Effective Writing Assignments

The best writing assignments are those that make instructor expectations and disciplinary writing conventions explicit.

Compiled below are exemplary writing assignments from various areas of study at Miami. Explore them, along with the instructor’s rationale setting up each one, to help you reflect on your own writing assignments.

We’ll keep adding assignments here to provide a truly representative sample of writing across the curriculum at Miami.

Economics 344: Country Report Project

Created by: Dr. Ling Shao, Assistant Teaching Professor

Context from Faculty

ECO 344 is a general elective for economics major, but it is a required course for International Studies major and International Business minor. Therefore, students enrolled in the course come from a variety of majors besides economics. They have varied levels of preparedness in math and economics training. For this reason, the course is not heavy in math. Instead, it focuses on presenting essential international trade and international macroeconomic theories in a relatively simple way. The Country Report Project (CRP) is created so that students can apply their learning of these theories to real world data and policy discussions.

The CRP is a series of assignments closely tied to the weekly content of the course. I chose this format over a single big project after learning about the merits of scaffolding. Students will have a country to work on. Depending on the number of students, it can be done individually or as a group. The country will either be assigned by the instructor or be decided by students themselves. It works well in both face-to-face and online classes. I used the CRP in Fall 2019, Spring 2020, and Summer 2020.

Sample Assignment for Economics 344

Module 1 | Discussion

For this discussion, please decide on a country that you are interested in and use the World Trade Organization (WTO) database to look at actual data on your country’s exports and imports.

Discuss the following questions based on your country’s data:

  1. Does your country run a surplus or deficit in total merchandise trade? How about the balances on certain smaller categories of merchandise trade such as agriculture and manufactures?
  2. What is your country’s top export category? What is your country’s top import category? What does this suggest for your country’s comparative advantage and disadvantage? Does this match what you know about your country’s economic background? Explain briefly.
  3. Please include a data table in your discussion with exports and imports side by side to support your responses.

You must also respond to at least two posts from your classmates. Comment on what you learned, do you agree or disagree with their analysis, etc.

Module 2 | Discussion

For this discussion, please continue to use your country’s trade data that you have obtained. You will discuss winners and losers from trade based on your country’s top exports and top imports. Relate it to the specific-factors model. In addition, you can share any knowledge of your country’s attitude toward trade and comment if it makes sense from an economic perspective. Any trade protests you have witnessed or read about you can share as well.

This discussion will be completed through a video recording:

  • 2 - 3 minutes
  • Must show yourself
  • You can use a few powerpoint slides if it helps make your discussion easier to follow, but it is not required.

Please respond to at least two videos from your classmates. Comment on the substance of the discussion with a critique, a question, a suggestion, or anything you see fit.

Module 3 | Discussion

For this discussion, you will discuss your country’s tariff policy. Please visit the World Trade Organization’s website. From the homepage, click “WTO membership” box in the upper middle. Find and click on the country of your interest. On the country page, please click on the pdf link under “Tariff profile” on the lower left side. Please respond to the following questions and include a screen capture of the pdf in your discussion:

  1. In the summary box at the top of the pdf, what is the country’s average MFN tariff rate in the most recent year?
  2. How does the MFN tariff compare to other summary tariff stats (e.g., final bound, trade weighted average)?
  3. In part A.2 of the pdf, find the product group that has the highest MFN tariff. What is that product group’s share of imports? Who do you think benefits from the tariff on the product? Who do you think is hurt by the tariff?

You must also respond to at least two posts from your classmates. Comment on your impression of their country’s tariff policy and whether their response to the winners and losers of tariff makes sense or not.

Module 4 | Discussion

Below are a few tariff case studies:

  1. History of U.S. Steel Protectionism
  2. Welfare Cost of U.S.-China Trade War

For this discussion, you will meet with me and four other fellow classmates to talk about the two articles. Please read the articles prior to the meeting and take notes of your reading.

Module 5 | Discussion

For this discussion, please decide on a country (excluding the U.S.) that you are curious about and explore the history of its exchange rate policy using this paper. Click on the red PDF icon to access the paper. Please discuss the following questions:

How many different exchange rate regimes does your country have over time?

  1. How many different exchange rate regimes does your country have over time?
  2. Select one regime change and provide some historical background on this change.
  3. What is the current exchange rate policy in your country?
  4. How has your country’s currency been performing against the U.S. dollar in the past year?

You must also comment on at least two posts from your classmates.

Module 6 | Discussion

In this discussion, you will select a country (other than the U.S.) and get exchange rates and inflation data from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Then you will use the data to rest if relative PPP holds between your country and the U.S.

Then discuss the following questions using the data:

  1. Compare your country’s inflation rates to the U.S.
  2. Briefly summarize how your country’s currency has been performing against the dollar over time.
  3. Test to see how well relative PPP holds up using the data from your country and the US.

You must also respond to at least one post from your classmates. Comment on whether the data looks right or not, and whether their understanding of relative PPP is correct or not.

Module 7 | Discussion

For this discussion, imagine you are an advisor from the International Monetary Fund and you are assigned to advise the central bank of an emerging economy on macroeconomic policy issues. Some research beyond the textbook may be necessary.

Please discuss the following in a video (must show yourself; dress properly; use of PPT and visuals allowed; 3 - 4 minutes):

  1. What data would you collect about this economy to help you make recommendations?
  2. What exchange rate policy would you suggest, fixed or floating? Why?
  3. Would you recommend the country open up its capital market (e.g., stock market) to foreign investors or not? Why?
  4. If the central bank wants to know whether or not it can use monetary policy to influence domestic economics, what would you say?

Please vote for your favorite advisor (other than yourself) by posting a reply. Explain briefly what made you decide to vote for him/her.

Module 8 | Discussion

For this discussion, you will select a country (other than the U.S.) to explore its current account.

Current Account Data:

  • Go to IMF BOP data site
  • Click on the table titled “1. Balance of Payments Analytic Presentation by Country”
  • In the country drop-down menu, select your country

>Please discuss the following questions:

  1. Is the current account in surplus or deficit in recent years? Any trends?
  2. Out of TB, NFIA, and NUT, what seems to be the determining factor of your country’s CA outcome? Is this consistent with your country’s development and income status? Why?

You must also respond to at least one post from your classmates. Please comment on whether their data analysis is correct or not and the explanation provided makes sense or not.

Economics 347: Economics of Developing Countries Analysis

Created by: Dr. Janice Kinghorn, Teaching Professor & Assessment Director

Context from the HCWE

This assignment breaks down a complex semester-long analysis into more manageable parts, by having students focus on one or two concepts they are learning each week as they build to the full analysis. The assignment explains the purpose/objectives of the assignment, specifies an audience and genre, provides detailed instructions, and describes explicitly how economists think and write so that students can practice and model those disciplinary ways of knowing.

Sample Assignment for Economics 347

The objective of this project is to allow you to apply ideas and concepts we discuss in class to a specific context - a developing country. Through completing the steps in the project you should gain a better understanding of:

  • The usefulness of standard development indicators for understanding the economy of a country
  • The difficulties in finding and using standard development indicators in low income countries
  • The process of generating hypothesis about development by examining data
  • How economists use theory to better understand development experiences
  • How economists use evidence to make arguments
  • How to communicate like an economist

Students will choose a developing country to work on during the semester and complete a series of assignments, mostly memos, applying what we talk about in class to that country. Through that process I expect students to become experts on their particular country and thus be able to develop a thesis about economic development and write a strong argumentative essay using economic theory to make an argument supported by evidence by the end of the term.

