Essay 1: Due on Friday, October 6 (before noon)
Essays must be 1500 to 1700 words in length (i.e., this works out to be approximately
five to six pages in length, double spaced) and no longer. Your paper must present a
clearly organized and persuasive argument relating to the material we have read. You
must use evidence from the text to substantiate your claims, and no secondary material
may be used in your papers! You are being judged on the quality of your ideas, the
manner in which you present those ideas, and your use of textual evidence.
Use only the assigned readings, which we have discussed in class, as source material for
your essay. The readings for this first essay are limited to all assigned readings up to and
including The Book of Job and The Bhagavad-Gita. Refer to the file “Thesis Prompts for
Essay 1” to choose one of the four allowed thesis prompts.
Easy ways to lose points on a paper:
1. Submission of a paper that exceeds the maximum allowed length will result in a
loss of one full letter grade (e.g., A-to B-)!
2. Submission of a paper that fails to meet the minimum length requirement will
result in an automatic loss of one full letter grade (e.g., A-to B-).
3. Excessive spelling and grammatical errors (especially misspelling author names,
places or titles of works) will be punished to varying degrees of severity.
4. Late essays will be marked zero; there are no exceptions. (See your syllabus!)
5. Plagiarism will be dealt with severely in this class! You may consult the syllabus
as a reminder of how I will deal with those who commit intellectual theft!
I work hard to be a fair grader, but time constraints mean that your graded essays will be
returned with more negative than positive comments on them. You likely know most of
your strengths already, but you require feedback to correct weaknesses in your thinking
Points to keep in mind:
1. Do not use a title page. Simply put the essay title, your name, and the correct
date at the top of the first page of your essay.
2. Do not use a works cited page. Since you are allowed to use only the texts that
we have read in class, I do not need a bibliography or a works cited page. I do
require that you properly cite your quotations however. For example, “Perish the
day I was born/and the night which said, ‘A man is conceived’ ” (Job, 3:3).
3. Pages must be numbered! Papers must be double-spaced. Papers that are
submitted with any other kind of spacing, such as single line spacing, will not be
graded. You must use only 12 pt. Times New Roman Font. Papers that are
submitted with any other kind of font, or font size, will be assessed a penalty.
4. You must submit a WORD document electronically via the Safe Assign feature
that I will set up on Blackboard. You must name the document Essay 1.doc. If
you fail to do this, I will return the paper and demand that you fix it, and assess a
5. Your thesis must be stated in the introductory paragraph. It can come at the
beginning or the end of the paragraph, or somewhere in between. The rest of the
introductory paragraph should provide a clear road map to your argument. The
introductory paragraph, including thesis and road map, is your thesis statement.
The thesis must be underlined or italicized.
General guidelines for writing an argumentative assay in HON 171:
1. You will be provided with a set of thesis prompts for this assignment. The
minimum standards that Barrett Honors College demands for a Human Event
essay, and which concern you, are the following:
i. You must formulate a clear thesis. A thesis is a clear and specific claim
backed by argument and textual evidence. A thesis is not just a vague or
broad assertion. Don’t waste the reader’s time proving the obvious. Your
thesis should posit an argument or perspective that an intelligent
contemporary reader might not have considered and with which he or she
might possibly disagree.
ii. You must defend your thesis via a logical series of arguments. The goal
of the argumentative essay is to compel the reader to agree with its central
thesis. You must tell the reader up front where you intend to take him or
her, and then take them there step by step. Each paragraph should have a
clear topic sentence or “mini-thesis” with the overall goal of supporting
the essay’s central thesis.
iii. You must support assertions with explicit textual evidence (i.e.,
quotations from the text). Quotations serve as the evidence for your
thesis, just as experimental evidence is used to support a hypothesis.
Specificity is the key: you must “dig” into specific lines of text, and ferret
out their meaning.
2. Re-read the assigned texts with a general idea of the issues you need to address in
light of the thesis you have chosen. The study questions may help guide you in
this general direction. As you read, highlight, note, or otherwise save specific
passages that strike you as being particularly relevant to the thesis. At this point,
you do not need to know why they strike you. But it is important that you be
receptive to what the text is actually saying, rather than what you think it should
be saying, or what you prefer it was saying.
3. You are now ready to map out the main points of your argument, which you do
before you start writing. This provides you your overall scaffolding and structure:
the actual writing will be filling in the details. You should structure your paper so
that each paragraph corresponds to a point in your chain of reasoning. The first
sentence of each paragraph should state the point that you will support in
sentences that follow. If you do this properly, someone could follow the main
flow of your argument by reading the first sentence of every paragraph. They
could then look within each paragraph to see that you have supported your point.
Remember: supporting a point includes anticipating potential objections.
4. Anticipate and address the strongest (or, at least one of the strongest) arguments
against your position. Your reader will have little trouble thinking of a good
counter-argument to your thesis (provided that you have truly staked a substantial
thesis claim), so don’t leave that reader wondering why you didn’t think to
5. Students often feel that what they have to say does not seem enough to fill six
pages. As a result, they end up repeating themselves, or, worse, start wandering
into discussions that have nothing to do with their thesis. If you choose quotes
wisely, however, you will find that “unpacking” the meaning of even a single line
can easily take an entire paragraph (if not more). The key is to pick good quotes,
and to tear them apart until you have uncovered everything you can. With good
quotes and a good outline, you can arrange it so that the paper almost “writes
6. Good writing is re-writing: this is a simple, universal and guaranteed truth, and
there are no shortcuts for anyone. You have to put in the work. While an
experienced writer may produce a better first-draft essay than a beginning writer,
few people truly produce their best work right out of the gate. Great writers are
great because they are avid (sometimes fanatical) re-writers.
7. Obtain a copy of Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White and
another good standard college writing handbook such as The Bedford Handbook
by Diane Hacker. These will assist you in the nitty-gritty of writing. (Yes, in case
you noticed, the second author of The Elements of Style is the same E.B. White
who wrote Charlotte’s Web. Trust me, The Elements of Style is “Some book!”)
Essay 1: Due on Friday, October 6 (before noon)