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 Essay Assignments English 1
Rodin's Thinker


English 1

Essay 1:  Writing Based on Memory or Recall

Length:  2 to 3 pages

Select one of the topics from p. 23 of the Bedford Guide, and develop a 2-3 page essay (a minimum of  500 words) in which you present both the event and its significance to you.

First brainstorm or freewrite to generate the points that you may want to include.  Then select what you think are the most important details, examples, etc. to develop.  Next  put the events in order.

Your first draft may be only a chronology of the events themselves, but make sure that you include all the necessary information (See the Reporter's Questions on p. 24).

After you have finished this draft, think about why this event is important to you:  why is this experience memorable?  This point must be made clear to the readers.  It also is the key to what details and examples you finally include (and exclude) and how you include them.  All of your material should lead up to and support your main point.

Look at the "Revision Checklist" questions on p. 26 as a guide for evaluating your final draft before you turn it in.


Essay Assignment 2: Analysis of the Appeals of an Opinion Piece

Length:  2-3 pages

The opinion/editorial page of a newspaper, an article of analysis in a newspaper, and an editorial commentary in a magazine such as Time or Newsweek all have the same goal: to express the point of view of the author on some topic.  Select one article of opinion from a recent publication to analyze for its use of evidence, logical apparel, and emotion appeal.  Your overall purpose is to decide whether or not you think that the author supports his/her main point clearly, effectively, and honestly.

Start with a paragraph of introduction which

  • gives basic information about the article—its author if given, title, and the publication in which it appears 
  • states the main point of the author
  • states your purpose in this essay (states your thesis)

Now develop a paragraph that identifies and types the evidence used by the author.  Give specific examples.  Use pages 98-102 in The Bedford Guide as a basis for this analysis.

Paragraph three should analyze the logical appeal of the author and especially note any use of the fallacies.  Use pages 104-108 in The Bedford Guide as a basis for this analysis.

Paragraph four should examine the emotional appeal of the essay.  How does the author portray him/herself?  Are there examples or facts or quotes included to appeal to the emotions of the reader?  Most importantly, is the emotional level appropriate, or does the author become sentimental?  Use pages 103-104 in The Bedford Guide as basis for this analysis.

In the concluding paragraph present your evaluation of the merits of the piece you have chosen.

Remember that you can support your claims about this article only with clear and specific examples.


Essay Assignment 3:  Summary and Response

Length:  2-4 pages

In order to research any topic, you must be able to read accurately and to report what you have read accurately. The result of these two activities is a summary. When you go beyond reporting what someone has written and evaluate what has been written, you are providing a response to the material. For this essay you are to read one of the essays listed below, all of which are controversial to some extent, to summarize the article fairly and accurately, and then to evaluate it, looking at the logical ethical, and emotional appeals in the essay.

The summary should be just that—a neutral report of the author's main point (thesis) and the main support (including some details) for the thesis.

The evaluation should consist of an analysis of the logical, ethical, and emotional appeals made by the author.  You must analyze the quality of the evidence provided, examine the logic for fallacies, and determine the ethical and emotional appeals made by the author.

Draw on the analysis you did in the last assignment for this evaluation.

The response should be your reaction—acceptance or rejection—to the material read, This means that, based on your analysis, you decide whether or not to agree with the author.

The questions on p. 118 in The Bedford Guide in addition to the materials in the "Thinking Critically" chapter will help you in your response/analysis.

Anna Quindlen   "Evans Two Moms"   p.516

Stephanie Coontz   "Remarriage and Stepfamilies"   p. 522

Scoff Russell Sanders  "The Men We Carry in Our Minds"  p. 531


Essay 4:  Analysis of Images in Advertising

Length:  2-3 pages

Two important elements in developing an effective essay are having a clear idea of your own purpose and a definite notion of your audience.  Nowhere are these two elements more noticeable than in advertising, particularly magazine advertising.  To achieve the objective of advertising--to sell the product or service--the advertiser must identify and appeal to the desired audience and then offer  reasons for the purchase of the product or service. Based on our discussions of  logical, emotional, and ethical appeal as well as logical fallacies (pages 93-134), you are to write an essay which carefully and specifically analyzes the appeals made to a particular audience by two print media ads for the same type of product  which appear in two different magazines, e.g., a beer or car ad in Cosmopolitan and one in Sports Illustrated.  The purpose of this essay is to identify and evaluate the techniques used to sell a product to two different audiences by presenting the product in different  ways.

Consider the following points in your analysis:

  • Examine the setting/location and the furnishings and props carefully.

