Thursday, February 9, 2012

Open-ended Writing Assignments

Some seminary writing assignments are extremely specific. They clearly describe the content and structure of the piece, like this:

"I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth." (BCP) Write 750 words, discussing  the significance of each key word in the above statement (the first article of the Apostle's Creed). Use your textbook and class lectures as resources.

Other assignments give you the freedom (and the burden) of creating your own structure and argument. For instance:

Write 750 words, answering the following question: "Why Justice?"
This is a big question . . . it is important that your answer reflect the class content AND that it make a clear and logical case. You must do several things in order to fulfill the task at hand.
  • Try to ascertain the professor's intent, in light of course reading, lectures and discussion.
  • Create a structure that makes an argument, perhaps first defining justice, and then giving reasons for its practice.
  • Rank your reasons from weakest to strongest, being sure to weed those that are unnecessary. Start with the weakest warrant (reason), and build to the strongest.
  • Consider whether there might be arguments against the case you are making.
  • If so, fairly describe those positions, and dispute them in a reasonable way.