This assignment asks you to address an academic conversation that touches on our class concerns in some way or another. The paper should incorporate substantial research (at least ten sources) and should aim to contribute to the conversation in some way. Figuring out what this contribution entails will likely be the most challenging aspect of the paper. We can think of this contribution as an argument, but be mindful that different types of arguments will be more or less successful, and you will be more or less prepared to make these different types of arguments. Your argument will most likely need to emerge from your engagement with existing scholarship. For the purposes of our class, you won’t be able to conduct your own study, and you probably don’t have enough experience to offer arguments emerging from your own teaching practices. So, what can you contribution look like?
One possibility would be to offer an analysis of a text or texts through the lens of one or more theoretical perspectives from comp studies. The text to be analyzed could be pedagogical (for example, a set of assignments, a syllabus, a writing program), ethnographic (for example, contributions to the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives), student-produced (for example, contributions to TheJUMP), or theoretical (analyzing a theoretical approach through the lens of another). Another possibility would be to put different scholars into conversation with one another. Are there any particular patterns or guiding assumptions shaping a given conversation? Can you articulate a new understanding of a concept or problem by putting multiple theorists into conversation? Does one scholar help us answer questions raised by another scholar? Can you adapt the thinking of a past scholar by drawing on the thinking of a more recent scholar (or vice versa)?
There are other possible approaches here, but again, your contribution or argument will most likely emerge out of your research and the sources you engage. Regardless of your approach, your paper should follow the conventions of one of two academic genres. The first option follows the conventions of an academic conference paper (8-10 pages): invoke a conversation, identify a question or gap or opening or possibility within the conversation, and offer a gesture toward how this question might be addressed. For this approach, we should get a rich sense for the conversation and some solid insights into how the conversation can be developed further, but you would not be developing your discussion of sources and your discussion of your own insights and contributions at great length.
The second option works more toward an article length (15-25 pages) discussion of the conversation and your response to it. You would still make the same sort of moves in your paper, but you would have more room to elaborate, to consider further texts and examples in greater detail. The second option potentially requires more work, although it does give you more space to develop your ideas if this helps. On the other hand, the conference paper approach does challenge you to work through the same sort of ideas more quickly and efficiently, so some intellectual heavy lifting will be necessary for either approach.