English 251: Introduction to Literature

Writing Assignments:  General Instructions

In the course of the semester, each student is expected to hand in two shorter writing assignments, each worth 20 points.  These will be due during the first two thirds of the course, as indicated in the Course Schedule.  In addition, students will submit one longer paper (Writing Assignment #3), due in the last third of the course, and worth 60 points. 

Together, the writing assignments and longer paper will comprise 25% of the grade for the course.  The remaining points for the course will come from the three in-class examinations, each worth 100 points.


Take stock of your options

For some writing assignments, you have some alternatives to consider.  In some instances (for example, Writing Assignment #1), you have the alternative of writing on different works, and the date your essay is due depends on which work you elect to write upon.  Additionally, for most writing assignments, you can choose among designated topics on a given work.  For any given Writing Assignment (designated by number), you need write only on one topic.

In the last third of the course, you will have an opportunity to submit an additional short writing assignment in order to improve your grade on one of the earlier two.  Only those students who have submitted writing on both of the required writing assignments will be eligible to avail themselves of this opportunity.

Dead week will be devoted to discussions relating to options for a final assignment enabling students in certain circumstances to improve their score for the longer writing assignment.  The assignment (if you choose to undertake it) will be due at 5:00pm under my office door at Denison 109, on Monday, December 7.


Preparing a Writing Assignment

For some of the works addressed in the topics for the Writing Assignments, you will find a Study Guide on our web site.  This will be linked to from the writing assignment on that story.  If there is a Study Guide available for a given work, you should never attempt a writing assignment on that work unless you have carefully worked through the corresponding Study Guide first.

For many of the works taken up in the Writing Assignments, there will be a series of questions posed in our main text.  You should always work your way through these before undertaking the writing assignment.


Format and Procedure for the Writing Assignments

All assignments will be submitted in Xerox form on specified days at the beginning of class:  Make-ups will be allowed only if you obtain prior permission, which will be granted only for a compelling reason.  You may write them out by hand, but do not use a hard pencil or a ball point pen with blue ink: these do not reproduce well:  Typed papers or computer printouts are preferred.  But take care to avoid using an exhausted ribbon:  whether typed or handwritten, illegible copies will not be accepted.  These requirements will ensure that others in the class have the opportunity to read your reflections in a timely fashion, and that you yourself are genuinely prepared to contribute to class discussion on the day allocated to that particular story. 

Caution:  Put your original in a safe place; if you use a word-processor, be sure to make yourself a backup copy and to put this backup copy in a safe place.  If I lose your paper, I will expect to be able to get a replacement from you upon request.  If you are unable to supply one on the day of my request, I will enter no score for the assignment.  Take prudent steps to protect yourself from this most unfortunate possibility!

Aim for at least a full, single-spaced typed page (standard 1-inch margins, 12-point type). This means that if you write out your analysis by hand, you will want to shoot for more than a page. Of course this is just a general guideline. Your paper doesn't have to be a full page, but if it's fairly short of that, you have a pretty fair indication that you need to push yourself further. See the section Hints on at the bottom of this page.


Nature and Rationale of the Writing Assignments

The problems I will formulate for you to work through will be such that an adequate job will require at least a healthy couple or three paragraphs, and probably somewhat more than a page.  They will not be what is commonly known in secondary school as a "reaction paper."  The job is not merely to say what you liked or didn't like about the story, or what you found interesting or puzzling.  Rather, you are to do your best to carry through an specific agenda of curiosity about some particular aspect of the story.  This agenda of curiosity I will set forth in the writing assignment:  Your task is to try to reason out as sound an answer as you can to the particular question I pose, and to explain as specifically as you can what your reasoning consists in.  That is, you will want to show what facts and details of the work you are dealing with lead to what conclusions, and to make explicit the arguments that connect those details with those conclusions.  For many of you, it will not come easy, this process of discovery and this reasoned explaining of why the inferences you have arrived at are sound.  But these skills develop only with practice, and since the development of these skills is the goal of this course, this practice required by these assignments is one of the most essential goods that the course has to offer.


Grades for writing assignments.

These aims - prompting people to come to class in a condition that enables them to participate (especially actively) in the right sort of discussion, and forcing you to practice doing something important that you might not otherwise do - govern the scheme I will use for scoring the 20-point writing assignments.

You can use the writing assignments in a general way to rehearse some of the habits that make for good writing on exams.  Of course, in your writing assignments, you will not have had the benefit of class discussions of the story, as you will when you come to dealing with exam questions.  But you can practice the kind of critical reading of successive drafts that makes for more insightful analysis.  See the remarks on criteria for evaluating answers on exams.

As your draft is nearing completion, you might want to review it in light of the checklist for writing assignments.


Hints about how to generate enough of the right sort of "stuff."

A fruitful analysis will not "spin wheels" saying the same thing over and over again in different words. Instead it "goes somewhere." What do you do if you find yourself stuck? Say you're way short of the page you are urged to produce, and -- rightly -- you don't want to string things out by mere repetition?

A good idea is to go back over what you've already produced and see if it is possible to carry out one or more of the following moves:


Two final notes on the writing you do for this course

Fall semester 1999 marks the beginning of Kansas State University's undergraduate Honor System. The basic difference between the new Honor System and the previous method of adjudicating instances of academic dishonesty is that students will hold majority representation on Hearing Panels, whereas in the previous system, hearing panels were made up entirely of faculty and administrators. This significant change gives students ownership of the effectiveness of the Honor System and a reason to help protect the integrity of our University.

It is expected in all academic work in this class that all work be done individually by you. Do not collaborate on any academic work unless specifically approved by your instructor.

On all assignments, examinations, or other course work undertaken by undergraduate students, the following pledge is implied, whether or not it is stated: "On my honor, as a student, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this academic work."

For more information, please visit the Honor System web page at:  http://www.ksu.edu/Honor

  Suggestions, comments and questions are welcome.  Please send them to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Contents copyright 2000 by Lyman A. Baker

Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.

      This page last updated 18 February 2000.