The implied audience for the memos and the final paper is the U.S. ambassador to that country. Remember that the ambassador is busy so it is your job to provide just enough, and never too much information. The communication should be concise, easy to read, and clearly convey your point. More detail on how to write a business memo is at  http://www.fsb.miamioh.edu/fsb/content/programs/howe-writing-initiative/HWI-handout-memo.html. Another source on how to write a business memo is here.

General Notes: In the assignments I often ask you to describe. Economists tend to describe by using graphs and tables. As you are learning the field of economics, I want you to follow this convention. Of course your graphs and tables must be correct, clearly labeled, your source data must be cited in a way the reader can easily find it, and they must be original. Excellent graphs and tables will clearly communicate to the reader without making the reader work too hard to understand your point. The objective is not to demonstrate to the instructor that you found the requested data - I’m assuming you did that - rather to make a clear point with that data.

I will assume that you mean everything you write. Be careful that you don’t use generalizations for stylistic reasons that you can not back up. Be careful of using vague words that you can not define. For example, “country X’s growth rate was huge” would be more appropriately written as “country X’s growth rate averaged 6% over the past ten years”.

I expect all data and claims to be sourced (APA style). Remember that I am trying to teach you to write like an economist, so in this project I’m not only concerned that you know things, but that you can appropriately write about them.

General Grading Criteria: Most assignments, unless otherwise specified, will be graded based on:

  • Is the memo on time, complete, and conforming to requirements?
  • Is the memo professional - free of errors, easy to read, shows evidence of thoughtful tailoring to the audience
  • Is the work properly cited?
  • Do the claims demonstrate that the student can accurately apply the course concepts?
  • Does the application go beyond formulaic to add to an understanding of the country’s experience?

Assignment 1: Millennium Development Goals

Choose a country, which must be approved by your instructor. You must choose a low or middle income country, NOT a high income country. See http://data.worldbank.org/about/country-and-lending-groups#High_income (Links to an external site.). to check and see if your country is high income. You must choose a country with a population of greater than five million. You may not choose a country in which you have lived. You may not choose a country in which war, political instability, or other political factors make the economic situation highly atypical (your instructor will make the judgement about which countries to exclude for this reason). No more than 3 people may choose the same country, and you may benefit from discussing your country with others who are also doing research, but your assignments must be entirely your own. See the shared Google doc linked under the assignment to “sign up” for a country.

Once you have received approval for your country, investigate how well that country achieved the Millenium Development Goals. 1. Choose two goals that you would argue were a success for that country. a. Describe why you can claim they were successful (with evidence) and b. how they were successful (find at least one credible, high quality source). 2. Describe two that they still need to work on, and give evidence for your claim. You might find it helpful to consult http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/Host.aspx?Content=Data/snapshots.htm.

Assignment 2: Income

a. Describe the income, over time, and in context of your country. In class we discuss ways to measure income, so in this assignment I will not specify which you are to use, but you must justify why you chose the measure you did. You must use a professional looking graph that you have created (not copied from the internet) to communicate. You will need to choose what is meant by over time and in context. We will talk about this in class, but in general I want you to make your description meaningful by the inclusion of time and context.

b. Describe the HDI for your country, and comment on the individual components. Pick one other indicator of development that is interest to you, not income or the components of HDI, and describe it for your country. The United Nations publishes data on the HDI at http://hdr.undp.org/en/data.

Assignment 3: Models of Development

We discussed models of development in chapters 3 and 4. Choose two of the models and discuss why they might be applicable to the development experience of your country. This is different from the other assignments because it asks you to apply models to the situation of the country that you have been learning about. To make your argument about applicability you will likely want to use historical experiences, as you are discussing change over time or historical conditions that have an effect on the country today. This assignment may require more library research than the others. In your final paper you will need to use theory to make an argument, so this is an opportunity to try that out. You do not need to stick with what you write for this assignment in your final paper, but you may do so.

Be sure your argument does not rely on “economist x writing in journal y thinks this model is applicable”, rather I want you to make the arguments and provide the evidence yourself. Note that the argument and evidence does not need to be complex - but it does need to be specific, and evidence does need to back up the argument. Because this assignment may be difficult, please discuss with with me if you are having difficulty. This is a great time to come to office hours to brainstorm ideas. You may also want to reach out to the business librarian at this point to help you find high quality resources for background research. You can find more information at https://libguides.lib.miamioh.edu/ECO347.

Assignment 4: Poverty and Inequality

Describe the level of poverty and inequality in your country using standard measures of income and multidimensional poverty (UNDP has this data) that we discussed in class. Do you see any indication that there is a kuznets curve? What are the characteristics of those living in poverty (gender, ethnic origin, age, etc.)?

Assignment 5: Demographic Situation

a. Create a population pyramid for your country. The U.S. Census has this data at https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/idb/informationGateway.php. If your excel skills are a bit rusty you can find tutorials on the web. One is at https://www.census.gov/data-tools/demo/idb/informationGateway.php.

b. How may the demographic situation in your country affect development? I have not specified what I mean by “demographic situation” so you have some latitude to choose which concept/measure from our class discussion is relevant for your country. You will need to be sure and describe (see the notes above for hints on how economists describe) the situation and make an argument connecting it to development. Note that I have also not specified how you must define “development”, so you will have to make that decision thinking about our discussion at the beginning of the term, but be sure you are intentional both in your work and in your communication.

Assignment 6: Thesis Statement

Develop a thesis about economic development in your country. Unlike the other assignments, the product is not a memo, but a one-sentence thesis. In the prior assignments you were asked to explain something that is straightforward once you did the research to find the “facts”. This assignment is different in that it asks you to take your understanding of “facts” and develop an argument by using what you know about the country and what you know about the theory of development. The following examples may get your thinking started:: country x can improve development indicator y by taking z action, country x is underdeveloped because of action y, X is a binding constraint on development of country y.

A thesis is a statement of an argument. A good thesis:

  • Tells the reader how you will interpret the significance of the subject matter under discussion.
  • Serves as a road map for the paper; tells the reader what to expect from the rest of the paper.
  • Is usually a single sentence that presents your argument to the reader in a nutshell (for this assignment you are required to submit a single sentence).

A good thesis must be arguable. That is, it must be something that people could disagree with. A thesis such as “country x should decrease malnutrition among children” is difficult to disagree with. In addition, a good thesis must be specific. “In this paper, I will look at the development of industry in country x” is not a thesis; it is a topic sentence. It says what you will write about but not what you will argue.

For more help with writing a good thesis see this handout from the Howe center http://miamioh.edu/hcwe/handouts/thesis-statements/index.html. You are also encouraged to take advantage of the consultations available at the center. More information is at http://miamioh.edu/hcwe/hwc/index.html. Note that all students in this class may use the Howe Center for Business Writing, even if you are not an FSB student.

If you have not looked at the resources our business librarian has put together when you were doing assignment 3 you may want to do so now. See https://libguides.lib.miamioh.edu/ECO347.

Assignment 6 will be graded based on how many times it takes you to get it right. If you submit an excellent thesis on the first try, you will get full credit. If you are asked to revise your thesis you must submit the first thesis and the revision. The more time it takes for you to get it right, the lower the grade, however you may not write the paper until you get this right.

Assignment 7: Draft

Submit a complete draft of your paper. A complete draft will 1. Have all parts complete (bibliography, footnotes, etc.) 2. Be well proofread (it should not by any means be your first draft). Details of the paper are below.

