The ability to analyze rhetorical situations and to plan essays that meet the needs of contexts is central to effective communication. Revising or the re-seeing our writing is as much a crucial attitude as it is a skill set, and we hope that students will embrace the notion of revision as they move on from CO150.
Revise and proofread your first arguing essay draft. Be prepared to hand it in with all process work and portfolio contents on the assigned due date at the end of this week.
Backwards Outline Activity: The backwards outline activity encourages students to look closely at the organization, focus, and coherence of their essay by considering how each paragraph functions in relation to the overall claim. Students can complete a backwards outline on their own draft or on their peers’ drafts. Since the directions for this activity can seem complicated, you might try to lead students through each step verbally (announcing each task and waiting five-to-ten minutes for students to complete the step). However, students should be somewhat familiar with the idea since they have applied it to a sample essay before the break. The outline below for conducting the Backwards Outline Workshop is a guide. Revise it as you see fit.
Backwards Outline Workshop
Read through your draft once without making any marks. Then re-read it while completing the following steps:
1. On a separate sheet of paper, write down the main claim of the essay. Quote directly from the essay and/or put it in your own words.
2. Then, divide the sheet into three columns.
3. In the left hand column, number and summarize what each paragraph says. If there is more than one idea in the paragraph, list the ideas as separate points.
4. Review the list in the left-hand column and see if similar things show up in different parts of the draft. (e.g. Are both #2 and #8 examples that prove the same point? Do #4 and #7 bring up the same example?) If so, suggest some possible reorganizations on the reverse side of your outline (and/or on another sheet of paper).
5. In the middle-column, write a sentence that summarizes the connection you see between what each paragraph does and the overall claim at the top of the page. If you can’t see a connection, put a question mark in the column.
6. Look back to see if each connection is made obvious in the draft itself. Under each connection you’ve written, make a note of “obvious” or “not obvious”.
7. In the third column, write down connection you see between each paragraph (e.g. between paragraph one and paragraph two, between paragraph two and paragraph three, and so on). If you can’t see a connection, put a question mark in the column.
8. For those paragraphs where you could see a connection, go back and examine the draft to see if the author has provided a transition for the reader explaining this connection. Mark each connection you listed with a note of “transition” or “no transition.”
9. Based on your analysis of the organization and coherence of this essay, make suggestions about how to re-organize and where stronger connections are needed. In your suggestions, be sure to consider whether any lack of clarity in organization, coherence, or evidence may result from the claim itself (i.e. ask whether the organization is hard to follow because the claim is trying to prove too much).
10. Finally, re-examine the draft one more time for evidence and provide suggestions about where more examples or proof are needed to support the argument.