Assignments–summer 2005                                                          Engl 4700


This page provides more details about the course assignments.  Clicking on the links below will take you the appropriate place in the page where you can view individual assignment instructions:



Narratives can be the most absorbing and satisfying kind of writing to experience, whether they are read or watched on a screen.  Writing them can be just as engaging, which is why this first assignment focuses on writing a narrative.

In her essay “Writing on the Bias,” Linda Brodkey suggests that writing is intrinsically connected to the writer; she argues that a writer’s belonging to culture (in terms of race, class, gender, and so on) manifests itself in how a text unfolds and what it expresses.  She calls this “writing on the bias,” acknowledging that a bias “may be provided by a theory or an experience or an image or an ideology” (50).  In other words, Brodkey suggests that we all tell stories—that we write on the bias—as a way to make sense of the world.

In this first assignment, I would like you to work with this idea of “writing on the bias” directly.  Be conscious of your “bias” regarding the topic you have chosen for your thesis project or your final paper.  Think about this topic from your perspective: what can you see from your angle of vision?  What is your angle of vision?

When discussing writing on the bias, Brodkey also uses this vivid formulation: “Writing begins for me with something once heard or seen or read that recurs in my mind’s eye as a troubling image—myself as a little girl cautiously descending a staircase—which in turn prompts me to seek a narrative explanation for its persistence” (49).  In this assignment, search for “troubling images” that animate your topic; think about stories, events, and people that have prompted you to become interested in your topic.  Tell a story in which you account for the topic’s nagging meaning for you. 

In your narrative, use some or all of the following elements that characterize narratives:

  • Chronological order

  • Characters

  • Dialogue

  • Setting

  • Description

You may experiment with these components; for example, you may employ flashbacks or flash-forwards.  Also, pay attention to point-of-view (first- or third-person perspective), a consistent tense, and effective organization.



In this assignment we will continue exploring your semester topic from a different mode of development—scholarly research.  With this assignment you should gain more experience and familiarity with basic research methodology which includes strategies for integrating research information smoothly into your paper, using quotations, paraphrases, and summaries.  Further, research methodology also consists of crediting sources through citations and documentation. 

Research data is generally used for development and support of a writer’s argument.  Working with outside sources also means reflecting on your reading, imagining how each particular source might be used in your paper and how it influences your thinking about your topic.  Your decisions about what to borrow from another writer will be shaped by your own context and purpose.  In other words, the value of research depends entirely on how you use it as support for your arguments; do not let sources dictate what and how you write, but use them as developmental aids. 

Writing task:

  • Locate and read one secondary scholarly source that highlights an aspect of your semester topic.  Use your previous assignment to guide you in searching for an appropriate source.

  • Your sources need to be authoritative pieces of scholarship in your field or discipline, such as articles from specialized scholarly journals, chapters from scholarly books, or other such academic work. 

  • Perform a double-entry journal for this source.  For more information on double-entry journals, see the instructions further down this page.

  • Integrate one summary, one paraphrase, and three quotations into your paper, making sure that they reflect the purpose and context of your argument. 

  • Cite and document your sources according to the conventions of either the Modern Language Association (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA).  You will have to make a choice between these two documentation styles based on your topic and your discipline.  Please refer to a current handbook for specific guidelines on documentation.

Important note:

This assignment requires crucial skills for academic writing that can only be honed through careful analysis and practice.  We will practice and discuss quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing extensively in class.  You cannot succeed on this assignment without attending class and participating actively in learning how to integrate research into your paper.  To get full credit, please turn in the assignment and the double-entry journal.



With this assignment, you will continue to examine your semester topic but with a different purpose and with a different mode of development.  One important element of good writing stressed in this class falls under the rubric “critical and complex thinking.”  In order to practice this element of good writing, this third assignment asks you to look at your semester topic from various perspectives.  This is an important step in preparing for your thesis (or for a longer research paper) because good writers recognize that an issue can be approached from different perspectives.  Even if you take one side of a given issue, you need to acknowledge that different people hold different perspectives on that issue.  If you don’t take the time to work through other perspectives, you run the risk of discrediting your argument. 

