Session 5 (October 15): Recap, Assignment, & Learning Resources

RECAP: What did we do?

  • We briefly discussed the future trajectory of this semester. I expressed my hope that everyone walk away from this course with at least one solid piece of writing. We agreed that in an effort to achieve this goal, we’ll all read one text, which we’ll then use as a jumping off point for a paper. To make the process easier and less stressful, we’ll use each of the following classes to work on successive steps toward creating a finished product (an essay).
  • We briefly reviewed the assignment from last week.
    • Class members shared which articles they chose. Not everyone wrote a summary, so I encouraged everyone to continue to practice that skill. It will be essential to any writing you do in the future because a) it’s a solid method for testing whether you understand the point of the text, b) it will help you to better learn and retain the information, and c) including a summary in your paper will give you legitimacy with your reader (i.e. it will demonstrate that you read and understood the text you’re writing about).
    • Acknowledging that the annotation process we explored last week was involved, I reviewed a simplified version that includes only three columns: a) “What It Says” (i.e. main points/content), b) “What It Does” (i.e. function within the text), and c) “Your Thoughts” (i.e. what we have been referring to as the synthesis column). Developing your annotation skills requires practice, and through that practice, you’ll determine what methods work best for you. That said, the three aforementioned columns will give you a solid foundation for understanding the text.
  • We reviewed ways to begin to analyze a text using the short Economist article “Child-Free Businesses: Nippers Not Wanted.” We discussed how analysis, in general, is breaking something down into its component parts, characterizing those parts, and evaluating the quality of the parts. Any text, whether literary or scientific, written or visual (i.e. a photograph) can be broken down into parts. In your annotation, you likely already identified a number of the structural components of the text (i.e. the main points, thesis statement, evidence presented, etc.). Depending on what aspect of the text you wish to explore in depth, you may also be identifying and examining other components. Oftentimes, analysis involves uncovering what is not being said in a text. Some components that you can focus on to help uncover what is unstated in a text include the author’s choice of examples; choice of language, tone, and rhetorical devices; and inferences and assumptions being made by the author. For example, in their reactions to the article we read today, some students honed in on what they thought may be the author’s implied opinion. They noted that while the title made the article seem that it would be about banning babies from bars, the writer’s tone (arguably disdain), use of rhetorical devices (e.g. sarcasm and a picture invoking a sense of annoyance), and choices of examples (portraying parents in an unflattering light), perhaps betrayed that a) the author was biased toward not allowing babies in bars or in any public establishments and/or b) that he finds entitled hipster parents to be the real problem. Others argued that the writer was being impartial, and a case could potentially be made for that as well.
  • We discussed the assignment for the upcoming week (see below).


Step 1: Read the Atlantic article “The Science of Success” by David Dobbs (2009). Your annotations should include at least three categories: 1) what the text says (i.e. content/main ideas), 2) what the text does (i.e. how each part functions), and 3) your own reactions to the text (i.e. synthesis notes).

Step 2: Select one aspect of the text that is compelling to you and that you would be interested in further exploring. (Tip: Look to your synthesis notes for ideas). You might want to analyze some aspect of the text itself; perhaps you found some structural element to be problematic. For example, author David Shenk takes issue with Dobbs’s use of metaphor. You might be less interested in exploring the article in depth, and you instead may wish to use it as a jumping off point to discuss a related topic. An example of this is Professor of Political Science Christopher Kukk’s reference to the aforementioned Economist article AND the Atlantic article in this blog post. Whatever direction you choose to take, you will be expected to summarize the Dobbs article in your final essay – so take good notes!

Step 3: Construct a question that will help you further explore the topic you have chosen. For example, if you are interested in analyzing the construction of the text itself, you might ask “Does Dobbs’s use of personal narrative further or undermine the objectives of this article? How so?” OR If you want to explore a related topic, like molecular psychiatry, your question might be, “What are some other advances that have recently been made in the the field of molecular psychiatry, and how have they influenced views of human behavior?” You will be using this question next class to identify additional sources for your paper.



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