Only a tenacious few will evade the smudge of history’s eventual eraser. — Mitch Thrower
A Beginning and an End (a first and final impression)
Congratulations. If you are reading this assignment, chances are you’ve gotten very far this semester and have done a lot of important work, not to mention a lot of good writing and research. This is the last of our major writing prompts for the final portfolio of the course. Before I go further, take stock of the major works of writing you’ve completed so far–a provocative piece on what you would live, die, and kill for; a researched guide to service/activism; a letter to an editor, a critical reflection of service, and ethnographic field work project based on a service-learning experience. There is a natural progression to this work which will make for a logically organized final portfolio of work. The one thing that’s missing, though, at this point that is needed to round the work off is strong beginning and compelling close–an introduction and a conclusion. That’s what this final assignment is all about–writing those missing pieces.
First Things Last: A Beginning
Despite what one might at first think, you shouldn’t write your introduction first; you should write it last. After all, how do you know what you are introducing until you have a chance to see it? So, it makes sense now that you are nearing the end of your portfolio writing for this semester that you turn to the beginning to write an introduction that is original, that provides necessary context for the readers of your portfolio, and that truly engages your readers, compelling them to read on. Remember, you should be considering the needs of an unfamiliar audience/reader and one who doesn’t necessarily need to read your work. You can assume that your audience is made up of college-level readers but aren’t people who have been part of our class. After the first paragraph or so, these readers might just choose to move on and not continue reading your work. Make sure that does not happen by grabbing their attention at the outset and keeping it.
Your introduction should be in the neighborhood of 750 words or so as a minimum, but it can be longer as needed.
In the End: Compelling Your Reader to Think, Reflect, and ACT
An audience tends to remember the first thing you say to them and the last thing, even if they forget everything else you said. These beginnings and endings are points of real emphasis in a speech or a written composition. You should, therefore, give extra attention to crafting your introduction and your conclusion very carefully.
Your conclusion should leave a lasting impression and offer something your readers won’t soon forget. An effective conclusion should do much more than just repeat what you’ve already said earlier in your work. It should not just summarize or repeat your thesis. It should avoid perfunctory wrap-ups. The conclusion is important. While it offers a sense of closure to your work, it should provide new insight and leave a strong final impression. It should compel your reader to think, reflect, or act. (Acting would be ideal in our case, don’t you think?) Your conclusion should be in the neighborhood of 750 words or so as a minimum, but it can be longer as needed.
Whether in the introduction or the conclusion of the piece (or somewhere else?), consider the possibilities of offering some reflection and thoughtful remarks regarding the capstone event of our course—the “Act Out” service-learning fair. (As you incorporate this reflection, be sure to connect it to the rest of the overall portfolio somehow, so it doesn’t seem randomly dropped in. Look for the connections. Remember, everything and everyone is connected in the web of life.
How this Assignment Will Be Assessed
This is the last piece of formal writing needed for the portfolio project. Given our timeline, it will not be due officially in the class until you include it as a part of your final portfolio. Of course, if you want to conference with me on it in the meantime to discuss how it is coming along, feel free to schedule a meeting. You could also informally ask your peers to give you some feedback along the way.
The basic expectations that I have for average and acceptable work for this project are as follows. The work should:
- be well-developed, well-crafted, and revised
- set the necessary context for your reader, in the case of the introduction, offer some direction for where the body of the portfolio is heading, and compel the reader to read on
- provide new insight, in the case of the conclusion, and give a clear sense of what the whole work adds up to, i.e. how it is significant, and highlight opportunities for the reader to think, reflect, and act
- be well edited and free from careless mechanical errors
- be a minimum of 1500 words in total length (about 3 to 5 pages in print)–introduction and conclusion combined
This piece is due as a part of the final portfolio for the course. Consult the course schedule for a complete list of due dates.