Major Writing Assignments

Assignments should be in Times New Roman, 12pt., double-spaced, approximately 250 words per page. All major assignments should be emailed to the instructor as Word documents or PDFs; revisions should also be submitted with original versions and instructor comments. For revisions, bold any significant changes to the original text.

Essay 1

The first assignment (1250–1300 words or about 5 pages), a personal narrative, asks students to reflect on experiences influencing or expressing their values. Students can write on (a) "coming to consciousness," an individual experience(s) leading to a more profound awareness of a contemporary social or ethical issue or a more general commitment to social justice or (b) "ethics in action," an experience or moral decision affirming a personal commitment to particular values. The challenge of Essay 1 is to work with the complex elements of life narrative as evidence to support an argument in an essay for a public readership. If a student has done or is doing community service, this essay provides an opportunity to reflect on motives for volunteering in a particular setting (e.g., food pantry, tutoring program) or with a specific community (e.g., elders, LGBT community, preschoolers, Special Olympics).

Essay 2

The second assignment (2500–3000 words or 10–12 pages), an investigative research essay, asks that students present different perspectives on a particular social or ethical problem (of their choice), drawing explicitly upon and properly citing secondary sources such as scholarly publications and news media. Students may adopt a neutral, informational voice or take an advocacy position. Whether writing as an educator or advocate, a student must be able to engage with different viewpoints on an issue and present them clearly and accurately. For Essay 2, students are also encouraged to conduct an interview and include at least five documentary photographs or other visuals (e.g., charts, graphs, maps, timelines, political cartoons) to accompany the essay.

Assignment 3

The third assignment (1750–2000 words or 7–8 pages) asks students to write a grant proposal to fund a service project that addresses a current social problem / need in the greater Cambridge-boston area, at MIT, in the student's home community or country or in another community / country. The grant proposal must advance a clear and compelling argument, supported by secondary sources, about the importance of addressing a particular problem. The grant proposal should define the community problem or issue and persuasively argue for the value and feasibility of the proposed service program (including a detailed budget and evaluation plan). The grant proposal can address a similar social or ethical issue as Essay 2. For example, a student might write Essay 2 as a comparative analysis of different perspectives on alleviating hunger in the U.S. For Assignment  3, that same writer might develop a grant proposal for a local nutrition education program for adults or community garden at a school in Cambridge, Mass. The revision of Assignment 3 is due on the last day of the semester.

First Versions and Revisions

Students will submit each major writing assignment initially, as a first version, and later, in revised form. It is very important that students turn in work on the due date. Late submission of work, without an extension, may result in a lowered final grade.

Pre-assignment writing exercises will be acknowledged with brief comments. In reviewing first versions of Essays 1 and 2, I will provide a comprehensive written evaluation and make suggestions for improving the piece in revision. The revisions of Essays 1 and 2 are letter-graded. For Assignment 3, I will provide letter grades, as well as comments, for both the first version and revision. For Assignment 3, revision grades will be weighted twice as heavily as the grade for the first version. To complete the course successfully, you must submit all three major assignments in both first version and revised form.