emerge, you sort and connect these parts in meaningful ways. For me, I have always had to do this recording and thinking on scratch pieces of paper. Just as critical reading forms a crucial element of the literacy task of a college writing assignment, so too does this analysis process. It’s built in. Three Common Types of College Writing Assignments We have been decoding the expectations of the academic writing task so far, and I want to turn now to examine the types of assignments you might receive. From my experience, you are likely to get three kinds of writing assignments based upon the instructor’s degree of direction for the assignment. We’ll take a brief look at each kind of academic writing task. The Closed Writing Assignment • Is Creon a character to admire or condemn? • Does your advertisement employ techniques of propaganda, and if so what kind? • Was the South justified in seceding from the Union? • In your opinion, do you believe Hamlet was truly mad? These kinds of writing assignments present you with two counter claims and ask you to determine from your own analysis the more valid claim. They resemble yes-no questions. These topics define the
L. Lennie Irvin 12 claim for you, so the major task of the writing assignment then is working out the support for the claim. They resemble a math problem in which the teacher has given you the answer and now wants you to “show your work” in arriving at that answer. Be careful with these writing assignments, however, because often these topics don’t have a simple yes/no, either/or answer (despite the nature of the essay question). A close analysis of the subject matter often reveals nuances and ambiguities within the question that your eventual claim should reflect. Perhaps a claim such as, “In my opinion, Hamlet was mad” might work, but I urge you to avoid such a simplis- tic thesis. This thesis would be better: “I believe Hamlet’s unhinged mind borders on insanity but doesn’t quite reach it.” The Semi-Open Writing Assignment • Discuss the role of law in Antigone. • Explain the relationship between character and fate in Hamlet. • Compare and contrast the use of setting in two short stories. • Show how the Fugitive Slave Act influenced the Abolitionist Movement. Although these topics chart out a subject matter for you to write upon, they don’t offer up claims you can easily use in your paper. It would be a misstep to offer up claims such as, “Law plays a role in An- tigone” or “In Hamlet we can see a relationship between character and fate.” Such statements express the obvious and what the topic takes for granted. The question, for example, is not whether law plays a role in Antigone, but rather what sort of role law plays. What is the nature of this role? What influences does it have on the characters or actions or theme? This kind of writing assignment resembles a kind of archeo- logical dig. The teacher cordons off an area, hands you a shovel, and says dig here and see what you find.
You've reached the end of your free preview.
Want to read all 16 pages?
- Spring '11