Assignment Guide: American Drama

* This guide on writing a paper for Dr. Terry Heller's class was written by Jenny Kilburn, a former Writing Center Consultant, in fulfillment of an assignment for the Writing Center staff development course, Topics in Composition. The purpose of this guide is to provide insight into the assignment as well as to provide helpful hints and advice to anyone who may be completing a similar assignment.

Professor: Dr. Terry Heller, Howard Hall Professor of English

Assignment: Write a 1000 word essay on one of the topics you have been given. You may expand on one of your shorter essays, combine them or start all over again. At some point meet with a writing center consultant who is not in this class currently.

Additional information on the assignment: You will be allowed to revise this essay. Students hand the first draft in, and Professor Heller will make comments and suggestions on it. After that initial submission, it is up to you as to which changes you make before including a polished draft in your final portfolio which will receive a grade. Keep in mind while writing this essay that it is a thesis essay. You are presenting a thesis statement about something related to the plays and supporting that thesis in your paper.


Criteria for the course essay in your portfolio:

Is the paper interesting to read? Stimulating? Touching?
Are the main ideas clearly presented at the beginning of the paper?
Does the paper display critical thinking and offer special insights into the topic?
Does the paper display reasonable sophisticated knowledge of the materials we have studied?
Does the paper display helpful consideration for the needs of its intended readers?
Are the main points supported or illustrated with well-presented and fully explained examples?
Is the bibliography complete and orderly? This should include, at a minimum, the texts and/or films you have studied. If you have given a report on the author or used material from someone else's report, you should include those sources here as well. Use MLA form.
Does the writer use transitions between ideas, paragraphs, and sections?
Does the paper have an interesting, descriptive title?
Does the writer use sentence variety?
Does the writer use precise, apt, and descriptive language?
Does the writer effectively use the conventions of written English, such as spelling and grammar?

Word to the wise:

Choose a title for your essay that is fitting, informative, and catchy.
When you cite the play for the first time, include the publication date or the date of the first performance in parenthesis.

Intended audience: You should write for an audience of your classmates. You won't have to elaborate on every aspect of the play, but remind us of important events that occurred. The other students may have forgotten about the play because they haven't been working on it as hard as you have.

Help: Writing Thesis Essays

A key element in a thesis essay is the thesis statement. Here is where you should inform the reader of what you intend to discuss. There are several ways that you can present your thesis: state it simply in either one sentence or in a series of consecutive sentences. You can also choose to start your thesis statement in one sentence in the beginning of the paper and then finish it later in your paper. There are also other methods. Keep in mind that no matter what format you use, you need to make sure your reader will be able to discover what your thesis is.

Keep your thesis in mind while writing your paper. It is important to stick to your chosen topic. Choose a thesis simple enough to be covered in the course of your paper. Otherwise, you will get off track, and your paper can become very cluttered with extra and unnecessary information. Remember that the goal of a thesis essay is to persuade your reader by the end of the paper. Supporting your thesis through examples and quotes is essential in persuation. It is also important to explain how these examples and quotes support your point. According to Mortimer Adler, knowledge can be divided into three levels. The lowest level is the statement of fact. This can be a statistic statement for example. Then there are statements about facts where you make some comment on a fact itself like interpreting a statistic. In the highest level are statements about statements. It is suggested that you should use the highest level in your essay and use the lower two levels as your supporting statements.

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E-mail Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.