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2.5: Exercises

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    1. Free-write on an assignment prompt. If you have one, do that one. If not, here’s one to practice with:A. “Please write a five-page paper analyzing the controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food supply.”B. What clarification questions would you like to ask your professor? What additional background knowledge do you need to deeply understand the topic? What are some starter ideas that could lead to a good thesis and intriguing argument?
    2. Find a couple of sample student papers from online paper mills such as this one (Google “free college papers”) and journals featuring excellent undergraduate writing (such as this one from Cornell University), and use the AAC&U rubric on critical thinking to evaluate them. Which descriptor in each row most closely fits the paper?

    other resources

    1. This website from the Capital Community College Foundation has some good advice about overcoming writer’s block. And student contributor Aly Button recommends this funny clip from SpongeBob Squarepants.
    2. The Foundation for Critical Thinking maintains a website with many useful articles and tools.
    3. The Online Writing Laboratory (OWL) at Purdue University is a wonderful set of resources for every aspect of college writing. Especially germane to this chapter is this summary of the most common types of writing assignments.
    4. This website, offers logic puzzles and other brain-teasers for your entertainment.


    1Peter Elbow, Writing With Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process (Oxford University Press, 1981), 219.

    2Ibid., 220.

    3 A lot of professors joke, “I teach for free. They pay me to grade.”

    4Keith Hjortshoj, The Transition to College Writing, 2nd Edition (New York: Norton, 2009), 4.

    5 Most professors are perpetually frustrated with the “one-and-done” attitude that most students bring to their work, and some sequences are specifically designed to force you to really rethink your conclusions.

    6Terrel Rhodes, ed., Assessing Outcomes and Improving Achievement: Tips and Tools for Using Rubrics (Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, 2010).

    7 Thank you, Mr. Bolger!


    9Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).

    10Ibid., 44.

    11Ibid., 45.

    12Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (New York: Harper & Row, 1990).

    13Rosen, Jeffrey A., Elizabeth J. Glennie, Ben W. Dalton, Jean M. Lennon, and Robert N. Bozick. Noncognitive Skills in the Classroom: New Perspectives on Educational Research. RTI International. PO Box 12194, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2194, 2010.

    14Hart Research Associates, Raising the Bar, 9.

    2.5: Exercises is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Amy Guptill.

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