Northern Oklahoma College, ENGL 1213: Composition II—Exploratory Essay

Below appears an authoritative version of the guidelines for the Exploratory Essay assignment (Explore), superseding any previously published information regarding the Explore.


As noted in the introduction to the Prop assignment, ENGL 1213: Composition II serves, among others, as a bridge into more formal genres of academic writing, including those that develop new knowledge—that is to say, researched writing. Because it is an introduction to them, and because the development of new knowledge is a complicated process, ENGL 1213 breaks down the process of writing such papers into a number of component assignments, mimicking the research process prevalent in the humanities and of which the sciences often use a variant. A second step in that process is to explore the selected topic, testing out an idea that responds to it in a form that both demonstrates considered deliberation about it and suggests where more deliberation and consideration is likely to be of use. The Explore is directed toward that end, asking students to begin the pursuit of the idea treated by the earlier Prop (or another, if that idea was rejected as unsuitable), developing it in initial stages of argumentation.

Successfully completing the Explore will require students to accomplish a number of tasks:

Information about each follows, along with a copy of the grading rubric and notes.

Examine Personal Involvement in the Topic

The Prop asked its composers to consider their own involvement in the topic they selected. Some of that consideration will bear further examination, working toward a more developed and accessible presentation thereof. That is, writers of the Explore will need to reflect further not only on what their topic and the question to be asked about it are, but about why they want to find an answer to that question. Having a handle on why they want to treat the topic will help them to justify to their readers the treatment of the topic; if they can articulate why they are interested, they position themselves well to convince others to be interested in the topic, as well.

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Examine Documented Details of the Topic

Personal involvement in a topic is a good beginning to treating it. Personal involvement alone, however, is not usually enough to be convincing; individual experiences are unique and so cannot be accepted as representative of general conditions on their own. Recourse to some outside information is therefore necessary. If nothing else, the details of the topic itself have to be considered so that readers can follow discussions about them. Since the project of which the Explore is part treats issues of individual curricula, each Explore should present information about its writer’s curriculum. Details of that curriculum can be taken both from the individual degree plan and documentation maintained by the individual university, college, department, office, or instructor about that course of study.

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Examine Others’ Involvement in the Topic

As an optional extra step for so early a part of the research process, the involvement with the topic or similar topics others have had may be examined. Doing so has both benefits and perils. Benefits include access to diverse perspectives, which may both offer potential answers to the question formulated in the Prop and illuminate nascent answers that the Explore’s writer may already be considering, as well as reframing personal involvement into a component of broader involvement of which it can be taken as representative. Perils include the overwhelming of the writer’s voice by the voices of others—something which the assigned course textbook notes is a potential problem for the kinds of novice writers towards whom the course is directed. It is due to such perils that working from the involvement of others in the topic remains optional at the relatively early part of the project represented by the Explore; writers need to find their own ideas to be able to contribute meaningfully to ongoing conversations.

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Articulate Likely Answers to the Earlier Question

After considering information about the topic, writers of the Explore should begin to see likely answers to the earlier-posed question about it. That is, each should be able to put together responses articulating why the particular part of their course of study is as it is—either in having a component in place or in lacking it. That answers are possible rather than an answer being certain is important, as the Explore remains an early part of the research process, and continued investigation may reveal that one answer is more likely than others, or that some answers are altogether incorrect.

One-sentence answers are not likely to suffice, however; if they do, then the question being asked is not likely one that bears sustained inquiry, and another will need to be selected. Effective answers should require informational support and reasoning to explain how that information serves to support them. Participating in a scholarly conversation requires not only that writers have their own ideas, but also that they can explain how they arrive at those ideas. Helping readers to follow along with how answers are arrived at helps them see why the answers are valid—and how they can be used for later projects and the development of yet more new knowledge about the world.

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Compose the Explore RV

The prior four sections speak to concerns to be considered among prewriting activities. That is, they do not generate independent texts for assessment, but they do stimulate discussion and guide thinking along the way towards texts for assessment. For them to contribute to an effective Explore, however, they must be consolidated and set down in a form accessible to the expected audience; that is, the information in them must be arrayed in support of specific answers to a specific question. The Explore RV is the first iteration of doing so.

The Explore RV should open with a paragraph that articulates the writer’s involvement with the topic, describes and contextualizes the topic, and presents the question to be answered in an appropriate construction. (The paragraph can be thought of as a distillation of a successful Prop.) A series of a few paragraphs, each presenting a potential answer and informed reasoning for its possibility, should follow. The paper should conclude with an affirmation of what likely readers—and the paper should be written as if to non-specialist stakeholders in the course of study, whether supervisors or coworkers of those who will graduate from the courses of study identified or adult future students thereof—can gain from having an answer to the question posed.

