Common Assignment


1) Your first paragraph should have a thesis statement. Something that is “arguable.” In other words write a thesis or topic sentence that lets the reader know what you are going to argue – for instance “The excerpt from On Human Work exemplifies what it means to make a life while making a living from a sociological point of view that stresses how work forms individual initiative.” Or the sentence could simply be “According to the Pope, how an individual views making a life while making a living is greatly affected by his or her work ethic. You could also make this much more complex by saying what specific lines from the excerpt do this – or go into more detail about what making a life while making a living means. Use the thesis to lay the groundwork for your argument. Then, in the first paragraph tell the reader how you are going to argue that this is so. And if you answer more than one question, you must address the second question in this paragraph too. DO NOT, however, say, “I am going to answer the question of ‘how does making a living impact making a life.” This is a formal piece of writing: No I’s, you’s, we’s! And I do not of course expect to see my examples in any one’s answer to the Common Assignment!

2) If you say you are going to address two (or more) questions, make sure you do! You need only address one.

3) Develop your thesis. Support your statement by explaining how that point of view works. You might also suggest other perspectives that might help answer the question. But if you do this, tell the reader if you are going to include these perspectives in your analysis, oppose them, or are just bringing them up as examples of other ways of looking at the question.

4) Make sure your support for your thesis follows a logical argument. Your sequence of ideas should build on each other. Make sure that in the middle of a logical piece of reasoning, you don’t spring something completely foreign to your argument on your reader! And remember, this is NOT an assignment where you all of a sudden tell me what your grandmother would say about something. That was ok for your journal entries – it is NOT ok for this assignment! Support for your argument should come from the other texts you read for this class.

5) Use quotations sparingly in your support of your thesis, but do make sure you use them! Use ideas in the common text quotation.

6) If you introduce a term or perspective that you think needs some explanation, explain it! And if the explanation needs a citation, cite it! For instance, in my example in #1 above, how does work form individual initiative according to the Pope? What does he say that leads you to make the statement?

7) And remember please, Santiago can say something, but it’s Hemingway who really has the opinion. In other words, your argument should not be “Santiago believed that work was important to making a life.” It should be: “In Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway exemplified how important work was to making a life by having Santiago….” Of course, Santiago can do something… Santiago can fight the sharks to prove he still is a great fisherman protecting his life’s work. But if you make a statement relating to Santiago’s life work as a fisherman being a prime example of what it is to make a life while making a living, then you might want to say “In Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway uses Santiago’s struggle with the sharks to show how a man at the end of his career tries to prove he can still make his livelihood.”


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