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Homework answers / question archive / Essay Writing and Expectations These guidelines apply to all three formal essay assignments in this course

Essay Writing and Expectations These guidelines apply to all three formal essay assignments in this course


Essay Writing and Expectations

These guidelines apply to all three formal essay assignments in this course.

Format: Two to three pages, in 12 point font and double spaced, with one-inch margins on all sides of the paper.  Grade deductions will be applied to papers that fail to meet the minimum, and also to papers that significantly exceed the maximum.

The essay prompts are intended to challenge students to approach the literature with precision, depth, and nuance.  We allege that there are social issues and issues of language, of relationships, of psychology, and more, in all the texts we have read together.

Some of the prompts will interrogate a term. The logical requirement for this type of interrogation would be that the student author is quite clear in the ways he or she is employing terms.

Students should be attentive to style—their own and that of the author in question.  Remember, this is a literature class, so strategies authors employ to present their text are important.  Valid and clear use of quotes will be rewarded.  Throwing in quotes which are disconnected from the student's argument will be penalized.  The total amount of quotes should not exceed one-eighth of the paper.  Quotations should always be in the context of one of your sentences, without breaking syntax.  You cannot end a sentence, drop in a quote, and begin another sentence.  Penalty points will be taken for this.

Students often expect that essay answers simply reflect "their opinion" and thus "no one has a right to grade them."  It is true that many and various readings of the texts will be credited, even some which seem to oppose each other.  But the argument or the reading will be considered valid to the degree that the student has clearly thought through their conclusion using relevant data from the text, and composed it in a sensible and logical fashion.  Make sure you employ the best items from the text for support.  If there are elements in the text that would completely negate your reading, don't simply ignore them—your grader will have read the text and will wonder why you ignore such obvious data. Often it is a good strategy to address potential arguments in the body of your essay.

Stay on track.  Two to three pages is not a lot of space.  You want to streamline your argument and use as much support in as little space as you can.  If you wander, try to revise the essay before handing it in so that each paragraph adds to your thesis.

Any suspicion of academic dishonesty will be investigated.  Any proof of academic dishonesty will be dealt with in the most severe manner allowed by the university.  Don't sacrifice your career for a single grade.

Positive Values? in an Essay

· To-the-point writing with a logical flow of ideas towards proving your thesis.

· Precise and clear explanation of central terms. (You don't want to spend too much ink on this, so concise as well).

· Stay with the terms of the essay prompt—don't write the essay you want to and simply make a weak nod to the essay prompt.?

· Treatment of style, or other literary quality unique to the author being addressed.?

· Use of valuable quotes that advance your argument. Don't waste quotation time on commonplaces (i.e. "he came into the room") Use quotes to display the masterful language of the literature. Quotes must be in one of your sentences, without breaking syntax.

· A little style on your part goes a long way.??

Negative Values? in an Essay

· Papers which go from point to point without any logical connection to each other.

· Papers which take for granted that we all know what "history" or "the artist" or "the hero" is. You might stay away from claiming what it is "we" believe.?

· Essays which stray too far, too often, from the terms of the essay prompt.

· Essays which seem as if they might be submitted to a history or sociology class instead of a literary analysis class.

· Inaccurate or unnecessary use of quotes.?

· Over-reliance on outside reading for formulating the argument.

“A” papers: Clear, precise, stylistic examinations of the literature through a sound thesis that is maintained throughout the paper. See Positive values.

“B” papers: Demonstrates a lively and full knowledge and understanding of the text under consideration. Writes effectively, but strays from the thesis on occasions and writes around, rather than directly addressing, the thesis.

“C” papers: The thesis is not as strong here. There is too much summary and not enough analysis. Presentation of ideas is indirect to the point of losing the understanding of the reader. The good things here are primarily the exhibition that the essay writer has read and understood the text in question. We would like the thinking about the literature to be a little more refined, more sophisticated, to award it a better grade.

“D” papers: Are hastily put together and show some understanding of the text being written about, but may also include points of misunderstanding and perhaps some simplistic thinking about the text. Structurally uninspired. Repetitive. Papers that merely re-tell events in the story without even trying for a thesis.

If you are concerned about your ability to express your thoughts about literature, there are numerous websites dedicated to the subject.

· Purdue Owl is one of the most useful: (Links to an external site.)

· Here’s another from the University of North Carolina: (Links to an external site.)

· A search for “writing about literature” or “writing about world literature” should uncover many more useful sites, all of which have something to contribute.

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