English 121:  Effective Writing II

Course Assignments (substantial ones, that is)

introductory essay
website evaluation
field research or bibliography
exploratory essay
argument or research report
group web project

Introductory Essay

As your first writing assignment and an introduction to the electronic bulletin board, I'd like you to write an informal essay on your perception of the Internet.  Some questions to consider answering:
  • have you used it?  once? rarely? a lot? never?  what elements of it (webpages, chat, email, other things) have you experienced?  do you love or hate the very idea of it?
  • what have your experiences with it been like? academic? personal? rewarding? frustrating? bland? strange?
  • what do you think of it as a cultural phenomenon? revolutionary?  hyped?
  • if you haven't used the Internet, how has the representation of cyberspace in newspapers, on TV, or in movies affected you?
You may come up with an angle all your own, of course, as long as it fits this topic.  Aim for a conversational tone, because this essay will also introduce you to one another.


  • Study the Paradigm Online Writing Assistant's advice about the informal essay.
  • Compose your essay (of 250-500 words) either a) in a word processor, then save it and cut-and-paste it into the EBB; or b) on the EBB itself.  If you choose b), beware that you don't inadvertantly delete your essay before you post it. I will not accept the excuse anytime this semester that the computer ate your assignment.
  • In the subject line of your EBB message, include both your name and a brief title, such as this:
    • Bob Fletcher--How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the WWW
  •  Whichever method you use, you should be sure to post the essay to the appropriate folder:
  •  Get started on this brief essay as soon as you can.  I will give you class time on Friday to finish it and post it to the EBB, but don't expect to write it from scratch in class on Friday.  You should have the essay posted by the end of class, 9/4.  Anything added later than that will be late.
  • Come to class on Wednesday having read your classmates' introductions.


Website Evaluation

In your second writing assignment, you must search for and then compare and contrast two websites on the same subject.  This short essay (about 500 words) asks you to put into practice the critical thinking skills discussed in chapter 3 of Thiroux's The Critical Edge, "Critical Thinking and the Internet."


  1. Read chapter 3 in Thiroux's The Critical Edge, paying close attention to the lists of qualities to look for in evaluating websites.
  2. Search for two sites to compare:
    • Your first site must be found through CHOICE Web Reviews, a directory of academic websites established by the American Library Association.
    • Your second site should be found through the use of an Internet search engine, such as Hotbot or Alta Vista.  You are not required or even expected to find another academic site through this search.  Indeed, your task of comparison-and-contrast might be made easier if you find a non-".edu" site in this step.
  3. Study the sites thoroughly, taking notes on them guided by Thiroux's questions.  You might also benefit from the online guides to evaluating websites that she lists at the chapter's end.
  4. Fill out the Website Evaluation Form.  (Note that I recommend you compose and edit your comparison essay in a wordprocessor first, so you have a backup copy in case the form misfires).
  5. Once you submit your form, you're done.  It will be emailed to me, and I will respond with your grade through return email.
Once I've had a chance to read and evaluate all your reviews I may ask students to post particularly fine examples on the EBB, so we may all benefit from your hard work and critical insights.


Exploratory Essay

Some Context

This assignment is really the beginning of your semester's research project.  You will develop the topic you pick here further when we get to the field research or annotated bibliography assignment, the argumentative paper or research report, and the group web project.  So it is important that for this stage in the writing-and-research process you pick a topic that you are interested in and want to explore in depth.

That topic must be connected with the theme of the course, cyberspace and society, and it must have the potential for scholarly treatment (thorough research, subtle and thoughtful analysis, fair and balanced presentation).  Our readings in the first few weeks of the semester hopefully will have provided you with a number of potential research questions about how new information technologies are affecting society.  I encourage (but don't require) you to find a topic connected with an academic discipline you plan to study.  Once you pick a topic to research, you will be put in a research group with others working on related topics.  For the exploratory essay and argument, you'll work on individual papers, but in the final web project, your group members will synthesize materials into a single website.

The Essay Assignment

For this exploratory essay, your assignment is to do the initial writing-and-research that will tell you
  • what you already know about the subject and what questions you have
  • what the background to your topic is
  • what issues and debates are involved with your topic
  • what perspectives have been taken on your topic; in other words, who the major "players" are in the area you are investigating and what they have contributed to the debate.
Your purpose in this essay is to establish an initial "knowledge base" on your topic.  Since your task is to explore its possibilities with your reader, you should keep in mind the need to leave her/him with a clear sense of the questions that need consideration, but not necessarily with your answers.  That will come later, in your argument.

The Small Details

Your essay should be approximately 1250 words long.  Sources should be documented.  A preliminary draft is due October 11, with a final draft due October 18, after feedback from your research group and further revision.  The final draft must be submitted as a word-processed (MS Word or Novell Wordperfect) electronic file either through email or on floppy disk.  You must keep both an electronic and a hard copy of this and every essay you submit for class.  I will not accept any "the computer ate my essay" excuse this semester. SAVE OFTEN AND ON SEVERAL DISKS!


Argument or Research Report

    Including the Research Portfolio or Annotated Bibliography

Field Research Track
Secondary Research Track
Situation Statement
Statement of Situation and Strategy
Research Portfolio
Annotated Bibliography
Research Report


Group Web Project

Your final task in your semester-long research project is to synthesize your exploratory essay and research report or argument into a group website in collaboration with your research group partners.  Below is a list of elements that will take you through the project step-by-step.  Be sure to read all these files and follow the directions carefully.
  1. Web Project Proposal
  2. Project Guidelines (requirements for the group and individual contributions)
  3. Project Timeline
  4. Advice for working in groups
  5. How the project will be graded


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