ENG 420 13.1: Final Papers, University in Ruins

Today’s Plan:

  • Booth’s Craft of Research
  • Bill Readings’ University in Ruins
  • Homework

Booth’s Craft of Research

As students are drafting papers, I like to share the following exercise from Wayne Booth’s The Craft of Research. I often use this exercise myself as I am drafting in order to make sure I understand the focus, value, and/or purpose of my own work. Booth offers a 3 part heuristic for clarifying the aims and audience of one’s research:

  • I am studying X
  • Because I want to find out Y
  • In order to convince A to Z
  • (My addition: This is important given P)

While it might seem simple at first, it pushes you to be more specific in targeting an audience and a purpose. Here’s an example for a theoretical article I am working on:

  • I am studying feminist notions of listening
  • Because I want to find out how they articulate its importance
  • In order to convince rhetorical scholars to develop more ontological (and ethical, in Levinas’s sense of the term) notions of listening.
  • This is important given our increasing political polarization and inability to engage arguments that fall out of our ideological comfort zones.

Here’s an example for a qualitative article I am working on:

  • I am studying job ads for professional writers from MediaBistro
  • Because I want to identify what soft, social, and technical skills employers are targeting
  • In order to help influence what skills and technologies professional writing teachers integrate into their syllabi
  • This is important given the decreasing enrollments in English departments spurred by student perception that liberal arts such as English will hurt their chances to get a job after graduation.

Bill Readings’ University in Ruins

Some set up:

  • From the Excellent Student (Subject) to Excellence
  • The Nation-State (Culture, Bildung, Isocrates’ Legacy)
  • Rationality (Reason, Kant’s Legacy)


For homework, I would like you to finish drafting the first 3-4 pages of your paper (double-spaced). We will meet in the computer lab (Ross 1240) on Thursday for some peer review (which we will do via Google Docs).

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