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English Composition 2 (Internet)

Assignments -- Unit 1: Writing about Fiction -- Essay Assignment 1
Essay Assignment 1: Analysis of a Short Story

Due Dates

  • Friday, Jan. 30: Draft of at least 500 words due for peer critique.
    Attach your word-processing file to a message under "Drafts for Peer Critique" in the Unit 1 conference of WebBoard.
  • Friday, Feb. 6: Revised Draft of at least 800 words due.
    Attach your word-processing file to a message under "Revised Drafts of Essay 1" in the Unit 1 conference of WebBoard.

The Assignment
For Essay Assignment 1, you need to write an essay of at least 800 words that helps readers understand one of the following short stories:

  • James Joyce's "Araby" (221-224)
  • John Steinbeck's "The Chrysanthemums" (260-266)
  • John Updike's "A & P" (344-348)

You can assume that the audience for your essay has read the story you are analyzing, so you should not simply summarize it. Instead, you should give your audience an interpretation of the story, an insightful explanation that will help your audience understand the story's meaning and significance. Make sure that your entire essay is well focused on one thesis, on one main point that you want to make about the story.

Your paper should follow the conventions of MLA documentation. At the end of each sentence with a quotation from the story, you should include a parenthetical citation of the page number for that quotation, "like this" (67). You also need to include a separate "Work Cited" page listing publication information for the story. A good model is on page 26. The sample essay on pages 51-54 indicates the correct way to cite your source and how to prepare the "Work Cited" page. (And, yes, the material on the "Work Cited" page should be regarded as part of the total word count for the essay.)

A Few Suggestions
The first three chapters of the textbook provide valuable information about writing essays, so make sure to read those chapters carefully. I agree completely with everything that the authors say. Those first three chapters provide an excellent guide to help you through this first essay assignment.

We will discuss all three of the stories in WebBoard, and our discussion should give you good ideas that you might explore in more depth in your essay. Feel free to use some of the ideas suggested by other members of the class, but be careful not to plagiarize from others. Plagiarism would occur if you copied sentences or even phrases from other class members and presented them as your own in your essay. On the other hand, if other class members bring up ideas about a story that you think are interesting or insightful, feel free to use these ideas as a starting point, presenting them in your own way and examining them in more depth in your essay.

You could take any number of approaches to analyzing the meaning of a story, and page 62 of the textbook provides an excellent short guide to "Critical Questions for Reading the Short Story."  Whatever approach you take, make sure that you can support your interpretation with specific evidence from the story. In other words, your paper must be both analytical and persuasive: you should analyze the story but also argue your interpretation with plenty of specific evidence from the story itself. You will not convince readers that you have a good interpretation unless you demonstrate that your interpretation is well supported by the facts, by the details of the story.

Note especially the good advice on page 13 of the textbook: "Devise a thesis that makes its point by relating some aspect of the work to the meaning of the whole--that is, to its theme." The theme is the main point of a work of literature, or, more specifically, the "comment about life" revealed through a work of literature. Supposedly, good short stories tell us something about life in general. Explaining a major theme and how it is developed in the story should be an important part of your essay.

Using Quotations
You will need to use quotations in your essay to help you support and develop your ideas. To avoid plagiarism, make sure to put quotation marks around any phrases you copy from the essay. Once you put quotation marks around material from the essay, make sure that the words within the quotation marks appear in your paper exactly as they appear in the original.

Make sure than none of the quotations in your paper is standing by itself. You should make every quotation a part of one of your own sentences. Please refer to the first part of the Integrating and Using Quotations Properly web page for ways to integrate quotations into your own sentences.

I hate to have to include a warning here about plagiarism, but it seems that one or two students each semester will submit plagiarized essays. Most often, these are essays that students have found at one of the free essay web sites on the Internet. It's easy for me to find these essays. In fact, I have given workshops for other instructors on finding plagiarized essays on the Internet. Please note the following plagiarism policy: any student who attempts to deceive by submitting an essay written by someone else, including an essay copied from the Internet, will be assigned a failing grade for the course. Plagiarism is serious cheating with serious consequences.

Helpful Resources
In classes on campus, we discuss many of the ideas presented on the web pages linked below. In this online course, you will need to spend time reading the material on the web pages carefully. The information below is important for all of the essays that you will write in the course, and you will need to demonstrate a familiarity with the ideas on the web pages to do well on your essays. You should read the web pages linked below carefully:

  • Requirements for All Papers: Obviously, it's important to be familiar with a list of requirements.
  • The Proper Format for Essays: This page is especially importance considering that you are working on your first essay assignment in the course. (Just so you know, I tend to use the words "paper" and "essay" as synonyms.) 
  • Getting Started on Papers: This page offers step-by-step instructions to help you get started on your papers.
  • Integrating and Using Quotations Properly: You will need to use quotations to support your interpretation, and you need to use the correct punctuation with quotations. This quotation web page is long, but make sure to read at least the four different ways to integrate quotations that are explained at the beginning of the page. Also, note that final punctuation is treated differently than how it is explained on the page linked above when you use parenthetical citations (the page numbers in quotations at the ends of sentences). The examples in the textbook are correct.

  • Organizing and Developing a Persuasive Essay: This page provides vital information about organizing and developing persuasive essays. This information applies to all of the essays you write for the course.
  • Organizing and Developing Persuasive Paragraphs: This page provides valuable information about organizing and developing each body paragraph of a persuasive essay. The information on this page applies to all of the essays you write for the course. Do your best to understand this material and to apply it to your own writing!
  • Evaluation and Grading Criteria for Papers: The information on this page is important. It tells you what I look for when I evaluate papers and should help you focus on strengthening different aspects of your paper.

  • Revision Checklist: This page gives you a list of many specific things to consider as you take your papers from rough drafts to final drafts. Two additional checklists provide even more information: Checklist: Organization and the Support and Development of Ideas and Checklist: Style and Mechanics. (The last two Web pages linked here do not have links back to this page--just click your Web browser's "Back" button to return to this page.)

When I evaluate your essay, I assume that you have read the web pages linked above and are familiar with the information presented on the pages, so make sure to ask if you have any questions!

Sample Essay
The essay "Test of One Man's Faith" was recently written by a student in one of my ENG 1002 courses. It's an outstanding essay on "Young Goodman Brown" (164-172) that should help you think about organizing and writing your own essay.

Remember . . .

Before you submit your essay, remember to
  • include a correct "Work Cited" page (based on the model on page 26 of the textbook)
  • make sure that the final punctuation goes after the parenthetical citation, "like this" (298). And remember always to include a space in front of the parenthetical citation.
  • review the sample essay on pages 51-54 and the sample student essay "Test of One Man's Faith." Note especially the effective use of quotations and the correct use of parenthetical citations.

In WebBoard, we have a conference area titled "Questions." Please post any questions that you have about this essay assignment, and I will be happy to respond promptly.

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This page was last updated on Thursday, June 06, 2013. Copyright Randy Rambo, 2004.