Student Writing Samples
The following samples are meant to provide new college students with some helpful context. New students to MCC, some who may have been away from school environments for a period of time, often wonder about the expectations for writing as they enter a college environment. And although schools districts and states in this country have curriculum guidelines and assessments for writing for Kindergarten through high school graduation, some students entering MCC may not have had the many years of ongoing writing experiences needed to develop their writing abilities as others entering college. Below are some links to writing samples gathered from students at a variety of academic levels and written for a) a variety of college courses across the academic disciplines, b) first-year college English Composition courses, c) basic writing or pre-college level writing courses taken on a college campus, d) high school courses and/or assessments, as well as e) middle school classes and/or assessments, and f) elementary school classes and/or assessments.
COLLEGE LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
Writing Samples In a Variety of Disciplines and Courses
MCC Writing Samples from a variety of courses across the curriculum
Writing Across the Curriculum & In the Disciplines: A Journal of Student Writing from Middlesex Community College provides student writing samples from the following classes: Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Anatomy & Physiology 1, Art on the Web, Child Growth and Development, Early Childhood Education–Supervised Field Placement and Seminar, Film Analysis & Production, Microcomputer Applications, Music Appreciation, Nursing Care of the Adult 1, Introduction to Philosophy, Piano III, Popular Culture and Society, Introduction to Psychology, Introduction to Statistics, and Tourism Geography. Follow this link to an electronic copy of this complete journal.
CONNECT Writing Outcomes and Rubric for First-Year Writing
CONNECT is "A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership" of Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. The following outcomes and rubric grid was created by the CONNECT First-Year Writing Group and is used across these public colleges in southeastern Massachusetts
Freshman English Composition– 2nd semester level (equivalent to ENG 102 at MCC)
Victimized Against Her Will in Naguib Mahfouz's "The Answer is No" by Doris Osiimwe-Johnson (a literary research paper)
(This paper can be found in Writing Across the Curriculum & In the Disciplines: A Journal of Student Writing from Middlesex Community College; available in electronic form)
Tiara Trudelle: All for Love (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth)
Sue Mechler: Finding Cape Cod (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth)
Freshman English Composition– 1st semester level (equivalent to ENG 101 at MCC)
Deborah Marcelonis: Overspending is Responsible for the College Cost Crisis
NOTE : Some colleges teach the researched essay and/or the research paper in the second semester of English Composition. This student's research paper was written in her second semester composition course at a college in southeastern Massachusetts (courtesy of CONNECT: A Southeastern Massachusetts Public Education Partnership, which includes Bridgewater State College, Bristol Community College, Cape Cod Community College, Massasoit Community College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, & University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth).
ENTERING COLLEGE: WRITING PLACEMENT ESSAYS
The ACT system is one that many colleges around the country use for placement testing. Here are the detailed scoring guidelines that indicate level of writing proficiency, from 1 (low) to 6 (high):
Although these scores may be used by individual colleges in a variety of ways and at times in combination with reading placement scores, generally a score of 1 or 2 would place a student in a basic writing or pre-college level writing course, 3 - 5 would place a student into an English Composition course, and a 6 might place a student beyond English Composition 1.
The following link provides sample student essays, one sample at each of these 6 different levels: http://www.actstudent.org/writing/sample/index.html
BASIC WRITING or PRE-COLLEGE LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
The following samples are from MCC Basic Writing (ENG 071) students who completed their essays in a proctored environment in two blocks of time. Students are given 50 minutes during the final class to read the assignment options and begin their essays; all writing and materials are collected and then redistributed during final exam period where students have two additional hours to complete their essays. The essays are then read by two different English instructors who grade it as passing or not passing based on the following Basic Writing essay criteria for an in-class or timed essay:
- A relatively well-developed and expressed main idea
- A sense of introduction, conclusion, and organization
- Most paragraphs developed around appropriate topic sentences
- Sufficient relevant supporting details
- Few if any fragments or run-ons that suggest lack of sentence sense
- Appropriate capitals and end marks
- A reasonable grasp of rules for commas and apostrophes
- Few serious spelling errors
NOTE: Sample Essays #1, 2, & 6 below were in response to the following assignment option:
Though opinions may vary greatly, after at least twelve years of school, most college students know an excellent teacher from a poor one. Drawing from your personal experiences, knowledge, observations, and analysis, state and explain what you believe are the main qualities of a good teacher. Use specific examples (but please no names) and clear explanations to support your general ideas about what makes a good teacher.
NOTE: Sample Essay #5 below was in response to the following assignment option:
Write an essay giving advice to high school students on what they can do to be best prepared for the academic and personal challenges of college.
Basic Writing Sample Essay #1 (meets the above Exit Criteria; Passing)
Basic Writing Sample Essay #2 (meets the above Exit Criteria; Passing)
Basic Writing Sample Essay #5 (does not meet the above Exit Criteria; Not Passing
on Exit Criteria #1, #2, #5, #7)
Basic Writing Sample Essay #6 (does not meet the above Exit Criteria; Not Passing
on Exit Criteria #3, #5, #6, #7, #8)
HIGH SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
Samples from local high school - 10th Grade Classes (Acton – Boxborough High School)
"Penalty! 10 Yards on the Offense for Lack of Integrity!: Editorial on Cheating in Professional Sports Today" (persuasive essay)
"The 7th and 8th Grade Boys Football Team. But By "Boys", I Mean Boys and a Girl" (narrative essay)
MIDDLE SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
8th Grade Writing Samples
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LEVEL WRITING SAMPLES
Grade 4 Writing Samples
Why Introductions Matter
- The opening paragraph is your first chance to make a good impression—to grab your readers' interest and make them want to keep reading your paper. A thoughtful, imaginative introduction will persuade your readers that you—and your ideas—are worthy of their time and attention. A poorly written or boring introduction, on the other hand, will create a bad impression and will make readers wonder why they should bother spending time in your company.
