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Writing Assignments


Chesapeake Semester: Writing Assignments

You will have 4 steps of related writing assignments during the semester that will culminate in the work of your final project.

Step One: Journaling

The Journal is your notebook for notes from the field, all the raw materials you will collect on journeys as well as in classes and lectures and conversations: ideas, notes, questions, images, sounds, observations, thoughts you want to return to later that day or week (for one of you Blog posts) or for the final project. The Journal is informal writing; though it may be collected for particular assignments (Professor Connaughton will have some in natural science, for example), or expect you to draw upon it in debriefings and classes, you won’t be publishing it. This means you need not worry about editing; think more about collecting and taking note of what you are seeing, hearing, learning. Our expectation is that you will have a journal with you at all times and use it continuously. We recommend keeping the Journal in at least one notebook at a time (rather than writing on various sheets of paper); in addition to the print Journal, you might also keep an electronic version for notes and materials collected via iPad (your choice) or through images you capture and perhaps post to your blog. The Journal will not be collected or graded. It is entirely for you, but highly recommended as a way to keep engaged with the broad range of information and ideas you will experience.


Step Two: Blogging

At the end of each week (approximately) you will compose a Blog post, posted to the Chesapeake Semester blog you set up. These posts are semi-formal, resting between the journal and the more formal writing you will do in Steps 3 and 4; the blog post also serves for initial drafting of ideas and issues that you might expand upon in the formal writing. The Blog post should be approximately 250-500 words (1-2 pages), in sentence and paragraph form. We expect that at least once each week you will sit down for 20 minutes or more, look through some of the field notes in your journal, reflect back on readings, class discussions, and field experiences, and begin to explore one or more of the questions or ideas that you have noted; you might also use this as an opportunity to give some focus to other raw materials you have collected—for example, upload a few images and use the blog to provide context. Your blog post must make a direct connection (with citation provided) to at least one text studied in one of the courses or an idea presented in a lecture or discussion in the field. Since your writing will go on to pursue additional connections among the courses, the blog is a place where you might begin to connect ideas or texts from two or more of the courses and/or field experiences. This allows you to test out what you will need to develop for the Stalking. Unless otherwise directed, the connections need not be exclusively to what we are reading in Humanities; however, it is always a place to return to for ideas: how does Berry’s idea of “pattern” or Cronon’s “trouble with wilderness” connect to something else in the natural and social sciences?

As a basic structure for the blog, you can move from initial reading (summary of a text or key ideas), to closer reading (direct quotation of a key part of a text you are discussing), to further reading (implications, unanswered questions, connections).

Beginning with the first week after orientation, you will be expected to have at least 1 post up on your blog by the end of each week (usually Sunday 8 pm, otherwise otherwise noted). You are welcome of course to do more than 1 post per week; we recommend that you don’t go more than 4 days without sitting down with your journal and your thoughts to post some more formal thinking and writing to your blog. We recommend some basic editing of these posts (spelling, basic mechanics, incomplete sentences, etc.) since these will be public and read at different times by various professors and participants in the Semester.


We will be evaluating your blogging (part of your Humanities course grade) using the following rubric:


9-10: Excellent—post is around 500 words; directly engages 1 or more ideas/texts from a course, extending the reading or discussion from the class; impressive in not just synthesizing material from the Semester but also in forwarding the focus toward larger patterns and questions on the way to more developed work for Step 3 and the final project; all three perspectives (philosophical, rhetorical, and aesthetic) come together impressively, providing an excellent foundation for further work in Step 3

8: Strong—a solid post (250-300 words minimum); strong in synthesizing material from the field and/or classes; offers some focus toward larger patterns and questions, with some room for more development and more direct connection with ideas from a reading or discussion; all three perspectives (philosophical, rhetorical, and aesthetic) are present in the writing, with room to strengthen one; good foundation for the next step.

7: Average—post is barely 250 words; sufficient in synthesizing some material from the field and/or classes but offers limited focus toward larger patterns and questions, limited connection to a reading or discussion; all three perspectives (philosophical, rhetorical, and aesthetic) are not present in the writing, need to develop most of the post to provide a better foundation for the next step.

5-6: Weak—post is less than a page; insufficient in synthesizing material from the field; no direct citation of course text/idea provide; offers little to no focus toward larger patterns and questions, little evidence of all three perspectives (philosophical, rhetorical, and aesthetic); next post needs improvement—recommend follow-up with professor.

