You will be writing and posting two mini-essays on this website. The first is due on Sunday, February 28 at noon; the second is due on Sunday, April 4 at noon. Please note that a *graded* draft will be due a few days before each of those dates (see below). You should also make sure you know how to post your materials on the website before the due-date, because Christine Moskell, our web guru, does not answer emails on Saturdays or Sundays.
Here is a list of suggested topics, which is also serving as a sign-up sheet. It also gives you further information about choosing a topic. Please note that normally only one person can write about each of the listed topics. (That is because we are going to be reading and learning from each other’s posts over the course of the semester and no one wants to read ten essays on the same topic.) Therefore, I encourage you to look at this list ASAP and claim your favorite topic! The first step toward a successful essay is finding a topic you care about; it is very hard to fake passion, enthusiasm, or curiosity. If you’d like to write about something other than the given topics, please come discuss that with me first during office hours.
Your posts should be written in a style that is appropriate for a web format; your audience is the public (and especially each other), not just your professor. This guide identifies some of the key aspects of good web-writing and discusses the ways it differs from normal academic paper-writing; read it carefully. Be sure to read the models of excellence from the first batch of posts as well, which I’ve linked to in the rubric below.
Your mini-essay must be between 600 and 800 words long (with 10% wiggle room on either side of that), and include at least 5 hyperlinks (no Wikipedia) and 1 image. All images must include a caption. When possible, Wikimedia Commons is a good source for images. You are also warmly encouraged to embed other types of media into your post if that is relevant to your topic (eg a video showing how this type of art is made, or something like that). See the rubric for more details about my expectations and how they are weighted in the calculation of the final grade.
THE RUBRIC with links to model posts from webpost 1!
|1. Creativity: Creativity can take many forms, and is hard to define. Here are some of the things you can do that demonstrate creativity. Your essay can take the form of something that isn’t an essay, such as a product advertisement or a batch of Yelp reviews. You can write a conventional essay but from the perspective of a character or persona other than yourself, or share a personal connection, or make your deeply-felt views about it apparent to the reader. What all of these model essays have in common is that there is nothing generic about them — they could only have been written by their particular, individual author. Your essay should show off your unique personality and imagination; it should be written in your voice. Your keen interest in, and excitement about, your topic should be evident to your reader. Be bold! Say the unexpected!! If you are bored writing it, your reader is bored too. 20 points|
|2. Complexity: The essay should demonstrate that you have spent many hours carefully researching and thinking deeply about the topic and examining it from multiple perspectives. Everything you say must be accurate. That said, you are NOT writing a generic summary of or report on the basic facts about your topic; that already exists on Wikipedia, the Encyclopedia Britannica, etc. Rather, you must offer some sort of interpretation or argument on a particular aspect of your topic, and your interpretation/argument must be contestable. That is, someone must be able to read your essay and say, “Very interesting, but I disagree.” 20 points|
|3. Coherence: Your perspective on the material is clear and comprehensible. No extraneous, unrelated material. Your evidence should be carefully presented, and the relationship between your evidence and your interpretation should be readily apparent to your reader. The organization should help the reader follow your argument. 20 points|
|4. Strong Prose: Word choices are accurate, descriptive and straightforward. Syntax is smooth, not distracting. Rules of standard written English grammar (including apostrophes) are followed. Please note that you are encouraged to use the first-person wherever appropriate. 10 points|
Here is a post whose elegant prose lures the reader right in and pulls us along to the end.
|5. Internet-friendly: This includes having a descriptive, compelling title that will differentiate your essay from all the other ones on the page and make the reader want to click on it; the effective use of headings to break up the wall of text; the incorporation of images whenever appropriate; and at least some attention to the principles behind the inverted pyramid (i.e. cut unnecessary introductory verbiage; get right to the point in the first paragraph — even the first sentence — and build out). 10 points|
Here and here are posts that are certain to reel you in and make you want to keep reading.
|6. Hyperlinks serve several purposes. The first is to tell your reader where you got your information; in this regard, they do the work that footnotes and bibliographies do in a traditional paper. You need to link to all your sources; failure to do so is plagiarism. They should also demonstrate the breadth and depth of your research. You should be reading more sophisticated sources than the Encyclopedia Britannica or the World History Encyclopedia. One or two links to those types of sites is ok, but you need to be engaging with more specialized, advanced writing at this stage in your education. Finally, hyperlinks should help your reader understand how your topic connects out to the wider world; use them to point to fun/funny/interesting/provocative connections to other things. You must have at least five hyperlinks in your essay, but don’t be afraid to use many more. 8 points|
|7. Proofreading and attention to detail. Reread all these directions before you post your essay! And be sure to use spellcheck! 5 points|
|8. Connections to and engagement with your peers’ work in the course: you must link to at least one other post on our website, and explain (briefly is fine) how your ideas and their ideas relate to one another. Use the tags to help you find posts that engage with themes related to yours. Here are some examples of students in my Core course last semester doing this very well in their second webposts. 7 points|
Also: please include a byline at the end of your post, telling us who you are and one or two things about you that will help your reader understand your interest in this topic. You will not get a grade (and your post will be considered late) if there is no byline.
The Full Draft Appointment
A full draft of your post, worth 40% the grade for this assignment (which is worth 20% of your final course grade), will be due at the time of a meeting you will sign up for during the week of March 29. Please share your draft with me as a google doc at least 5 minutes prior to our appointment time. Please be advised that I use the same rubric for both the draft and the final post, so don’t cut any corners at the draft stage (eg if you think “I will put in the hyperlinks later, for the final post,” then you will lose 8 points on the grade of your draft; likewise with proofreading …). Please note that we are meeting to discuss a “full draft,” not a “rough draft.”
During our meeting, I will read your draft out loud, and you will follow along. As I read, I will stop to discuss with you places where your writing is particularly successful, and passages that need improvement. We will discuss issues such as your choices of images and hyperlinks, the quality of your evidence and primary sources and how successfully you use them, the complexity and clarity of your observations and arguments, and any other matters that will improve the overall quality of your final post. You should take detailed notes on whatever we discuss (but please don’t do the editing during our conversation). I will fill out the “draft” column on the rubric (here’s what the actual document looks like) and send it to you within 24 hours of our meeting so that you can get to work on the revisions.
Your post (i.e. the final draft) is due on our website by noon on Sunday, April 4. It is worth 60% of the grade for this assignment. Please refer to the directions that Christine Moskell sent you for how to post; you can also email her before 3 pm on Friday the 2nd if you need any technical assistance.
SUMMARY OF STEPS
- sign up for a topic
- sign up for a draft appointment
- read all the links on this page in order to fully understand what is expected for this assignment
- research your topic
- write your draft, with all hyperlinks and images included
- read the first batch of posts on our website and find at least one that engages with concepts related to those you are engaging with (use the tags!); add a link and a few sentences about the connection to your draft
- share your draft with me at least 5 minutes before our appointment
- take good notes on all the feedback I will give you on your draft
- read the comments I will send you along with the grade on your draft
- revise your draft
- test out the process of posting on our website by 4 pm on Friday, 4/2 so that in case you have any problems, you can get help from Christine Moskell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- final essay must be posted by noon on Sunday, 4/4