Why Some Americans Do and Do

Length: 2 full pages in MLA format (12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced, one-inch margins).

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Most majors at SDSU will require upper-division students to write short response papers with some frequency, as will most graduate programs. Professors generally assign these papers in order to facilitate discussion in smaller upper-division courses and to assess progress via assignments that are quick to grade yet can offer some substance. These assignments are often fairly broad, but they are nearly always for the purpose of eliciting an analytical response; that is, professors don’t want summaries but rather critical interpretations of subject matter. For this paper, use any topic with a plausible relation to readings and discussions from the first five weeks of class.

Form a specific analytical interpretation/argument about the topic, then defend your interpretation with evidence. This evidence should come in the form of specific examples and quotations and of well-developed analysis of how those examples and quotations support your argument. You may also bring in any topic that you think relates, whether it’s from our class, another class, or a topic from outside of your classes altogether; doing so would help establish originality and depth.

Be sure to organize your thoughts into paragraphs. A short, less-formal response paper like these should not feature a lengthy introduction or conclusion. The introductory paragraph can consist of one sentence that establishes the context of your argument and one sentence that contains your argument itself, i.e. the paper’s thesis. It does not require a conclusion paragraph at all. You’ll likely have two or three body paragraphs, each of which should have its own analytical sub-claim in the form of a topic sentence that offers a debatable point and clearly advances the thesis.

Be sure you have a specific interpretation, analysis, or argument rather than merely summarizing the author’s argument. Remember that originality and depth are important on these responses. Originality comes from thinking beyond the parameters of the author’s argument. Depth comes from discussing the more universal implications of the author’s argument.

Most important aspects of your paper for your grade:

1. Originality: An idea, concept, or example that you make relevant to the article or lecture/discussion, even though the article or lecture/discussion didn’t get into it. Ideally, your idea, concept, or example will make the other thirty intelligent people in our class say, “Huh! That’s interesting; I hadn’t thought of that connection. How does it work?”

2. Depth: The application of an idea, concept, or example to human nature in general. You can take the content of the article or lecture/discussion and explain how it is characteristic of humans, or human decision-making, or human interaction. Again, the point here is to make the other thirty intelligent people in our class get an interesting new perspective.

Other aspects of your paper that will have an impact on your grade:

3. Clarity: How clearly you make and develop your points. Your ideas should not be ambiguous or hard for an intelligent audience such as this class to comprehend.

4. Organization: The arrangement of your ideas. Your paper should divide your thoughts and claims into a perceptible order. In a college essay, each body paragraph should begin by stating one major claim or interpretation, and then it should proceed by developing that claim or interpretation fully, supporting it with evidence, before moving on to the next idea/paragraph.

5. Sentences: Sentence-level writing should be polished, clear, and readable. It should reflect a university-level education.

Grading Rubric

A: Paper focuses on an original idea, concept, or example and uses it to explore a concept from RWS 305 in depth. Clarity, organization, and sentences are all above average.

B: Paper focuses on an original idea, concept, or example OR explores an idea, concept, or example from RWS 305 in depth. Clarity, organization, and sentences are mostly above average, although some are average.

C: Paper provides some originality or depth, but that originality or depth is underdeveloped. Clarity, organization, and sentences are mostly average.

D: Paper mostly restates the ideas from an article or a lecture/discussion with little originality or depth. Clarity, organization, and sentences are mostly average or below average.

F: Paper is merely a summary of an article or lecture/discussion that shows deficient comprehension or writing. Clarity, organization, and sentences are below average.


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