First Year Seminar/Section 19/Dr. Schell

Week 1 • Assignment: Introductory Essay REVISION

Due: The essay is due in class on Monday, September 12th  in class (hardcopy & email – see below)


Purpose. The purpose of this writing exercise is to go through the process of substantially revising your first essay, including rethinking the organization, word-choice, etc.


Assignment. Write a thesis driven essay (500-750 words, approximately 2-3 pages, double-spaced, typed) that is supported by evidence and explanation. Use ONE of the following question to prompt the thesis of your essay. Your paper should be based on your having read all of Part I of Obama.

  1. RACE. Significant portions of "Origins" are dedicated to Obama's difficulty navigating between two racially determined worlds.  On page 82 he writes, "As it was, I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two worlds would eventually cohere."   Find three examples from "Origins" in which he "slip[s] back and forth," and explain if he is able to make the worlds cohere and how he does it.  If he can't bring the worlds together (in any of the examples), explain why.
  2. ORIGINS. Why did Obama give the first section of this book (the title) “Origins” and why is it significant?
  3. EXEMPLARY LIFE. Where in the autobiography does Barack Obama display "exemplary" characteristics? Why can these be considered "exemplary?" What is an "exemplary life"?

Guidelines for writing the essay[1]:

  1. Review the reading and think about it in terms of the topic you have chosen. Make notes o the text so you’ll have relevant quotes that can help you develop your essay.
  2. Spend time thinking about the questions and so some pre-writing (brainstorming, note-taking, outlining, listing, clustering ideas, etc.) before you begin a draft.
  3. Begin the essay with an introduction that gradually leads to your thesis.
  4. Develop a thesis and spell out what you are going to argue in the essay (provide a roadmap).
  5. Develop the essay with paragraphs that include topic sentences that support your thesis, and evidence (quotations from the story) and explanations that support your topic sentences. Strive to make the connections between your main points clear, and use transitions and explanations.
  6. Finish with a conclusion that goes beyond merely re-stating your main points, but reinforces the significance of your topic in terms of the story but also the real world. Be able to answer the “so what?” question.
  7. Take the time to come up with a thoughtful title that indicates the subject of your essay.
  8. Proofread your final copy before submitting it. 
  9. Use the MLA guidelines for documentation as outlined in your seminar handbook and as spelled out in the Bedford Handbook. Document sources using parentheses at the end of sentences and include a list of works cited at the end of the essay (this does not need to be on a separate page). For this essay, that will mean citing Dreams of My Father properly.
  10. FOR THIS ESSAY, do not use or consult any outside sources to develop this essay without my permission. Doing so will constitute academic dishonesty.


Formatting requirements . Use 1” margins and a standard 12 point font (Times or Palatino). At the top of the page (not on a separate cover sheet!) put on the left or right hand side. Center the title above the essay. Make sure to include the following information at the top of the page: Your Name, First Year Seminar Section S/19, Professor Schell, Date


Submission. Please bring a hard copy of the essay to class on the day it is due.  You must also submit your paper to in order to receive credit for the paper. The site can be found at  You will need to set up an individual account, and add my class to your account, in order to submit your paper.  You will need the course code and password below in order to "register" for the class. Then, when you are ready to submit the paper, log on to your account (using your own login [email address] and password) and then access the click on the class, then the assignment (Paper 1) and hit the submit button. A window will prompt you to select the file from your computer. You will need the following codes:


class ID:


enrollment password:




If you have trouble submitting the paper, please email me a copy of the paper as an attached document so that I can upload it. Thank you, in advance, for taking the time to do this.

[1] Guidelines adopted from Professor Hale’s handout for First Year Seminar, Fall 2001.