REVIEW OF CURRENT THEORY
PURPOSE AND AUDIENCE
A review of current theory outlines a specific research question and
then describes or evaluates the subject and scope of several research sources
(scholarly articles, reports, book chapters, etc.). Its serves
multiple purposes: it lets you understand the current status of a particular
topic, it familiarizes you with the terms of the conversation currently
circulating on this topic, and it lets you consider where you might enter
the conversation yourself.
The review of current scholarship can appeal to a variety of readers:
it might introduce a topic to others who are new to the field of composition
studies (e.g., other members of this class); it might provide a new perspective
to scholars in the field who normally explore other areas; it might alert
practicing scholars to new research; it might provide a useful review and
summary of material for experts. As both your professor
and practicing scholar, I will hope that your review of current theory
will establish your authority on specific topic, explain your interest
in a way that makes me understand the importance of the subject you've
chosen to research, and demonstrate your abilities to research and evaluate
a range of sources.
For this assignment, you may want to explore several resources such
ERIC, Wilson, and the MLA bibliography are all available via FirstSearch,
which you can access either on-line via the WVU
Libraries' Web Page or on any terminal in any of the libraries. When
searching any database, you should try lots of different keyword combinations.
Ideally, you want to hit some combination that yields 50 entries or less.
If you are new to searching, be sure to check out the "HELP" section of
FORMAT AND LENGTH
This review of current theory should take the form of an extended
preface (about 3 pages) followed by an annotated bibliography.
(If you prefer to submit this project as a bibliographic essay or as some
other form of researched essay, just talk with me first.)
The extended preface (about 750 words) should include the following
types of information:
Background. Why is this an interesting area? Why do you want to
investigate it? What have others said that has sparked your interest? Why
is it interesting to take these studies further? A personal narrative is
one possibility for this section.
Description. Describe the are that you chose to investigate. What
boundaries did you set to keep this project within a reasonable scope?
For instance, did you look at specific writers? a specific genre? a specific
time period? a specific discipline for writing? curricular issues? Age
level of writers? These are just a few of the ways you may choose to narrow
your focus. Since boundaries are always artificial to some degree, please
include the rationale for the limitations you're using.
Methods. Briefly, tell me what indices or bibliographies you used,
what journals, etc. Patterns. What observations can you make as a result
of your research?
The annotated bibliography (about 1750 words) should include
at least 10 items from beyond the syllabus. Each item should be recent
(within the last five years) since I want you to review the most
current thinking on your topic. If you keep coming across one
or two older sources that seem to be central texts, that is an exception:
do include those but note the reason why you are including an older text
when you write your annotation for this source. The entries for your
bibliography may take the form of articles published in scholarly journals,
or ones published in books of essays (again, within the last five years).
Please use one bibliographic style consistently--MLA, APA, or Chicago.
Each entry on your annotated bibliography should contain:
A 150-word (or more) summary of the article's argument. This is simply
a tool for both of us--for you to make sure you understand the article,
and for me in case I haven't read it.
A statement on the article's relation to your own research
interests (if you were, for instance, to write an essay, a conference proposal,
or an extended response based on this research) or, more generally, its
role in shaping or challenging your thinking during the semester.
Make sure that you focus on specific aspects of the article's argument
when they have contributed to the growth of your own ideas. The purpose
here is to let me know why you chose this essay and to keep record for
yourself if you choose to pursue this research at some later date.
WRITING PROCESS AND DUE DATES
Formulate a research question. Make an appointment to talk to me
if you want to try out ideas. Almost anything is possible. (Please
bibliography for a few possible starting points.) Topics might include
(but are certainly not limited to) the following:
some aspect of gender/class/race and writing (by students or professionals,
fiction or non-fiction);
writing in the sciences;
basic writing and literacy issues;
computers and writing;
collaborative writing and learning;
writing and first language/dialect issues;
relationships between "creative" writing and expository writing;
rhetorical or stylistic studies of literary texts;
rhetorical or stylistic studies of non-fiction texts;
historical studies of curricula, writing programs, movements;
history of rhetoric in a specific context (e.g., the historical construction
of authorship, of subjectivity, etc.).
Using FirstSearch, explore the ERIC database, the Wilson database, the
MLA Bibliography, the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (or anything else
that looks promising to you) and try a keyword search. Alternatively
or additionally, review five years of a journal or check out some internet
Select about 20 articles that look like they will be pertinent (and that
are readily available at WVU or at Pitt).
Skim through your articles.
Select ten of them and read them closely.
Write up the summaries of each article. To get started, you might
find the following four-sentence outline useful.
Use an accurate, specific, and descriptive verb (e.g., "argues", "claims,"
"explains") and a clause that reports the author's thesis. For instance,
"In this article, the author reviews the current scholarship and asserts
that . . . . "
Explain briefly how the author develops or supports the thesis, usually
in the same order as the main points in the source.
To address issues of purpose, answer the question "Why did the author bother
to write this?"
Describe briefly the intended audience for the source you are citing.
Explain why you chose each article, and, more importantly, how each has
informed your thinking.
Write a preface that puts your research in some sort of larger context
for your readers.
Ask your group to give you some suggestions on the draft of your preface
and annotated bibliography (Weds., July 15 would be a good day for this).
Review the evaluative criteria for this assignment.
Submit the final version on or before our class meets on Monday, July 20.
This assignment asks you to establish credibility in two ways: through
the summary overview in your preface and through research. You will
need to use audience awareness, organization principles, and document
design skills to present your information; you will also draw on global
and fine-tuning revision strategies.
When I evaluate this assignment (which is worth a total of 30 points
toward your final grade), I will be looking at four areas:
PREFACE (10 points)
Gives the BACKGROUND of the problem, question, or situation
DESCRIBES THE PROBLEM, SUBJECT, OR QUESTION in specific detail.
EXPLAINS HOW or WHY the topic affects teachers or scholars in the
Indicates the PURPOSE of the research.
INTRODUCES THE ANNOTATED LIST OF REFERENCES.
ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY (15 points)
Uses correct and consistent citation format for each references.
Cites at least ten current articles (nothing older than five years unless
justified in the annotation).
Reflects a range of sources. Annotations include at least four sentences
(about thesis, support, purpose, and audience) in addition to a statement
about the relevance of the source to the writer's research interests.
AWARENESS OF AUDIENCE (5 points)
Do you show an awareness of readers' needs in your decisions about organization
Do you show an awareness of readers' needs in your decisions about content?
in your decisions about tone and style
in your decisions about the amount of detail you provide in descriptions,
explanations, or analyses
in your decisions about what points you will emphasize (through placement
in your text, use of supporting documentation, etc.)
ATTENTION TO YOUR OWN WRITING (see general criteria for A, B, C, D). If
you need a review of punctuation or usage, check out the handouts
available from Purdue's on-line writing center.
SENTENCE STYLE is well-suited to audience and purpose
TONE and WORD CHOICE are well-suited to audience and purpose
Avoids PASSIVE VOICE when possible
Avoids SUBJECT-VERB disagreements and other grammatical errors
Uses PUNCTUATION correctly
Avoids SPELLING and PROOFREADING errors
GRADING: "A" work (93-100 pts.) is exemplary in content, professionally
presented, and free of errors. "B" work (85-92 pts.) meets
the requirements in every respect; no major revisions are needed, although
a couple points might be strengthened; there are no more than two errors.
"C" work (77-84 pts.) is adequate, but requires substantive revisions
of content and/or major surface revisions to improve style and mechanics.
"D" work (76 pts. and below) fails to meet the requirements of the assignment.
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