Assignment Guidelines


Photo by Conor Wilson

An assignment prompt for a First-Year Writing course should a) establish the context for student writing, b) define a goal or set of goals (as well as parameters) for the student’s writing, and c) provide explicit information about how the writing project will be evaluated. There are other things an assignment prompt might do, but we would like to emphasize these three: context, writing tasks and goals, and evaluative criteria.

  1. Context. Context includes the familiar statements of where the class conversation and writing has led or what questions or problems have been set up by the readings. Context might introduce key vocabulary or concepts, and it might remind students of materials that have been discussed in class that may be relevant to this assignment. But context can also include suggestions about what is at stake in addressing these questions and where the inquiry may lead.
  2. Writing tasks and goals. The assignment prompt should provide specific, feasible goals for the student’s project. In addition to spelling out a chief goal for the thinking required of students (“examine race as a factor of identity”), the prompt should make explicit mention of the specific writing tasks that will serve that goal (“introduce and defend a term that Appiah doesn’t use but that you think belongs in this conversation”). These writing tasks often involve some consideration of genre, audience, or other elements of rhetoric.
  3. Evaluative criteria. While we discourage you from using a rigid, scaled rubric, we ask that you provide a description of what you will be looking for in student writing and how you will be defining success. This might be a useful place to address the questions of why you’re asking for this work, who the intended audience is, and what components are required. In a recent review of assignment prompts, it was evaluative criteria that were most likely to be missing.

Finally, we’ve found that the best assignment prompts are usually about one page in length. Some instructors provide more context or additional details about process, calendar, or options that take the assignment sheet onto additional pages, which is fine. Nevertheless, do what you can to outline the gist of the project as succinctly and clearly as possible. (And, by the way, please remember to put your name on your assignment materials.)

Access our Database of Assignments here.



Emma Burris-Janssen

English 1011.009: Writing through Literature

Second Essay Assignment

Fall 2014


 Image by Lucinda Schreiber for NPR


For this assignment, you should select a few texts from the growing class archive, which includes the following texts:

Chapter 2 of Narrative Medicine by Rita Charon

Excerpt from The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee

“Art” by Eric Nelson

“Flu Shot” by David Watts

“The Caves of Lascaux” by Miriam Karmel

“(Un)Body Double: A Rhapsody on Hairless Identity” by Jane E. Schultz

“Devil’s Bait” by Leslie Jamison

“The Road to Carville” by Pat Tompkins

W;t (the film version based on Margaret Edson’s play)

“In the Operating Room” by Mary Borden

Please feel free to draw on others’ essay drafts and illness narratives (with proper citation, of course) where helpful.


In this part of the course, we have been focusing on the gaps that exist within healthcare: gaps in communication, empathy, expectations, experience, knowledge, and the self (just to name a few).

What I’d like you to do in this essay is to explore one of these moments of division – one of the moments when communication breaks down, when we see the limitations of empathy, when we are forced to acknowledge the limitations of our knowledge about the complexities of the body and the self. In other words, where do you see a gap in healthcare? Why do you think this gap exists? What can be done to bridge it? Can it be bridged? Should it be bridged? Develop an essay that features this gap and articulates an argument, engaged with our readings, that you think provides a fresh way to view this situation in healthcare and the stakes involved for different parties and communities at large.


As always, when I am responding to, evaluating, and grading your essays, I will primarily be looking for the following things: (1) evidence of your close and considered engagement with your source material and with the terms of the assignment and (2) a clear sense of your contribution to this ongoing discussion.

Some Logistical Considerations

This essay should be seven pages long and should be set in Times New Roman, 12-point font. Your paper should also have an MLA header, an engaging title, page numbers, one-inch margins, and it should be stapled whenever submitted in hard copy.


Wednesday, October 8: Post your first draft on our HuskyCT Discussion Board by 9 am.

Thursday, October 9-Tuesday, October 21: In-class workshopping of Essay 2; everyone should attend these workshops prepared to assist in the peer review process.

Tuesday, October 28: The final draft of your essay is due by class time; please post your final draft on our HuskyCT Discussion Board by 1 pm.