The samples below are papers by students, unless specifically noted.
They are examples of "A" level undergraduate writing or entry-level
professional work. To get a better idea of how this type of paper is
written, you will want to look at all the samples. Then compare the
samples to each other and to what the "Basics"
part of this chapter says.
The authors of all sample student papers in this
Web site have given their permission in writing to have their work included in
WritingforCollege.org. All samples remain copyrighted by their
original authors. Other than showing it on this website, none should be
used without the explicit permission of the author.
Unless otherwise noted, sample papers do not
necessarily meet all requirements an individual instructor or professional
supervisor may have: ask your instructor or supervisor. In addition, the
samples are single spaced to save room; however, a proper manuscript given to an
instructor or supervisor normally should be double spaced with margins set at
or close to 1" unless another format has been requested.
Sample One: Rough, Basic Evaluation of an Article
University of Minnesota
Advanced Expository Writing
Evaluation Paper [Rough Draft]
© Jason Dreyer
Should Prisons Punish?
argues in "Prisons Should Punish Inmates" that rehabilitative ideals should
be abandoned and that criminals should be exclusively punished for breaking
society’s moral rules. This article appears in America’s Prisons: Opposing
Viewpoints. The arguments appear, however, to be obtuse, perhaps because the
author is disillusioned by his experience on the New York Supreme Court. The following
sections, explain what makes this a weak article.
When discussing the lack of success
of different rehabilitative programs, Murphy demonstrates clear bias
stemming, possibly, from his prejudice as a judge. He states that interventions such as
promoting literacy, teaching vocational skills, or the use of psychotherapy
all have one thing in common. Each has failed. He further adds that "ironically
[the failure] has today drawn public anger not upon those working in the
rehabilitative disciplines, but upon the very visible judges" (58).
It is evident that the author has no
faith in the ideals of rehabilitation (which is unfortunate, considering
his career). He does not use any evidence to support his claim that these
programs do not work. Instead, he implies that since he is a judge, we
should just trust him. This would seem only to serve to weaken his
argument for, as a judge, he is in a position that allows extreme bias. In
addition, as a judge he is primarily a witness to repeat offenders.
It is easy to see how Murphy could become hardened by seeing these
repeaters. However, the result--his extremist views--only serve to weaken his credibility.
The Weakness of Presumption
Another reason this is a weak article
is Murphy's presumption of knowing what all of us are thinking. He talks about how every American has lost faith in the current
correctional system, as well as in society in general.
example, using no statistics
or outside sources, he writes, "Inevitably, a sense of helplessness, a
foreboding of a collapse of public order is present at every dinner table"
(59). In addition, Murphy tells us that no American has confidence in the
traditional prison system. Francis Murphy has never been a guest
at my dinner table. He cannot
presume to know what every American is thinking. At least when he demonstrates
bias, he discusses something with which he is familiar. Murphy lists no credentials
as a sociologist or similar expert, so he is beyond his element in making generalizations of
Examples Are Missing
In the entire article,
Murphy uses no examples to validate his many assertions. He employs the theories
of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and sociologist Karl Marx but never offers a practical
application. He states, "As for the rehabilitative ideal, it should be
stripped of its pretentiousness, if not its very name" (60). Why should
it be stripped of its name? What drives the author to feel this way? What
has actually happened (or not happened) to shape his opinion? These questions
are left unanswered. Without practical examples, the reader
remains unconvinced and must question why the author is so passionate in his
In "Prisons Should Punish Inmates,"
Judge Francis Murphy argues that we should abandon rehabilitation for inmates.
Citing no examples and an evident bias from his profession, the author tries
to tell us how we already feel by regurgitating what amounts to an unproven theology that has
little to do with the main argument. For these reasons, his article is weak and
better dismissed as hearsay.
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Sample Two: Evaluation of an Article Using Research
SPECIAL NOTES: This is an
academic evaluation paper requiring
research. The bibliography at the end would, in a normal manuscript, start
on a separate page.
North Hennepin Community College
Eng 121-02, English I
© Kelly L. Cook
“Honey, I Warped the Kids”
Kelly L. Cook
Carl M. Cannon reasons in “Honey, I Warped the Kids” in the
Reader that violence on television must be suppressed due to its effects on
human behavior. This evaluation
will show that though the author makes some good use of statistical findings, he
leaves many holes in his argument by not thoroughly discussing opposing
Cannon's basic argument is that television violence should be censored.
This paragraph summarizes the structure and contents of his essay.
The structure of “Honey, I Warped the Kids” is
that of a thesis paper and an ending analysis. The essay's format is almost completely based on numbers and dates with
few personal examples. Cannon systematically lists the studies and opinions of others who agree
with him and does not discuss opposing positions. In content, first Cannon discusses the sociological interest
in the subject of television violence and mentions that “the first congressional hearings took place in 1954” (95).
He follows that with a list of studies that prove a causal relationship
between television violence and real violence. Toward the end of the article,
he mentions why nothing has been done to put a stop to the ever-increasing
violence on the TV screen. Cannon
believes that this lack of action is because Congress must exercise caution and
responsibility while dealing with this issue (96). Ultimately, he believes, most
possible actions must deal with the sensitive issue of censorship.
