Assignments for Essays

Writing From Experience

“The Great Undersea Search”
Jeffrey Quinn wrote “The Great Undersea Search” for an assignment which asked students to pick an eloquent or speaking moment – that is, “a moment from your life that says something of interest, though perhaps you aren't sure quite what.” The challenge was to discover more precisely what the writer found compelling about that experience while steering clear of spin – i.e., clichéd avowals of significance and lessons learned.

21W.731.03, 05 – Writing in an Age of Spin
Fall 2007 Class Home Page
Complete Essay Assignment

“A Branch Over the River” and “The Pursuit of Happiness”
Matthieu Talpé's “Branch Over the River” and Adrianna Tam's “The Pursuit of Happiness” began with students writing down seventeen memories of specific "moments" in their lives – remembered images, sensations, or events. Inspired by one or more of the remembered moments in this initial catalogue, they then told the "stories" of their memories in a narrative essay.

21W.731.02, 03 – Retrospective Moments: Writing About Memory
Spring 2008 Class Home Page

“Daughters Without Borders”
Susan Shepherd wrote “Daughters Without Borders” in response to an assignment which asked students to write a narrative essay with a suggested length of six pages on the role of ethics in their own lives or the life of another person. In these essays, students were asked to reflect on either (a) a process of developing ethical values or (b) “ethics in action,” an experience affirming or clarifying personal moral values.

21W.730.01,02 – Social and Ethical Issues
Spring 2008 Class Home Page
Complete Essay Assignment

“How To Phone Your Old Man,” “How to Sink the Family: Adoption Edition,” and “How to Lose Your Religion”
Alyssa Roqué wrote “ How to Phone Your Old Man,” Naomi Zabel wrote “How to Sink the Family: Adoption Addition,” and Josh Bails wrote “How to Lose Your Religion,” for an assignment which asked students to take the conventional prompt of the “how-to” essay, but this time make it so straight-forward, particular, and honest that it becomes surprising – i.e., revealing in ways the reader might not expect. The model was Junot Díaz's “How to Date a Browngirl, Blackgirl, Whitegirl, or Halfie.”

21W.731.03,05 – Writing in an Age of Spin
Fall 2007 Class Home Page
Complete Essay Assignment

“Never Would Have Made It”
Jason Ashe wrote “Never Would Have Made It” in response to an assignment which asked students to select an intriguing question arising out of their own experience and to pursue that question, using their own train of thought as the core “plot” of the essay. The challenge was to keep the essay grounded in the particulars of personal experience while making use of knowledge gained through outside sources. The goal was to reach and articulate some fresh insight – though not necessarily a definitive answer to the initial question(s) raised.

21W.731.03, 05 – Writing in an Age of Spin
Fall 2007 Class Home Page
Complete Essay Assignment

“My Kind of Politics”
Wissam Jarjoui wrote “My Kind of Politics” for an assignment which asked students to act as field workers in the class's collective enterprise – to investigate the proposition that we live in an era in which the prevalence of spin is unprecedented. Alternatively, they could bring into the conversation some fresh insight on a counter question: If we do, indeed, live in an era where spin prevails in new and remarkable ways, where, then, can we find countervailing tendencies – the forces that work against this?

21W.731.03,05 – Writing in an Age of Spin
Fall 2007 Class Home Page
Complete Essay Assignment

“Que Será, Será,”
Joseph Gregg wrote “Que Será, Será,” in response to an assignment which asked students to write a narrative essay with a suggested length of six pages on the role of ethics in their own lives or the life of another person. In these essays, students were asked to reflect on either (a) a process of developing ethical values or (b) “ethics in action,” an experience affirming or clarifying personal moral values.

21W.730.01,02 – Social and Ethical Issues
Spring 2008 Class Home Page
Complete Essay Assignment

“A Meaty Dilemma”
Mihai Duduta wrote “A Meaty Dilemma” for an assignment which asked students to select an intriguing question arising out of their own experience and to pursue that question, using their own train of thought as the core “plot” of the essay. The challenge was to keep the essay grounded in the particulars of personal experience while making use of knowledge gained through outside sources. The goal was to reach and articulate some fresh insight – though not necessarily a definitive answer to the initial question(s) raised. In the case of “A Meaty Dilemma,” this assignment was adapted to omit use of secondary sources.

21W.731.03,05 – Writing in an Age of Spin
Fall 2007 Class Home Page
Complete Essay Assignment

Writing about Contemporary Issues

“Vegan: Healthy or Crazy?”
Caitlin Reyda wrote “Vegan: Healthy or Crazy?” in response to an assignment which asked students to write a 10-11 page research-based essay that explores and analyzes some aspect of food and culture. Students were required to include their own perspective as well as documented research.

21W.730.04 – Food for Thought
Fall 2007 Class Home Page
Complete Essay Assignment

“Squeeze Chairs” and “I Am Now Truly Awake”
Noah Caplan wrote “Squeeze Chairs” and Irida Altman wrote “I Am Now Truly Awake” in response to an assignment which asked students to find an issue regarding, or an idea about, the human body that particularly intrigued them; investigate it, drawing on both primary and secondary sources; then write an essay in which they presented their research and thinking about the topic.

21W.730.03 – Body Language: Writing About Ideas and Images of the Body
Fall 2007 Class Home Page

“Make Way for the Robots” and “Knowingly Unchecked Aggression: Private Military Contractors in Iraq”
Both Sean Faulk (“Make Way for the Robots”) and Francisco Saldana (“Knowingly Unchecked Aggression: Private Military Contractors in Iraq”) wrote their essays in response to an assignment that asked them to investigate thoroughly some issue in the contemporary world which we had encountered in the futuristic fictions and films that constituted the material of the Class. These stories, novels, and films invite engagement with the world and effort to prevent its becoming more and more like the dystopic societies they present.

21W.730.05 – Imagining the Future
Fall 2007 Class Home Page
Complete assignment

Writing About Science and Technology

“The Science of Juggling”
Jacob Sharpe wrote this design proposal in response to an assignment that asked students to develop an idea for an entirely new exhibit for the Boston Museum of Science. The assignment required students to visit the museum, to explore the range of exhibits already on display and to examine the various ways in which scientific and technical information is communicated to a broad audience.

21W.732 -03 – Explorations in Scientific and Technical Communication
Spring 2008 Class Home Page
Complete Design Proposal Assignment

“Tales of Baffling Biotech”
Judy Cheng wrote this review article in response to an assignment that asked students to review an exhibit at the Boston Museum of Science, following a visit to the museum. This assignment was followed by one in which students were asked to develop an idea for an entirely new exhibit for the museum, in the form of a design proposal.

21W.732 -03 – Explorations in Scientific and Technical Communication
Spring 2008 Course Home Page

“Fighting Malaria”
Samantha Weiss wrote this review article in response to an assignment in which students were asked to write an 8-9 page paper reviewing recent research on a narrowly defined topic within the field of public health.

21W.732.01 – Perspectives on Medicine and Public Health
Spring 2008 Class Home Page
Complete assignment

“Current Battery Technology and Fully Electric Vehicles” and “Temperature and CO2 Correlations Found in Ice Core Records”
Radu Gogoana wrote “Current Battery Technology” and Emmanuel Quiroz wrote “Temperature and CO2 Correlations” in response to an assignment in which students were asked to write an 8-9 page paper reviewing recent research on a narrowly defined topic of environmental significance.

21W.732.03 – Writing and the Environment
Fall 2007 Class Home Page
Complete assignment