Writing Center

Writing Center

The Writing Portfolio Categories

Paper One: Making Sense of Experience

This paper can be a narrative, a descriptive essay, a lab report, an autobiography, an excerpt from a journal, a short story—any paper that represents an attempt to make sense of one’s own observations.

  • This paper will often be written in first person, but it does not have to be.
  • This paper should not be a book report or a summary of someone else’s ideas; the writer should write from his or her own experience.
  • If the writer is using a lab report, there must be a substantial results, discussion, or conclusion section showcasing the writer trying to "make sense” of the experiment.

Paper Two: An Academic Argument

In an academic argument, you must make a claim that a reasonable person could disagree with.  Your topic does not have to be a “hot button issue” debated in the public sphere (though it certainly can be); any essay that offers a particular position on something – your position – and then offers evidence for that position qualifies as an argument.

The Parts of an Argument:

  • Introduction.  Catch your reader’s attention and introduce your topic.  Include a clear, emphatic claim (thesis statement) that the rest of your essay will support.  Your thesis statement for this essay is extremely important: it should be clear, focused, and obvious.
  • Support.  Use logical reasoning, examples, illustrations, and/or definitions to develop your points persuasively and thoroughly.  If your issue is complex, you may want to include expert sources. 
  • Concession / Refutation.  Respond to opposing viewpoints, either in a separate section or as they would occur to the intended audience.  (These are not required but will make your argument stronger.)
    • Concession—agree with whatever you can without hurting your position. Qualify your assertions thoughtfully to avoid triggering doubt or disagreement in your readers.
    • Refutation—diplomatically show what’s flawed with opposing arguments.
  • Conclusion.  Tie your argument together and leave the reader with something to think about and remember.

Paper Three: Analysis, Evaluation, Criticism, and/or Interpretation that Focuses on the Ideas of Others

This paper will usually be a college-level research paper, as the instructions indicate.  Importantly, a good research paper is not a compilation or summary of other people’s words and ideas; the student-writer should analyze, evaluate, interpret, and/or synthesize information found through research. Source material should support and develop an original, insightful thesis about the topic that the writer has formulated after analyzing the subject.

  • The thesis of this paper will often make a claim of some sort, but it won’t necessarily be as emphatic a claim as in the argument.  In this type of essay, the author should have done enough research, interpretation, evaluation, and/or analysis on the topic to be able to express a personal, well considered view. This type of essay could offer the writer’s interpretation of a Shakespearean play, an analysis of an environmental problem, an evaluation of a particular therapeutic approach in counseling, or a critical examination of a theater performance. In other words, the paper must do more than simply present information:  It needs to use information.
  • While aspects of this essay may overlap with the academic argument, the essays are distinct in that they showcase different things: the argument essay showcases your ability to take a position and convince your reader of it.  This essay, on the other hand, showcases your ability to become a student-expert on a topic, finding all relevant source material and presenting it so that the reader gains new insight on your topic.  In this essay, you will put experts in conversation with one another – and you will also be “present”: you must do something with the material.  (This does not mean you must use “I”!)
  • The ideas in this paper must be fully developed and clearly presented. Source material should be used to aid development and support. Any quotation or paraphrase should be integrated into the student’s prose and connected clearly to the thesis. The writer should fastidiously attribute all source material. See Hacker for integration and documentation. 
  • The documentation of source material should be meticulous.

Documenting Sources

Documentation, attribution, and signal phrases are important components of academic writing, and you need to learn how to use both properly to clarify whose ideas are whose and to avoid unintentional plagiarism.

One of the primary functions of documentation is to provide your readers with the information necessary to lead them to the source and the passage you’re citing.  And, of course, documentation gives credit to the original author.  Documentation includes in-text citations (or footnotes) as well as a bibliography/works cited page.

Attribution or signal phrases give more specific credit to the authors by naming them in the text of your essay.  Phrases such as "according to Dr. Fred Stanley, director of cancer research at Harvard Medical School” and "Barbara Ladd, noted Faulkner scholar, argues” indicate not only whose idea you are using, but also why that idea merits attention. In other words, signal phrases can be useful persuasive devices in your writing.

Regardless of the style you’re using, there are several basic guidelines you need to follow:

  • All words and/or ideas (including the results of someone’s scientific research, statistics, diagrams or graphs) in your paper that are not your own and are not common knowledge should be given attribution in the text and followed by a citation referring your reader to a bibliography or works cited page.
  • When you quote a source directly, reproduce the quotation exactly as it appears in the text, and enclose it in quotation marks.  Do not include the citation inside the quotation marks.
  • Often, writers introduce a quotation with a signal phrase and follow it with a citation.  When you do this, make sure you write a few sentences or even a paragraph explaining how this quotation applies to your topic.  Don’t expect your reader to draw the connection between source material and your thesis; explain the connection.
  • If you paraphrase someone’s ideas, you need a signal phrase and a citation, just as you do with a direct quotation. Moreover, you must substantially change the style, structure, and language of the original. As with a quotation, don’t leave it up to your reader to make connections; explain how the paraphrased material relates to your thesis.

Paper Four: The Timed Writing

Timed writings measure your raw writing ability and your skill at thinking under pressure. They also reflect your ability to recall, synthesize, and analyze detailed material.

  • You may turn in any timed essay from any class. If your handwriting is unclear, you may type a copy of the exam, but you must turn it in with the original. Your timed essay submission must have the class number, date, and professor’s name.
  • You may take a timed writing at the Writing Center. The Writing Center can also help prepare you for timed essays. We offer a handout on how to take a timed writing exam.
  • Because clarity of mind is vital, one of the best things you can do to prepare for a timed essay is to get plenty of sleep the night before.

The Annotations

Your portfolio needs a total of five annotations (or six, if you turn in an optional piece) – one at the beginning of the portfolio (the “global annotation”) and one to accompany each of the four required essays. 

Faculty readers regard the annotations more seriously than you may realize.  The reasons that readers weigh the annotations heavily are:

  • Annotations showcase your most recent writing.
  • Annotations reflect your ability to communicate with a particular audience – in this case, faculty members evaluating your Writing Portfolio for graduation.
  • Annotations reveal your intellectual maturity as a critical thinker and literate citizen.
  • Annotations highlight your metacognitive skills, that is, your ability to think about your thinking and write about your writing.
  • Annotations give your readers enough information to make sense of the papers that follow.

Tips for Writing your Annotations

If you’re at a loss as to what to write in an annotation:

  • Imagine the professors reading your annotations and your work.
  • Ask yourself, “If I were a professor, what would I need or want to know about the creative process of this portfolio?  What would I need to know to make sense of each essay.”
  • Remember that professors at Eckerd care about more than just mechanics.  When surveyed, they have indicated that they care about the following:

-genuine interest in the subject matter.

-honest consideration of alternative theories (healthy skepticism).

-thorough support, evidence, and development.

-intellectual passion; the pleasure of discovery.

-awareness of an audience’s needs and perspectives.

-awareness of the conventions of the field.

-clarity, logic, and comprehensibility.

Still have questions? Visit the Writing Center, Seibert 103. Fall and Spring Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 6pm – 10pm; Autumn and Winter Term Hours: Sunday – Thursday, 6pm – 9 pm. Please don’t wait until the last week, though; the WC gets very busy, and you will not get the kind of attention we like to give you.

2014 Writing Excellence Award Winners

Kyle Hall
Brieanna Johnson
Rose Kraemer-Dahlin
Diane McNamara
Sarah Evalyn Richardson
Cleo Warner