In her essay “Writing on the Bias” Linda Brodkey also argues that it is important to see other people’s viewpoints.  She suggests that all writing comes from a standpoint, and that as writers we need to realize that our viewpoint is one among others.  As Brodkey puts it, “to write is to find words that explain what can be seen from an angle of vision, the limitations of which determine a wide or narrow bias, but not the lack of one” (50).  Thus, in this assignment I ask that you examine other standpoints besides your own.  What are other people saying about the issue you are investigating?  What perspective do they have?  Why do they have that perspective?  One way to begin thinking about this assignment is to think about different people (in terms of their race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, and so on) and what they would say about your issue.

An approach that pays attention to different perspectives acknowledges that controversial issues involve many different points of view, not just one or two.  Instead of thinking of just one side of an issue, we need to think of as many sides as we possibly can, thus focusing on the complex and muddled perspectives and why different people care about them.  In a way, then, an emphasis on different perspectives keeps conversations in flux and advances change and understanding.  On my syllabus I quote the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said, “There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective ‘knowing’; and the more affects we allow to speak about one thing, the more eyes, different eyes, we can use to observe one thing, the more complete will our ‘concept’ of this thing, our ‘objectivity,’ be.”


I ask that you consider your semester topic from different perspectives by discussing more than two different angles that pertain to your issue.  Think about different explanations, reasons, and viewpoints that might apply to your issue.  Develop each reason in detail: support it with material from an outside source, or from personal experience. In other words, use some kind of credible "evidence" for each perspective to explain why someone might hold that perspective.  This paper should be at least two full pages long.



Our next assignment asks you to prepare an annotated bibliography on your thesis topic.  An annotated bibliography is an organized list of sources (cited in a specific documentation style) that includes books, web pages, articles from journals, newspapers, magazines, interviews, email correspondence, etc., each of which is followed by an annotation or description.  Please look at the example “Annotated Bibliography” under “Writing Samples.”

An annotated bibliography offers an arranged list of bibliographic entries, much like a list of works cited.  The bibliography is usually organized alphabetically by the first word, which is typically the author’s last name.  Each entry is followed by an annotation that ranges in length depending on the purpose and the audience.  Annotations are written in a concise, informative manner. 

  1. All or part of the following items may be described in an annotation:

§         the content (focus) of a text

§         the usefulness of the text

§         any limitations the text may have

§         the audience of the text

§         the methods (research) and their evaluation used in the text

§         reliability of the text

§         the author’s background

§         possible conclusions the author is drawing

§         your reaction to the text

§         how and where you will use this source in your thesis

2.   Annotated bibliographies serve different purposes that include the following:

§         a review of literature on a particular subject

§         an illustration of the quality of the research the writer has


§         a useful example of the types of sources available

§         a description of other items on a topic that may be of interest

           to a reader

§         an exploration of the subject for further research


Write an annotated bibliography containing at least seven sources: one source must be a book, and only one source may be from the Internet.  Focus mainly on serious, scholarly sources.  List sources alphabetically, and provide an annotation for each source that is at least 120 words in length; include all or parts of the items described above under (1).  Make the annotations as useful as possible.  Perform a double-entry journal for each source and turn it in with the assignment.  Use a documentation style appropriate for the discipline in which you are writing (usually MLA or APA).



To access the complete assignment sheet for the actual proposal, please visit Professor Nancy Rushforth's online reserve course, IS 4890.  Read the section "reading" on this class web page for more information on how to access UVSC's online reserve readings. 



As you read the essays for this class, I ask that you write a reading response (400-500 words) about the essays.  Please type it, proofread and edit it, and generally follow MLA or APA manuscript standards.  Feel free to write more if you wish.

