English 222, Fall 2000, Papers on the Web


Shakespeare Sonnet, September 6
Paper #1, October 9
Paper #2, November 6
Paper #3, December 12


Shakespeare Sonnet (2 pp.), September 6


Good work, everyone! This is a very solid group of first papers, and it was a pleasure reading them.


The range of grades is as follows: 6 papers earned higher than a B-, 9 papers earned a B-, and 11 papers earned below a B-. Please let me repeat what I said in my e-mail: these are fine grades for the beginning of the semester! All of you will improve your writing significantly in our course, so please don't worry too much about grades at this point. (Easy for me to say, I know ...)


The major distinction between the better and worse papers is that the better papers tend to make one clear and coherent point in each paragraph, and these points support the thesis in explicit terms. Too often the topic sentences in the lower graded papers fail clearly to support the thesis. Remember, the topic sentence needs to do more than just give the general topic of the paragraph, what the paragraph will be about. It needs to make a necessary point within the logical progression of your argument and say, clearly and explicitly, how that point supports your thesis. And don't forget, each topic sentence should provide a transition that actually gives the connection between the point of the preceding paragraph and the point of the present paragraph.


The second distinction involves close reading. Whereas the writers who received lower grades tend to say merely what they think the poem means, the better writers take the extra step of demonstrating, by close attention to the language of the text, how the poem means what they think it does.

If you like, take the opportunity now to review my grading policy.


Below I give the title and thesis of each paper. Please read through as many of these papers as you wish! The purpose of "Papers on the Web," as I've said in class, is to provide yet another way for you to get help with the problems you are encountering in your writing. I have provided comments on the strengths and weaknesses of the top six papers. Some of you will want to read through many or all of the papers below in order to see how other students handle different parts of the paper; others will only want to read through the six on which I have commented. All of you, however, should read my comments on the top papers and enough of the papers themselves to understand the assistance I am trying to provide. I have designed the page so that when you follow the link to one of the papers on which I have commented, the link will open in a new window. This way you can more easily go back and forth between my comments and the paper.


This method can work! Obviously, it takes quite a bit of effort from me; if it is to work for you, it will take real effort from you as well.

I present the remaining papers in no particular order. All of them have excellent moments, though! Read through them, if you have the time and the inclination.


Paper #1 (5-7 pp.), October 9


I enjoyed reading such a wonderful set of papers! Some of them are genuinely outstanding, among the best papers I have read on their subjects.


The quality in general is very high, and the range of grades reflects your excellent work as a class: 11 papers earned a B or higher (!), and 14 papers earned lower than a B.


Before we turn to the papers, I'd like to say a word or two about this resource. The goal of the "Papers on the Web" is not to show how excellent the top papers are but rather to help all the students in the class see how to use these papers as models for particular aspects of writing, aspects with which you may be having difficulty.


For instance, if you're having difficulty with close reading, which should be the heart and soul of your papers, I've created a link here to a paragraph (from the paper "Vice Against Virtue") that performs truly wonderful and productive close reading. The paper itself has some problems with argumentation, but its close reading in this paragraph is outstanding. So take a look at that paragraph and think about how this writer approaches discussing the language of the text at hand! Did you have trouble supporting your argument with careful and detailed close reading in your paper? If so, return to this paragraph when it comes time to write and revise your next paper, and see if the model helps!


The three following papers are just wonderful, so take a look at my comments on them, and then look at the papers themselves in order to clarify any elements of composition with which you are having trouble.

The following six papers are all excellent as well and might prove helpful!

As before, I present the remaining papers in no particular order. All of them have excellent moments, though! Read through them, if you have the time and the inclination. Remember, if your paper is among those that follow, the papers above provide clear models to help you with the specific elements of composition that are giving you trouble. I'll be glad to sit down with any of you and discuss how you might use the "Papers on the Web" to improve your writing.


Paper #2 (5-7 pp.), November 6


I enjoyed reading all of your papers, though I think as a class we did suffer something of a mid-semester slump! The grades were a little lower than they have been: 8 papers earned above a B-, 5 papers earned a B-, and 9 earned below a B-. I'll look forward to seeing a return to form in the final papers. As I've emphasized in class, I am above all concerned with progress, so if your grade on this paper wasn't what you'd like, don't worry too much; let's make sure you understand how you can improve your writing and then look forward to the final paper.


Nearly everyone still needs to work on argumentation. If I have written on your paper that your topic sentences or transitions could be stronger, please follow this link and review my suggestions, and then let me know if you have any questions! I'm glad to help. For most of you, the hint about transitions, I think, could prove very helpful. Please see my comments on the first paper below.


Again, the primary virtue of a good English paper is careful, detailed, and insightful attention to language -- in other words, close reading. Please look closely at the four papers below on which I've commented; each provides several examples of good close reading.


I know some of you feel at this point that you are struggling with your writing, and you are! I'd like to assure you that learning to write well is a process, and by no means is it an easy one. Often when you try to change your writing for the better, as I think some of you are doing, your writing suffers somewhat before it improves. For many of you, I think this is the case, and I am thus encouraged by the thought that your hard work will pay off. If you are not trying to apply the techniques of composition you have learned this semester, then I will still be glad to help, but it's up to you.

As before, I present the remaining papers in no particular order.


Paper #3 (8-10 pp.), December 12 


Great work! Many of you made excellent progress in these final papers, which were a pleasure to read. The process of learning to write well is long and difficult, and you might even add "unending"! But reading these papers, I know that for many of you the process is proving rewarding and exciting at the same time, and I am sure the work you've done will continue to open up intellectual possibilities for you in both your future coursework and your independent growth. I would like to add that, personally and professionally, I am so gratified by the quality of your writing at the end of our semester, and I'd like to thank you for all your hard work.


The following four papers are exceptional, among the best I've ever received at the survey level.

The remaining papers have fantastic moments as well. For those of you who are still struggling, or for those of you who are doing well but feel like you still have room for improvement in certain fundamental areas of composition, please feel free to print off any of the papers I have singled out this semester and use them as models in the future! Good luck to all of you, and thanks for a great semester.


Daniel E. White