Guidelines for writing Essay #1 “Explaining a Concept” (E1) Audience and Purpose: Though it seeks to engage readers’ interest, explanatory writing stresses facts about a subject. Its purpose is to inform, but you should also entertain and persuade. To succeed, you must know the concept so well that you can explain it simply. You must be authoritative without showing off or talking down. You must estimate what your readers already know about your subject. Cast yourself in the role of expert. Your audience is a group of (picture our English 1010 class here) informed adults , people who regularly read a newspaper, magazines, or internet sites. Here are a few characteristics of a successful “Concept” essay. Explain unfamiliar terms Keep explanations simple and interesting Use specific examples, stories to add interest Always remember your audience. What would interest them? Features of an “Explaining a Concept Essay” A focused concept. What is your concept? What are you trying to say about it? The focused concept would be your thesis statement. In an essay about metaphysical poetry, the concept is “metaphysical poetry” the focus would be “Metaphysical poetry is the ultimate form of love poetry.” In the couch surfing essay, the concept is “couch surfing” and the focus is “Couch surfing is an exciting activity that makes use of an otherwise useless object” (I have paraphrased here.) An Appeal to Readers’ Interest. Try to make your essay entertaining while informing your readers. Engage readers with lively writing and vivid detail. Use specific examples. Pay special attention to the introductory paragraph. It provides the opportunity to engage your audience A Logical Plan. Present you material step by step in a logical order. Organize carefully. Provide cues (transitions) for your readers as you move from point to point. Good writers never forget that their readers need clear signals. Consider what strategies you would like to use in presenting your material. Will you be using definition, comparison and contrast, classification, process narration, cause and effect, example? Clear Definitions. Essays explaining concepts depend on clear definitions. To relate information clearly, a writer must be sensitive to readers’ knowledge. Any key terms that are like to be unfamiliar or misunderstood must be explicitly defined. Here are some questions students usually ask about writing assignments. You should know that I enjoy reading what you write. I enjoy sitting down with a stack of final essays and “reading.” Your ideas often delight me, and I learn. Thank you. How long does it have to be? There is no set length. Please do NOT add words to try to make the essay longer. You should be an authority on your subject, so you should have plenty to explain without counting words. If you can’t write a sustained explanation about your subject, then you should choose another subject. Is there any certain format that I should use for the paper? Please type the paper in MLA format. MLA format, at this point, is quite simple. You may look at the sample on the FrontPage of our class wiki for a sample. MLA format simply outlines how to do the heading and the margins, the formatting. It gets more complicated when we begin adding sources to our writing. Is the draft graded? I will not be grading the draft. I and your peers will offer feedback, and you will revise the paper before you turn it in for a grade. You should do your best work on the draft. The more polished the draft is, the better the final product will probably be. If you look at this part of the process as simply throwing together something to hand in as a draft, I will not be able to respond as effectively as I could if you would put your best effort into the draft. So I suggest that you consider any draft as a final product. Do I turn in earlier drafts with my final essay? Yes, I want to see drafts. You should turn in the early drafts with the final draft. Always put the final draft on the top. When you turn in the FINAL draft of the essay, be sure to include the notes (suggestions for revision) that I gave you when I returned your earlier draft. You may also want to include the peer review notes that classmates gave you, or evidence of having visited the writing center. I like to see “loved-up” copies of drafts, something you’ve really put effort into. One thing that really disappoints me is when I and your peers give you feedback, and then there is no revision. Your FINAL draft should be substantially different from your earlier draft. What is the Project Assessment Paragraph? After you have finished writing your essay, you should write a Project Assessment Paragraph. This is separate from your essay. Type it in MLA format, and hand it in with your essay. Although this paragraph is not graded, if you do not hand it in with your essay, the grade on your essay will LOWERED BY ONE LETTER GRADE. I consider this paragraph an important part of the writing process. You should type a paragraph discussing the project, analyzing your writing. What do you feel good about in your writing? What went well? What helped you succeed? What do you wish you had done differently? What rhetorical choices did you make as you revised? How did you revise? Do not simply answer these questions. Use them as starting points to analyze your writing. This is an important part of the project. How do I go about submitting the essay? When you submit the essay, always put the final draft on the top. Any earlier drafts should go underneath the final draft. My instructor notes should be included. Any other drafts or peer review information could be included, as well. The GRADING SHEET should be included just before the Project Analysis Paragraph (which will be on the bottom of the essay material). I will keep the Project Analysis Paragraphs. I will use the evaluation sheet to award your grade and return it with your essay. Some essays (E3 and E4) require additional documents. The evaluation sheet for each essay clearly states what you should submit with the final essay. How do you grade the essay? I have posted the criteria for each essay, as well as the evaluation sheet for each essay. You should look at these closely, as the criteria for each essay changes with the type of essay that is required. Each essay has ten criteria, and points are awarded for reaching the goals of each criterion. I will not make very many comments on a final draft. My comments will come during the drafting stage. If you have questions about how I reached a grade award for your essay, please come and talk with me. I also invite you to get a second opinion if you have questions. What if my essay is late? I reserve the right NOT to return late essays. I grade essays and return them according to a schedule. If your work comes in late, I may not get it back to you. I will assign a grade. The essay will be penalized one letter grade for each class period that it is late. I will NOT accept essays that are more than one week late. What if I am absent on the day an essay is due? If you know you will be absent, you should hand the essay in early. Even if you are excused because you are participating in a college-sponsored event, you should hand your work in by the due date. Please DO NOT sent email attachments. It creates much more work for me to have to download your paper, staple it, put it in the right pile, etc. Hand in the hard copy when you return if you cannot get it to me before you leave. There are several things you need to turn in with your essay. You cannot do that through email. What about grammar? How important is it? Sentence and grammar problems can affect the meaning of your sentences. Problems in these areas affect your appeal to ethos. There are a couple of simple things you can do to make sure that grammar issues do not cause problems. You could visit the writing center, specifically for help with those issues. You could also do something as simple as to stop using semicolons. They usually cause more problems than they are worth—my personal opinion. I have yet to meet a sentence that absolutely MUST have a semicolon. You can live a long and happy life without ever using a semicolon. As I have mentioned before, I will give you a personalized grammar diagnosis and try to work with you in specific areas of concern that you or I may have.
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