First, in evaluating Cannon's argument, it is possible to find
couple of strong points. One occurs when he cites a study done by two doctors about the
effects of violence. These doctors, after keeping updates on a group of
kids for twenty-two years,
violence on television is the single best predictor of violent
aggressive behavior later in life, ahead of such commonly accepted factors
parents' behavior, poverty, and race" (96).
out just how significant the effects are. The
study magnifies the significance so that one might realize the urgency of
overcoming the impasse between censorship and the facts arguing against television violence. Cannon supports the
finding with a quotation from the doctors: “Television affects youngsters of
all ages, of both genders, at all socioeconomic levels and all levels of
The second strong point that Cannon makes concerns the availability of
violent material. This is a pertinent point because one may forget how
absolutely submerged American culture is in violent media.
Once again, Cannon supports his point by summarizing the work of
researchers George Gerbner and
Nancy Signorielli. “For the past 22 years," says Cannon, "they
found, adults and children have been entertained by about
sixteen violent acts, including two murders, in each evening's prime-time
On the other hand, Cannon's article seems a one-sided debate.
completely ignores even the possibility of an opposing opinion. First of all, Cannon commits the “straw man” fallacy.
The only mention he makes of a study that contradicts his own opinion is
one that was done by NBC television network. The tone
suggests that he believes that he makes a real point for his case, but really he
discredits his opinion by choosing such a weak opposing argument.
The statistics in the NBC study, which are touted by
well-meaning critics, contradict themselves. The study claims on the one hand that violence
desensitizes children; on the other, that it also incites more violence.
In spite of this ambivalent evidence, Cannon's research is deliberate and narrow-minded in
intention, using only what he needs to support his own point of view and
ignoring the NBC evidence. In point of fact, it is arguable that images do not spill
blood, but rather rage,
desperation, and revenge, especially when they are equipped with guns.
According to Todd Gitlin, there were " 36,000 murders, accidents, and suicides committed by gunshots in
United States in 1992" alone (93).
"Honey, I Warped the Kids” seems at first to be a reasonable article. While one reads this article
one may be convinced, thinking that statistics alone can decide the fate of
their children. However, if an opposing viewpoint had been better represented,
the casual reader may not have come to the same conclusion as Cannon.
The issue of the results of violence seen on TV is a hotly debated one,
and Cannon's article is sure to affect others.
The article does have the capacity to alter people's opinions on the subject.
Someone who is biased like Cannon can easily misuse the reading, developing an incomplete view of the
situation. This again is a result
of the missing information. A
reader who is of the same opinion as Cannon will enjoy the article, for it fuels the argument against violent media.
One particular anecdote mentioned in Cannon's article provides an
excellent example of the powerful but one-sided nature of Cannon's debate. This
is Cannon's example of young,
male students viewing “slasher films” and forming a mock jury in order to
decide their degree of empathy for a fictitious rape victim (96).
Such images, however strong, are not typical of real life.
The most likely group to be affected by Cannon's article is parents.
Parents who read the article may be led to censor their children's TV
programs. The article could also be inspiration enough for more extreme acts of censorship such as
book banning and limitations on what is taught in school.
Someone who disagrees with the article “Honey, I Warped the Kids"
may find Cannon's position quite troubling.
"It’s dark out there in the world of real violence, hopelessness, drugs,
and guns. There is little political war on poverty, guns, or family breakdown. Here, we are offered instead a crusade against media
violence" (93). People reading
Cannon's article could become extremely frustrated because it seems to place
blame on a single source and condone censorship of that source.
Actually the article calls the censorship “protection" (96).
Americans have established a free society through our declaration of
intolerance to prudish oppression and a loyalty to freedom.
To permit punishment for what citizens have seen, heard, or read is an
unacceptable concept that many people may consider an infringement on the rights of
Americans. In many, “Honey, I
Warped the Kids" would evoke fear, for when censorship of certain materials is
allowed, it becomes a disease, spreading to other materials.
Just as some parents may be attracted to Cannon's article, some may find
it disgusting. Since Cannon
suggests censorship as a solution, parents may have concern about how their
children's education is affected. Victor
Cline insists that censorship limits students' education, leaving them with
distorted views of society.
also suggests that parents don't trust their children's judgment (6). He asks,
"How can we expect to produce a free, reasoning person who can make his own
decisions, understand his culture, and live
with his fellow man if we censor vital elements of his culture and human
Another emotional appeal or effect may occur, too.
may be outraged by the article, feeling that censors are a greater
danger to society than the works they attack.
The article “Honey, I Warped the Kids” makes the point that, due to
children, violence on television must end.
conclusion, the author uses many good studies to
his point, but he misses many relevant opposing viewpoints. Also, the reading may have
emotional affects on some readers.
Carl M. “Honey, I Warped the
Kids,” Utne Reader. May-June
Victor. Where Do You Draw the
Line. Utah: Brigham Young
Gitlin, Todd. “Imagebusters,”
winter 1994: 92-93.
and Carol Tavris. Psychology,
3rd ed. “Media Violence: Getting
Away With Murder.” New York:
Harper Collins, 1993.
William. Television and
Religion: The Shape of Faith, Values, and
Culture. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1987.
Leland, and Dr. Bernard Solomon. How
to Raise Children In a TV
World. New York: Hart Publishing Company, 1983.
Nell. Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Random
Winn, Marie. Plug-In Drug. New
York: Viking Penguin, 1987.
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