The Researched Personal Essay

Your assignment is to write an 8-10 page research-based personal essay, incorporating discussion of at least one of the works we’re reading this semester; additional evidence acquired through research from credible written outside sources (such as historical facts, scientific data, statistics, and quotations, which could include those from other authors in American Earth not read for class); and creative nonfiction techniques such as anecdote, descriptive narrative, and personal reflection, to address an issue related to the environment (or, specifically, sustainability) in a way that is relevant to our work in colloquium this semester, and perhaps to your own academic or professional interests.


(FOR EXAMPLE?) You might focus on a single author or thinker and how her/his writings have enhanced your understanding. You could focus on a single issue – global warming, salinization of soils in California’s central valley, the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the National Park System, ocean acidification, species extinction, water resources, good ol’ air pollution – and think about how certain writers changed how humans understand such problems (Carson and pesticides, for example). You could begin your own career as an advocate on some green issue that is important to you. And write from the heart and from the mind.


As sources, you must use at least five credible written works beyond those we’ve read in this colloquium, as well as including some focused discussion of the work of at least one of the thinkers/creators we’ve looked at in our two classes (Muir, Thoreau, Marsh, Pinchot) which may have inspired your choice of topic, or how you think about these issues philosophically (for example).


A successful paper will seek to integrate scientific and/or historical data with descriptive narrative of personal experience, while reflecting upon the ideas of at least one environmental thinker/author/photographer in light of your own values and experiences. Data can be gathered from our handbook on Ecology or via credible, reputable sources including books, academic journals, well-regarded newspapers and magazines (such as the New York Times or Wall Street Journal and Scientific American or Nature), interviews with researchers, government or university research web sites, internet archives, such as Library of Congress, or well-researched documentaries, like those produced for PBS, etc.


Your paper should include:


  1. A clear and well-crafted thesis and a well organized structure.
  2. Five major quotes – including one each from at least three of your outside sources.
  1. A clean, professional final draft that has been carefully proofread for typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors.
  2. Use of MLA citation style throughout the paper with a properly formatted works cited page


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