For your first major assignment in English 201, each of you will write a two- to three-page formal essay in which you describe a concept or issue of significance within your area of exploration for the semester (as identified as part of the “Syllabus Confirmation” homework). Your goal in this paper is merely to describe the concept/issue in as much detail as possible for an audience who may have little or no familiarity with the issue. Note that if you describe an “issue,” that implies the acknowledgement of a problem, which lends itself to an argumentative perspective on the topic. However, you will not offer any sort of argumentative perspective on the topic—your sole purpose is to explore a concept or issue of significance in as much detail as possible. This is an exercise in depth of development rather than argumentation.
Nonetheless, this does not mean that you can present an exhaustive discussion of the topic. Undoubtedly most of the potential topics that you might choose for this paper cannot be fully discussed within two to three pages. Therefore, you will need to make informed choices about what information you choose to highlight, and what information you choose to pass over. You will need to establish a discussion of the topic that provides your audience with a relatively full understanding of it while not delving into unnecessary details. That is, for this paper, you must make informed choices about your topic—what needs to be said and what doesn’t—in relation to your purpose and audience.
You will determine your own topic and perspective for this paper, but keep in mind the following tips:
- You should focus on how and why the concept/issue is what it is. That is, what is the nature of the topic, and how is it significant?
- Describe as well the implications of the topic, both actual and potential. Based on those implications, for whom is this concept/issue important, and why?
- Describe the nature of the topic so that an audience from outside your realm of expertise can understand both the problem and its significance. Define important discipline-specific jargon. Don’t engage in detailed descriptions that would only make sense to people within your discipline. Make informed judgments about what level of knowledge your audience might have on the topic. For instance, for a paper on the economics of business management one could reasonably assume that the audience has a rudimentary sense of how capitalism and the American economy work, but one could not assume that the audience has any extensive knowledge of, for example, microeconomics. However, a description of microeconomics might be a perfect topic!
- Again, do not argue. If you are dealing with an issue in your area of exploration, that implies some sort of problem. You can identify possible solutions to the problem, but you are not to advocate any of them. Only describe the problem.
You are not required to use any outside sources for this paper, but you may certainly do so if you wish. In a paper such as this, outside sources can provide appropriate background information and/or supporting detail for your audience, so feel free to use them. However, you will not receive a higher grade because you used outside sources. Warning: you must provide in-text citation and bibliographic information (works cited page) for all outside information that finds its way into your paper. This includes not only information that you quote directly, but also information that you only paraphrase or summarize. Failure to provide proper citation is tantamount to plagiarism.
Compose your paper using Microsoft Word or a compatible word processing application, making use of spell check and grammar check. This paper, as with all your papers in this class,
- will be double-spaced in a readable 12-point font such as Arial or Times New Roman;
- and use MLA style for all in-text citations and bibliographic entries. (For information on MLA style, see chapter 18 of the St. Martin’s Handbook.)
If you have further questions on the drafting process, please ask them on the Big Board of 201 Questions discussion forum.
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