*Click here to download this Peer Review document/assignment (this assignment can be used on all argumentative essays).
Project #1: close reading of assigned text(s)
*You may choose any one or two of the following texts that we have read together this semester:
- “The Machine Stops”
- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Blade Runner
- “There Will Come Soft Rains” (Bradbury, short story)
- “There Will Come Soft Rains” (Budet Laskovyj Dozhd, short animated story)
- Uneven Growth: Tactical Urbanisms for Expanding Megacities (MoMA exhibit)
Final Draft (graded) due: Thursday, March 26th (e-mail file + bring one printed copy to class)
First Draft due: Thursday, March 19th (e-mail file + bring four printed/stapled copied to class; bring highlighters to class)
Writing Task & Purpose
In class and on our OpenLab course site you have been using close reading to generate questions and ideas about various science fiction texts this semester (short stories, novels, films, graphic novels, exhibits). For this first project, you will build on this work, using analysis to write a 4-5 page thesis-driven essay that presents a thesis (argument) about the text(s) and uses subsequent claims/evidence from the text to explore and support this point.
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 merely summarize (simply report what the text is about) or to write about some idea (values, conflict) in general, but to critically consider how some idea is represented in a particular text(s) we have read.
Keep in mind that, as in your blogs, in-class freewriting, and your exams, you can’t discuss everything about the text(s). Spend time choosing/focusing your topic before you start drafting your essay. You are welcome to use one (or more) for the items on the science fiction framework (think about central conflicts, major themes, big questions, competing values), the discussion prompts provided in class, and/or on the course blog as starting points for your brainstorming process.
This essay extends the thinking/writing you have already done in class and in your blogging. Therefore, while you should of course feel free to build on what you have already written this semester in blogs or other informal writing (or what we have discussed in class), do not simply repeat what you have previously stated elsewhere. Remember that your blogging is only an informal response to the texts we read and, as such, your posts may not be organized effectively or clearly/fully articulated. You should use this material as freewriting (or even a rough draft), and then work to revise it into a coherent and detailed argument. There is a much greater emphasis on analysis and structure in this essay than in your blog posts and other informal writing.
You should write your essays in the third person, and use the present tense when discussing literature.
You should not consult outside sources: this essay builds from your close reading of the text(s). As always, choose specific quotes and examples from the text(s) 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). You should also provide a Works Cited page for the text(s).
*Choosing more than one text? Guidelines for Comparative Analysis
If you choose to explore more than one text, your essay should present a thesis that grows out of your analysis of these two texts (in conversation with each other) and uses subsequent claims/evidence from the texts to explore and support this argument.
While, in your pre-draft stages, you should take stock of similarities and differences between the texts you choose, this is only a first (pre-draft) step. Your essay should not only note key similarities and/or differences but also (and this is the crucial part!) discuss the significance of these similarities and/or differences. Putting two texts in dialogue with each other allows you to create a more nuanced argument about them.
You should include a cover letter (about one page long, typed, single-spaced) as the first page of your essay (this letter does not count toward the minimum length of your essay). This reflective letter should be addressed to your readers (me and your peers), and should be written in the first person (it can be informal/personal).
This Cover Letter presents the process behind your essay, and therefore doesn’t restate what your essay claims (the product) but rather discusses your drafting/revising process for this essay. Even though you are only submitting a final draft to me, you should go through a number of steps (pre-drafts such as in-class discussions, blogs, freewriting, group discussion, brainstorming, outlining, first drafts, in-class peer review, conferences with me and Learning Center tutors, etc.) before you hand it in, and this Cover Letter shows how your essay has changed along the way.
In addition to responding to the questions below (holistically, not in order/bulleted out), you should also free to add any other questions/concerns you have about your essay or the writing process.
- What do you see as your main point/thesis, and how has it changed from first draft to this final draft?
- Describe your drafting and revision process. What was most challenging? How did you approach those challenges? How did you use our in-class discussions (both as a class and group work), and your informal writing (freewriting in class, reading response blogs) in the drafting of your essay?
- How did you engage with (and incorporate – or not) my feedback or that of a tutor from the Learning Center (if you came to see me during my office hours and/or went to see a tutor at the Learning Center), and how did that help to re-vision your essay/argument?
- What’s the number one question about your essay – its thesis, structure, use of evidence, persuasiveness, style, and so on – that you most would like to get feedback on (and why)?
- Choose two elements of your essay – one that you think works well, and one that feels less successful – and describe why.
- What would you continue to work on in further revision?
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 short story you chose, not necessarily according to the order of the text(s) itself.
Your essay should include: a focused thesis paragraph; body paragraphs provide additional claims (topic sentences) 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.
Some difficulties you might encounter as you write & some suggestions for moving past these problems:
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 questions about the text or done enough active reading. Go back and re-read the text(s) again, looking up words you don’t know, highlighting important sections, asking questions (especially about the elements of fiction), and making notes in the margins. From there, create a series of focused and persuasive claims about your topic. You may also find that creating an outline will help you to structure your essay.
Trying to explore every possible aspect of the topic/text(s): 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 “Bradbury 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. Provide analysis, and only use summary when it is necessary for your readers to understand the larger point you are making.
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 reading to generalizations and digressions.
Feedback and Peer Review
For this first project, you will be workshopping your first drafts as a class and in small peer review groups. More detailed guidelines will be provided in class and under Peer Review. But make sure you bring four stapled, printed copies of your work to class the day first drafts are due (Th 3/19). Peer review will give you a wider audience for your writing and helpful feedback for revision. Peer review counts towards your Project #1 Grade.
If you would like to discuss your ideas or drafts more fully, please schedule an appointment to see me during my office hours.I am more than happy to discuss your ideas/drafts in person with you, at any stage of your reading/thinking/writing process. If you would like to do so, schedule a conference with me during my office hours. Please note that I will be away from a conference the week of 3/16 (and therefore unavailable to meet/respond via e-mail, in a timely manner). I am more than happy to meet with you before I leave, or after I return, to discuss your projects.
Grading: Project # 1 is worth 15% of your overall course grade.
*If you do not turn in your essay (a printed copy and electronic copy) 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.
*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.