Essay 2

These instructions are for sections 01 and 03 (May-June) only.


a. Research questions
b. Proposal (due Friday, May 29)
c. Essay (due Sunday, June 14)

Research questions

None of these prompts tells you the purpose or the “So what?” behind the research. You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.

  • Investigate the history of the personal essay, also known as memoir, autobiography and life writing. Thinking about any culture you belong to, what kinds of first-person writing does your culture value? What kinds does it devalue? How do you know? You might also comment on the fact that most of the “personal” essays in The Broadview Anthology of Expository Prose were written by women. What does that suggest?
  • Develop an argument about the role of metaphor and/or mythology in everyday life, paying attention to at least one of these essays: “The Egg and the Sperm,” “Political Animals and the Body of History,” “Fear of a Changeling Moon.” I also recommend reading Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language” (pp. 109-28), but you can’t write about that essay on its own.
  • Find a legal case involving a dispute over plagiarism, authorship, or originality. What made the case difficult to resolve? What can we learn from it, and what does it leave unsettled? What does the verdict indicate about the values of the people involved?
  • Using the Radiolab episode “The Fact of the Matter” as a starting point, develop an argument about the role of either the scientist or the journalist when faced with a traumatic history.
  • Stanley Milgram’s “Obedience” studies are among the most famous psychological experiments ever conducted. That’s not because they showed us something brand new. So what made them so notorious? Did they have any effect outside the world of academic science? Does the general public have an accurate understanding of the experiments, what they prove, and what they don’t?
  • A topic of your own. It must be connected to one of the Broadview Anthology essays in a clear and logical way, and it must address a question of interpretation or values. No arguments for or against abortion, gay marriage, or legalizing drugs.


i) The proposal itself (250-500 words)
Begin with an expression of topic (“This essay will examine…”). Then convince us, the scholarly discourse community, that your topic is important and your contribution is original. Refer to a tradition of inquiry, knowledge deficits, what “They Say,” and so on.
Include important contextual information such as definitions, historical and biographical details, or statistics.
Optionally, indicate a working thesis statement (or “hypothesis”). At this point, your thesis is less important than the relevance of the investigation.
Chapter 5 of Designs for Disciplines includes several examples.

Click to view grading rubric for the proposal

Click to view grading rubric for the proposal

ii) Annotated bibliography
List at least 3 sources which you plan to use, including the ones in the Broadview Anthology. Write correct MLA Works Cited entries for each source. Follow each entry with one or two sentences explaining why this source is valuable and how you plan to use it in your essay.

[More on finding and choosing sources]




Length: 5-8 pages (1250-2000 words)
Evaluation: full class rubric (section 01 / section 03)