For information about how to properly cite an idea or a direct quote see https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/in_text_citations_the_basics.html

You must make sure you are fully aware of Miami’s policy on plagiarism (http://miamioh.edu/integrity/student-resources/) and take steps to prevent it http://miamioh.edu/hcwe/handouts/plagiarism-prevention/index.html. Please also review the FSB’s interpretation of the Miami policy at https://miamioh.edu/fsb/academics/integrity/index.html.

Assignment 8: Peer Review

Peer review at least two students’ papers. The peer review will happen in class and you will receive instructions about what I want you to do. This assignment asks you to report on your learnings from that exercise. Write a memo describing 1. two pieces of feedback you received on your paper and how you will respond to them. Note that you do not have to accept the feedback, but if you choose not to make changes based on feedback please note your reasoning. Also describe 2. Two pieces of feedback you gave to each of two classmates and why you think this feedback would make their paper more effective.

Assignment 9: Final Paper

Your final paper should be no more than 1500 words (strictly enforced) not including bibliography (APA style) and good papers are often less. I will not specify a minimum number of sources but your sources should be sufficiently diverse so that you are confident you have an understanding of multiple perspectives and your arguments and evidence are properly sourced. I will check your sources - that is, I will find them and evaluate their quality, so be sure your citations provides enough information that I can easily find them, and make sure you are comfortable with their quality (do you know who the author is? Is the author qualified? Is the argument/evidence subject to peer review or editorial review?)

The format of the paper should be an argumentative essay - you will make an argument, supported by evidence, to substantiate your thesis. More information about this type of writing can be found at https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/essay_writing/argumentative_essays.html.

Because this paper is the culmination of your semester-long effort to apply class material to your country it should be grounded in theories and concepts we used in this class. A paper which may be otherwise excellent but does not reflect the learning in this class this term will not be accepted.

Rubric for Assignment 9 Final Paper

Excellent Work Average Poor
Clarity Grammar, spelling, and style make it easy for the reader to follow. Uses words correctly and avoids jargon unless it is the most precise word. Occasional (2 or 3 per page) grammar, spelling or style problems. Tendency to use vague words or excessive jargon. Problems in grammar, spelling or style that interfere with the author's statements. (Multiple problems in each paragraph).
Evidence/accuracy All claims made are appropriately sourced and correct. Evidence is complete, accurate and compelling. One claim may be unsourced or vague, but the vast majority are complete and accurate. Student may not have used the strongest evidence. More than one claim unsourced or vague, or evidence weak.
Relevance/Significance Topic is significant to both the course and in larger senses (e.g., to individual, to the region). Makes a case for that significance. Topic is obviously central to the course. Achieves learning objectives minimally. Topic choice is only vaguely related to the assignment.
Depth/Breadth Response displays a full understanding of the complexity of the issue addressed and multiple points of view. Recognizes varied interpretations and implications. Of the following 2 tasks, does one well and the other partially or does both partially a) Recognizing varied points of view b) Exploring the topic in depth from one point of view. Of the following 2 tasks, does one well and the other not at all or does both minimally a) Recognizing varied points of view b) Exploring the topic in depth from one point of view. .
Graphs/tables Graphs and tables are appropriate to purpose, successful in enhancing reader’s understanding, clear and easy to read, and properly sourced. Graphs and tables are mostly appropriate, with one or more communication issues or may be not optimal for advancing argument. Graphs and tables not easy to read or contain errors. Content is unnecessary for enhancing understanding.

Assignment 10: Class presentation

The audience for the presentation is your classmates. Your objective is to teach them something about development by showing them how a concept we discussed is class applies to your country. Parts of the presentation are:

  1. Background: give the class enough information about your country so that they can understand the argument you will make, but they do not necessarily need to know everything about the country that you have learned - be strategic in what you want to share.
  2. Problem/thesis: Share with the class what your thesis is, and also why it is important (what is the larger development issue that is at stake)
  3. Argument: Clearly make your argument in a way your classmates will easily follow
  4. Evidence: Convince your classmates that you are correct

Your presentation should be no longer than ten minutes, and you should expect to answer questions. You are expected not only to give a professional presentation but also be professional during your classmates’ presentations. That means your demeanor should indicate to the speaker that you are interested, you should not come in late while someone is speaking, you should occasionally raise your hand to ask questions.

Rubric for Assignment 10 Class Presentation

Excellent Work Average Poor
Background Provided just enough useful information for audience to understand the rest of the presentation. Information is correct, engaging, and easy to understand. Left out some useful context or included some unnecessary detail. Audience may have some confusion over the point. Left out important context and/or cluttered presentation with too much information. Audience may have had to struggle to retain main point.
Thesis Thesis is communicated clearly. Discussion explains why this is an important development issue both to the country and to the field. Thesis is communicated clearly. Discussion of importance is somewhat vague or importance assumed. Unclear thesis or unclear or trivial discussion of importance.
Argument Argument is clear, easy to follow, and sophisticated enough to strongly support thesis. Argument may be slightly hard to follow, vague, or not strongly support thesis (in other words, not strongly convincing. Argument may be hard to follow, vague, or weakly support thesis (in other words, not convincing)
Evidence Presented clearly, all graphs and tables and easy to read and make a clear and relevant point. Presentation is not cluttered with data that does not directly support argument. Presented mostly clearly. Tables and graphs may be not optimized for presentation format or may show opportunities for improvement. Difficult to read or follow, or does not support argument.
Presentation Conventions Respected presentation conventions: turned in on time, made effort to avoid technological issues delaying class, student was professional in the classroom. Mostly respected the conventions. Violated one or more of the conventions.

Due Dates: Fall 2019

A late assignment is an inferior assignment, thus you will receive a 20% reduction per day for an assignment submitted past the due date. Please see Canvas for updated due dates.

History: Dear Reader Memo

Created by: Dr. Erik Jensen, Associate Professor of History

Context from the HCWE

The Dear Reader memo, sometimes called a Writer’s Note, is an assignment developed by Nancy Sommers, Harvard Writing Project, that establishes communication between the writer and the instructor and/or peers (whoever will read the draft) about the state of the draft and the writer’s perceptions of it, both positive and negative, and provides an opportunity for the writer to ask the reader for specific advice. A Dear Reader memo gives the writer an opportunity to reflect on their writing process and in later drafts often includes information about what was revised and why. Instructors should provide a prompt explaining what they want students to include in their memo and should also assign some points or other incentive for completing it.

Sample Assignment

Submit a “Dear Reader” memo (maximum 250 words) at the same time as the draft and a new “Dear Reader” memo at the same time as the final version, but always as a separate document to its own location on Canvas.

The memo for the draft is your opportunity to tell me and your peer reviewer the three aspects of your draft that you are most concerned about, so that we can focus our attention and comments on those three things in particular. (For instance, you might wonder if your organization makes sense, or you might wonder about some particular pieces of evidence that you use.) Your peer reviewer and I will comment on other areas, too, if we see problems and issues in your draft, but your memo should highlight three areas, in particular.

The memo for the final version is your opportunity to tell me how you’ve incorporated my feedback and that of your peer reviewer into this final version. You should highlight specific revisions that you’ve made. You can also use this memo to justify your reasons for not making certain changes that I or your peer reviewer may have recommended, but with which you disagreed.

