Portfolio Draft

Posted: March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

To: DU Writing Program Faculty

From: Dan Clark

Date: March 12, 2015

RE: Final Portfolio

Prior to completing Writing 1122, I had considered myself a good writer. Now that I have completed the course, I now understand that I was not actually a good writer, rather just good at five paragraph essays. After coming to this realization, I have looked back and seen that I have progressed exponentially as a writer with much evidence to prove it. Specifically, I have advanced my understanding and utilization of the basic elements of rhetorical analysis, learned to provide evidence and reasoning meant to persuade educated readers, and grasped the importance of using feedback as a way to revise my writing as well as help others revise their own.

In high school, there was very little emphasis placed on logos, ethos, and pathos. The main strategy taught in school was to write a basic five paragraph essay; introduction, three sources of evidence, and a conclusion. Writing 1122 has taught me that structure is important, but not the priority of writing. It is the contents that matters. In my first writing project on youth violence, I utilized all three elements in one paper for the first time in my life. Logos, being the logical evidence that can persuade your audience, relies on facts that cannot be denied. I made sure that sources I used for information were reliable so that I was not falsely swaying my audience with incorrect data. I used mostly raw data and statistics to advance my assertions that neurological problems and media portrayal are to blame for the violence. Ethos, how the audience perceives you, allows the writer to think about how he can present himself as a reliable and credible source of information. Throughout my paper I had reiterated that I had been reading and researching on the topic for weeks prior to writing to ensure the audience knew it was reading information from a well- informed and unbiased author. I cited primary sources I had read as well as credible documentaries to further my credibility. Finally, pathos, the use of emotions as persuasion, can appeal to an audience where credibility and logic cannot. Through the use of pathos, I used my life experiences of growing up on the Southside of Chicago, where I had talked with friends about their family life in the ghetto where it is seen as “cool” or “necessary” to promote violence in school. This draws readers away from abstract ideas and facts to the raw experiences that I have been introduced to.

As for my ability to produce writing that effectively provides evidence and reasoning for assertions, particularly for educated readers, my forums provide sufficient evidence of my success. Forum #3, where I was to apply two professional writings of Garbarino and Staples to the primary source of Eric Harris’ journal, I had to analyze the three readings very deeply. Through this, I was able to develop my own ideas and connections between the ideas of the professional writers and how they applied to the evidence of Harris’ journal. In order to articulate myself, I had to provide evidence of the connections and my reasoning for such ideas, which I had never been able to do in writing. Another forum in which I effectively provided evidence and reasoning was forum #7, where I was to analyze the common ground Martin Luther King Jr. establishes between himself and his audience in the letter from Birmingham Jail. Writing to an educated audience, I was able to describe King’s success through the Rogerian Model of argument, specifically through the common ground he establishes. This allows King to draw connections with his intended audience, which furthers his ethos and argument.

Perhaps my most improved writing achievement is my ability to use feedback to revise my writing as well as help others to revise their own. In high school, I had never had to opportunity to get writing advice from fellow classmates or give writing advice. After being introduced to class discussions, mostly in small groups, I was able to develop the skills of revision. As proof, two out of my three writing projects got an extra point based on my peer revision of fellow classmates that said I gave them the best revision ideas. The fact that before every writing project was turned in we had group revision in class, I was able to use my classmates’ ideas to better my paper. There were often key aspects I had forgotten to include in my paper as well as better alternatives to better my writing that I was able to include in the final paper that I never would have done without the help of others. The feedback of Professor Benz also allowed me to see mistakes I had made in my writing as well as possible alternatives in wording or structure to better my argument that I never would have thought of myself.

The two writing projects I decided to include in my portfolio are #2 and #3. Writing project #2 was intended to utilize the Toulmin style of argument in an op-ed. I chose to write about the police force in the United States and why it is seen as such a menace. Writing project #3 was a memo written with the Rogerian style of argument. I wrote to Rebecca Chopp and discussed the negative tradeoffs of mandating Friday classes to deter binge drinking for the 2015- 2016 school year.

In writing project #2, I decided to revise my links incorporated in the op-ed. One of my links was not consistent with the point I was trying to get across, which diminished my ethos. Also, I added several more links to provide readers with necessary information that would have not been relevant in the op-ed, like the case briefs for the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases. Several of my sentences in the op-ed also interfered with the flow of the reading. Because of this, I decided to revise the structure of these sentences by condensing the long sentences and making two or more, as well as substituting certain words. Since it was my first op-ed, I was not completely sure of the tone that should revolve around the op-ed, so I made a few abrasive statements and comments that needed to be deleted as a whole from the writing. In order to further advance my argument of the incredible size of Eric Garner, I included a picture of him.

In the revision of my third writing project, I added a direct quote from the email about the policy change for the next school year as evidence. Also, to provide more evidence, I mentioned the prior policy of DU not having mandatory Friday classes and the success it was able to achieve. Similarly with the second writing project, a few of my sentences went against the flow of the reading, which I revised by condensing one long sentence into two or more. In the memo I failed to recognize the effect this policy change would have on the professors. In order to correct this, I included the negative tradeoffs it would have for the professors, which furthered my argument by further developing the ripple effect.

While it may seem that I have not mastered these goals based on the fact I had not received perfect scores on my writing projects, it is in the understanding of my mistakes that I have shown mastery. I was able to correct these mistakes using the three learning goals to improve my writing drastically. Through the review of my revised works, it will be proven that I have indeed learned the goals I have claimed to have learned.

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