FSEM 142: The Algorithmic Life
First Writing Assignment

The first major writing assignment for the course is due on Friday, September 13, with a rewrite due the following Friday. The assignment will be graded and will count for 10% of your overall grade in the course.

Your paper should be typed, double-spaced, and about three to four pages in length. It should have a title at the top, in larger type, followed by your name. You should print a copy to turn in and bring the printout to class.

About the Assignment

The first writing assignment is an essay. That means that you do not necessarily have to do any research for the paper. If you do use material from any source, you should of course supply appropriate footnotes and bibliography. However you are not required to consult sources other than your own knowledge. (Note: For bibliographies, you can use MLA format. Consider using www.easybib.com, for example.)

For the essay topic, you have two main options. The first is to write an essay about how you use technology and how it affects your life. The second—if you don't want to get so personal—is to write an essay about how your generation in general uses technology. You could write about the Internet, social media, or smart phones. You might have something to say about what it means to be always connected, or about growing up connected. You might do something along the lines of "a day in the life." You might write something autobiographical, describing a particular experience or experiences. You might survey your friends to find out more about what technology means to them. You might imagine a day without technology. You might think of something completely different from any of these suggestions.

I will ask you to make an appointment to meet with me individually to discuss the assignment (and also so that I can get to know you a little better). You should come to the meeting with some idea of what you would like to write about. Bring several ideas if you can.

About the Grading

There are several levels on which a paper can be judged. There are the basics such as spelling, grammar, sentence structure, and appropriate word choice. Then there are paragraphs: Are sentences organized into paragraphs that make sense as a whole? Do paragraph breaks come at natural points, where they represent a shift or topic or emphasis?

And there are questions of overall organization. After reading the first paragraph or so, is it clear to the reader what the paper will be about? Does the rest of the paper follow through on that expectation? Does the discussion flow well, avoiding abrupt and unexplained changes of topic? Does the paper end well, with a clear summary or final observations?

There are also some considerations that are less relevant to an essay than to a research paper, such as whether the arguments that are presented make sense logically and whether sources are quoted accurately and fairly.

And of course, there's the big question: Is the paper any good? Was it interesting? Was it fun to read? If it tried to be funny, did it succeed? Did I learn anything? Was I convinced? Would I like to read more by the same author???