Timeline
  • Due with your peer-reviewable draft on Tuesday, November 17, by class. Submitted either entirely via Canvas, or by hard copy in class and via Canvas (if we are face to face).
  • Due with your polished final draft by Tuesday, December 8, at 5:00pm. Submitted electronically, via Canvas.

History 111: Primary Source Analysis Essay

Created by: Dr. Lindsay Schakenbach Regele, Robert H. and Nancy J. Blayney Assistant Professor of History

Context from Faculty

This is a scaffolded writing assignment for the class HST111 Survey of American History I. It's intended to introduce students (usually students who are new to history as a discipline) to primary source analysis and thesis-writing in the historical discipline. I created several pre-paper assignment deadlines to get students thinking about their document ahead of time and enable me to help students work through any interpretive issues they were having. Also, I allow students to select their own document to hopefully spark feelings of curiosity and ownership.

Sample Assignment for History 111

*Please read through the assignment description, guidelines and rubric. Following this information, there is a timeline for completing the assignment.

Overview

Primary sources form the base that supports historians’ reconstructions of the past. Historians are always trying to discover both the meaning and the significance of a piece of historical evidence. By meaning, we are trying to reconstitute what that document might have meant (or how it might have been understood) by the historical actors in that era. By significance, we attempt to relate how that evidence contributes to a particular interpretation of the past.

This assignment will give you practice in interpreting historical evidence. A good document analysis will focus upon both the text itself (with attention to the specifics and nuances of language used) and the context (the broader picture of the history of that period that informs the document. Never will simply describing what happened be sufficient as an historical interpretation of a document. No outside research is needed for this, just a familiarity with the material in your textbook.

Choose ONE primary source document from your Voices of Freedom book.

In 3-5 double-spaced pages, address the following sets of questions:

  1. Who wrote the document, and for whom was it written? What does this suggest about the point of view reflected in the document and any potential biases?
  2. Why was the document written, and how does the style/structure help or hinder its purpose?
  3. What do the document's author, audience, and style tell us about the historical context in which this document was produced?
  4. What other kinds of sources would you want to examine to corroborate the document’s claims and understand its context?

Guidelines

Begin your essay with a sentence or two about the author, the date and title of the text, the occasion for which the text was written, and the general subject of the document. If the author's identity is unknown, try to determine as much as you can about the type of person who was responsible for the production of the document. If the document was written after the events it describes, explain what impact that might have had on its construction.

In your introductory paragraph, present a brief summary of your interpretation of the author’s perspective, method, and purpose in writing the text. Your introduction should include a thesis statement that makes an argument about the document’s significance for understanding that period of American history (a good thesis statement requires evidence to support, and could be argued against).

In the body of your essay, you may find that the most efficient and effective way to discuss and analyze the text is to move step by step through the text. After all, that is how the author intended the text to be read or heard. As you present the points that the author makes (offer quotations from the text as evidence for your discussion), you will construct your own analysis, building and developing your interpretation as your essay progresses. Give yourself time to revise your essay, so that you can go back through the essay and refine your interpretation.

In your essay, use the simple past tense to describe what the author wrote: this serves to remind both you and your readers that the author wrote for an audience of his/her contemporaries. Whenever possible, use sentence constructions with the active voice rather than passive voice. Active verbs reiterate the author’s active role in creating the text and the argument, and they encourage you to make connections and draw conclusions about the author and the text.

The essay will be graded according to the following rubric*:

  • Builds on the preparatory work you’ve done  /100
  • Makes a cogent thesis statement  /50
  • Demonstrates an understanding of the document's main points by successfully answering the questions  /200 (50 points for each question)
  • Supports the thesis statement with clearly written and well-organized evidence from the documents  /200
  • Total  /500

*Please see the sample essays for what a “cogent thesis statement” and “well-organized evidence,” etc., look like.

Timeline

In order to help you prepare your essay, I’m asking you to do some work ahead of time. This will help ensure that you understand both the assignment and the document you’ve chosen. It will also allow me to intervene if there are major questions or misunderstandings about the documents. (I expect you to struggle with them a little bit—Primary sources are difficult!)

  • Before September 11, select your document and read through the examples of successful essays that I’ve posted
  • On the Canvas discussion board, post your selection and answer the questions that follow the document., DUE Friday, Sept. 11
  • Look through other students’ posts, and post 5-7 sentences reflecting on your thoughts after reading other students’ choices and if you would like to change the document you have selected (which you are permitted to do) DUE Friday, Sept. 18
  • Upload your answers to the assignment questions (Word document; these can be in draft note form), DUE Friday, October 16
  • Upload final primary source analysis essay (Word document), DUE Friday, November 6

History 198: Continuity/Change Essay

Created by: Dr. Erik Jensen, Associate Professor of History

Context from Faculty

I focused extensively in this course on creating a writing-feedback-rewriting framework. HST 198 (“World History since 1500”) engaged students at all levels of the curriculum, both majors and non-majors. I developed a scaffolded approach to the writing assignments that followed this template:

  • A best-effort draft
  • “Dear Reader” memo for the draft
  • Peer review memo about your partner’s draft
  • Polished final draft with “Dear Reader” memo for the polished, final draft in which the writer addresses instructor comments on the draft as well as peer reviewer’s comments

Note: I used this framework for all three courses I taught during the same semester—HST 198 (“World History since 1500”), HST 331 (“Nineteenth-century Europe”), and HST 410 (“Twentieth-century Germany”). Each of these classes, which I taught all in one semester, has two or three writing assignments. I’ve provided one sample for HST 198 below.

Sample Assignment for History 198

Timeline

  • Due as a peer-reviewable draft on Tuesday, November 17, by class. Submitted either entirely via Canvas, or by hard copy in class and via Canvas (if we are face to face).
  • Due as a polished final draft by Tuesday, December 8, at 5:00pm. Submitted electronically, via Canvas.

Why am I having you write this Essay?

This assignment hones your ability to present a clear argument that is supported by evidence and written in a manner that is accessible to people who may have a limited background in the subject matter. This is a job skill. Whether submitting grant proposals for a non-profit organization or assessing business models for a consulting firm, an ability to write thoughtfully and persuasively will serve you well.

By prompting you to examine the explicit, implicit, and perhaps even unconscious arguments, assumptions, and experiences represented in the five texts for our course, this essay also encourages you to do the historian’s work of interpreting and presenting a vision of the past. This is an unavoidably subjective enterprise, and it makes your engaged and critical reading of these texts so important.

The Prompt

Other than in its expanding size and power, the general nature and purpose of the state has not changed that much over the past five hundred years. Based on your readings and comparison of The Death of Woman Wang, The History of Mary Prince, Abina and the Important Men, Spider Eaters, and The Origins of the Modern World, do you agree or disagree? Why?

The Process

In a well-organized essay of around 2,000 words (roughly 7 pages, double-spaced), answer the question based on your reading of the five assigned texts from this course. You must include at least fourteen (14) direct quotations from the texts, with at least four (4) coming from Spider Eaters; at least four (4) coming from The Origins of the Modern World; and at least two (2) coming from each of the three remaining texts. Explain each quotation’s relevance to your larger argument.

Since this is an historical essay, use dates in order to provide the necessary context for a given quotation, event, or trend. You should cite the source of the quotation in a footnote or an endnote. Here’s an example:

In Chapter 5, Robert Marks argues that transformations in economic production led to the emergence of new forms of identity, noting that "industrialization created new social classes, especially the urban working class and the capitalist class."[1] (This example also highlights the fact that you should introduce every quotation.) For subsequent quotations that come from the same source as the preceding quotation, do this.[2]

Focus on the prompt. Your answer to it constitutes your thesis, which your entire essay should then seek to support. If a piece of information does not advance your thesis, do not include it. You can just as easily write an "A" paper that disagrees with the prompt as one that agrees with it. The skill, clarity, and integrity with which you craft your argument determines your grade.

