What do good readers do? What do good writers do? What is research? What is a research paper?
The term essay comes from the French verb essayer, meaning “to attempt” or “to try.” Writers compose personal essays
to try to make sense or work out their thoughts on something they find intriguing, confusing, and raises interesting
questions. For this assignment, you will pick one of the concepts about reading or writing or research from the course
readings to explore in your essay, to make meaning of the concept, and connect it to your personal experiences.
To whom are you writing?
You are writing for an audience of readers who have not done the reading and thinking you have done over the last
couple of weeks. It may help you to think of an invoked or imagined audience, a reader or group of readers that you
imagine will read your essay. For example, you might want to write to share your new understanding of good writing with a
former teacher who constantly marked up your paper for grammar but ignored your ideas. Maybe you want to write to an
audience of Mason education majors encouraging them to rethink how they might approach teaching writing in their
classrooms. Another example might be writing to classmates in your major about how to approach reading or writing or
researching in a particular discipline.
What type of writing?
For this genre, an exploratory essay asks questions and gathers information that may answer these questions. However,
the main point of the exploratory essay is not to find definite answers. This is an informal and open-form personal essay,
so you do not need to conduct any additional formal research. You will need to use the first person pronoun “I” to
examine, question, challenge, and possibly embrace your biases, opinions, and beliefs about the topic.
What is the purpose for writing?
The main point is to conduct inquiry into a topic, gather information, and share that information with readers. The purpose
this assignment is to 1) help you deeply reflect and consider your ideas about writing, reading and research and how they
hold up to what you are learning in this class and what you do in your daily life, and 2) to try to make a thoughtful claim
that you can support through inquiry-based examples.
You essay should be developed in multiple paragraphs – not simply one paragraph or a tight five. This is a personal
essay, so it should have a loose form, but there should be a clear beginning, middle, and end.
• One to two questions exploring a new concept about reading or writing or research from the course readings
• A brief description of the concept referencing the course readings
• A detailed explanation of why you are interested in the concept and/or how it is relevant to you in your life
• A detailed exploration of personal experiences and observations connected to the concept
• A clear S.O.F.T. or thesis statement about why this concept matters and why the reader(s) should care
• A detailed and edited Postscript
• Length of ~4 pages/1,000 – 1,250 words total
George Mason University ENGH 101/Villanueva
This assignment was adapted from Writing About Writing, A College Reader, Second Edition, Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs and the Composition Program, George Mason
University, Spring 2019. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
WORKING DRAFT EXPECTATIONS
A working draft is a work in progress. This means it is complete and readable. However, it is not “finished.” During the
peer review workshop, you are inviting your peers in the class to read your working draft and give you feedback to help
you make decisions about how to revise and edit the draft before you submit it for a “grade” of completion. Isn’t this just a
rough draft? No, a rough draft is usually a piece of writing that is not complete and not ready to be read by anyone else.
POLISHED DRAFT EXPECTATIONS
The word polish originally meant to make something smooth, shiny, and clean, as in “polish my leather shoes.” In writing,
polish can mean to improve or refine a piece of writing by copy-editing for minor errors that could be distracting or
confusing to your reader. (Purdue OWL) Before you submit a polished draft, your work should be well copy-edited by
spending time during your process to focus on word choice, spelling, punctuation, and grammar that is appropriate for
your intended audience and the conventions of the genre.
A postscript is additional information or ideas added at the end of the writing process. For this assignment, your postscript
should reflect on your writing process. This is informal writing, but it must be submitted with your essay. Essays
submitted without a Postscript will be marked as Incomplete.
PROMPT: Please include your postscript as a new page at the end of your essay. A meaningful postscript will address
each of the following questions with detailed responses, referring to specific examples. This is your opportunity to tell me
what you intended to do in your writing, even if it may not have been successful. Show your knowledge of the genre and
what you have learned by writing the essay.
1. Describe your intended audience and explain why you decided to write for them.
2. What’s your thesis, main position, or S.O.F.T. statement? Is it either explicit or implicit, about the topic? Where is it
located in the essay and why did you decide on this structure? If you have an implicit thesis, explain why you chose to
imply rather than state it.
3. What process steps would you use for another assignment and/or a different course? For what types of assignment,
and why? What would you rethink, and why?
4. What do you like best about your essay?
5. What concerns do you have about your essay? What do you want me to pay special attention to or comment on?
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS PROJECT?
We’ll focus on the following Learning Objectives throughout this project:
• You will analyze and respond to a range of rhetorical situations with increased awareness of the purposes, audiences,
and contexts of writing.
• You will identify appropriate rhetorical strategies and apply them in your own writing.
• You will practice critically reading and writing a nonfiction genre to develop analysis, reflection, exposition,
argumentation and informal research skills.
If you have questions about the assignment, please ask. If you need additional support,
use my office hours, drop-in hours, and the Mason Writing Center.