If the scene is outdoors, where is it?  What kind of attitudes or responses does this scene evoke in the viewer?  What are the props (the furniture, decorations, kinds of food, etc. that are  used?  What are these pieces suggesting to the viewer?

If the scene is indoors, look carefully at the decorations and the atmosphere that they develop.  What is the viewer supposed to think about this place?

What symbolic meanings and associations do the physical elements in the ad have?

  • Consider the people in the ad--gender, age, appearance (both their      natural physical appearance and their dress, gestures, and poses)

What social roles are depicted and values are suggested by these roles?  Is any one person in control?  Are the people friendly, mean, determined, isolated, happy, relaxed, confident, anxious, etc.?

What is the over-all effect of the person/people on the viewer?

  • Examine the ad from an "artistic" point of view. 

Are there any "special effects" apparent, such as fuzzy photography or objects that are not in proportional size?  If so, what is the purpose of the special effect?

  • Examine the language (the copy) used in the ad. 

What ideas, attitudes, or emotions are evoked by the words used?  Are there any comic effects, such as puns or double meanings?  Is there any special placement of the language on the page?   What is the effect of the size of the copy?

Remember to have a complete introduction which includes a bridge to the topic and a thesis sentence.


Essay Assignment 5:  To write a researched-based essay on the composition of   American households, 1960-1999, that identifies and analyzes the changing demographics of the American family.

Length: 3-5 pages

College writing requires first of all that you have something to say, which means having information (facts) about which to write; without information, there is no foundation for an essay. The purpose of this assignment is to have you investigate a topic, acquire information about it, and then report this information and its significance to the readers of your essay. In particular, this essay is to be a report of your investigation of the changing composition of the household in the United States. What this means is that you must research in magazine and newspaper publications, the data bases in the library, and the Interment (especially the US Census Bureau site and the Librarians Guide to the Internet site)  to find as much information as possible about the make-up of American households over these decades.

You need to find the data on the number of married households, number of single parent households, number of children living with two parents, number of children living with one parent, number of households in which the partners are not married, etc. In short, you need to find out as much as you can about the demographics of the American households over these decades and note the changes that have occurred. Once you have this information and have presented it, you need to decide what conclusions might be drawn from this data: how has the American "family" changed over the last 40 years? That is your major question in this essay.

You must have at least THREE outside sources for this essay. Once you have acquired and studied the information, decide what conclusion (inference) you can draw from the facts. This conclusion will be the focus of the essay and the thesis itself.

Be sure that this essay has an effective introduction, which sets up the topic and includes a thesis statement.

All sources must be properly documented in the text and identified in the Works Cited list.

Here are some points to consider in reviewing your essay:

1.Does the introduction lead the reader to the topic?

2.Can you identify the one sentence thesis statement of the essay?

3.Can you list the major supporting facts for the thesis? Is there enough factual information to support the thesis?

5.Is there any material which is irrelevant? If so, eliminate it.

6.Are the sentences all grammatically correct and properly coordinated and subordinated?

7.Are the sources correctly cited? Is the Works Cited list correctly formatted?


Essay Assignment 6: To Write a Cause and Effect Analysis Essay

Length: 3-5 pages

Acquiring information rather automatically leads to analysis of that information: what does it mean? why is it important? what caused it? what might it lead to? Any time that you ask one of these questions, you are "analyzing." This essay of analysis is to be one that focuses on first, providing information on who makes up the homeless population and then presenting the causes of this condition. This commonly recognized social problem is one that has many stereotypes associated with it, just as the makeup of American households has stereotypes that prevail. Your job is to research and present enough accurate data to inform the reader of the facts regarding the current homeless population and then to explain to the reader why these people are homeless. You need to research this topic to find solid, specific data that will lead you to a conclusion which in turn becomes your thesis.

This essay is not, like the last one, an essay that is primarily informative. You are going beyond the "what" to the "why" or "how." Remember too that it is your specific information and details that will convince the reader of the accuracy of your analysis.

Introduce your topic, establishing that it exists and that it is worthy of analysis by being problematic and significant. Concentrate on engaging your reader's interest. Often readers need to be convinced that a problematic area exists before they become interested in it. For instance, some people may believe that homelessness is a problem only in major cities unless you can demonstrate that it exists elsewhere; some people may believe that homelessness is only the result of laziness unless you can demonstrate that there are other causes; some may believe that only old drunks make up the homeless population unless you can demonstrate that there are others in this category.

