What you gain from this essay:
 The process of writing an essay built upon a thesis statement will help you write better papers in all your classes.

What else you gain from this essay: If you write about a book, you become a better reader. If you become a better reader, you can enjoy reading more.

Purpose of this assignment: To help you become a better failer, drafter, and reviser. To help you become a more sympathetic reader, a better written communicator, and a better critical thinker.


            At the risk of being brutally honest, perhaps the worst thing I can do for your writing is say, “Read this book and then write an essay about it. Now. Go.” After reading a book as complex as The Checklist Manifesto, you might find yourself wondering, “What can I possibly say about all this? What can I add to the conversation that Atul Gawande hasn’t already said?”

            The key word here is conversation. What if, instead of saying, “Write an essay,” I said, “Let’s have a conversation about this book. How about we write our thoughts down so we can really say what we mean? The conversation will take place at a slow pace, one person at a time.”

            I hope by reframing the question like this I’ve made you relax a bit. But you’re busy people, and maybe it’s late where you are, or maybe you want to bang out some work on this assignment and then go do something fun. I’ll cut to the chase: I want you to write a 700 word essay about the book The Checklist Manifesto. You can write almost anything, so long as you make some kind of argument. This is not a book report. It’s a formal conversation. Your goal is to state an opinion, take a stand, have some kind of angle, tell us what this book has taught you about life.


Here’s one way to tackle this essay: Pick a “theme word” from the list below or from one of the lists we’ll generate in class or on Canvas. Pick a thematic word like “fallibility” and ask yourself, “What does this book say about the human tendency to make mistakes? What does it teach us about human fallibility?”

Some Theme Words to Choose From: perfection, fallibility, frailty, arrogance, humility, medicine as an institution, ethics, poverty, privilege, class, death, mortality, malpractice, group thinking, the body as a machine, policy and procedure, care, rules, capitalism, corporatism, etc.  

Here’s another way to tackle this essay: Come up with a fascinating question that is easy to write about. The one sentence answer to this question will be your thesis statement. 

I don’t want to give you too many examples of questions to write about because I don’t want to steal your thunder, but here are two:

  1. Considering that Gawande is a physician, why do you think much of his book reflects on situations not related to medicine?
  2. In his book, does Gawande adequately consider the effect of gender roles in medicine? Or is he smart to sidestep such an issue?  


  • 700 words, no required sources other than our book
  • Double spaced
  • With page numbers
  • Must focus on the book The Checklist Manifesto.
  • MLA in-text citation format
  • Permissible to use the first person “I” or the second person “you” if there is a justifiable narrative strategy. Can you state your reason for using “I” or “you”?
  • Integration of your own personal experience might be appropriate and is permissible for this essay, but remember that your primary focus is the book.
  • A good rule of thumb is to include about three pieces of hard evidence from the book in each body paragraph.
  • Strong Thesis Statement.


Rubric Essay

Rubric Essay 1_101_F2021
This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Thesis Statement (a) concise and easily identifiable, (b) a good match for the rest of the essay, (c) original or debatable, (d) essay overall is an argument, not a summary, (e) responds to assignment. Or…thesis is missing or very difficult to identify.
This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Clarity of Writing The writing is clear, understandable, clean, flowing, and well-punctuated. Errors do not get in the way of the writer’s message. Sentences are edited for silly mistakes. Or many mistakes are present. Or errors seriously get in the way of the writer’s message.
This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Organization (a) The essay as whole sticks to one main point, (b) evidence is relevant to that main point, (d) the writer uses transitions to move deftly from one idea to another, (e) strong topic sentences present…OR…there are too many ideas competing for attention, lack of paragraph structure.
This criterion is linked to a Learning Outcome Support Looking for: (a) adequate specific detail, (b) keen interpretation and analysis, (c) source requirements met (d) opinions substantiated with evidence, (e) clear logical reasoning, (f) ample evidence from readings/films (g) proper MLA form.

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