To continue on from earlier work (here, here, here, here, and here), I will go further along the assignment sequence expected of the students in ENGL 112: Composition and develop the assignment students in the class are asked to do for their sixth week: a draft of a commentary paper. I continue to hope that my efforts will assist in my students’ work and others’ to write better and help still others to do the same.
For the assignment, students are asked to generate the first three pages (excluding title page and references) of a five-page commentary essay–in effect, a position paper of the sort I’ve taught in one form or another before (here, here, here, and here, among others). Introduction, thesis, and an at-least-cursory overview of current discussion of the topic are requested, as is the beginning of the argument’s development. More will follow, of course, but three pages should be enough to establish the idea to be borne out, to provide it context, and to start developing it. Additionally, the project is a continuation of last week’s work, so what was done previously should still fit the current purpose.
To begin my response to the exercise, I opened my proposal and summary from the previous week. I also opened a new document, formatting it for submission; I set up a title page, main text, and references list, putting the whole into double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. The title page, running heads, and page numbers were set as they ought to be, while the internal title and references note were centered horizontally, and lines for references set up with half-inch hanging indentations.
With the formatting set up, I began to bring things into the new document from the old. The specific issue, the balance of appropriation and appreciation in my topic, was the first to come over; although not a thesis, as such, I copied it twice, highlighting the second in green and positioning it to serve as a moving target as I developed further materials. I also stubbed out space in which to position the thesis to come, as well as for some items I knew from the earlier work that I would want to put in place: definitions of terms relevant to the discussion. Those were highlighted in teal to remind me to attend to them.
From there, I moved to fill in context for my discussion, giving a description of my topic. I looked through earlier work done in the present session to begin with, since I could reasonably include that material in my current work without trouble. Some details in that line were forthcoming, and I was happy to incorporate them into my work to offer background. I supplemented them with my own experience, as well, since I have it to bring to bear.
A passable attempt at an introduction started, I moved to insert my relevant definitions, working from the two sources identified in the previous exercise. Citations pulled earlier also made their ways into the appropriate part of the paper, developing a short references list. I found that I needed more material for my definitions to make sense, so I ran another search for material in Academic Search Complete and found a particularly useful piece, which I incorporated similarly to the other pieces I’d noted.
It also occurred to me that I would need to incorporate primary source materials into my project. Knowing that I would be making use of it–a thing cannot be discussed without reference to that thing, particularly in a scholarly context–I incorporated the primary source into my references list. And with that done, I used the materials to offer an overview from which to conduct further discussion.
With context reasonably established, it came time to begin to reason out the argument and to work towards a thesis. When I entered the project, I did not know how the matter would fall out, so I began writing with the intent to learn as well as to convey information and understanding to my audiences. And I had to address what I saw as a glaring issue; it seemed to need doing, and it seemed to emerge well from the way in which I had established context. Too, it allowed me to meet the requirements of the exercise and position myself to undertake the next.
The content made ready, I reviewed my document for style and mechanics. After making the adjustments that needed making and eliminating highlighted passages, I rendered the document into an accessible format, which I present here: G. Elliott Sample Commentary Draft. May it, like its predecessors, be helpful!