Essay #3: ‘The Secret’

Essay #3: close reading/analysis of Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret

Due: Thursday, October 17th (submit to Dropbox + one printed copy to class, stapled with all pre-drafts + reflective Cover Letter)

*If you do not turn in a final draft (a printed copy–complete with Cover Letter, pre-drafts, and peer review–and electronic copy through Dropbox) by the start of class the day it is due, you will receive no credit for the entire assignment. There are no extensions.

Late work will not be accepted and will receive no credit. If you do not turn in a complete, thoughtful first draft on time, you also forfeit your right to any feedback on your essay from me (either written feedback or conferencing with me during my office hours) and your peers (for peer review).


  • Pre-Draft 1: Happiness Archive #3 (reading response to The Secret), due Tu 10/1
  • Pre-Draft 2: Happiness Archive #3 (class discussion: commenting on my post on The Secret), due Th 10/3 to M 10/7
  • Pre-Draft 3: Essay 3 First Draft, due Th 10/10

Grading: Essay #3 is worth 10% of your overall course grade.

*Since this is a close reading of the text, you should not consult outside sources, so there really should not be an issue with plagiarism, but just a reminder: Plagiarism, in all forms, will not be tolerated. Any essay that plagiarizes will automatically fail.

*Refer to City Tech’s Policy on Academic Integrity on the syllabus for more specific details on plagiarism.

Writing Task, Purpose, & Structure
In class and on OpenLab you have been using close reading to questions and ideas about excerpts from Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret. For this third essay, you will build on this work, using analysis to write a 3-4 page argumentative/thesis-driven essay that presents a thesis (argument) about The Secret and uses subsequent claims/evidence from the text to explore and support this point.

Keep in mind that this short essay is argumentative. Therefore, your thesis should be persuasive (but arguable), and your essay should be driven by analysis (subsequent claims and evidence). Remember that the purpose of this essay is not to write about “happiness” in general, but to critically consider how it this abstract concept is represented a particular text (The Secret) we have read. Therefore, do not simply state the obvious/general (ex: “Byrne claims that ‘thoughts become things’” or “happiness is hard to define because it means different things to different people”).

Your goal is to use critical thinking and analysis to demonstrate how Byrne constructs a particular meaning and view of happiness in The Secret and to identify the (often hidden) values that inform such a vision. “Happiness” (both in general and in how Byrne specifically defines/presents it) is a difficult and complex idea, so it is ok if you don’t come to a definite position one way or the other … if your essay thoughtfully explores some of the complications that arise when dealing with “happiness” using Byrne’s framework, that’s great!

Make sure to construct an argument that is complex/interesting enough (the main claim is not straightforward or obvious) for you to be able to write a minimum of three full pages about it. Assume that your audience has already read (but not thought deeply about) The Secret. Therefore, you do not need to (and you should not) spend a lot of space summarizing the text. A close reading is not a line-by-line analysis of an entire text but rather a coherent argument based on such a painstaking examination. Choose specific quotes and examples from the text that are relevant to your claims and use them in the service of supporting these ideas. Remember that each quote/example should be introduced, explained/analyzed, relevant, and cited (using MLA style for in-text citations).

This essay should be written in the third person, and you should should not consult outside sources: this essay builds from a close reading of the excerpts of The Secret that we read together.

Again, this essay extends the thinking/writing you have already done on OpenLab and in class. As in your blog posts, you should work to make claims based on questions about the text (make sure to examine the logos, ethos, and pathos of the text), and to explain and support these claims with evidence (relevant quotes and close reading analysis) for your readers. You should also work to organize your paragraphs logically, each with one claim and supporting evidence. Unlike your blog posts, however, this essay should be organized around a clearly stated thesis that tells your reader the subject and thesis of your essay. All of your claims need to be logically related to your thesis and to one another. There is a much greater emphasis on analysis and structure in this essay than in your blog posts.

Structure the essay according to your argument, avoiding mere summary, on the one hand, and the five-paragraph essay, on the other. When arguing for your interpretation of the text, you should structure your essay according to your thesis about The Secret, not necessarily according to the order of the text itself.

Your essay should include: a focused thesis paragraph; body paragraphs provide additional claims and specific, concrete details/examples in support of both these claims and your overall thesis (do not keep repeating the same idea over and over again in different ideas); logical connections/transitions among sentences, paragraphs, and ideas (claims); a concluding paragraph.

*Refer the Essay Formatting and Guidelines (that apply to all of our formal essay assignments) as well as to the Writing Resources posted on our course site more details in composing and structuring your essay.


*Some difficulties you might encounter along the way & some suggestions for moving past them:

Thinking you have nothing to say: This is where close reading is so helpful!  Dig beneath the surface of the text and explore possible connections and interpretations. If you run out of things to say, you probably have not asked enough genuine questions about the text.

Trying to explore every possible aspect of the topic/text: Instead, generate a thesis (and subsequent claims) that you want to make about your specific topic and discuss how particular details (evidence) contribute to your thesis.

Bringing in outside information: Do not do research on the text or consult outside sources for this particular essay. For this assignment, I am interested in your analysis of the texts/ideas themselves.

Assuming you “know” what the author “meant”: Remember that this is your analysis/interpretation of a text based on close reading. Therefore, avoid making pronouncements such as “Byrne means …” or “The author did this because … .”

Being too general or simplistic: Make sure that you focus your argument and that you have a series of arguable claims you are making. Don’t just make observations or give examples without indicating the significance (the “so what?”) of these facts.

Straying from the assignment/thinking that “anything goes”: Use the work as the basis for objective and relevant discussion. Do not move away from the particulars of the readings to generalizations and digressions.

Cover Letters
You should include a cover letter (about one page long, typed, single-spaced) as the first page on each of your drafts (first and final). This letter should be addressed to your readers (me and your peers). In addition to responding to the questions below, you should also free to add any other questions/concerns you have about your essay or the writing process.

Cover Letter for First Draft

1)       What do you see as your main idea or point?

2)       What are the biggest problems you’re having at this point in the writing process?

3)       What idea or point do you feel you’ve made most successfully? least successfully?

4)       What’s the number one question about your essay – its thesis, structure, use of evidence, persuasiveness, style, and so on – that you’d like your reader(s) to answer for you?

5)       If you were going to start revising today, what three things would you focus on? how would you begin?

Cover Letter for Final Draft
This letter focuses on reflection about the revising process – moving from the first to the final draft of your essay – and should be address to me.

1)       What is your thesis?  How has it changed from first draft to revision?

2)       What are you most satisfied with in this revision?

3)       Describe your drafting and revision process. What was most challenging?  How did you approach those challenges?  What was your experience of peer review and how did it help you to re-vision your work?  How did you engage with (and incorporate – or not) my feedback and that of your classmates?

4)       What would you continue to work on in further revision?

5)       Choose two elements of your essay – one that you think works well, and one that feels less successful – and describe why.

Peer Review
We will be doing an in-depth peer review of your first drafts of Essay #3 in class on Th 10/10 (you will complete the peer review assignment at home between Tu 10/8 and Th 10/10), and this will give you a wider audience and more feedback on your writing.

More detailed guidelines will be provided in class and on our course site, but make sure you bring stapled four hard copies of your essay (with Cover Letter) to class on Tu 10/3, that you complete the peer review of your group members’ drafts (for Tu 10/10), and that come to class on time ready to discuss these drafts on Th 10/10. Peer review counts towards your Essay #3 grade.

1 thought on “Essay #3: ‘The Secret’

  1. Pingback: Thinking through ‘The Secret’ (class discussion) | The Composition of Happiness

Comments are closed.