  • No quotation should be longer than 40 words (i.e. NO block quotations).
  • Introduce each quotation so that the reader knows who has written the words that appear within the quotation marks and can put those words in context.
  • Always underline the title of a book, like this, or place it in italics, like this.

The Audience

Provide enough background information so that a person will understand the logic of your argument and the relevance of your examples even without having read any of the five texts in question.

Academic Integrity

If you are strapped for time before the final version is due, *request an extension,* which in this case might mean asking for an Incomplete for the semester. An “I” is far preferable to a conviction for academic dishonesty. Know the policies stated in the student handbook regarding academic integrity. For this assignment, you should not use any source other than the assigned text (in paper or e-book format) and the in-class discussions. If you have any questions at all about what is appropriate to use, please see me.

Grading (and Peer-Review) Rubric

  1. Thesis and Introduction:
    1. Is the thesis clear, and does it address the prompt?
    2. Does the introductory section provide a “roadmap” that succinctly summarizes the author’s main points and organization of the essay?
    3. If the essay acknowledges the opposing argument, is that acknowledgment brief and concluded with a reiteration of the thesis?
  2. Examples/Evidence:
    1. What pieces of evidence support the argument?
    2. What types of evidence might be missing?
    3. Does the author include at least the minimum number of quotations, and does the author effectively frame each one to show how it supports the argument?
  3. Focus and Flow
    1. Does the essay stay focused on its thesis and adhere to its organizational roadmap?
    2. Are transitions between the paragraphs smooth, and does each paragraph have a topic sentence and clear focus?
    3. Does the essay have a forceful conclusion?
  4. Attention to Facts, Format, Spelling, and Syntax (another job skill):
    1. Are the quotations, dates, and historical context accurate? Are words and names spelled correctly? Peer reviewers: Circle anything that looks suspicious, so that the author knows to double check it.
    2. Has the author written clearly – avoiding repetition, using comfortable vocabulary, and employing passive voice only where it makes sense to do so?

1. Robert B. Marks, The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-first Century, second edition (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 140. 2. Ibid., 185.

History 331: Power Essay

Created by: Dr. Erik Jensen, Associate Professor of History

Context from Faculty

I focused extensively in all three courses [taught during one semester] on creating a writing-feedback-rewriting framework. I developed two or three writing assignments in each class. The three courses—HST 198 (“World History since 1500”), HST 331 (“Nineteenth-century Europe”), and HST 410 (“Twentieth-century Germany”)—engaged students at all levels of the curriculum, both majors and non-majors. For all three classes, I developed a scaffolded approach to the writing assignments that followed the same template:

  • A best-effort draft
  • “Dear Reader” memo for the draft
  • Peer review memo about your partner’s draft
  • Polished final draft with “Dear Reader” memo for the polished, final draft in which the writer addresses instructor comments on the draft as well as peer reviewer’s comments

Sample Assignment for History 331

Timeline

  • Due as a peer-reviewable draft on Tuesday, November 17, by class. Submitted either entirely via Canvas, or by hard copy in class and via Canvas (if we are face to face).
  • Due as a polished final draft by Tuesday, December 8, at 5:00pm. Submitted electronically, via Canvas.

Why am I having you write this Essay?

This assignment hones your ability to present a clear argument that is supported by evidence and written in a manner that is accessible to people who may have a limited background in the subject matter. This is a job skill. Whether submitting grant proposals for a non-profit organization or assessing business models for a consulting firm, an ability to write thoughtfully and persuasively will serve you well.

By prompting you to make an argument about which sets of forces you think had the greatest impact on people’s lives during a particular period of time, this essay also emboldens you to “do history,” which entails interpreting, presenting, and supporting with evidence your vision of the past.

The Prompt

The state (governments, judicial systems, laws, national and local bureaucracies) shaped people's lives in the 19th century more profoundly than did broader cultural, social, economic, or environmental forces or non-state institutions. Based on do you agree or disagree? Why?

The Process

In a well-organized essay of around 3,000 words (roughly 10-11 pages, double-spaced), answer the question based on your reading of The Transformation of the World, The Communist Manifesto, and A Doll’s House. You must include at least fourteen (14) direct quotations from The Transformation of the World, at least eight (8) of which must come from the last nine chapters (Chapter XI through the Conclusion), and from five different ones among those last nine. In addition, you must include at least three (3) direct quotations from The Communist Manifesto and three (3) from A Doll’s House. Explain each quotation’s relevance to your larger argument.

Since this is an historical essay, use dates in order to provide the necessary context for a given quotation, event, or trend. You should cite the source of the quotation in a footnote or an endnote. Here’s an example:

In Chapter VII, on "Frontiers," Osterhammel seems to downplay the pervasiveness of territorial acquisitions, when he writes, "In nineteenth-century Europe, especially outside Russia, colonial landgrabs on a large scale became a rarity."[1] (This example also highlights the fact that you should introduce every quotation.) For subsequent quotations that come from the same source as the preceding quotation, do this.[2]

Focus on the prompt. Your answer to it constitutes your thesis, which your entire essay should then seek to support. If a piece of information does not advance your thesis, do not include it. You can just as easily write an "A" paper that disagrees with the prompt as one that agrees with it. The skill, clarity, and integrity with which you craft your argument determines your grade.

  • No quotation should be longer than 40 words (i.e. NO block quotations).
  • Introduce each quotation so that the reader knows who has written the words that appear within the quotation marks and can put those words in context.
  • Always underline the title of a book, like this, or place it in italics, like this.

The Audience

Provide enough background information so that a person will understand the logic of your argument and the relevance of your examples even without having read The Communist Manifesto, A Doll’s House, or The Transformation of the World.

Academic Integrity

If you are strapped for time before the final version is due, *request an extension,* which in this case might mean asking for an Incomplete for the semester. An “I” is far preferable to a conviction for academic dishonesty. Know the policies stated in the student handbook regarding academic integrity. For this assignment, you should not use any source other than the assigned text (in paper or e-book format) and the in-class discussions. If you have any questions at all about what is appropriate to use, please see me.

Grading (and Peer-Review) Rubric

  1. Thesis and Introduction
    1. Is the thesis clear, and does it address the prompt?
    2. Does the introductory section provide a “roadmap” that succinctly summarizes the author’s main points and organization of the essay?
    3. If the essay acknowledges the opposing argument, is that acknowledgment brief and concluded with a reiteration of the thesis?
  2. Examples/Evidence
    1. What pieces evidence support the argument?
    2. Are they the strongest pieces of evidence
    3. What types of evidence might be missing?
    4. Does the author include at least the minimum number of quotations, and does the author effectively frame each one to show how it supports the argument?
  3. Focus and Flow
    1. Does the essay stay focused on its thesis and adhere to its organizational roadmap?
    2. Are transitions between the paragraphs smooth, and does each paragraph have a topic sentence and clear focus?
    3. Does the essay have a forceful conclusion?
  4. Attention to Facts, Format, Spelling, and Syntax (another job skill):
    1. Are the quotations, dates, and historical context accurate? Are words and names spelled correctly? Peer reviewers: Circle anything that looks suspicious, so that the author knows to double check it.
    2. Has the author written clearly – avoiding repetition, using comfortable vocabulary, and employing passive voice only where it makes sense to do so?

