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Example #1: Analyze the account of religion offered by two or more of Marx, Durkheim, Weber.

Answer:

1. Probably not this one because it’s too broad. The “account of religion” is a huge concept to tackle and may well invite unfocused writing. Instead the prompt should explain how students are to “analyze” and what critical framework they should use.

Example #2: What does racial identity and/or thinking of oneself as African "mean" in the minds and daily lives of the people depicted in Nadine Gordimer's My Son's Story or in Doris Lessing's A Perfect Marriage? What do the people in these novels, white and black, struggle against? What are their motives or reasons? What arguments do Europeans make on behalf of colonial or apartheid arrangements? In examining the situation of Rhodesia (as it was then called) and/or South Africa, what do you find distinct about these countries' experience from that of other countries in Africa? What do you find in common to those of other African countries in the 1950s and early 1960s? If you so choose, refer in your discussion to the political thought of some of the better known African leaders of that time, such as Nelson Mandela or Kwame Nkrumah and perhaps consider as well how well their ideas have faired the passage of time.

Answer:

2. Probably not this one because it’s pretty unwieldy. It’s asking for a jumbled analysis of texts, political figures, and historical situations. Are students supposed to answer all these “helper” questions or are they just supposed to consider them? And instead of giving the student more possibilities, the “and/or” and “[i]f you so choose” options are just confusing. The interdisciplinary scale of this assignment might work for a doctoral dissertation, but not for a five-page essay.


Example #3: We have read a number of articles on gender roles, and on feminism, that assume sometimes very different definitions of their subject. For this assignment, argue for your own extended definition of feminism. What are some of the beliefs that feminists have in common? How do they differ from the views of anti-feminists? You should base your definition in the patterns you find in the readings listed above. To illustrate and support your definition, examine the beliefs of three or four writers (including at least one anti-feminist writer).

Answer:

3. This prompt is the best because it clearly expresses the central question, “argue for your own extended definition of feminism,” and the assignment’s scope. It specifies the readings students should draw from as well as what they should do with them: “base your definition in the patterns” of your readings and “illustrate and support your definition” by examining “three or four writers (including at least one anti-feminist writer).”

 

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