English Composition 1
Diagnostic Essay: Analysis of Langston Hughes' "Salvation" (handout)
Tuesday, January 14 (by the end of the class period)
The Diagnostic Essay: Purpose and Expectations
The diagnostic essay allows me to offer you feedback on your writing at the beginning of the course. Completing the diagnostic essay is a required part of the course (the essay counts toward the number of essays that students must write in the course), but the diagnostic essay will not receive a grade. However, the diagnostic essay will be evaluated, with feedback that you can apply to your other essays. The diagnostic essay is a good way for you to receive feedback on your writing early in the semester without having to worry about a grade, and it also gives me an idea of how much you know about writing an essay at the beginning of the course. In fact, the essay is called "diagnostic" because it allows you to receive a "diagnosis" of your writing at the beginning of the course, a "diagnosis" being "a critical analysis of the nature of something."
You will have at least two weeks to work on each of your graded essays, plenty of time to plan, pre-write, write, revise, and proofread, major aspects of the writing process that are vital to writing a good essay. However, you do not have as much time to write your diagnostic essay. I don't expect any literary masterpieces, but I will be looking for the basics:
- an introduction and conclusion,
- a thesis statement,
- relevant topic sentences,
- body paragraphs focused on one main idea each,
- a logical progression of ideas,
- ideas developed and supported with specific details,
- a clear presentation of your ideas,
- sentences free or almost free from errors, and
- at least 500 words.
Don't worry if these expectations sound intimidating; just do the best that you can. You will read a lot of information about strengthening your writing throughout the semester.
In an essay, write an analysis and interpretation of Langston Hughes' "Salvation" that will help readers understand and appreciate the story.
You should assume that your audience has already read "Salvation," so you should not just summarize it. Instead, focus on writing an analysis and interpretation of the story. Your essay should help readers understand and appreciate the meaning conveyed by Hughes' story. Yes, we know what happens in the story, but what are we supposed to get out of it?
When you work on an essay, a good early step is to identify three or four major ideas that can be developed in your essay, with one major idea being the focus of each body paragraph. Begin each body paragraph with a statement of your main idea, and then in the rest of the paragraph, go into depth supporting and developing that idea with specific evidence from the story, including quotations.
You will need to decide on the main ideas for your other essays in the course. However, below are some questions that can help you come up with the major idea for each body paragraph of your essay on "Salvation." You could organize and develop your essay by answering the questions below in the body paragraphs of you essay.
- First body paragraph: How do Langston's aunt and some of the other older members of the community feel about the church revival?
- Second body paragraph: Why does Langston lie about being "saved" in the church?
- Third body paragraph: What does Langston seem to learn about life or about people in this story?
You could use the questions above to help you organize and develop your essay, or you could come up with different ideas for your essay.
Your essay should be at least 500 words.
- The diagnostic essay should be written in a formal writing
voice. Among other things, this means that you should avoid
first-person references (the use of "I," "me," "my," etc.), so you
should not use phrases such as "I think that," "I believe that," or
"in my opinion." The Web page
Writing Voice provides additional information about
maintaining a formal voice.
- You will need to use quotations from "Salvation" to help you support and develop your ideas, and every quotation should be integrated into one of your own sentences. In other words, you should make every quotation a part of one of your own sentences and should not have any quotation standing by itself in your essay. In some cases, you could simply put the narrator says or Langston thinks (followed by a comma) before quotations to make the quotations a part of your own sentences. If a different character is speaking, though, you should indicate the character's name, as in Westley says.
Preparing Your Essay
Your essay should be word processed and double spaced. Type your name, the instructor's name, your class, and the date in the upper left corner of the first page (as illustrated on The Proper Format for Essays web page), and give your essay a centered title (different from the title of the story).
When you are finished, please print your essay and turn it in.
Of course, do your best on the diagnostic essay, but it is important to keep in mind that the essay will not be graded. More than anything else, the diagnostic essay is a way for you to get a sense of your writing abilities as we begin the course.
And, as always, please ask if you have any questions!