Whenever you begin a major writing project, it is very important that you take the time to assess your writing situation. This first “Pre-Writing Exercise” asks you to do just that. To start, re-read the “Checklist for assessing the writing situation” on pages 4 and 5 of Rules for Writers. Then, keeping the checklist in mind, carefully re-read the assignment instructions for Paper #1. I suggest that you read a printed copy of the instructions, which will make annotation easier. Read the whole set of instructions more than once if needed, and make notes about anything you find confusing, important, or otherwise significant.
When you feel you have a solid understanding of the assignment, answer the following basic questions about your writing situation for this paper. Type your answers in a new Word document.
1. Subject: What interests you about the subject of this paper? Why is it worth writing about?
2. Purpose: Why are you writing? What goal should your essay accomplish?
3. Audience: Who are your readers? How well informed are they about your subject, and what do you want them to learn?
4. Genre: What genre does the assignment require? What are the expectations and conventions of this genre?
5. Sources of information: where will you find the information you need? What kinds of evidence will be appropriate and effective?
6. Length and format: What are the length and format requirements for this assignment?
7. What are your deadlines? When will you need to start drafting your essay in order to meet your deadines? Each of your answers should be at least two or three sentences long, but feel free to write as much as you like. The more you think and write about these issues, the better prepared you will be to write your essay.