Writing Project 2: Researching Conversations


Phase One | Phase Two |Evaluation Criteria | Rubric

Writing Project 2 and Writing Project 3 build on and extend the work you did for Writing Project 1. Once again, you will apply the concepts we’ve discussed in class and in our readings to the writing you’ll do elsewhere in college. As you likely figured out from keeping your literacy practices log and from attending this course and your FSTY 1310 lecture, writing in the university (and in the “real” world) isn’t necessarily comprised of some blanket set of moves and skills that can be applied to every discipline; each field has its own set of conventions in terms of genres, research, and even the sort of knowledge that’s valued. 

This project is driven by a pedagogical philosophy: if you can begin to recognize how and why writing conventions are both discipline-specific and context-dependent, then you’ll be better equipped to tackle the wide variety of writing challenges you’ll face in the university and beyond.

For WP1, you collected data to learn about your actual writing and reading practices and to reflect on what you learned using the terms and concepts we discussed in our class. In these next two projects, we are going to move beyond personal experience and practice. Your goal is to learn something about how writing is used in different classrooms, in different majors, and in different disciplines across the SEU campus.

Some possible questions you could answer as you work through this project include:

  • How is writing used in different classes? What does this reflect about the discipline or major using this kind of writing?
  • How much assistance in regards to writing can students expect from professors? What does this assistance look like from discipline to discipline?
  • How does the writing of first-year students compare to that of upper-level students? How does student writing change during time spent in college?
  • How does writing in college compare to academic writing in the field? To writing in a professional setting?
  • Why is there not one standard formula for writing at the university? If there’s not one standard, how can students figure out how to write appropriately?

As you’ve likely noticed, you can’t have all the answers to the above questions. This is a deliberate choice on our part. As a research project, Writing Project 3 asks you to spend some time working through your ideas, making sure that you are as specific as possible and as clear as possible about why writing is used in particular ways at the university level. To answer these questions, you will once again need to balance your thoughts and ideas against the readings from class but also two first-person examples of how writing works.


In addition to the common reading, Freshman Studies students share a common experience of interviewing a faculty member on our campus. We are going to tap into this process by making writing the focus of the interview; we are also going to add one additional layer to the interview. For Writing Project 2, you are required to conduct a face-to-face (or email) interview with 

(1) one upper-division SEU student, and

(2) one faculty member in your (anticipated) discipline.

Before you all contact the student and faculty member, we’ll develop questions and consent materials as a class. This work is important because you need to secure informed consent before conducting your primary research; we’ll also talk about good interview practices (and we’ll even experiment on each other). As you think about this project and what knowledge gaps you may need to fill about how writing works (and will work) in your other courses, what questions would you add to this working list?

  • What sorts of texts do you read in conjunction with your major or discipline?
  • How do you evaluate the claims the authors of these texts make?
  • What do you do when the authors you read disagree?
  • What sorts of texts do you write on a regular basis in conjunction with your major or discipline?
  • How do you know how to construct them?
  • How is writing used in your classes?

In creating your interview analysis logs, I want you to engage with the scholars and concepts we’ve been discussing this semester: rhetorical reading, rhetorical writing, discourse communities. You may return (again!) to your SEU Reading and Writing Log to provide context for what you learn from the professor and upper-level student. I also recommend that you keep any handouts or assignment sheets you’re given in your classes, as these may be worth analyzing. Also, look back at and consider any writing assignments you’ve done throughout the semester, which means you can use some elements of WP1.

Together, the interview information and logs will help you understand the readings we complete in class.


The second phase of this project is the completion of an annotated bibliography, which asks you to select and really learn our research sources (and gives you the chance to earn credit building that knowledge). 

What is an Annotated Bibliography?

The annotated bibliography is a list of your sources, cited chronologically and correctly in MLA (or APA) format (see the Purdue OWL for advice on that), and followed by a highly structured set of notes (annotations) that help you understand each source and package it for your purposes.

Why write an Annotated Bibliography?

It’s not enough to just identify and report what a source’s claims or “main ideas” are. And, when you really need to understand the content of a source, writing responses or reflections about the reading may not be enough either. As student scholars, we want you to be in the habit of reading (scholarly) sources for research questions, methods, claims, evidence, and rhetorical strategies. 

Why? Because one of the key takeaways for this course is this: we want you to know and to remember that all acts of communication are centered around someone sending a message to someone else for a particular reason. You may even be in the habit of asking, “How are you attempting to address the problem you assume I have?” But, again, if you need to engage with someone’s ideas and formulate your own entry point into a conversation (as Margaret Kantz argued you should), these questions may not be enough. Without a clear understanding of how and why a (scholarly) source reached particular conclusions and how the author is using rhetoric to prepare audiences to accept those conclusions, you won’t be able to engage in true inquiry.

Advice for Writing Your Annotations

As you draft your annotations, use the following format to guide your thinking. Please note that I’m including recommendations below, not requirements.

ARGUMENT. What are the key claims of the source? What theories (if any) are being used, extended, and/or questioned?

Using a rhetorically accurate signal verb, describe the author. Then, use a “that clause” (something like, “Dr. McCracken argues that natural peanut butter should always be refrigerated because the oil separates and inhibits the taste and texture.”) to explain the major assertion—or thesis statement or controlling idea—of the project.

