A laptop on a table alongside a cup of coffee, a smartphone and a pad of paper with a pen on top of it Andrew Neel

Paper II

Paper I asked you to analyze a single essay and make an argument about the way it worked. In Paper II, you'll expand your analysis to compare two of the essay's we've read. You'll use the comparative and analytic skills we practiced in class to make an argument about the way two essays work together to demonstrate something interesting about argumentation, style or other features.

Writing your paper in 7 easy steps

Choose your essays

Choose two essays that you want to compare. Do not choose two essays that we read on the same class day. One of the goals of this paper is to suggest new and interesting pairings that are different from the ones we discussed in class. Look back over the essays from this unit. Are there two essays that work in similar ways? Did you notice thematic similarities between essays we read on different days? Do two essays accomplish a similar effect in very different ways?

Your goal is to identify two essays that you can analyze in comparison to each other. The point (or points) of comparison is up to you. You might compare different approaches to a similar argument, or different approaches to a similar topic. You might compare different uses of argumentation, or show how similar methods of argumentation work differently in different contexts. But you should have some reason that you want to examine the two essays together.

Analyze the essays

Use the questions in the analysis exercise to analyze each of the essays. Make sure to take lots of notes as you go through the steps, and to return to any steps that seem particularly important.

Compare the essays

Look over your notes . What did you notice about the first essay that relates to the second? Are there interesting similarities? Notable differences? Remember that interesting comparision requires both similarity and difference--two things need to have enough in common that it makes sense to consider them together, but enough differences that it's interesting to look at both of them, rather than just one or the other.

Draft a thesis

As you compare the essays, aim to answer these questions: why should we examine these two essays together? What does comparing them show us that reading just one essay or the other doesn't? What do we learn by analyzing these two essays together?

Draft a thesis statement that combines the answers to these questions into one or two sentences.

Plan your paper

At this point, you’ll want to think carefully about how best to structure your paper. Questions you should consider include:

Aim to let the needs of your particular argument guide the organization of your paper.

Write your paper

Use your notes and your conclusions about the best structure for your argument to guide you as you get your ideas all out onto the page.

Look back at the beginning and the end

You probably had a thesis in mind when you started writing, but once you’ve drafted your paper, take some time and re-visit that thesis. Is your initial thesis actually what you ended up writing about? Often, your argument changes—sometimes substantially—as you work through your analysis. If that’s the case, re-write your thesis to reflect your new argument. Use your conclusion to remind your reader why your argument is important: that is, how does your thesis help your reader better understand the scene.

Evaluation and submission instructions

Who your paper should address

Your audience for this paper should be a hypothetical classmate who has attended class and done the reading, but has not been overly studious or attentive. This classmate will definitely notice if you make an obvious claim, but there is also room to teach her something new about the readings and concepts from class. Your classmate does not need full, detailed summaries of the readings, because she has already read them, but she does need concise reminders to help locate herself in the text and to remind her of what the important points were.

What your paper should do

Peer review and submission instructions

Your paper should be submitted for peer review by class time on Monday, 2/12. You should upload your paper to the "Paper II Peer Review" folder in the class Box folder. After class on Monday, you will follow the peer review instructions to review your classmates' papers. We will discuss peer revew feedback in class on Wednesday, 2/14.

After our peer-review session, you should revise your paper according to your classmates' feedback and upload it to the "Paper II" folder on Sakai by class time on Friday, 2/16.


Paper II is worth 15 points. Two of those points are allocated to peer review, one for submitting a completed draft by the appointed time, and another for providing feedback on your classmates' papers. The final paper will be graded on the 13-point scale; for more details on that scale, consult the grading scale.


While you may continue to revise your paper throughout the term, your initial revision must be submitted to me by Friday, 3/2 in order to be eligible for further revision. This policy is both to help you keep up with the many writing dates, and to help me comment on and return papers to you in a timely fashion.