A valuable skill you will learn throughout ENC 1101 is how to write a polished essay through a set of progressive phases. Academic writing—and all writing, to different degrees—involves planning out the content and organization of your paper, contemplating your audience, researching or collecting relevant information, and completing various stages of drafting, revising, and editing. The projects for this course have been created to parallel and reinforce these various steps of the writing process while also helping you become part of an academic conversation. Each project focuses on an important step of the writing process, and each assignment builds upon the previous one. After completing all of the course projects, then, you will have experienced writing a paper as a process, and you will have completed an academic essay that reflects the knowledge you’ve gained from this experience.
The assignments in this course also demonstrate that the various steps of the writing process happen in a cyclical fashion rather than a linear one. This means that as an author writes, he or she does not complete a step just once, but instead returns to one or more steps during various phases of developing his or her work. For example, a writer might plan, research, and begin drafting, but in the revision stage find that he or she needs to conduct additional research and plan further before completing another draft. The assignments for this course scaffold, thereby illustrating the cyclical, continuous nature of writing. For that reason, while a single project may focus on a specific step of the writing process, you will frequently experience prewriting, researching, drafting, revising, and editing during each individual assignment.
The Pre-Project: The Personal Narrative
The preliminary writing assignment asks you to write about your own experiences using the first-person point of view. This “pre-project” assignment focuses on the invention stage of writing, which includes exploring possible subjects, brainstorming about a topic, and thinking about the goals of your writing. From this assignment, you will learn that the personal has a place in academic writing. The experience you write about in this essay will inform your research topics and goals in the following projects. Therefore, this project will serve as the foundation of the coursework while illustrating how personal experiences can shape writing interests and goals.
Project I: The Bibliographic Essay
Following this pre-project, the first formal assignment is a bibliographic essay. This assignment helps illustrate the transition from the planning stage to the researching stage of the writing process while also introducing you to the concomitant practice of researching. Drawing from the experience you wrote about in the pre-project, you will be asked to conduct research regarding a related topic. Through this project, you will develop the skills of a careful researcher, as you will learn to identify reliable sources of information and select sources that are relevant to your specific writing purpose. This experience can be considered a part of the invention stage, as you will conduct “open-minded research”—investigating a broad topic by reading numerous sources—before further narrowing your topic. Additionally, this process of finding a narrowed topic will teach you that discarding irrelevant sources is both part of being a selective researcher and an important aspect of the writing process.
Another vital aspect of the bibliographic essay project is learning that before you can enter into a conversation about a topic, you must first listen to what others have already said about that topic. You will be asked to not only conduct research, analyzing and summarizing the sources you find, but you will also need to explain how the conversation about this topic has developed over time. Learning how to identify and analyze scholarly conversations is especially important to academic writing because someone writing in this genre must know what has already been said about a topic, if and/or how the conversation about this topic has changed, and why a change in conversation has or hasn’t occurred. By understanding these relationships, a writer can enter into a conversation and contribute something significant to the discussion instead of simply repeating what has already been said or providing false or outdated information.
Project II: The Thesis-Driven Essay
For the second project, you will write a thesis-driven research paper, which means that you will not be simply reporting or explaining your subject, but rather persuading your audience to agree with your argument about an aspect of your topic. This project asks you to return to the skills you’ve developed in the previous assignments so as to produce a polished work. First, you will once again return to the invention stage of writing in order to develop your thesis and shape your research goals. Then, while you may utilize the research you have already conducted in Project 1, you will research further in order to find sources more relevant to your new purpose. Equipped with this extensive knowledge about your topic, you can then enter confidently into the discussion and write with agency and credibility. Additionally, before and throughout writing your essay, you will be required to think about how to effectively communicate with your audience in order to successfully persuade them to agree with your argument. Finally, you will produce a polished essay through the process of drafting, revising, and editing that you have practiced throughout the former assignments.
Project III: Remediation Analysis
The third and final assignment, a remediation project, encourages you to think about audience and rhetorical strategies. You will be asked to locate a text related to the topic you have been working with in the pre-project and Project 1 and remediate this text for a new audience. The essay portion of this assignment requires you to both analyze your decisions in creating your remediation and evaluate the effectiveness of these choices. This project illustrates the importance of audience awareness: if a writer is not aware of how to effectually communicate with his or her target audience, then his or her work may be ineffective or, worse yet, offensive and unreliable. Therefore, contemplating audience is an important aspect of the writing process.
The most valuable lesson you will take away from this course is the realization that writing is a process of continuous development. By the end of the semester, you will have gained the skills necessary to successfully write an academic essay, and these skills will help you to succeed throughout your academic—and professional—careers.
By: Brianna Jerman