IMPORTANCE. What’s the problem? Why are we reading, writing, and thinking about this issue?


In a couple of sentences, explain the problem or knowledge gap the author was addressing (in other words, what was the author’s rhetorical writing goal? what did s/he want addressed?). After you explain the purpose of the article, explain the change the author wants to effect in the intended audience. Remember, sometimes the change being sought is about returning to shared values.

METHOD. How is the source trying to find out an answer? What are examples and descriptions that will make this method understandable?

EXHIBIT. What are we looking at, reading, or studying to make sense of the problem and apply our background knowledge? What is being analyzed for evidence or counter claims?


In two or three sentences, explain how the author develops and supports her or his thesis, usually the same order used by the source. You should discuss any relevant research methods as well as any examples or scenarios used to illustrate the author’s claims. Discuss specifically the kinds of evidence you encountered as you read the article. 

CONVERSATION. What other scholars does the author engage? What conversations are entered by your author? What ideas, terms, or concepts does the author forward or counter (using the terminology we discussed when watching the Harris videos)?

In a few sentences, describe in detail how this author’s argument fits in with (or works against) the arguments made by others in the overall “conversation” on your question. Name the authors and the conversations under consideration as well as any relevant article titles.

APPLICATION. How will you use this source for your own research project? What kind of job will it have for you:

  • How can the author’s claims help you explain why this issue is of IMPORTANCE for your audience? Why do we have an INTEREST in this topic? Does this source establish the context and nature of the question you are trying to answer?
  • Does the article help you establish (relatively) stipulated facts about your issue? Does the author give you information that others in your field will consider credible? Does the writer present ideas that “educated” readers will accept quite easily? Does this article allow you to present the BACKGROUND information on your topic?
  • What are you going to analyze in your project? What are you looking at, reading, or studying to make sense of the problem and apply your background knowledge? Will you analyze and discuss this article’s data in light of your own research? What will you EXHIBIT as evidence or counterclaims in your project?
  • What are the article’s key claims, concepts, or theories that you want to respond to in your project? Is there information you want to forward (apply, extend, revise)? Is there information you want to counter (rebutt, refute, delineate)? How will you use this article to help you make an ARGUMENT?
  • How did the author of your article try to find out an answer to the research question? What did the writer study? What are examples and descriptions that made the research method understandable? Will you model some of your questions for your professor or student on this research? Will you analyze sample texts using her approach? Are you going to model your project on her METHOD?

In a few sentences, explain how you will use this source in your project, using the bolded terms and ideas above. I want to know how you intended to use this source to answer your question. Then, in a few more sentences, explain why you think this source could have value for your project? How can this source help you get closer to answering your question? 

How do I put the individual annotations into an annotated bibliography?

  • Use the four (4) high quality, relevant sources we’ve read (and will be reading) as a class.
  • Answer all of the questions the assignment asks you to answer (see above).
  • Use precise signal verbs. Precise verbs are crucial. Don’t just default to the general “so-and-so says” or “Professor X states” or “Jones writes.” I also want you to move away from the “X thinks / feels / believes / argues.” Can’t think of a precise verb, there’s always someone willing to offer an example: Chose Active, Precise Verbs.
  • If your source has an abstract, include the abstract with your annotation (copy > paste it into your Google Document and label it clearly). Writing an annotation is not simply an exercise in copying the abstract. Thus, I want to compare the abstract to your annotation.
  • If your source is online, e.g., a video or website, please include a working link.
  • Ask me questions. Lots and lots and lots of question.

What should the final document look like? Are there document design specifications?

  1. Each annotation begins with the full MLA (or APA) citation (use Purdue OWL for guidance).
  2. Separate the citation from the annotation with a full paragraph break.
  3. Each single-spaced annotation will be about 300-350 words, 90+% of which must be your own words, not quotes.
  4. If the source has page numbers, use parenthetical citations in answering the annotation questions (in other words, what pages contain the information you used to answer the questions?).
  5. No more than two quotations per annotation; maximum ten words for quotations.
  6. Meticulous proofreading throughout.
  7. Arrange in chronological order (oldest to newest).


Content and Focus (85%)

Does each annotation…

  • introduce the author(s) and research design?
  • explain the source’s major assertion?
  • use precise signal verbs?
  • point out the problem or knowledge gap to which the source directed reader’s attention?
  • describe the intended change the author wished to create in the audience?
  • explain how the source supported its claims (using IBEAM criteria)?
  • describe how the source fits in with or works against other sources’ included in the annotated bibliography?
  • classify the type(s) of source (using IBEAM criteria) this is, for student’s purpose?
  • evaluate the overall so what? of the source for the student’s project and question?

Nuts & Bolts (15%)

Is each annotation following the format discussed above? Is each annotation…

  • about 300 to 400 words (90% of which are the student’s words)?
  • using parenthetical citations with page numbers (if used by source)?
  • relying on no more than 2 quotations (< 10 words each)?
  • proofread meticulously, relying on Standard Edited English?
  • using MLA 2009 format for each citation?
  • listed in chronological order (based on creation and/or publication date)?