Cleveland State University

The Writing Center

Reading and Scheduling Assignments

The Writing Center

What follows is a brief guide to reading writing assignments. Keep this thought in mind as you use it: your instructor knows what she or he is looking for and will tell you if you ask—but sometimes you have to ask.

Reading

Most university writing is done in response to published texts. If you do not read the texts relevant to your assignments, you will be more or less unable to write them. So start by reading with your assignment in mind—take notes. Check out the first chapter in The Allyn & Bacon Handbook for some reading tips. Remember, only you can do your reading!!

Task

Every assignment you get from a college instructor will require you to do some specific kind of writing (your instructor might refer to this as a "rhetorical" task). If you misread the task behind an assignment, you will not produce what your reader or expects or needs even though what you do produce may be beautiful prose. Think about it: a famous poet could write a powerful poem about the Cleveland Indians loss 1996 Division Championships, but chances are that the Plain Dealer sports page would not publish it, and few readers of the PD sports page would read it—they're just not looking for poetry.

So when you write, you need to understand what your audience is looking for. At the most simple level, they expect you to do particular kinds of intellectual work. The four types listed below are the most common:

summary— a brief and objective restatement of a text

evaluation— a judgment of the effectiveness and reliability of a text according to some criteria

analysis— an application of a principle or definition to data to gain a better understanding of that data

synthesis— the presentation of source materials according to a well-defined purpose

Once you understand the task a writing assignment involves, determine how long your response should be, what it must include, and what sort of format it should be presented in. Your reader has expectations in these areas as well.

Audience

Every piece of writing has an intended audience. Your teacher is rarely the audience you are writing for (though the teacher is always a member of your audience). Most of the time your are writing for college-educated folks; sometimes you are writing for experts in a particular field. Before you get too far into your assignment, stop and think about the people you are writing for. What do they know, what kinds of language and examples will they find convincing, how much would they know about your class reading.

Purpose

Writers need a purpose. Often it's related to the task: the purpose of a summary is to relate another author's ideas briefly and objectively for a reader who may not have read the original text. Whatever kind of writing you are doing, you need to discover a purpose. Part of your purpose as a student is to get a good grade, but you will usually do more than that. Decide whether you will convince or inform or excite.

Evaluative Criteria

An evaluative criteria is simply a list of the issues a reader will be looking for in your writing. There is no single criteria but generally the following things are important:

The Task —If you are asked to write a summary, your reader will be looking for a summary.

Concrete Proof —Whether you are writing about texts or your own experience, your reader will need enough details to understand precisely what you are talking about. This means making references (via quotes or paraphrases) to texts or experiences and interpreting those references in specific terms.

A Main Point —Readers can only know what you are focusing.

An Organizational Structure —Your audience needs to be able to follow your argument.

Mechanical and Stylistic Accuracy —Enough said.

Format —Different readers require different formats; follow an appropriate guide.

Important Dates

The final due date of the paper is not the only date you need to keep in mind. Schedule the other points in the process too.

Date paper is assigned.

Date drafts of paper are due.

Date of conferences with instructor or tutor concerning paper.

Date final draft is due.

Sample Scheduling Form

Project
Task
Starting Date
Ending Date
Date Completed
Date Due
#1 Gather preliminary information
Choose a topic
Generate ideas and a scratch outline
Draft a proposal

draft

final

Gather information
Do related work

quizzes

free writing

outlines

other

Draft

preliminary writing

rough draft

working draft

Continue with related work

conferences

peer editing

other

Prepare final draft
Prepare presentations
#2 Gather preliminary information
Choose a topic
Generate ideas and a scratch outline
Draft a proposal

draft

final

Gather information
Do related work

quizzes

free writing

outlines

other

Draft

preliminary writing

rough draft

working draft

Continue with related work

conferences

peer editing

other

Prepare final
Prepare presentations

To get back to the bottom, you go back to the top of the slide . . .
right hand imageLook at it again
up imageBack to the process
left hand imageWant to talk to a tutor about it?

 

Questions, comments, and other sundry things may be sent to CSUwriting@csuohio.edu

 

The Writing Center

 

engaged learning
Mailing Address
Cleveland State University
Provost Office
2121 Euclid Avenue
RT Library 124
Cleveland, OH 44115-2214
Campus Location
Rhodes Tower 124
1860 E. 22 Street
Office Hours
Mon - Thurs : 9:30 am-7:00 pm
Fri : 9:30 am-4:00 pm

For appointments call:
216.687.6981
Dr. Mary McDonald
216.687.6982
Fax: 216.687.6943
Dr. Mary McDonald, Director


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