Hi again class! Angel here again, this time to talk more about the specifics of how you should write your essay for this class. In the last video, we discussed the basics of what the essay should look like: it should analyze a piece of contemporary art, with the term art being defined pretty broadly, that is influenced or inspired by ancient Greece or Rome. As we mentioned, you can choose to write about something that tells a specific Greek or Roman story, such as a movie like Gladiator, or you can find other ways that Greek and Roman art and history has influenced today’s art ranging from science fiction to music videos. The choice is up to you. If you haven’t yet seen that video, please go back and watch that before watching this video. Also, be sure to carefully look over the assignment sheet and rubric for the class essay. Now, in this video, we’ll go into more detail about what a good analysis paper looks like and what everything on the rubric means. For some of you, this might be a review from previous classes. Regardless, please do watch this video in its entirety to make sure that you know how to apply these writing principles to this assignment in particular. Okay, let’s get started!
The main focus today will be on how you will be graded for this assignment and what you can do to ensure you get the best grade possible. It’s supposed to be a fun assignment, and I hope you all will have fun as you are putting it together, but it also is an important part of this class, so you want to make sure that you write this up carefully and according to the assignment. Let’s talk about how you can do that. First, I recommend that you open the PDF file of the assignment rubric, which is in D2L, and refer to that as we go through this next section. We’ll be talking about each grading criteria on the rubric, but I’m only giving the descriptor for the Excellent category. The rubric has the descriptors for each category, so you can see how your grade might look if you don’t quite reach the descriptions we’re going over together here.
A piece of advice I always give is to be really familiar with the rubric before you begin writing, then look at it several times as you are writing. Finally, use the rubric as a way to give yourself a grade before you submit your final draft. Of course, the grade you give yourself won’t be what we enter in our gradebook, but it’s a great way for you to do one last check of your paper before you submit it so you don’t end up with any surprises once your grades are entered.
Finally, please don’t forget that this paper is mandatory for this class and is required by the university. That means you will not be able to pass this class if you don’t turn it in, even if you have a passing grade otherwise. So no matter what, make sure you submit this assignment!
Let’s get started with the rubric. The first and most important category in the rubric is content, and that’s why this is worth more points than any other category. Your content is what you are actually saying about the piece of art you have chosen to analyze and discuss and how you are connecting it to topics we’ve covered in class. The excellent category, which corresponds with an A, is listed here.
As we discussed in the last writing workshop video, your analysis of the material is going to be a major factor in your grade here. Summarizing or pointing out references isn’t enough! Analyzing means asking questions about the material and providing answers based on your own interpretation and understanding. The questions I provided in the last video are things to get you started here: Is this piece of art based on history, mythology, or is it a blend of the two? In other words, is it supposed to be based on a factual or fictional account? Why do you think the author/artist chose this element, and ancient Greece or Rome in particular, as their inspiration? Did they portray the original source accurately, or did they make changes? If they made changes, what was changed, and why do you think those changes in particular were made? Beginning with these questions, keep asking questions as you look over the material and compare it with the original inspirational source from history.
This is also where you are going to show that you understand the historical aspects of this original source based in what we have discussed in class. So for example, if you choose to analyze a film such as Gladiator, you will need to situate the story within the historical context in which it was supposed to take place, carefully research this context as it really occurred, and then compare and contrast that with what is depicted in the film. Then, you’ll need to discuss any discrepancies or embellishments you find and the reasons why you think these changes were made. That means including both clear factual information and your personal interpretation and opinion. An essay that does not include your personal interpretation and commentary will not receive a high score in this area. As I mentioned before, take a look at the rubric for the descriptions of the other categories as well so you can get a better idea of what truly makes your content excellent.
Next up is organization. This is the sort of thing that you’ve probably covered many times before in your high school English classes and your composition classes in college, either here at the University of Arizona or elsewhere. A well-organized essay, regardless of length, will have a title—and one that doesn’t just say “Class Essay” or something like that—an introductory paragraph to frame your discussion, a well- formed thesis statement that clearly and succinctly states the main idea or argument of your essay, strong body paragraphs with clear transitions and topic sentences so that the essay seems to flow nicely and is easy to read, and an effective conclusion that provides closure to your paper so your reader isn’t left hanging. At this point, I think we’ve all read enough of your writing to know that you are good writers; just keep this up for the organization of your essay, and you shouldn’t have any problem.
For those of you who may not have already covered these elements of an essay in a previous class, you can refer to the links we’ve provided in the Writing Workshop module in D2L. Purdue University’s OWL site includes many excellent resources to help you write clearer thesis statements, topic sentences, and conclusions, among other things. Also, don’t forget to use the university resources available to you, such as the Writing Center at the UA Think Tank, where you can have a peer tutor look over your work and provide feedback. Note that your TA is here to help you primarily
with the content of your paper, not the actual writing of it, so please use all the resources that are available to you to ensure that your writing is strong, both for this assignment and for your other classes in the future.
