Essay #3 (1750+ words):
The final phase of the progressive sequence asks you to revisit the themes covered in the second paper and expand on them. You have options here: for instance, you might explore a contemporary issue or problem that is related (directly or indirectly) to course material we’ve covered, or you might expand on the earlier essays into a better developed, extended discussion, a more refined explanation of ideas, with additional detailed critique of those ideas and how they match up. This assignment must add some secondary source material (at least 4 high quality books or articles found via the library databases, which should be derived from your annotated bibliography assignment). You are encouraged to modify the thesis for your third essay. Perhaps your thinking has changed since the second essay. Perhaps you have an interesting new perspective you want to share. Or you want to add another author we covered to the conversation.
The big question you might have is, how do I extend the length of this essay? What needs to happen is to think hard about your focus. You will want to establish a new focus that shares some things in common with the papers you wrote before but introduces a new point of view, new scope of coverage, or otherwise expands and refines what came before. This generates the demand for more content: claims, evidence, support.
What you really want to do here is assert a firm claim that you are setting out to prove by means of the evidence from your sources. A claim is simply an assertion of truth. It could be a factual claim (e.g. this thing did or did not occur, or such and such is true or false), a critical claim (e.g. something is good/bad/better/worse than something else), a claim of policy (something should or should not be done), even an interpretive claim (this is what something really means). In other words, I’m looking for a clearly worded thesis for this essay, to show me that you’ve thought through topic at a high level. If someone were to ask “what’s your essay about?”, the answer should be the thesis, something you can articulate in one or two sentences. We will brainstorm topics and approaches in class. Here are some general approaches to think about:
- Think carefully about how the ideas we’ve been covering this semester bear on contemporary life. You might make room in this essay for some up-to-date coverage, which could include recent interpretations of our primary sources from secondary sources, or fresh secondary sources that cover the topic in new ways, perhaps even different perspectives on the topic arising from other disciplines such as natural sciences, social sciences, humanities.
- You might seek out examples from recent history that help to explain or illustrate what you want to write about. This opens up all kinds of fascinating topic possibilities.
Assignment parameters. The particulars are pretty detailed here, but I’m also giving you some freedom of choice, so pay attention to the guidelines carefully:
- You should write about at least two primary sources that we have read together. For many, this will include the texts you’ve already written about in essays 1 and 2. If you want to add a third primary source that we read, you may.
- If you choose a contemporary issue to focus on, you will certainly want to bring in outside sources to help you define and explain that issue. It is important to scope out such a topic so that you don’t rely on too few or too many sources, given the assigned length of the essay.
- Beyond the primary sources, include at least 4 excellent secondary sources from the library (not the Internet) or sources provided in Shared Files. More sources may be used, but keep in mind that you may be trying to cram too much source material into too small a frame. The paper isn’t long enough to handle more than that. Quality is better than quantity. Remember those are sources in addition to the 2 to 3 primary texts we have read in class. So your Works Cited page (which also cites those primary texts) could include as many as 7 entries and no less than 4 entries, total.
Essays that do not use at least 4 secondary sources from the library beyond the books we read in class, will not pass! If you don’t do some research for this one, you’ll fail the assignment. The whole point is for you to show that you can find good library sources and that you can integrate them with your own writing.
Summarize or paraphrase or quote sources and document them in proper MLA format. Use a secondary source when you need backup support to help solidify a point, explaining an idea, or endorsing an idea you agree with.
Just as when you made the transition from essay 1 to 2, moving from essay 2 to 3 should require significant rethinking and reorganization of your topic. Some of what you wrote in essay 2 will likely survive into essay 3. Plenty of new material will need to be introduced. The introduction and conclusion will need to be entirely rewritten. Don’t be afraid to make significant cuts and additions. Hopefully you will be ready to fold-in some homework assignments and adapt them to this topic for an ample return on investment.
Once you get the pieces in place, make sure your essay has a clear focus. Put the pieces together and make sure your paper has a strong thesis: something you are claiming or arguing about the topic.