The Explore RV is due electronically before the beginning of class time on 24 February 2016. It must be submitted in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format. (No other file types will be accepted; submissions in another file type will be treated as though not submitted.) The text of the Explore RV should be approximately 1,000 words, exclusive of a four-line heading (student name, instructor name, course and section, and date of composition), an appropriately descriptive title, and any Works Cited materials made necessary by the text. It should be double-spaced on letter-size sheets with one-inch margins on all sides. It should be in 12-point Times New Roman, Garamond, or Georgia type. Page numbers should appear in the upper right corner of the page, with the student’s surname preceding the number; page numbers and surnames should be in the same typeface as the rest of the document. Usage should conform to standards promulgated by the MLA and discussed during class time.

The Explore RV will be assessed as a minor assignment according to the rubric below. The text and comments made about it will be returned to students via email. Those comments should be used to improve the text further in advance of its final submission; the Explore RV is a work in progress.

Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Student Success Center during the process of composing the Explore RV. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.

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Revise the Explore RV into the Explore FV

Following the return of instructor comments on the Explore RV, students are strongly encouraged to revise their papers in light of the comments. They should work from global issues—such as clarifying the context and question and providing both answers and solid support for their potential validity—to more local issues—such as how best to transition from sentence to sentence, and how best to phrase for concision and emphasis. Only after all of that is done should there be any thought of checking and amending as appropriate the surface-level features of formatting, spelling, punctuation, and the like.

The paper resulting from the process of revision, the Explore FV, should still open with a paragraph that articulates the writer’s involvement with the topic, describes and contextualizes the topic, and presents the question to be answered in an appropriate construction. (The paragraph can be thought of as a distillation of a successful Prop.) A series of a few paragraphs, each presenting a potential answer and informed reasoning for its possibility, should still follow. The paper should still conclude with an affirmation of what likely readers—and the paper should still be written as if to non-specialist stakeholders in the course of study, whether supervisors or coworkers of those who will graduate from the courses of study identified or adult future students thereof—can gain from having an answer to the question posed.

The Explore FV is due electronically before the beginning of class time on 2 March 2016. It must be submitted in .doc, .docx, or .rtf format. (No other file types will be accepted; submissions in another file type will be treated as though not submitted.) The text of the Explore FV should be approximately 1,000 words, exclusive of a four-line heading (student name, instructor name, course and section, and date of composition), an appropriately descriptive title, and any Works Cited materials made necessary by the text. It should be double-spaced on letter-size sheets with one-inch margins on all sides. It should be in 12-point Times New Roman, Garamond, or Georgia type. Page numbers should appear in the upper right corner of the page, with the student’s surname preceding the number; page numbers and surnames should be in the same typeface as the rest of the document. Usage should conform to standards promulgated by the MLA and discussed during class time.

The Explore FV will be assessed as a major assignment worth 10% of the total course grade according to the rubric below. The text and comments made about it will be returned to students via email. Please note that, while the Explore FV should be able to stand alone as an independent piece of writing, the Explore will need to be included in the FinPort later in the term. The comments made on the Explore FV should therefore serve not only to inform performance on future assignments and writing tasks outside the classroom, but also to aid in the creation of a best version of the Explore for use later in the term.

Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor and with tutors in the Student Success Center during the process of revision. No extra credit will be afforded to the project for doing so, but doing so is likely to improve the grade received and will likely be considered positively in the Prof score awarded at the end of the term.

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Grading Rubric

A copy of the grading rubric that will be applied to the Explore RV and the Explore FV appears at the following link: G. Elliott ENGL 1213 Composition II Exploratory Essay Grading Rubric.

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Notes

A targeted example of the Explore is available: “Why Not Have a Rhetoric Requirement among UL Lafayette PhD Students in English?”

Additionally, a number of essays of appropriate length for the Explore may be found in the pages of The Explicator, and commentaries on curricular issues about in the Chronicle of Higher Education—many of the articles in which will be of a length similar to that of the Explore. They are useful models of how essays may be written in such constraints more than as how to approach the specific topics of the Explore and should be used with that divergence in mind.

It is possible to write the Explore entirely from the single primary source of the student’s degree plan. If it is written thus, informal citation of the degree plan will suffice. If either or both of the following occur, however, formal citation must be provided in the text and in a Works Cited list beginning on the page following the main text:

  • Additional primary sources are used
  • Any secondary or tertiary sources are used

Failure to do so represents a failure to uphold academic integrity, which may have substantially detrimental consequences to student grades.

Additionally, improper use of source materials may have negative consequences to student grades, even if they are cited correctly (per MLA standards).

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Geoffrey B. Elliott
Updated 15 February 2016 to include a sample assignment.

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