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ENG 121: Academic Writing: Writing Assignments

Essay 5

Writer’s Choice: Social Commentaries

Option 1: Satire


(Scope: 2-3 pp, 12 pt TNR, DS, MLA)

With this final paper, you’re to target an element of society and make an argument about it; the hitch is that you must do so using satire. Satire is a literary form that pokes fun at social institutions with irony or sarcasm, mostly with the purpose of changing them. As Jonathan Swift shows us, hyperbole and an earnest, serious tone are also strong tools to create satire.


To do this, first be sure you’re familiar with the genre. Some good examples include “A Modest Proposal”* from our reading list and any segment from The Colbert Report; The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and South Park often make good use of this genre, as well.


Next, you must choose the element that you wish to address. Choose something that affects you, something that you have experience in dealing with. Some good topics might include:

  • Technology and teens (texting, IM-ing, Facebook, Tweeting)
  • Sense of entitlement among teens
  • Cliques in high school
  • Peer pressure
  • Dorm life




Option 2: Create your own Case For/Against Torture

 (Scope: 2-3 pp, 12 pt TNR, DS, MLA)

This assignment is inspired by the reading, “The Case For Torture.” If you choose this option, you’ll be responding to the question: “Under what circumstances is torture acceptable?” Here you’re to create an argument either for or against torture, something akin to the writing provided by Michael Levin.


I ask that you if you choose this option, you include consideration of Article 5 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights: Convention Against Torture; in addition, research the United States’ policy on this issue, and include that in your commentary.


Keep in mind that you’re still creating an argument here, so you need a solid thesis that goes beyond merely addressing the issue at hand: this thesis statement needs to land squarely on one side or the other.



Option 3: Make your voice heard

(Scope: 2-3 pp, 12 pt TNR, DS, MLA)

This assignment is inspired by the reading “I Have a Dream.” If you choose this option, you will be studying King’s essay for its use of pathos, which is the rhetorical device used to earn an emotional response from its readers. You will need to understand why he uses repetitive phrases as well as clichés or Biblical verses that his audience would connect with, and mimic those techniques in your own writing.


This essay will address a social issue or institution that you would like to see changed. You may choose from topics like the state of public education, national or international military policies, discrimination, prejudice, or other inequities. Once you’ve chosen your topic, focus your energy on identifying your audience and determine methods to reach that audience (for example, pop culture references would reach your peers; literary references would reach your English professors, etc.). Write your essay as if you would be delivering it as a speech.


Essay 4

English 121

WA4: Problem/ Solution


Scope: 12pt TNR, DS, MLA, 500-550 words

Audience: Peers, Instructor

Tone: Academic Casual


With this essay we’re continuing our gradual approach to argument writing. In this essay you’re to articulate an identifiable issue and provide a proposed solution. Consider this a two part essay that necessitates a two part thesis. You may use first person voice, but an effective problem/ solution essay won’t rely heavily on narratives. Any narrative you choose to incorporate must be in support of your thesis.

  • Before writing this essay, complete the following preparation steps:
  1. Determine the problem. It’s essential that you are as concrete and definite as you can be here. Stay away from clichés; be original and specific.
  2. Determine the scope of the problem. You need to limit your argument carefully: for example, if you’re writing about sexism, are you writing about gender-based discrimination world-wide, or about an issue you noticed on campus?
  3. Offer a solid solution. Try to avoid being vague or offering too many potential outcomes here. Use concrete language to propose this solution.
  4. Determine the tone of your essay. Your writing may be serious, hopeful, sarcastic, funny, practical, or whimsical, for example.
  5. Be aware as you’re writing that you are creating an argument; your proposed solution may not be one that everyone will agree with. As such, you need to create a convincing, realistic solution that will win opinions.



Essay 3


Essay Assignment 3

English 121

 Your task with this third paper of 500 words is to create a descriptive essay. You may choose to write about a person, place or thing relating to how it affected you.  Which senses were involved? You must form a picture for the reader.   The textbook has some good examples of descriptive reading such as So, This Was Adolescence, Pavolva, Niagara Falls.  


If I write the following statement: My best friend is wacky, how much do you really know about my friend? My concept of wacky, for all you know, might be someone who doesn't alphabetize the canned goods in their pantry. On the other hand, if I write the following description, you might have a better idea of my concept of wacky.

My best friend is absolutely, without a doubt, the wackiest person I know. She has driven into the McDonalds drive-thru and placed her order into the trashcan instead of the speaker. Another time she discovered that she had washed a loaf of bread and a bottle of Windex with her load of dark clothes. (Actually it was a load of multi colored clothes because she never sorts her laundry.) She has mistakenly thrown her cell phone, diamond earrings, various pieces of her grandmother's silver, and a bag of newly purchased light bulbs into the trash compactor. I could go on and on, but with the examples that I've given you, wouldn't you agree that she is totally wacked?

Inside District School #7, Niagara County, New York

by Joyce Carol Oates

Inside, the school smelled smartly of varnish and wood smoke from the potbellied stove. On gloomy days, not unknown in upstate New York in this region south of Lake Ontario and east of Lake Erie, the windows emitted a vague, gauzy light, not much reinforced by ceiling lights. We squinted at the blackboard, that seemed far away since it was on a small platform, where Mrs. Dietz's desk was also positioned, at the front, left of the room. We sat in rows of seats, smallest at the front, largest at the rear, attached at their bases by metal runners, like a toboggan; the wood of these desks seemed beautiful to me, smooth and of the red-burnished hue of horse chestnuts. The floor was bare wooden planks. An American flag hung limply at the far left of the blackboard and above the blackboard, running across the front of the room, designed to draw our eyes to it avidly, worshipfully, were paper squares showing that beautifully shaped script known as Parker Penmanship

Essay 2

Expository writing -Essay 2

English 121


You are to describe a topic that you consider yourself an expert about.  You are to inform the reader about a place, a culture, a topic that you feel you know more about than anything else.  

You will explain, inform, and describe everything about the activity or topic you consider yourself an expert about.  

Try to speak clearly so that your words will give concise imagery as to what you are talking about.  You may organize your essay around giving directions.  You will inform the reader about the topic.   Some techniques to consider would be using sequence of events, cause and effect, or compare/contrast.  The choice is yours. 

500 words



Essay 1

English 121

Essay 1: Narration


We’re starting our essays with the most primary of functions in writing: narration. We’re all born storytellers, and we each practice this art countless times each day. The stories from our text that we’ve been reading all tell the tale of important events in the lives of the speakers. Consider the similarities that tie them together:


-Many authors use the first person in relating their stories.

-Each story relates a significant, influential moment.

-They all have greater meaning—in other words, there’s a moral to each story.


Your assignment with this first essay is to tell a story that does the same. Choose an event or situation that you experienced that shaped who you are today. It doesn’t have to be a huge event, as long as the effect was substantial. Give your words meaning by offering careful explanation. Use first person here.


Incorporate into your writing some form of dialogue here. Consider how dialogue adds to the stories we’ve read, and what it can contribute to your own writing. This can be a brief aside of two utterances, or your piece can be largely composed of dialogue.


Begin by brainstorming three potential topics here in class, then organize each brainstorm into an outline. Finally, choose one of the three outines to work with.


Next, work on your topic sentence/ thesis idea. Keep your readers in mind: what will grab their attention? What will hold it? Draft rough thesis below your brainstorms.


From here, begin your own writing process. You may decide to draft your narrative then add dialogue, or to work dialogue into your process. Whichever you choose, be aware of how you’re using the dialogue and what it tells readers about the speakers. Be sure to save all drafts separately, and save as you go.


Scope: 500 words, DS, 12 pt