Minimum Length: 1,000 words (not including quoted material or the Works Cited page)
Format: MLA
Value: 75 points (15%)

For Writing Project 1, you will be required to think deeply about how ONE (and only one) primary “text” taken from American popular culture reflects, depicts, or conveys the American experience/identity to an audience.  The primary “text” that you choose MUST be chosen from the list labeled “Acceptable Primary Texts for Writing Projects 1, 2, and 3” located in the “Assignment Guidelines” area of the course.

Once you’ve chosen a primary text, it will be your job analyze and interpret the significance of that text, its theme/message, and the implications of  how the text depicts some aspect of the American identity/experience. Whatever text you choose, your analysis should not rely on general observations of your primary text. Focus on specific examples and details from your primary text in order to fully develop and illustrate your analysis of the text.

The purpose of this writing project is to analyze, evaluate, and reflect on the possible meanings, intended or not intended, of a specific primary text in order to discuss how that text depicts some aspect of the American identity/experience.

Your writing project should be clearly and logically organized and thoroughly develop and support your ideas. It is important that your opening paragraph introduce and briefly summarize/describe your primary text. Your opening paragraph should also convey why your primary text is representative of the American experience/identity and should establish a statement that controls the focus of your writing project and makes a claim about what insights your primary text makes about the American experience/identity. Once you’e done that, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the text rely on almost mythic ideas of what it means to be American?
  • Does the text utilize symbols or motifs or stereotypes (class, race, ethnicity, gender)?
  • What messages—implicit or explicit, accurate or not so accurate—does this text produce or promote concerning American experience/identity?
  • What language and/or visual images are incorporated into this text and for what effect?
  • Does the primary text celebrate being American and present a positive depiction?
  • Is the text’s message jingoistic?
  • Does the text convey a negative image and criticize what Americans stand for?
  • Is such a criticism valid and what is its source?

Body paragraphs should contain only enough summary for background and context, relevant details from the texts, direct quotes when needed to support/illustrate a point, and thorough analysis.  Be sure to move smoothly from one text to the next by drawing significant connections and utilizing transitional phrases.  Rule of thumb:  There should always be more analysis/interpretation than summary.  Assume that your reader is basically familiar with your chosen texts.  You may want to explore characters and what they reveal about the American experience/identity.

Finally, you may want to end your writing project with a conclusion that contains your final thoughts on how texts taken from our popular culture convey or reflect or shape American experience/identity.

In addition to your primary text, you must research and include information taken from THREE (AND ONLY THREE) secondary sources that directly or indirectly address the text/topic. The secondary sources MAY NOT consist of plot summaries. Please note that your research must come from credible sources such as books (none from the kid’s section), scholarly journals, magazines, or research databases (such as those available through Columbus State). You must research and find secondary sources that are more academic and that discuss your primary text (or topics related to the text) more deeply and more analytically than a basic review or plot summary can. I STRONGLY encourage you go to the “Research/MLA Help” area of the course, which contains two interactive guides that can help you significantly as you research your topic for Writing Project 1. 

IMPORTANT REQUIRMENT: At least two of your secondary sources must come from one or more the following electronic research databases (which you can access by clicking the links below or by going to the CSCC library website):

While at least ONE of your secondary sources MUST directly discuss/analyze your primary text, your remaining secondary sources could provide biographical information, historical information, cultural information, etc. that relates to the primary text in some meaningful way. As long as you can make useful and relevant connections between the information in your secondary sources and your topic, you’ll be fine. Remember, the most important aspect of this writing project is what you have to say about your primary text; your secondary sources should play a supporting role only. 

NOTE: While you may cite passages from The Bible in your essay, you should do so sparingly and only as a means of providing contextual information rather than concrete historical information.  If you choose to cite from The Bible in your essay, you must still include information from three other secondary sources. 

Here is a list of secondary sources that you CANNOT use:

  • any assigned readings or textbooks for this course
  • dictionaries of any kind 

  • Internet Movie Database (IMdB)
  • Wikipedia
  • Master Plots
  • Cliff’s Notes
  • Spark Notes
  • eNotes
  • Shmoop
  • book reviews
  • abstracts
  • juvenile/children’s books
  • works of literature (novels, plays, short stories, poems)
  • songs
  • dramatic films
  • transcripts
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • any website that offers student/sample essays for purchase or free download (such as Grammarly, Gradefixer, EssayAiLab, 123HelpMe, StudentShare, FreeStudentEssays, StudyMoose, Ask4Essay, EssayTown, etc.)

All of these requirements must be met in order to receive a grade of a C or higher for the assignment.

  • An interesting and informative title
  • An introductory paragraph that identifies your primary text and establishes an explicit statement in your introductory paragraph that makes a claim about your text’s message and its impact on our understanding of the American experience/identity 
  • An awareness of audience, purpose, and context
  • An appropriate voice, tone, style, and level of formality
  • An analysis of argumentative strategies and/or persuasive appeals present in your primary text
  • Development and support of a compelling idea through relevant and thorough exploration of one (and only one) primary text
  • Development and support that incorporates ideas and evidence from three (and only three) secondary sources
  • An identifiable structure, including introduction, coherent paragraphs, and conclusion
  • Appropriate conventions for structure and paragraphing
  • Appropriate mechanics and format
  • Effective use of syntax, grammar, punctuation, and spelling
  • Information taken from three (and only three) secondary sources, one of which that must directly discuss/analyze your primary text, and two of which that must come from one or more the following research databases: Academic Search Complete; Electronic Journal Center; Film and Television Literature Index; Communication & Mass Media Complete
  • Proper MLA documentation of primary text and secondary sources in both the body of the essay AND on a Works Cited page
  • At least three direct quotes from the primary text
  • At least one direct quote from each secondary source
  • Appropriate textual conventions for incorporating ideas from sources, e.g., introducing and incorporating quotations; quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing
  • A minimum of 1,000 words (not including quoted material or the Works Cited page)

I’d prefer to use The Social Network but any of these movies will work.

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