Sample Assignment: Establishing Rhetorical Context

Academic Response Essay

Unit 1 culminates in the Academic Response Essay. All of this unit's assignments have led you toward the ARE, and it represents the most significant portion of the Unit 1 portfolio grade. Write your ARE according to the following description:


The Writing Situation:

  • Audience: Your audience for this essay will be future CO150 students who have selected but have not yet read your assigned essay.
  • Focus: Your focus may be on the author's main ideas, the author's writing decisions, or a combination of both. In other words, this might be a response to content, a response to textual effectiveness, or a little of both.
  • Purpose: You must determine the purpose of your essay. What overall claim do you want to impress upon another student preparing to read the same assigned essay? Your purpose will help you narrow your focus from the author's ideas and decisions in general to particular related ideas and decisions.


Thesis:Based on the writing situation defined above, make a clear, overall claim in response to the assigned reading you've done. Everything in your essay should relate to particular related ideas and decisions.

Development: Your response paragraphs will show how you've arrived at your main claim by agreeing/disagreeing with several related ideas and/or evaluating several related writing decisions made by the author.


After you have considered the above points, begin writing. Keep distractions to a minimum, and concentrate on making the separate parts of your essay add up to a focused, overall response. Your essay should contain several parts:

Summary: Begin by introducing your text and summarizing the main ideas. Do not simply use the same summary you or your group have already written. Write a summary that provides background for the overall claim you will make. Follow the summary guidelines we've practiced in class (discussed on p. 154 of the PHG).

Claim: Clearly state an overall claim in response to the essay you've read.

Response Paragraphs: Show how you've reached your overall claim by responding to related ideas and/or writing decisions. You should clearly and accurately identify the ideas/decisions to which you will respond and clearly state your response.

Evidence: Support each response with evidence. Follow the guidelines for using evidence, listed in handouts distributed Tuesday, February 7 and discussed in class.

Conclusion: Let your purpose and focus guide your paper from start to finish. Just like your summary, your conclusion should clearly connect to your paper as a whole.

Organization: This is not a separate part of your essay but instead refers to how you choose to put all those parts together into a coherent whole. Make sure your organization supports your main point and makes it easy for the reader to follow your argument.

Style/Tone/Mechanics: Remember that you're writing for an academic audience. CO150 students will be aware of guidelines for academic writing and will receive your essay favorably or unfavorably based partly on your own observation of these guildelines. Just like any other writing decision, make choices in style, tone, and mechanics that are appropriate for the writing situation you've defined.


Format: Your essay should be double-spaced in computer-generated 12-point font.

Topic proposal due date: You will be assigned a topic proposal to bring to your conference on February 16 or 17. This proposal will be worth 5 homework points.

First ARE draft due date: You should bring 2 copies of the first draft of your ARE to class on Tuesday, February 22. You will exchange these with members of your workshop group for peer review. Completeness of your first draft will be factored into your Unit 1 portfolio grade, so don't simply write a few rough paragraphs assuming you'll come up with something better by the final draft due date.

Final draft due date: Your final draft is due with your Unit 1 portfolio on Tuesday, February 29 by 5:00 p.m. You will receive a list of required portfolio contents and an explanation of grading criteria before that time.