Social Sciences

Informal Writing Assignments

Author: 
Brad Hughes, Martin Nystrand, Paige Byam, and Tom Curtis
Description: 
The assignments below are generally short, informal, perhaps ungraded writing assignments that instructors might consider adapting to their classes. Students often appreciate the opportunity to explore their thoughts on paper in such a way that relieves the pressure of a longer, more formal writing assignment.

The Question Box

Responding to Student Drafts Using Audio

Author: 
Annette Vee, English Department, UW-Madison
Description: 
Instead of writing comments on student papers, some instructors record spoken feedback in a digital audio file.  Here's a thoughtful explanation of the benefits of audio feedback, sample student reactions to the audio feedback, and guidelines for trying this yourself.

Like many writing instructors, I had a comfortable and effective written feedback routine for my students’ writing; however, when wrist pain from typing prompted me to seek alternative methods of giving feedback, I discovered how rewarding audio commenting could be for both me and my students.

 

Student Guidelines for Peer Review: Psychology

Author: 
Professor Colleen Moore, Psychology Department, UW-Madison
Description: 
Notice that in this peer-review process, reviewers first outline their peer's draft (to help the author see how readers understand its organization) and then offer advice for strengthening the paper.

Psychology 411

 

Peer Review Instructions

Read the paper, and comment on the draft. Note what isn’t clear, what sentences are awkward, etc.

 

1. Write an outline (sometimes it helps to number the paragraphs when you do this).

 

Improving Paragraphs

Author: 
Professor Robert Hawkins, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, UW-Madison
Description: 
In this handout for students, Professor Robert Hawkins offers advice about paragraph unity, organization, and transitions.

Paragraph unity. Ideally, every sentence in a paragraph should contribute to developing some central idea. The following paragraph would be much better if some portions were removed. Which ones and why?

 

Orienting Students to Writing in a New Discipline: Making a Sociological Argument

Author: 
Greta Krippner, Sociology Department, UW-Madison
Description: 
In introductory courses for majors, instructors need to help students learn the basics of conducting research and writing within that particular discipline.  In this handout for students, Greta Krippner explains strategies for making a sociological argument, for developing a sociological research question, and for reading a quantitative research article in sociology.

Of course the method of presentation must differ in form from that of inquiry.”   (Karl Marx, 1867)

 

Introduction

From Topic to Thesis

Author: 
Tisha Turk, Gender and Women's Studies, UW-Madison
Description: 
Instructors often have to help students learn how to make a strong, analytical or argumentative central claim in a paper, a claim that goes beyond a mere statement of fact or obvious point.  In this handout for her students, Tisha Turk explains and illustrates what she's looking for in a strong thesis statement.

A well-constructed thesis statement helps hold an essay together by showing the reader where the paper is going to go. It defines not just a paper’s topic but its argument, and introduces the kinds of evidence or mode of reasoning that will be used to back up that argument. It does not merely summarize the points that will be made; rather, it shows the relationship between those points.

Helping Students Survive and Grow Through Critical Feedback on Writing Assignments

Author: 
Sara Lindberg, Psychology Department, UW-Madison
Description: 
How do you increase student motivation to write while you give tough critical feedback on writing?

There are several things you can do to help your students cope with critical feedback – a necessary evil in the writing process.

Helping Your Students Improve Their Writing and Their Learning

Author: 
Brad Hughes, UW-Madison WAC Program
Description: 
Here are some suggestions, based on research and experience, for improving your students' writing--and for improving the experience you have assigning, reading, and responding to it.

Obviously, many of these techniques take time to implement and some may be logistically impossible in large classes, but they have proven successful here and at many other schools, in courses across the curriculum. These suggestions may be used in any combination—few of us could employ all of them.

 

Helping Your Students Improve Their Writing and Their Learning

A Collaborative Term Project in Consumer Science

Author: 
Irena Vida
Description: 
Professor Irena Vida explain the requirements of a group term paper and presentation. Note that although she gives no explicit directions regarding how the group should divide responsibilities, she does ask students to report back on the contribution of each group member to the final project.

This team project assignment consists of a descriptive and historical account of a major U.S. retail chain with store branches in at least 10 different states. The chain you choose to research can be any company that falls within the definition of retailing in our textbook (traditional retailer, nonstore retailer, service retailer).

Writing Assignments in Anthropology 490

Author: 
Karen Strier
Description: 
Focusing on the point, structure, audience, topic, and format for course papers, anthropologist Karen Strier advises her students about writing the one and five-page papers for her writing-intensive senior seminar.

This is a writing intensive course, which means frequent writing assignments, lots of feedback, opportunities to work on both the content of your papers and how you communicate your knowledge and ideas in writing. The writing assignments are intended to fulfill the assumption that “writing facilitates learning.” I think you will enjoy them.

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