- The introduction identifies the topic you are addressing, indicates why the topic matters, and often signals the approach and the tone (or attitude) you will take in your handling of that topic.
- The opening paragraph provides a kind of road map for your readers, alerting them to what they can expect as they travel through your paper. In a thesis-driven paper, the thesis statement is usually located in the introduction, often at the end of the first paragraph.
Tips for Writing Effective Introductions
Try writing your introduction last. Often, writers don't know exactly what they want to say or what their thesis actually is until they have finished the first draft.
For narratives or personal response essays, offer a hook—an intriguing anecdote, a telling description, a scintillating quotation, a startling fact, or a provocative statement or question—to capture readers' interest.
For other types of academic writing, including research papers, literature reviews, and summaries, begin with a statement of the problem the paper addresses, followed by background information on the problem and why it is significant. Then, provide an explanation of the focus and purpose of the paper, and conclude with the thesis statement and/or a brief summary of the paper's contents. (See our handout on “Formal Academic Introductions” for examples.)
Examples of Effective Introductions
An introduction using description (and an anecdote as well)
“A weasel is wild. Who knows what he thinks? He sleeps in his underground den, his tail draped over his nose. Sometimes he lives in his den for two days without leaving. Outside, he stalks rabbits, mice, muskrats, and birds, killing more bodies than he can eat warm, and often dragging the carcasses home. Obedient to instinct, he bites his prey at the neck, either splitting the jugular vein at the throat or crunching the brain at the base of the skull, and he does not let go. One naturalist refused to kill a weasel who was socketed into his hand deeply as a rattlesnake. The man could in no way pry the tiny weasel off, and he had to walk half a mile to water, the weasel dangling from his palm, and soak him off like a stubborn label.”
-Annie Dillard, Living Like Weasels
An introduction using a provocative statement
“I am an academic call girl. I write college kids' papers for a living. Term papers, book reports, senior theses, take-home exams….”
-Abigail Witherspoon, This Pen for Hire
An introduction using a quotation
“‘Where I was born and where and how I have lived is unimportant,' Georgia O'Keefe told us in the book of paintings and words published in her ninetieth year on earth. She seemed to be advising us to forget the beautiful face in the Stieglitz photographs. She appeared to be dismissing the rather condescending romance that had attached to her by then, the romance of extreme good looks and advanced age and deliberate isolation….”
-Joan Didion, Georgia O'Keefe
Types of Introductions to Handle with Care
The "Restating the Question" Introduction
Professors often find themselves reading a stack of papers that all begin with a restatement of the question they themselves wrote. If you choose to begin your paper with the question, try to do so in an interesting way that goes beyond mere restatement.
Example of a weak opening that restates the question
“Does Beowulf make the correct decision when he elects to fight the dragon? Yes, he does. The reason why is that he does indeed know, like all mortals, that he must die, and so he meets his fate heroically.”
Example of a more effective strategy
“Beowulf's arrogance, bravery, self-sacrifice and the loyalty he inspires in his men all make him one of literature's most heroic figures. Although some critics, including Beowulf's own retainer, have complained that fighting the dragon was a prideful and foolish act, he clearly had no other choice.”
The "According to Webster's Dictionary" Introduction
This introductory strategy is used so often that it has become a cliché. It is important to define the terms of a discussion; indeed, in many essays, stipulating how you are using terms is crucial. However, the introduction probably isn't the best place to do so. If you do choose to define your terms in the opener, try to do it in a way that is creative and original.
Example of a weak opening using a definition
“The American Heritage Dictionary defines weak as ‘Lacking physical strength, energy, or vigor; feeble….Likely to fail under pressure, stress, or strain; lacking resistance: a weak link in a chain.'”
Example of a more creative approach
“ ‘Asymptotic freedom.' It was the first and only piece of text that had intruded into the long rows of equations and symbols that covered that morning's blackboard. Perhaps that accounts for the words being so seared into my memory. Or perhaps it was just the first thing on the board that morning that made any sense to my numerically challenged mind. ‘Asymptotic freedom.' What beautiful words. The dictionary defines the term as referring to “a property of the forces between quarks, according to quantum chromodynamics, such as that they behave almost like free particles when they are close together within a hadron.' You would probably need a graduate course in quantum physics to truly understand the concept, but it is basically a fairly simple notion. An ‘asymptote' is a line on a graph that extends into infinity.”
-Christopher Livaccari, qtd in Frames of Mind, 398
The "Since the Beginning of Time" Introduction
Here, the writer makes sweeping generalizations or vague assertions about the topic. Such introductions often lack a thesis, suggesting that the writer does not have much to say. Ask: Can I cross out my opening paragraph with no loss of impact or meaning? If the answer is yes, then it's time to revise!
Example of a weak “since the beginning of time” introduction
“Since the beginning of history, poverty and inequality have been a problem for mankind.”
Example of a more effective approach
“It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for alms….
-Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal
Webster University Writing Center, 2005