References: 1. Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, trans. Patrick Camiller (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014), 323. 2. Ibid.,115.

HST 410: Dictatorship Essay

Created by: Dr. Erik Jensen, Associate Professor of History

Context from Faculty

I focused extensively in all three courses [taught during one semester] on creating a writing-feedback-rewriting framework. I developed two or three writing assignments in each class. The three courses—HST 198 (“World History since 1500”), HST 331 (“Nineteenth-century Europe”), and HST 410 (“Twentieth-century Germany”)—engaged students at all levels of the curriculum, both majors and non-majors. For all three classes, I developed a scaffolded approach to the writing assignments that followed the same template:

  • A best-effort draft
  • “Dear Reader” memo for the draft
  • Peer review memo about your partner’s draft
  • Polished final draft with “Dear Reader” memo for the polished, final draft in which the writer addresses instructor comments on the draft as well as peer reviewer’s comments

Sample Assignment for History 410

Timeline

  • Due as a peer-reviewable draft on Tuesday, November 19, by class. Submitted either entirely via Canvas, or by hard copy in class and via Canvas (if we are face to face).
  • Due as a polished final draft by Tuesday, December 8, at 5:00pm. Submitted electronically, via Canvas.

Why am I having you write this Essay?

This assignment hones your ability to present a clear argument that is supported by evidence and written in a manner that is accessible to people who may have a limited background in the subject matter. This is a job skill. Whether submitting grant proposals for a non-profit organization or assessing business models for a consulting firm, an ability to write thoughtfully and persuasively will serve you well.

By prompting you to examine the explicit, implicit, and perhaps even unconscious arguments, assumptions, and experiences represented in the five texts for our course, this essay also encourages you to do the historian’s work of interpreting and presenting a vision of the past. This is an unavoidably subjective enterprise, and it makes your engaged and critical reading of these texts so important.

The Prompt

The individual motivations for cooperating with, opposing, or simply tolerating the Nazi and East German regimes were broadly similar. Based on your reading of Kershaw and Funder, do you agree or disagree? Why?

When you are looking at cooperation, opposition, or toleration/submission, you will want to consider an array of motivations, including patriotism, peer pressure, familial ties, material desire, longing for greater rights, obedience, and so on. Our class discussions will play a central role in helping us to think through these motivations.

The Process

In a well-organized essay of around 3,000 words (roughly 10-11 pages, double-spaced), answer the question based on your reading of The End and Stasiland. You must include at least sixteen (16) direct quotations, eight (8) of which must come from Kershaw and eight (8) of which must come from Funder. Draw these quotations from different chapters throughout both works, rather than from just a single chapter or section. Explain each quotation’s relevance to your larger argument.

Since this is an historical essay, use dates in order to provide the necessary context for a given quotation, event, or trend. You should cite the source of the quotation in a footnote or an endnote. Here’s an example:

In his discussion of the role of Jews during the Revolutions of 1848, Elon notes the multi-generational nature of this involvement when he writes, "An older generation of Jewish militants found a role as well." [1] (This example also highlights the fact that you should introduce every quotation.) For subsequent quotations that come from the same source as the preceding quotation, do this.[2]

Focus on the prompt. Your answer to it constitutes your thesis, which your entire essay should then seek to support. If a piece of information does not advance your thesis, do not include it. You can just as easily write an "A" paper that disagrees with the prompt as one that agrees with it. The skill, clarity, and integrity with which you craft your argument determines your grade.

  • No quotation should be longer than 40 words (i.e. NO block quotations).
  • Introduce each quotation so that the reader knows who has written the words that appear within the quotation marks and can put those words in context.
  • Always underline the title of a book, like this, or place it in italics, like this.

The Audience

Provide enough background information so that a person will understand the logic of your argument and the relevance of your examples even without having read The End or Stasiland.

Academic Integrity

If you are strapped for time before the final version is due, *request an extension,* which in this case might mean asking for an Incomplete for the semester. An “I” is far preferable to a conviction for academic dishonesty. Know the policies stated in the student handbook regarding academic integrity. For this assignment, you should not use any source other than the assigned text (in paper or e-book format) and the in-class discussions. If you have any questions at all about what is appropriate to use, please see me.

Grading (and Peer-Review) Rubric

  1. Thesis and Introduction
    1. Is the thesis clear, and does it address the prompt?
    2. Does the introductory section provide a “roadmap” that succinctly summarizes the author’s main points and organization of the essay?
    3. If the essay acknowledges the opposing argument, is that acknowledgment brief and concluded with a reiteration of the thesis?
  2. Examples/Evidence
    1. What pieces evidence support the argument?
    2. Are they the strongest pieces of evidence
    3. What types of evidence might be missing?
    4. Does the author include at least the minimum number of quotations, and does the author effectively frame each one to show how it supports the argument?
  3. Focus and Flow
    1. Does the essay stay focused on its thesis and adhere to its organizational roadmap?
    2. Are transitions between the paragraphs smooth, and does each paragraph have a topic sentence and clear focus?
    3. Does the essay have a forceful conclusion?
  4. Attention to Facts, Format, Spelling, and Syntax (another job skill):
    1. Are the quotations, dates, and historical context accurate? Are words and names spelled correctly? Peer reviewers: Circle anything that looks suspicious, so that the author knows to double check it.
    2. Has the author written clearly – avoiding repetition, using comfortable vocabulary, and employing passive voice only where it makes sense to do so?

References: 1. Amos Elon, The Pity of It All: A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch, 1743-1933 (New York: Picador, 2002), 163. 2. Ibid.,197.

Gerontology 354: Rhetorical Analysis

Created by: Dr. Kate de Medeiros, Professor & O'Toole Family Professorship

Context from Faculty

For this undergraduate class, students work on a final persuasive paper based on a controversy of their choice over the course of the semester. I wanted them to read carefully to see how written language can be used to set a tone, to subtly persuade, to speak with authority, to leave one with a certain emotion, and so on. They first complete the rhetorical analysis on controversy articles from the “Opposing Viewpoints” database. After they write their draft, they use the same rhetorical analysis steps to provide a peer review on a classmate’s paper.

Sample Assignment from Gerontology 354

A critical part of writing well is learning to read with a discerning eye. A rhetorical analysis is a close reading of someone else’s work where you pay very close attention to not only what the writer says, but how the writer uses language – word choices, sentence structures, opposing arguments, tone, arguments structure, and others – to convey their point.

