Writing Project

At the end of the semester, you will be required to compose an essay that responds to one or more of the following focal questions from our course:

  • What does it means to be human?

  • What makes humans unique?

  • In what condition do humans find themselves today?

  • How is the way that humans view themselves today impacted by how humans have viewed themselves in the past?

This project consists of 4 parts. Parts 1-3 can be thought of as pre-writing/scaffolding assignments that ultimately lead to a successful Part 4 of the project.

You are reminded that spending adequate time working on Parts 1-3 as they are due will help ease the burden of Part 4 at the end of the of semester.

Part 1: Identifying a Text from Popular Culture

You will need to choose a text from popular culture that relates to the human condition in some way. This can be a movie, book, tv show, song, commercial, YouTube video, etc. This text must be an “outside source,” meaning that it cannot come from one of our assigned readings/films. You will then need to compose a 900+ word essay that:

  • Identifies your chosen text and gives some background about when and by whom it was produced

  • Briefly summarizes the text (no more than 300 words)

  • Provides a justification for the relevance of this text to understanding the human condition

A suggested outline of paragraphs might be:

  1. Summary of text

  2. Reasons for choosing this text

  3. Major themes addressed in the text (you may want to look ahead at the “Possible Final Essay Themes” document found in Canvas)

This assignment will be graded for completion. Completion here is defined as meeting the word count requirement and being a "best effort" toward formal, academic writing.

Part 2: Preparation Worksheet

You will need to complete the "Preparation Worksheet" and submit it to the appropriate Canvas Assignment by 11:59pm on the day of Session 24. The worksheet itself is available as a Word file in Canvas.

This assignment gives you the opportunity to begin thinking about a thesis statement (a claim that will be argued) for your final essay, but it focuses on choosing and providing justification for the 3 in-class texts to be used in the final essay.

Note that of the 3 in-class texts chosen, no more than 2 may be films.

This assignment will be evaluated as follows:

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Part 3: Presentation

Building on the first two parts of the writing project, you will be asked to give a presentation to your classmates. Students should be prepared to speak for approximately 5 minutes (10 minutes max), and the content of this presentation should:

  • briefly mention the 1 outside-of-class text to be used in the final essay (from Part 1 of the Writing Project, as described above)

  • briefly mention the 3 in-class texts to be used in the final essay (from Part 2 of the Writing Project, as described above)

  • clearly state the thesis statement of the final essay (building from Part 2 of the Writing Project, as described above)

  • provide some discussion of the student's personal perspectives related to the human condition (The bulk of the presentation time should be spent here.)


  • For face-to-face sessions/sections: 

    • The instructor will determine the order of presentations, so all students must be prepared to present at the beginning of the class session to which they are assigned.

    • Students should speak from prepared notes, and Power Point presentations are welcome, but optional.

  • For online sessions/sections:

    • Students will post videos of their presentations to the relevant discussion forum.

    • Each student’s video may be a recording of the student's face (speaking from notes) or a screen recording of the student speaking through a power point presentation (the student should not simply read the power point however). In either case, the presentation must be posted as a video, not as a Power Point file.

    • The recorded presentations will function like discussion leadership (so everyone is a discussion leader in one of the presentation forums). This means that in addition to posting your presentation, you will need respond to other people's presentations with the usual 2 participation posts.

This assignment will be evaluated as follows:

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Part 4: Final Essay

As the culmination of the writing project, by 11:59pm on the day of our finals week session, you will need to submit to the appropriate Canvas Assignment a final essay.

The requirements for this essay are as follows…

Mechanical requirements:

  • at least 2000+ words in length, which is approximately 6-7 pages of double spaced text (Students should clearly indicate the essay word count—which does not include headers & bibliographic information—on the last page of the document.)

  • include a clear thesis statement in an introductory paragraph

  • be written in formal academic style with logical organization and proper grammar

  • include a bibliography with at least 4 sources (3 from class + 1 from outside class)— Any essay that makes use of less than 4 sources or does not include a bibliography will receive a 0.

 Content requirements:

  • analysis of 1 outside “popular culture text” with at least one quote — here “popular culture text” means a book, film, music video or song lyrics, commercial, etc. that you would not normally understand as an “academic” text (taken from Part 1 of the Writing Project)

  • analysis of 3 texts from class (no more than 2 of which can be films) with at least one quote from each (taken from Part 2 of the Writing Project)

  • include critical self-reflection regarding the student’s own personal views and values (taken from Part 3 of the Writing Project)

 "Higher Level Thinking" requirements:

  • demonstrate the ability to analyze texts at a level of depth befitting a college student

  • demonstrate the ability to recognize ways that enduring ideas and values were formed in historical contexts and how those ideas/values still shape our world

  • demonstrate knowledge of diverse traditions/cultures and/or knowledge of divergent perspectives on a topic or text

  • demonstrate the ability to think and write coherently and cohesively (This means that all elements of the essay must fit together-- all 4 texts discussed must relate to (support or challenge, etc.) the student’s personal views and values.)

 Please note that additional resources and tips for success are available on Canvas and should be reviewed.

Please note: This assignment will not be accepted late for any reason.

This assignment will be evaluated as follows:

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Extra Credit Opportunities

Opportunity #1: By 11:59pm on the day of Session 1, you may post a video introducing yourself to your classmates in the "It's lovely to meet you..." discussion forum. This video is worth up to 10 bonus points.

Opportunity #2: By 11:59pm on the day of Session1, you may complete a quiz covering the content of the syllabus. This quiz is worth up to 20 bonus points.

Opportunity #3: You may attend a university sponsored academic event (or an appropriate off campus event with instructor's permission) and write a 300 word response to it. This response should include: 1) a very brief summary of the event, 2) a reflection on what you learned (bonus knowledge!), and 3) some thoughts on how the event connects to a reading or theme from our course. This essay should be submitted to the appropriate Canvas Assignment by the Friday before finals week, and it is worth up to 30 bonus points.


Updated 8/5/2019