Make sure that you do more than just list the causes of homelessness. You need to explain each cause so that it seems logical and possible. Arrange the sections to present those causes most familiar to the audience first and those most surprising last. Those that you think will be most surprising will require the most explanation/support because you must be most convincing here.

Remember to use at least three sources to support your thesis. Be sure to document sources correctly both in the text and in the Works Cited list.


Do you have a complete introduction? Does the introduction include the thesis of this essay?

Have you identified the major groups of people who make up the homeless population?

Can you list the causes given?

Can you list the support for each cause? Is there enough evidence to support the cause?

Are the causes given in a clear and logical manner?


Essay Assignment 7: To Write a "Taking a Position" Essay

Length:  3-5 pages

An essay that takes a stand wants to be every effective; in order to be convincing, such an essay, often called a "classical argument," is one which presents your thesis and the support for your thesis AND ALSO presents the counter-arguments to your position in order to refute these points. It is a type of essay which uses all of the techniques and methods of development which you have studied and employed this semester. An argument must, first of all, be solidly based on researched information—statistics, examples, previous studies, etc.—and must analyze this information to reach a conclusion which then becomes the thesis presented to the reader. Very often an argument involves analysis of causes and/or effects, and that will be the case for this essay because for this essay you will write a position paper which takes a stand on a controversial area of censorship such as the following:

    censorship of the internet

    censorship of materials in college newspapers

    censorship of library materials in the public library or a college library or a high school library

    censorship of music lyrics

    censorship of materials on television (cartoons and violence, sex on primetime, violence on prime time television, etc.).


Whatever area you choose, you will be examining either the causes or effects of having or not having censorship in the selected area. To persuade your readers to accept your position, you will need sufficient information and careful analysis of the cited causes or effects.

Your introduction will present your issue, provide the reader with the necessary background information on the issue, and state your claim or thesis.

There will be two parts to the body of this essay. First you will support your claim with documented reasons and evidence. Second you will summarize and refute the major opposing arguments to your view.

Your conclusion will quickly summarize your claim and include a strong statement of why you are right.  Once again, your must use and cite a minimum of three outside sources.

Remember to think about the assumptions (the warrants) that you are making and decide if any of these assumptions need to be directly addressed in your essay. Make sure that the reasons (the grounds) that you give to support your position do not include controversial assumptions which you ignore. Be sure to avoid any universal claims such as "Teenagers are affected by rock lyrics" or "No teenagers are driven to action by rock lyrics.

When you are planning your argument, after completing your research

    decide on your main claim

    list the supporting claims

    for each supporting claim, list the evidence you have

    analyze the strength of this evidence

In addressing counter-arguments

    summarize them fairly (avoid "What idiot would think that. . .")

    rebut them accurately, pointing out their flaws and providing counter-evidence if possible


Remember that there is no rewrite of this essay.

Be sure to document correctly.


Final Exam Essay: To compare and contrast the attitudes of Joe and Chris Keller toward family and the larger world, to evaluate these arguments, and to argue in favor of  the view of Joe or Chris.

This essay is due by the end of the final exam period.  NO LATE PAPERS—NO EXCEPTIONS

In the play All My Sons by Arthur Miller, we see a family torn apart by the recognition and revelation of the effects of events in the past.  We watch as the play reveals the deep problems in the Keller family as Joe and Kate's decisions and actions as well as Chris' refusal to ask questions come to a climax.  In this essay you are to compare and contrast the positions of both Joe and Chris regarding the relationship of the individual family member to other family members as well as to the greater world of other people.  In order to do this you must bring together all the elements of the essay writing process which you have studied.  You will need information (lines from the play itself) in order to analyze and evaluate the ideas of Joe and Chris.  Then you must decide which view you support and why.

You will need to examine Joe's reasons and justifications for what he did both during the crisis of the cracked cylinder heads and after regarding the trial and prison.  Next you must do the same foe Chris' reasons and justifications.  In essence, what you are doing is deciding which man's point of view is better and explaining why you believe so.  Which man, Joe or Chris, has the better view of the responsibility of the individual to the family and others in the wider world?  Why is this position the better one?  Why is the other one unacceptable?

The two views in the play can perhaps be summed up in two quotes, one from Kate and one from Joe.  Kate says to Annie in the first scene of the play, "What your father did had nothing to do with Larry," but later on Joe says about the pilots who died as a result of the cracked cylinder heads, "I guess to him [Larry]  they was all my sons. . . And I guess they were."

Be sure to have a thesis statement in the introduction.  Support whatever position you take with specific details and sound thinking and reasoning, always being aware of the implications of any generalizations that you make.



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