  1. Navigate to the “Opposing Viewpoints” database via the library’s website. Here is a brief video that shows you how to do this in case you are not familiar.
  2. Select a topic that is different than your own but is related to aging.
  3. Read the viewpoint essay for the topic you selected. Write or paste the title of the essay here, as well as the url.
  4. Please respond to the following questions. Although I will not be grading grammar, please use complete sentences in your explanation and adhere to principles of good writing. You will upload this as a pdf. Since this is worth 28 points, I expect you to spend some time and provide thoughtful and complete answers. I will take points off for answers that are too brief or that do not show that you've spent time and thought on this assignment. As always, provide clear examples to support your claims.
    1. Who is the intended audience of this piece? How do you know? I am not asking you to simply guess based on the title, but see if there are subtle ways that the author conveys this.
    2. What is the purpose of the piece – the thesis? Either copy a sentence that you believe is the thesis or rephrase in your own words.
    3. What is the effect the author intends to have on readers? How do you know? Include “evidence” in your response (e.g., copy a sentence, some phrases – whatever makes your case.)
    4. What are the main arguments that the author uses to support his/her case? (You can cut and paste sentences from the text or explain in your own words.) Does the author bring up counter-arguments? (You can cut and paste sentences from the text or explain in your own words.) Overall, how effective would you say the author’s arguments are? Please explain your response.
    5. Does the author support his/her argument with additional information or data? Please give examples. How believable/reliable is that data? Please explain.
    6. Overall, what feelings are you left with after reading the piece (e.g., anger, sadness, outrage, etc.) Since emotions in a text are a direct result of the specific words, among other things, find words in the essay that contribute to your feelings.
    7. Another effective strategy that writers use is varied sentence length. Focus on one paragraph in the essay. How long are each of the sentences? Is there any relationship you see between sentence length and the message and/or emotions conveyed? Explain your answer and provide support.
    8. After reading this, what, if any, of the literary devices would you apply to your own work? What literary devices in this piece would you not apply to your own work. Please explain.
    9. In your opinion, was the essay a good piece of writing? Why or why not? (There is no right answer but be sure to support your response with clear examples and/or explanations.)

Gerontology 602: Theory Project

Created by: Dr. Jennifer Kinney, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies

Sample Assignment for Gerontology 602

At this point in the semester you have a good overview of gerontology (in large part on de Medeiros, 2017) and are beginning to read a variety of genre (journal articles, encyclopedia entries, book chapters) written for an academic gerontology audience. Over the remainder of the semester you will continue to learn about gerontological theory and its application. During this time, in addition to your assigned out-of-class reading and our class sessions, you will complete a theory project. For this project, you will explore a specific gerontological concept that you are particularly interested in/that will be most helpful to you as you prepare to be a gerontologist. Specifically, you will document the development of the concept in gerontology and its theoretical underpinnings. You will complete the project in specific steps, and receive feedback/be evaluated on each step of the project. For several of the steps you will revise your work based on the feedback you get from your peers and/or me, and incorporate the feedback into a revision that is included in the final step of the project. At the end of the semester you will present an overview of your paper to the class.

Specific instructions for each step of the project (1-8) are listed below.

Step 1: Your Initial Idea

Pick a contemporary concept in gerontology in which you are particularly interested. If a topic does not immediately come to mind, you might think about: 1) your previous work with/on behalf of older adults; 2) what interested you when you were applying to graduate school; 3) new interests that have emerged through your classwork, GA work, and other experiences and/or an area that you would like to learn more about.

For Step 1, please turn in the following:

  1. List the top 1- 3 ideas or concepts that you have learned from your prior knowledge/experience related to gerontology.
  2. For each of the concepts listed, how does your prior knowledge relate to what we have read so far or what you are interested in learning more about?
  3. What do you need to know (e.g., more theories, applicable examples) to gain more insight into the concept/theory that you are most interested in?

Step 1 of your theory project is due during week 4 of the semester and is worth 5 possible points (2% of the written theory project, which is worth a total of 210 points).

Step 2: Identifying and Reflecting on Your Topic

Last week, I asked you to start thinking about a topic you'd like to explore. Now I am asking you to commit to that topic.

  1. Step 2 Product: Write a 1-2 paragraph description of what concept you plan to explore, and why you chose that concept. The audience for this concept description is me— your course instructor/a gerontology faculty member. Because of the audience, this should be well thought out and well written. You will get feedback from me about your concept description and should take this feedback into account when you complete Step 3.
  2. Step 2 Reflection: Please write 1 to 2 paragraphs addressing the following questions. (worth 5 points)
    1. How much of your topic relies on your previous learning or experience?
    2. What new information/perspective do you hope to gain through your topic?
    3. How do you hope to apply your topic to your future work in the GTY program?
    4. What additional challenges will you need to face (e.g., mastering a new literature, changing previous ways of thinking) to accomplish your goal for this project?

Your concept description and reflection (in one document) is due during week 5 of the semester and is worth 15 possible points (7% of the written theory project, which is worth a total of 210 points).

Step 3: Contemporary Thinking on Your Topic

Find 3-5 contemporary (published within the past 5 years) scholarly journal articles or book chapters on your topic. Probably the most efficient way to identify these sources is through Miami University’s online databases. The sources can be either “thought pieces” or report on research, but they should provide context and information about your concept in the context of a particular gerontological lens/perspective/theory (this might not be explicit--you might need to figure it out) and must include citations in the text and a reference list. In choosing sources, look for interesting, clearly written articles that help you understand your concept. Do not simply choose the first sources you find! Although your final project will focus on one of these articles, it is important that you are familiar with several contemporary articles on your concept.

  1. Step 3 Product: For three of the sources (i.e., articles or book chapters) you identified, prepare a summary. You can either prepare a 1-page narrative summary for each source, or you can use a modified version of the Howe Writing Center matrix (similar to the one we have used in class).

Regardless of the format you choose, your summary should include definition of the key concept(s); what lens/perspective/theory the authors use to contextualize and/or ground the concept; and the purpose, major points/findings, and what you learned from each source. The audience for the summary(ies) is primarily yourself and your instructor/consultant who will give you feedback about your ideas (as opposed to the quality of your writing). Be sure that your ideas/writing are clear enough that another reader can understand what you are saying.

Your summary(ies) and the three sources are due during week 7 of the semester and is worth 30 possible points (14% of the written theory project, which is worth a total of 210 points).

Step 4: Looking Back/Historical Influences

Choose the source from Step 3 that is most useful in helping you understanding your concept in the context of particular gerontological lenses/perspectives/theories. Carefully re-read the source, paying attention to the citations in the text (focus on the citations in the introduction and discussion if your source is an empirical article). After you have re-read the source, review its reference list. Mark/highlight the citations that you are most interested in reading because you think they will help you better understand your concept in the context of a particular gerontological lens/perspective/theory. The articles do not need to use the same lenses/perspectives/theories. Next, review the references that you marked/highlighted. Select: 1) a reference with one of the earliest publication dates, 2) a reference with one of the most recent publication dates, and 3) a reference with a publication date that falls between the two. Again, the three articles can use different lenses/perspectives/theories. In fact, you will probably have more to write about if they do use different lenses/perspectives/theories.

  1. Step 4 Product: Prepare one combined summary for the three sources you identified. In contrast to your summaries from Step 3, which could be in the form of an narrative for each source or a modified version of the Howe Writing Center matrix (either one matrix per source, or one matrix with all three sources), the focus of your Step 4 summary should be how the articles “talk” to one another (e.g., how your concept developed from the earliest to the most recent article, the gerontological lens/perspective/theory used in each source, the commonalities and discrepancies across the three sources), and it should be in the form of one narrative or one matrix for all three sources. The summary (whether it is a narrative or matrix) can address the following topics:
  • definitions of the concept
  • how the concept is used in the conceptualization/research
  • strengths and weaknesses in how the concept is defined/used
  • suggestions to improve how the concept is conceptualized/measured

Note: the above topics are suggestions; you should modify them to address the points you want to make in your paper.

The audience for the summary of historical sources matrix is primarily yourself and your instructor/consultant who will give you feedback about your ideas (as opposed to the quality of your writing). Again, make sure that your ideas/writing are clear enough that another reader can understand what you are saying.

Your summary of historical sources is due during week 9 of the semester and is worth 30 possible points (14% of the written theory project, which is worth a total of 210 points).

