan to use for your paper?
Upload to

The different steps in this assignment are designed to help you move from a very general first impression of as subject, to an exploration/discovery phase, to the choice of materials you feel are suitable for further study. This preparatory work will help you make an informed decision about what selections to propose for the class's Unit 3 reading list.

The readings can be from any chapter in the book, including units we've already read, so long as the reading you propose is one we haven't looked at yet.

For the written part of the pre-reading assignment:

  1. Choose four selections (other than the "Visual Portfolio").
    For each selection:
    1. Write a brief response to the selection, in which you engage directly with the reading.
    2. Include a brief quotation from your selection, as part of an original sentence (with the proper MLA in-text citation) that makes a point about the reading. (I'm not asking for a summary of the author's argument, or your personal opinion on the subject the author is writing about.)
  2. Of the four you chose above, select two that you recommend the class read. Write a single paragraph (about 200 words), explaining why the class should vote for your selections. Demonstrate your ability to integrate brief quotations.
Evaluation Checklist
  • Does Part 1 name and respond to four selections from Rereading America?
  • Does each response include a brief quotation from the reading?
  • Is each quotation part of an original sentence that helps you to make an original point?
    • I am not asking for a summary of the reading.
    • I am not asking for an introduction sentence, a sentence-long quotation, and then another sentence that explains what the sentence means.
  • Is part 2 a 200-word paragraph?
  • Does the paragraph have a clear thesis, blueprint, and conclusion?
  • Does the paragraph explain why your top choice is superior to your second choice?
This assignment asks for three things: two different kinds of writing (a personal essay, and a thesis statement for an academic essay), and a Works Cited list.

Upload all three parts, in a single file, to

Assignment Details

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