The references are a very important part of this assignment because it shows that you are drawing from specific topics we’ve discussed in class and then deepening your knowledge by looking toward other, outside sources as well. For this assignment, you will need to have a total of five references—three of those should be the materials from this class, including the video lectures, textbook readings, and assigned films, and the other two should be external sources that you locate yourself. Those external sources do not need to be scholarly, but they should be appropriate for your topic and the way you are incorporating their information into your paper. If the connection between a reference and your paper is not clear, you won’t receive a high score in this section.
Also, if you are using outside sources as a means of collecting factual and historical information about your topic, make sure that they are reputable sources. Don’t use Wikipedia or things like blogs unless the author is an established expert. If you have any question about whether or not a source you’ve located is reputable, reach out to your assigned TA. We’re always happy to help with these sorts of things!
As with any essay, it’s crucial that you cite your sources correctly. To do this, you’ll need to have in-text citation, formatted according to either MLA or APA guidelines,
for any concept that you are taking from those sources, whether or not you are providing a direct quotation. You’ll then also need to have the full reference information provided at the end of your essay in a references section, also formatted according to either MLA or APA guidelines. Any phrases or sentences replicated word for word MUST be placed within quotation marks to show that this is a direct quote. Failure to do this is plagiarism, and it will result in a zero on this assignment.
Good writing means that your voice is what the reader sees and hears when they read your essay. In other words, you should never have too many direct quotes from source material. For an excellent paper, like what we’re looking at in our descriptor here, no more than 7% of your text should come from direct quotations. Because this essay is only required to be around 750 words, that means that you should have no more than about 50 quoted words in your paper total—and that’s not much! If you find that you have quoted more than this amount, try to paraphrase some of your quotes and only quote key phrases that really add to the meaning of what you are saying.
While we’re talking about how to properly cite your references, let’s look at a couple of quick examples of in-text citation that use APA formatting. Remember that you can use either APA or MLA formatting for your paper, so please follow the guidelines for the formatting option that you choose. Links to directions for each option are provided in the writing workshop module in D2L. In this example, you can see that the author’s last name or names, the date of the text being cited, and the page number are all included in the in-text citation. If you list the name in the sentence, you do not need to restate that in the parentheses.
These examples show some different ways of structuring your citations. Compare the two examples to see different ways that an in-text citation may be structured appropriately using APA format.
In the first example, the author uses a signal phrase, “According to Cook-Gumperz,” to introduce the quoted material. Signal phrases are short phrases that connect your citation to the surrounding sentences and make it flow seamlessly with your own writing. Make sure you don’t just plop a quote into your paper without giving it some sort of introduction and explanation! Your job in citing an outside source is not simply to have another citation in your paper to meet requirements—it’s to provide important support for what you are trying to say. That means it should be integrated well with the rest of your writing for it to be effective. We’ve provided a link in the Writing Workshop module on D2L about integrating quotes that may be helpful for you if you have struggled with this in the past.
Now back to the rubric. Length and formatting is by far the simplest criteria in this rubric to explain, because basically, if you have followed the requirements listed on the assignment sheet, you will receive the full points allotted. Is your paper at least 750 words, not counting sources? Did you submit it in 12-point Times New Roman or Calibri font, double spaced, with 1-inch margins? Are you following the formatting guidelines for either MLA or APA in all parts of your essay? Then you’ve got this section down.
The last criteria on the rubric is grammar and mechanics. Like length and formatting, this is a category that probably doesn’t need much explanation. Your essay should be free of any distracting problems with grammar, spelling, punctuation, or overall sentence structure. Notice here that we say “distracting problems”—we know how hard it is to figure out comma rules!
It’s typically best to save this for last as you are writing your essay—there’s no need obsessing over perfect grammar in a draft that you’re going to rewrite anyway. So don’t worry about this for your rough draft at all, only the final draft. Also, remember that your Tas cannot help you with grammar and writing, but there are lots of resources out there to help. If you know that you’ve always had trouble with spelling, even just getting a friend to look over your paper can go a long way.
For those of you who struggle with grammar and sentence structure, you can refer to the links we’ve saved in the module for this section in D2L. These are some that we’ve found the most helpful both for ourselves and for others in the past.
Last note here. You will turn this in on D2L using the folder that you will have set up in under the Assignments tab. Your paper must be turned in no later than December 19—because this is the last day of finals, no late papers will be accepted. However, you may submit this paper as early as you wish after you receive your feedback on your rough draft from your TAs.
Please only upload Microsoft Word files. Other formats, such as Pages, may not be readable by everyone.
And that’s it! By following the guidelines in the two videos we’ve posted, the assignment sheet, and the grading rubric, you should be able to write an excellent class essay. Of course, after you thoroughly look through all the resources provided, if you still have questions about the assignment, please reach out to your TA early in the writing process. We’re happy to help, and it’s easier for everyone if we can help you in the beginning stages of writing this.
We’re looking forward to reading your essays soon. But now, it’s time to get started!
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