FYS 100, section 50
15 December 2015
Over the course of this semester in Social Utopias, I have improved my argumentative writing skills, my critical reading and thinking skills, and my oral communication skills. At the beginning of this course, my argumentative writing needed a decent amount of improvement; the various writing assignments, such as, response papers and essays, and the exercises in Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace helped me to improve my argumentative writing by teaching me to provide a more in depth analysis and to write with more clarity and concision. My critical reading and thinking skills were somewhat strong before the start of this course but needed more development to emerge as a great strength. The readings, response papers, essays, and discussions helped me improve this skill. My oral communication skills needed a lot of improvement, and through the classroom discussions, study groups, and oral presentations, I improved my ability to present my ideas in an understandable way. The various assignments and activities in Social Utopias helped me strengthen my argumentative writing skills, my critical reading and thinking skills, and my oral communication skills.
Throughout this semester, I have strengthened my argumentative writing skills through writing assignments and exercises. The writing assignments, such as response paper and essays, provided me with feedback and comments that allowed me to know the paper’s strengths and weaknesses. For instance, on the second response paper, I did a poor job of analyzing the use of Socratic dialogue in Republic, and I did not include a sufficient amount of evidence to answer the question (response paper 2). I never answered what the reader learned about justice and how the conversations provided the reader with a new definition of justice (response paper 2). The comments in the paper forced me to ensure that I would provide a deeper level of analysis on the remaining papers. On the next response paper, I gave a deeper level of analysis and used more examples from the book (response paper 3). My success on this response paper provided me with a clear example of the amount of analysis and textual examples I needed to have in my response papers. I was able to use this assignment as a model for what my other writing assignments needed to resemble. Response papers six and seven provided me with a new challenge; I had to create my own topic. On the previous response papers, I just had to find and analyze examples in the text that supported my response to the topic. On response papers six and seven, I had to analyze the text and create a topic from my analysis; it was essential that I created a topic that could be supported by evidence from the text. I was still able to follow the structure I had used on my previous response papers. The response papers were not the only writing assignments that caused me to improve my writing ability; the two essays and the midterm reflection also played an essential role in progression as a writer. The first essay made me realize that I should include quotes from the author instead of only paraphrasing what the author had said (Essay 1). A combination of quotes and paraphrases provides the reader with both my words and the author’s words. Both the first and the second essays required me to use counterexamples, which I had never used in an essay before. The counterexamples made my essays a part of broader argument because it provided my paper with opposing viewpoints that were supported by textual evidence. As a result, the reader was able to have a better understanding of my argument because the reader could see how my argument responded to the counterarguments. The counterpoints required me to use transition as well since I needed to go from writing about the opposing argument to writing about my argument. My midterm reflection caused me to reflect on the progress I had made as a writer and what I needed to improve my writing skills. The various writings assignments allowed me to strengthen my argumentative writing skills by teaching me how to provide a strong argument that was supported by textual evidence.
In addition to the writing assignments, the exercises in Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace and my meetings with the writing consultant and Dr. Watts presented me with a better understanding of how to present a clearer and stronger argument. The exercises in Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace taught me how to avoid grammar mistakes I frequently committed, such as writing in passive voice. I also learned how to write with more clarity and concision and how clarity and concision strengths one’s argument. Clear use of language allows the reader to have a better sense of what the writer’s argument is and how the evidence supports this argument. Through my meetings with Yasmine and Dr. Watts, I learned how to strengthen my arguments by using more quotes, and I learned how to start my essays with a broader introduction instead of immediately getting into my argument. The meetings with Yasmine and Dr. Watts allowed me to know what aspects of argumentative writing that I needed to improve on what aspects I did well on.
Before this course, my critical reading and thinking were somewhat good, but over the course this semester, my critical reading and thinking skills have greatly improved. I improved these two skills through class discussions, response papers and essays, and my study group. The class discussions allowed me to see how others viewed my analysis, and I could learn from the other student’s analysis. The class discussions also motivated me to closely examine the reading and break down what the author was trying to convey because I wanted to be able to share my analysis with the class. I strengthened my critical reading and thinking skills through the response papers and essays. Response papers six and seven were especially helpful since I had to create my own topic. On response paper six, I had to come up with a question from A Discourse in Inequality; my analysis went too far, and I made assumptions that Rousseau did not necessarily make. The question I chose for my topic may have been too difficult to answer completely with the evidence in A Discourse on Inequality (response paper 6). On the next response paper, I had to form a question from a primary source; in my opinion, I did better on this paper than I did on response paper six because I did not make assumptions that were not supported by the evidence in the primary source document. The question I created for my topic was also more directly supported by the textual evidence, so I did not need to make assumptions based on the evidence like I did on response paper six. The study groups helped me improve my critical reading and thinking because the group projects forced me to analyze what the author was saying and to make connections between different literary works. For instance, the group project in early October required the study groups to read a primary source from Thomas More’s period and to compare this source to More’s Utopia. I had to analyze the themes from both of these works to try to find any similarities or differences. One difference between my primary source and Utopia was the issue of private property. In Utopia, private property is condemned by Raphael Hythloday, and in the primary source, private property is defended (group presentation October 8). More wrote both Utopia and the primary source, so it was interesting to think about what More’s opinion was in relation to private and communal property. I further developed my critical reading and writing skills through the classroom discussions, the writing assignments, and the group projects.
I strengthened my oral communication skills over the course of the semester in Social Utopias through the classroom discussions, and the group assignments with my study group. This semester I was not the most frequent participant in class, but I believe that when I participated, I usually stated valuable ideas and analysis. The classroom discussions allowed each student to contribute to the discussion when they wanted to. The discussions were orderly, and students listened when one student was speaking. Listening, providing new ideas, and providing feedback were characteristics of the classroom discussion, each of these skills are important in developing strong oral communication skills. The group assignments I completed with my study groups allowed me to communicate with a smaller group on a frequent basis. For the group projects, we had to communicate our findings with each other and respond to each other’s ideas. We had to agree on what material to ideas to use in the presentation. The ability to share ideas in an organized manner is essential in oral communication. I vastly improved my oral communication skills throughout the course with the help of classroom discussions and projects with small group.
At the beginning of the course, my argumentative writing, critical reading and thinking, and oral communication needed to be further developed. The assignments, classroom discussions, group projects, and exercise allowed me to grow in each of these three skills. As a result, I believe that I am better prepared for the rest of my education.
I pledge that I have neither given nor received any unauthorized help during the completion of this work.