In this activity, students will examine and analyze prize-winning papers written in WR 111 or WR 112 (or the equivalent) and published in the WR Journal. You might consider doing a shorter, more focused version of this activity in WR 111 when introducing key features of the academic essay, and a longer, more expansive, student-driven version of this activity in WR 112. 


To analyze excellent models of argument-driven academic essays written by multilingual students

Key Terms

genre analysis; rhetorical situation; argument

Genre Analysis Activity

  1. Ask students to reflect on the kinds of papers (or essays–even the terminology can be interesting) they have written for previous classes. How would they describe them? What were their key features?
  2. Introduce the idea of the five-paragraph essay, which probably came up in students’ responses to the previous question, and contextualize that type of essay as useful in certain situations but limited in scope. Ask students, if they have experienced writing it (for standardized tests, perhaps) what feels familiar and easy about the form, and what feels chafing and frustrating about it.
  3. Discuss the idea of argument-driven papers at the college level as another genre–not, say, the five-paragraph essay with longer paragraphs, or simply with an extra paragraph or point added in, but rather its own genre. What do students already know about this new form? What questions do they have about it?
  4. Refer students to the WR Journal, a journal of excellent papers written by students at all levels of the CAS Writing Program. You may want to let students browse through the journal for a few minutes in class, or for homework one night.
  5. Ask students to read one or more of the essays written by students in WR 111 or 112 (or the equivalent) that has been published in the journal. You may ask students to browse through this list and choose one in a group, or you may decide to assign the entire class to look at the same essay:
  6. Discuss the paper together as a class. What do students notice about the introduction? The claim (or thesis)? The paragraphing? The voice of the writer? The use of quotations from the text? The argument, and even the counter argument? The conclusion?
  7. Generate a list of key features or observations together as a class. How can students use this list to help them when writing or revising their own papers? When giving or seeking peer feedback? When interpreting instructors’ comments on their drafts?