Writing

Sample Metro Richmond Paper

Sample — This paper is a rewrite of the original draft.  It is a much, much tighter and clearer version of the paper compared to the original.  (In other words, this student did a lot of work to get this paper to the form that you see).  It’s not a perfect paper, and I am happy to talk with you about what I liked and liked less about the paper.

Sample Policy Analysis Papers

Forthcoming

Policy Writing

In this course, we will use reflective essays and policy writing.  Policy writing is a bit different than the academic style most often used in courses.  Brevity is valued, the point of the paper is persuasion, and there is no literature review.  If you are not used to policy writing, I am happy to help you.

Andrew Pennock, “The Case for Using Policy Writing for Undergraduate Political Science Courses” — This paper explains policy writing and contrasts it with academic writing.  It might be useful if you unfamiliar with policy.

How I Assess Writing

In addition to these guides, I am more than happy to speak with you if you have a question or concern related to your specific paper or assignment.

How To Write an ‘A’ Paper — See this handout for general guidelines and words of advice, including my pet peeves.

Examples of Student Work  — These will give you an idea of how I implement the writing guidelines.

Example 1: This is a first-year paper.  The assignment called for the student to summarize and then evaluate an article on gender inequality across the globe.  This would be an example of a student whose writing suffers from many weaknesses, including: a failure to state a thesis and then defend it in an organized and structured way, a failure to consistently offer evidence, a failure to distinguish his argument from the one of the author he is evaluating, and a failure to make effective transition from one idea to the next.  In this case, to help the student the most, I would have recommended that the student first start with an idea of what he wants to say in the paper.  Do this by deciding what he wants to write about from Coleman’s article, then sketching his thoughts about her idea, then finally, creating a logically and structured argument.

Example 2: This is also a first-year paper.  The assignment called for the student to recommend a course of action to President Obama on health care reform.  This would be an example of very strong student writing.  Note how I can tell exactly what the paper is about from the introductory paragraph.  Each topic sentence thereafter mirrors the plan laid out in the introduction.  Each paragraph has a topic sentence that makes an assertion that is then defended with evidence in the paragraph.  New assertions are placed in new paragraphs, the sentences are in active voice, and the prose is clear, concise, and direct.  The argument overall builds to a conclusion; that is, the student explains first why the current state of affairs is untenable and then explains what more should be done and why.  Though no paper is perfect, this student has no significant shortcomings as a writer.

The Writing Center’s Guide for Political Science — The student who wrote this guide consulted a number of political science professors and, more pertinently, took classes with me and served as my writing fellow for PLSC 260 a few years ago.

Making the Most of College Writing: A Guide for Freshmen — I highly recommend this short pamphlet.  Though written specifically for first-year students, I could not agree more strongly with its advice on taking risks and asking big, meaningful questions.

Writing Handbooks and Citation Guides

No one can memorize all the rules of writing — Who would want to? That’s why conscientious writers use a writer’s handbook and, if you are writing an academic research paper, a citation guide. When I cut my teeth writing, lugging around guides to consult was a pain.  But these days it’s easy with so many on-line guides tailored specifically to the needs of college students.

Writer’s Web — The Writing Center’s on-line writer’s handbook, where you can browse by topic. It contains advice on everything from citing sources, writing drafts, editing working drafts, and meeting disciplinary expectations of writing style.  Much of the advice was written after consultations with faculty about their expectations and grading standards

The UR Writing Center — Links to the UR Writing Center, where you can read the center’s newsletter, link to advice, and make an appointment with a writing consultant.

Boatwright Library’s Guide for Citing Sources — This guide provides information on citing your sources in some of the most commonly used citation formats: APA, MLA, and Chicago (also known as, Turabian). From this site, you can also link to digital citation management tools, such as RefWorks or EasyBib.

The Purdue On-Line Writing Lab (OWL) — Virtually everything you wanted to know about how to research, how to write, and how to cite, in an easy to navigate on-line format. I consider this the authoritative on-line writer’s manual. Especially useful is the OWL’s Guide to the Writing Process.

Header Image: A vendor selling handmade dolls at Richmond’s 17th Street farmer’s market.