A laptop on the carpet surrounded by two phones, a camera, a pair of glasses, a mug of tea, a blanket and a magazine. Ewan Robertson

Paper IV

It's time to produce your own piece of public writing. Paper IV will combine the close reading and analysis skills we've practiced this term, the research skills you developed in Paper III and your group-led discussion project, and the attention to web design and communication we've emphasized over the course of this term.

For this paper, you will write a well-researched and appropriately cited piece of public writing aimed at a specific audience of your choice. The subject of your essay is up to you, though it should lend itself to the publication venue you choose and it should be part of a larger conversation that you can identify and research.

Because your essay will be aimed at a specific online audience and participating in a larger conversation, you should write and format your essay with the goals of public writing and the needs and values of your audience in mind. Your essay will be a major part of the website you have been building over the course of the term, so you will want to pay attention to questions of design, layout and formatting as you write.

Writing your paper in 10 easy steps

Pick a conversation and topic

Find a conversation you want to be a part of. You might think back to the work you did with your group as you identified readings for your discussion. What kinds of topics where people producing public writing about? Which pieces of public writing or topics that people wrote about interested you? Alternately, is there a conversation that interests you that you think would benefit from an in-depth piece of public writing?

Once you've identified a conversation, pick a general topic within the conversation that interests you. You don't need to have an argument yet, but you should have a defined topic you want to write about. You'll want to make sure that topic is narrow enough to be covered in an essay, and interesting enough to bear in-depth analysis. You'll also want to make sure the topic needs attention--that is, to make sure that the conversation hasn't fully explored the topic yet.

Pick an audience

One you’ve decided on a conversation and topic, you’ll need to pick an audience. Here, too, you can turn to group-led discussion process for guidance. Where were some of the essays that interested you published? Where are the other people involved in the conversation publishing? Do any of the essays you've read seem be making the kinds of arguments or engaging the kinds of readers that you’d like to engage? Look over the different websites you identify and see if any of them appear to be a good fit for your topic. If you’re having trouble identifying a specific website and audience, feel free to consult with me.

Research your audience and conversation

After you’ve decided on a audience and conversation, you’ll want to research your audience. Read through the material on the site and take some notes. Who do you think the site’s primary readers are, and why? What kind of stories do they run? What kind of ads do they publish? What do you think the readers are generally interested in, and what can you identify as their primary values? Refer back to the analysis exercise and apply the questions you asked in earlier papers to the publication site you've chosen.

Likewise, continue to research your conversation. You probably identified several voices in the conversation as part of step 1, but you should make sure you've located the most interesting, important and useful examples of pubic writing about your conversation and topic.

Evaluate your research

Before you begin writing, you’ll want to make sure you have all the secondary sources you need to support your argument. Look over the research you did on your audience and conversation. Which sources relate to your topic? Have you identified sources you want to engage with as part of a conversation? What do you still not know about your topic, and how can you find what you're missing? Keep reading and searching until you have as many sources as you need, which should be at least 5.

Identify your argument

Now that you’ve looked at what everyone else has to say, you need to carve out your own space in the conversation. What do you want to show your readers that hasn’t been done in the sources you’ve found? You might want to connect the arguments other people make to a new or unexamined aspect of the topic you have chosen. You might want to disagree with people about something. You might want to point out something everyone has overlooked. Whatever you do, you should be sure that you’re focusing on a specific issue within the conversation, because you want to support your argument with specific details drawn from your research and analysis.

Decide how you will use media and design

As we’ve discussed, successful public writing makes use of a variety of media, including video and images. It also uses space, color, text headings, fonts, and other elements of design to communicate hierarchies, claims and other rhetorical elements. Your essay should do the same thing.

Decide what kind of media you want to use. Are there images that you want to analyze as part of your argument? Are there images you would like to create to support your argument or enhance your design? Do you want to embed a video from YouTube or Vimeo? As you make these decisions, pay attention to copyright and make sure that you are using media appropriately.

Decide how you will use design to augment your argument. What kind of visual hierarchy does your argument require, and how can you create that hierarchy? How can you use headings or different styles of text to visually communicate your important points? Remember that too much clutter or an unclear hierarchy will confuse your reader rather than strengthening your claims, so be sure to prioritize your use of features like bold or italic type.

Write your paper

Now that you’ve identified your audience and argument and planned out your design, it’s time to write your argument. Don’t write your paper in Word or Pages. If you already have a preferred editor for Markdown or HTML, use that. If not, use the editor on the WordPress site (but be sure to click “Save Draft” at regular intervals!).

As you write, think both about what you’re arguing and how you’re formatting that argument. In addition to saving your draft regularly, preview it regularly. Make changes to the design as you make changes to the content of the argument.

Follow online conventions for citation and quotation

When you reference other people’s arguments, make sure you are making it clear to your readers which arguments are yours and which are drawn from other critics. Use attribution tags like “Jones argues,” “According to Smith,” and “Lee claims.” Rather than using MLA citation style, use the citation practices of online writing. This means that you should identify the author, title and publication in the body of your writing, and you should link to the text you are citing. When you quote a secondary source at length, use the block quote feature in the WordPress editor to distinguish the quotations from your text.

As with your earlier papers, make sure you’re following a claim-evidence-analysis model. When your evidence is drawn from your secondary sources, be extra careful to follow up with analysis of how that evidence proves your claim and relates to your thesis.

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 topic?

Reflect on your analysis

In addition to your essay, you should write a meta-analysis of your essay that you will submit on Sakai. Your meta-analysis should make an argument about the ways you engaged your specific audience in your essay. In about 500 words, tell your reader who your audience was, and what you identified as the most important things your audience values or is interested in. How do you know they value those things? Then explain the specific choices you made in your paper that respond to those interests and values.

You should also consider the choices you made about design, media and layout in your analysis. What were the intended rhetorical and visual effects of those choices? Based on your knowledge of your audience, why did you prioritize those particular effects? Be sure to include specific examples to support your claims.

Your meta-analysis should be a separate section (that is, it does not need to be integrated into the rest of your paper). As such, it should be organized with a brief introduction, a body paragraph (or two), and a brief conclusion.

Evaluation and submission instructions

What your essay should do

Peer review and submission instructions

Your essay should be submitted for peer review by class time on Monday, 4/2. You should upload your paper to the "Paper IV 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, 4/4.

After our peer-review session, you should revise your essay according to your classmates' feedback and upload it to the "Paper IV" folder on Sakai by class time on Friday, 4/6.


Paper IV 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.


Paper IV is the final paper of the term, so you will have only one opportunity to revise following peer review and submission. Your revised Paper IV should be submitted no later than noon on Friday, April 12.

There are three steps to submitting your Paper IV revision. You must complete all three steps to receive a final grade for Paper IV.

  1. Update the post on your website to reflect your revisions.
  2. Submit a text file with the content of your revised essay to the "Paper IV revision" folder on Sakai. You should preface this text file with a brief description of the changes you made in revision.
  3. Submit your revised meta-analysis to the "Meta-Analysis" folder on Sakai.