Your response should have three components:

  1. A brief summary of the readings.  Give me a clear indication that you have read the entire reading.  Summarize the main points of the text, paying attention to be as accurate as possible. 

  1. A response to the reading.  You may glean some ideas about responding from the following list:

    • What do you find interesting in this reading? Summarize the point of interest and then discuss why you find it interesting.

    • What do you find unclear in this reading assignment? Summarize the section you find muddy or foggy and explain what you think it means but why you're still uncertain.

    • What do you find "linkable" in this reading assignment? Something may link up with your previous reading in this class or in others. Perhaps it links up with an experience you've had or a theory you're developing. Explain the linkages you see.

    • What do you find stimulating or exciting in this reading assignment? Summarize the section and explain why you find it stimulating.

    • What do you find contradictory in this reading assignment? The passage in question may seem to contradict something else the writer(s) has said; it may contradict your reading in another class or in another text in this class; it may contradict common sense; it may contradict your experience or expectation. Explain the contradictions and try to work out what you are going to think about the ideas associated with it.

    • What do you find debatable in this reading assignment? Who would debate this passage and what arguments would he or she bring to the debate? What do you think about the possible positions one can take on the issue discussed in the reading?

    • What do you find practical or useful in this reading assignment? It might be useful in your daily life now, in your professional life now or in the future, in your academic research as you prepare to write a paper. What specifically is useful, and how can it be used?

  1. A comment about the rhetorical aspect of the reading.  How is it written?  What could you say about the writer's style? What stands out? What do you like, and why? Quote relevant passages from the reading to illustrate your point.



Research writing involves a two-fold process:  (1) to collect information, and (2) to think about that information and to make connections between your own ideas and the ideas you encounter in other sources.  Writing with sources means that you try to make the information your own. 

To encourage  this process of knowledge-making, rather than simply recording information like an encyclopedia, I encourage you to do the following exercise, called “double-entry journal.”  This method seems particularly effective at encouraging dialogue between the researcher and her sources.


(Taken from Dewey Litwiller’s webpage at

What's the purpose of a double-entry journal?
The purpose of double-entry journal (DEJ) is to give you an opportunity to express your thoughts and become more involved with the material you encounter. You can do Double-entry Journals for both articles and listenings that are assigned in class.

How does it work?
You will divide your page into two with a vertical line down the center.  On the left side, you will copy down short quotes from the original text that you find interesting in some way.  (On the bottom of this page page are a couple of links to examples of DEJs.) In the right column, you will write your personal responses to the quotes on the left.

What should I write?
Write your reactions to the quote that you chose. Your reactions can include your own opinions, disagreements, interpretations, events in your life that the quote reminds you of, comments about grammar, and guesses about the meaning of new words.  In effect, you are talking back to the author or speaker as you write your responses.  [Also, include how the comment connects to your topic;  how might you use it in your thesis? What purpose might it serve? What do you think of the source? What further questions does the information raise that might be worth investigating? How does the information connect to other sources you’ve read?]

How is a DEJ helpful?
Double-entry journals allow you to pick out the parts that YOU think are important, and to ask the questions that YOU have, instead of doing exercises that the teacher made up.  Doing your reading this way will help to improve your comprehension and vocabulary. It will also help you remember the material better.

Can I see some examples?
Sure you can. Here are two links:

Note these additional features about double-entry journals:

  • Bibliographic information (MLA or APA) style should be noted at the top of the page.  Do that first, and make sure it’s complete.

  • Page numbers should be included in the far-left margin, right next to the information that was taken from that page.  Make sure you keep up with this as you write.

  • While the material from the source in the left column may be quite formal or technical, the response in the right column should be informal, conversational. Try to write in your own voice.  Find your own way to say things.  And don’t hesitate to use “I.”

  • Seize a phrase form the source and play out its implications; think how it pushes your own thinking or relates to your thesis. 

  • Use questions to keep writing and thinking.  Pause to ask yourself questions—not only about what the authors of the original sources might be saying but what connections you are making as you are reading the writers’ points.

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