This assignment asks you to write one
perfect paragraph. During the quarter, you’ll write three
draft paragraphs on the following topics:
- Response to a quotation about engineering
- Response to Florman’s “The Civilized
- Review of an event on campus
You’ll choose one of these one-paragraph
drafts and you’ll work through several revisions of its style
and content in order to perfect the paragraph. For the final assignment,
you’ll turn in all of the initial one-paragraph drafts, the
revisions, and the final perfect paragraph.
For inspiration, read the following paragraph
by Alfred Kazin, who is writing about Ernest Hemingway’s quest
for the perfect sentence:
All his writing life Hemingway
labored after that "true sentence." He sought, I
think, the sentence that would have the primacy of experience,
that would relive a single unit of experience. Hemingway had
often been close to death, he always felt death to be near,
and his prose, like the poetry of the seventeenth-century
metaphysicals, sought to make the ultimate experience come
close. Death might yet be recorded in the sentient flesh—as
intimate a sensation as eating, drinking, and lovemaking.
But the "true sentence" could be recognized only
if it had the right cadence and the tease of subtlety in some
culminating word. Hemingway wanted to unsettle the reader
just enough to make him sit up and notice a different way
of saying things.
"Hemingway as His Own Fable,"
by Alfred Kazin
The Atlantic, 213 (June 1964), 54-7.
This assignment asks you to report on the social impact
of a particular technology. The purpose of the essay is to explain
the most significant ways in which this technology has affected
people. Some of the areas you might explore are politics, law, the
economy, the family, physical and mental health, spirituality, the
environment, education, entertainment, and the home. You don't need
to discuss all of these areas, just the ones that your technology
has influenced. You should state your thesis clearly, be specific
in your explanations, and use sources to help you prove your points.
There are several stages involved in writing this
essay, each of which will be discussed in further detail in class;
but briefly, they are:
1. Select a topic and join a research and
After indicating your preferences, you will be assigned one of six
possible topics: the cell phone, television, the Internet, video
games, television, or biotechnology. You will form research and
review groups with the three or four other students in the class
who are working on the same topic as you.
2. Conduct research and summarize sources
You will write summaries of at least 4 sources: at least 2 of the
sources must be from peer-reviewed publications; the remainder must
come from reputable websites. You need to get my approval on all
of the sources you intend to use. Moreover, there shouldn’t
be any repetition of sources in your group; in other words, each
person in the group needs to choose at least 4 unique sources, which
you will then share with each other.
3. Share summaries with your group
Make copies of your summaries for the other students in your research
and review group. We will devote part of one class session to sharing
4. Write a draft of the essay
Working from your summaries and from notes you developed as you
read through your library and Web sources, write a complete draft
of the essay. This draft will be read and commented on by the other
students in your research and review group; you can also show the
draft to me, to the tutors at CLAS, and to anyone else who you think
will give you useful feedback.
5. Revise the draft
Incorporating the comments you received from the various
readers of your draft, make revisions that strengthen the final
essay. Bring your information together in a clear, coherent, and
grammatically correct document. Your report should have a title
page and a Works Cited list. Use APA format for your in-text and
This assignment asks you to compare an open source
and a proprietary software program and to make a recommendation
for a specific audience on which program to adopt. It is essentially
a recommendation report, as described in Beer & McMurrey, pages
The report will begin with an introduction that describes
its purpose and background and that presents any necessary definitions.
The body of the report will be divided into sections, each of which
offers a point of comparison between the software programs (e.g.,
features, cost, ease of use, support). The report will conclude
with an overall comparison of the programs, illustrated by one or
more graphics or tables, and with an explicit recommendation. In
general, the report should integrate clear writing with effective
illustrations, good organization, and appealing document design.
The audience of this report is an intelligent person
with minimal technical knowledge who needs to decide whether to
purchase a software program or use an open source or free program.
It is important to keep your audience in mind at all times since
the report will succeed or fail based on how well it informs this
audience. Your organization, style, terminology, document design,
and use of graphics should all reflect an awareness of the needs
of the audience.
Your analysis and recommendations will be based on
your own experience with the software as well as on your reading
of reviews and other materials related to the software (e.g., online
reviews, promotional materials at company websites). Toward this
end, you’ll need to download and/or purchase the software
that you’re evaluating; get as much experience as possible
with both the proprietary and open source programs so that you can
assess them effectively.
Some possible topics are listed below. Please feel
free to proposal alternative topics; you can consult webi.org,
sourceforge.net, or other free/open
source sites for ideas.
|OO Writer, AbiWord
|GIMP, Inkscape, OO Draw
You will be asked to write drafts of sections of this
report and share your drafts with other students in the class. The
report will follow the general format described in Beer & McMurrey,
Chapter 6 (pp. 123-40). More information on formatting the report
will be discussed in class.
At the end of the quarter, you’ll be asked to
deliver a formal oral presentation to the class. Your presentation
should last between 5 and 7 minutes and should be accompanied by
visual aids (e.g., projected slides, handouts).
The subject for your presentation can be taken from
either your Research Essay or your Technical Report. Do not try
to present your entire essay or report; rather, present 5 to 7 minutes
of information that you think will be most interesting and worthwhile
for your audience.
In class, we’ll discuss strategies for creating
and delivering an effective oral presentation.