This writing course is built around four major writing assignments in order to introduce students to some of the basic writing skills necessary for success in college. Each paper asks students to focus on two different but complementary rhetorical modes of writing. Another way to say this is that this book helps students master a set of standard moves that are vital to critical inquiry at the college level. As you begin your college careers, you will need to develop and become fluent in certain essential intellectual tasks that are central to sophisticated inquiry into complex questions. Perhaps more than any other introductory course you take, this class will help you no matter what your major is because it teaches you the building blocks of academic writing. Equally important, it gives you a chance to get some practice with using those building blocks. As you move through your undergraduate classes, you will continue to use these and other building blocks or tools to meet the intellectual challenges that you will encounter as part of your curriculum.
The first paper asks you to pay attention to the descriptive language you choose to communicate in one of the most basic structures of human thought: narrative. From there, the second paper asks you to think about a more focused task in which you explain a complex term or concept and support your explanation with illustrations or examples. Both papers give you experience thinking about sequence, language, and abstract ideas. In addition to this, they prepare you to execute more complex tasks, tasks that highlight the challenging practice of analysis, or breaking things into parts and finding different relationships between those parts.
In the evaluate and compare paper, you will identify criteria (individual traits) that you’ll use to assess two different things and determine the relative merits and weaknesses of each. Not only is this a skill you’ll need for college, but it’s one you’ll need for the rest of your life. (How else will you be able to decide which smartphone is best for you?)
Your final paper asks you to describe and make an argument about a cause-and-effect relationship that you see somewhere in the world. Another project that asks you to undertake at least two complex intellectual tasks, this paper incorporates pieces of all the papers in the class that have led up to it. Not only does this final assignment ask you to think abstractly about concrete things; it asks you to learn new analytical maneuvers and practice others that you developed earlier in the semester.
In addition to chapters on each of these eight different rhetorical modes, this textbook also includes four chapters that will coach you through the writing process as something that doesn’t just happen overnight. (Well, it’s not supposed to happen overnight, at least.) As you work on each major paper, you will have a chance to think about each of the different stages of the writing process. By thinking about writing as a process with clearly defined stages and concrete goals for each stage, you’ll develop a chronological understanding of how to write a paper by following a set of predetermined steps. This is faster and more efficient than muddling through a chaotic, unfocused wandering on your way to a final draft. Once you get practice at working through each step of the process, the task of writing a paper will become an easy task to plan and undertake from start to finish.
As you complete both minor and major writing assignments, be sure to consult the rubrics included in this textbook, particularly those included with the assignment sheet for each major paper. Key to understanding any assignment is knowing how it will be scored or evaluated. And, finally, don’t hesitate to contact your professor if you have any questions or concerns. They’re not psychic, and if you’re struggling, it never hurts to let them know what’s going on.
Good luck and happy writing!