Writing 2E








Perfect Paragraph

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 Engineer”
  • 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.


Research Essay

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 review group
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 resources.

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 bibliographic citations.

Technical Report

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 114-20.

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.


free/open source
Word processing

OO Writer, AbiWord
OO Calc
MS Word
MS Excel

GIMP, Inkscape, OO Draw
Fugu, WinSCP
Fetch, WS-FTP
Web browsing
Screen capture
OO Impress


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.

Oral Presentation

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.