Step 5: Constructing your “Story”

Review the matrix you prepared in Step 4 and the summary of the contemporary article that contained those references. It might also be helpful to re-read the articles. Think about what you have learned about your concept and what “story” you want to share with your colleagues about the theoretical development of your concept in gerontology.

  1. Step 5 Product: Develop a “blueprint” of the story you want to tell your audience, which is other scholars in gerontology. This blueprint can take the form of a traditional outline, a “forensic or concept map," or any other format that “works” for you. Although you should keep in mind that the audience for your final paper is other scholars in gerontology, the audience for the blueprint is yourself and your instructor/peers who will give you feedback about your ideas.

Your blueprint is due during week 10 of the semester and is worth 30 possible points (14% of the written theory project, which is worth a total of 210 points).

Step 6: Putting it all Together

  1. Step 6 Product: Develop your blueprint into a 5-10 ish- page paper. This academic paper should be written for other gerontology scholars. The purpose of this paper is to explain the evolution of gerontological thinking about your concept, with an emphasis on the lenses/perspectives/theories that informed this thinking, and for you to speculate (in an informed way) about how this concept will continue to develop in gerontology.

Your paper is due during week 12 of the semester and you should bring a copy to class, where a peer will be assigned to give you feedback. Your draft is worth 40 possible points (19% of the written theory project, which is worth a total of 210 points).

Step 7: Peer Review

  1. Step 7 Product: You will be assigned as a peer reviewer for one of your classmates. Carefully read the draft of their paper, and provide written feedback. You will be given specific guidelines for the feedback. Your peer feedback is due during week 13 of the semester and is worth 20 possible points (10% of the written theory project, which is worth a total of 210 points).

Step 8: The Finish Line

  1. Step 8 Product: Using the feedback you received, prepare, revise and finalize your paper. Your final paper is due during exam week. Your final paper is worth 40 possible points (20% of the assignment, which is worth a total of 210 points).

Step 9: Final Oral Presentation

Each student will present a 10-12 minute oral presentation of their theory project. This will take place over two class periods. We will determine the days/order of the presentation as the time gets closer. Each student will also be asked to complete a rubric (located here) for each student's presentation (except for your own).

The presentation should:

  1. have an appropriate powerpoint presentation that uses minimal text and instead uses engaging graphics/images when appropriate.
  2. be well rehearsed so that it sounds confident but not scripted.
  3. final paper. Remember, we as an audience do not need to know everything. Instead, you should present a coherent story of why your concept matters.

NOTE: The presentation must not exceed 12 minutes. I will cut you off at the 12 minute mark. It is important to be mindful of other people's time so staying within the allotted time is key.

The presentation will occur during the last week of classes and will be worth a total of 25 possible points.

Gerontology 702: Weekly Synthesis Assignment

Created by: Dr. Kate de Medeiros, Professor & O'Toole Family Professorship

Context from Faculty

The synthesis exercise was based on our observation that students had a tendency to summarize literature, not synthesize ideas. Through this exercise, I wanted to force students to read two very different articles to come up with a synthesis that somehow brought together key ideas from both. We did this weekly. Although difficult for them at first, they gradually became more comfortable with and proficient at synthesizing literature as the semester progressed.

Sample Assignment for Gerontology 702

I borrow this definition of a literature "synthesis": "Synthesis writing is a form of analysis related to comparison and contrast, classification and division. On a basic level, synthesis requires the writer to pull together two or more summaries, looking for themes in each text. In synthesis, you search for the links between various materials in order to make your point." A synthesis is not just a mere summary. It is an integrated analysis whereby you should demonstrate not only that you read and understood the readings, but also that you can pull key points together in some cohesive way. The readings will often not be obviously related. However, find a way to be true to their essence while also using them to build a new observation or idea.

synthesis: Article 1 and 2

Your synthesis should be at least 2 paragraphs long.

Avoid using block quotes (taking large chunks of direct text in quotations.) Everything should be in your own words with proper citation using APA formatting.

You should demonstrate a deep reading and understanding of some major points.

Bring these points together to pull together something related to gerontology.

Remember, this is a theory course.  You should not focus on methods, on study design, findings, or anything outside of theory.

Use only the articles assigned for that week. Do not bring in outside readings or sources.

Gerontology 702: Reverse Genealogy Assignment

Created by: Dr. Kate de Medeiros, Professor & O'Toole Family Professorship

Context from Faculty

I found that students, even doctoral students, were not reading critically. This assignment came about during the Fellows program with relation to understanding how to build on past work when writing an article, especially in the literature review. I wanted students to clearly see what the “bones” of an article looked like by looking at its foundation – the references. It was very successful. Students were surprised to see the connections between the articles cited and the final article, which they were given after completing this exercise.

Sample Assignment for Gerontology 702

Attached is a reference list for a gerontology article. Using only this list, attempt to make sense of what the article is about and what are the major influencing literatures cited. Pay close attention to details such as: what journals are cited, what "classic" works (if any) are included, whether there are topics that you could group together, what authors are cited. You do not need to upload this — you can have hand drawn diagrams or notes if that is easier. Be prepared to discuss during class.

Gerontology 705: Genre Analysis

Created by: Dr. Jennifer Kinney, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies

Sample Assignment for Gerontology 705

The purpose of this activity is to explain the conventions of a particular sub-genre of gerontological writing (e.g., abstract, introduction, method, discussion) and relate these conventions to the work that the genre does for the gerontologists who use it. The main question the analysis should address is why the genre takes the shape(s) that it does given what gerontologists are trying to accomplish when they use that genre. Doing this type of analysis for different genre will enable us to: 1) articulate what that genre “looks like” in gerontology and 2) be able to more successfully create documents in that genre.

After you have carefully engaged with the exemplars/examples from the genre, identify their commonalities using the categories and questions of analysis identified by Sojna Foss (2018) as a starting point:

1. Situational elements

  • What conditions (situations) call for this genre?
  • What prompts this sort of document to be written?
  • What is the exigence—the need or reason for a given action or communication?
  • Who usually creates this genre—people doing what?

2. Substantive characteristics (content)

  • What sort of content (substance) is typically contained in this genre?
  • What do these texts tend to talk about or say?
  • Is there information that is typically present (or not present) in these texts?

3. Stylistic characteristics (form)

  • What form does this sort of genre take and what does it look like (length, page layout, color, font)?
  • How are its parts organized?
  • What language does it use?
  • Are there specialized terms?
  • How are references/citations used in the text?
  • What “moves” (e.g., transitions, signposting) are made?
  • What tone/voice does it take (formal, informal, dense, light; passive, active)?

4. Organizing Principles

  • What elements make this genre what it is?
  • What are the common denominations of the genre (for example, what makes a resume a resume?
  • For each characteristic you identify in 1-3 above, you might ask “If I took out this characteristic, would it still be recognizable as this genre?”

Your analysis should “tell the story” of the genre, including how what the genre needs to accomplish leads to the shape it typically takes; how this genre is most often used; and the features that your analysis indicates are required; features that appear to be optional. A good analysis includes a clear explanation of who uses the genre and for what purpose(s), conclusions based on comparison of several exemplars/examples of the genre; accurate assessments of the genre’s key elements; a clear organizational structure that includes a logical progression through the elements of the genre that your analysis highlights.

The source for the genre analysis guidelines: Foss, Sonja K. 2018. Rhetorical Criticism: Exploration and Practice 5th edition. Long Grove, IL: Waveland