0-4: Failing—posted late to Blog or not posted at all or assignment is otherwise incomplete.



Step 3: Stalking

The phrase “stalking” is borrowed from the environmental writer Annie Dillard, who used her essays to stalk the subjects she observed in the field (she claims in one essay to have stared down a weasel for an entire day). You will be stalking the emerging focus of your final project and the ways that the intersections, field experiences, and course material are informing that focus.


At the end of each of the first three journeys, you will compose an essay of approximately 1000 words/3-4 pages double-spaced. Drawing upon some of the ideas and initial synthesis from your blogging, you will advance the synthesis by focusing in on a couple issues/ideas/experiences from the journey you have just completed that seem most important to you at that point as well as to the final project you are working towards. Here, you must make connections to at least 2 of the 3 courses (Humanities, Natural Science, Social Science) in the process of stalking the ideas/experiences from the journey: reference to a lecture or quotation from a text, etc.; citations to texts and other sources must be provided. Additionally, you must also demonstrate in your writing and thinking a grasp of all three Humanistic perspectives we are learning: ethical (philosophical), rhetorical, and aesthetic. As you will see, the evaluation rubric for this writing is aligned with these three perspectives—and thus provide further guidance on ways to demonstrate these perspectives in your writing. This stalking is expected to be more formal writing—material that will be directly useful to your final project (so you won’t have a blank slate at the end of November); so give some time to developing your focus (start with an initial draft that you can further develop through revision as well as editing). You will publish this paper on your blog (categorize it as ‘stalking’), generally a day or so after each debriefing, as well as submitting to Canvas—due dates will be given in your Humanities syllabus. Our suggestion is that you begin a rough draft of this paper as preparation for the debriefing. One question you might expect in the debriefing: what are you stalking?


To guide your Stalkings, we have provided these focal points relative to each Journey.

Stalking One: Social Science. Focus in on a significant idea from the Social Science course, and from one or more experiences from Journey One, while also relating that perspective to one or both of the other courses. Think of the basic question for this essay—with your thesis or argument being your specific answer: What perspectives from social science and the journey provide us with a better and more complex understanding of the Chesapeake?

Stalking Two: Natural Science. Focus in on a significant idea from the Natural Science course, and from one or more experiences from Journey Two, while also relating that perspective to one or both of the other courses. Think of the basic question for this essay—with your thesis or argument being your specific answer: What perspectives from natural science and the journey provide us with a better and more complex understanding of the Chesapeake?

Stalking Three: Central America. Focus in on a significant idea from the comparative study of Belize/Guatemala, and from one or more experiences from Journey Three, while also relating that perspective to one or both of the other courses. Think of the basic question for this essay—with your thesis or argument being your specific answer: What perspectives from the journey and its readings/discussions provide us with a better and more complex understanding of the Chesapeake?



Step 4: Final Project: A Land Ethic for the Chesapeake 

For your Final Project, each student will submit an interdisciplinary essay of 5-7 pages (double-spaced; approximately 1000-1500 words). There will be a draft of this final paper and peer review also required. You are welcome to revisit and expand upon something you previously discussed in a Stalking. You might also now return to an earlier idea but disagree or change the argument.

Let’s follow in the footsteps of Leopold, and other writers we have explored in Chesapeake Humanities. And more broadly, let us, in the interdisciplinary spirit of this program, begin to correlate the various ideas, issues, experiences, information, arguments, controversies, and connections you have encountered in all of your courses and field experiences throughout the semester. Your question–now that you know much more than you did when you first took up this topic in the first week of classes: What could or should a more ethical perspective or relation to the Chesapeake watershed entail?  This is an argument, since not everyone has studied and explored what you have. And it is an argument, a rhetorical perspective, since you will need to make choices in focusing on particular ideas and examples to make your case. You can’t write about everything equally.


  • At least 2 different sources from each of the three courses (Humanities, Natural Science, Social Science) must be cited (and properly listed at the end). These sources can be readings or lectures.
  • You must also include at least 2 different field experiences or encounters you have had in the field during the semester.
  • You must entertain a counterargument at an effective point in your argument.


The Stalking and Final Project Paper will be evaluated using the following rubric:


Rubric for Formal Writing

Chesapeake Semester Humanities


In the liberal arts tradition, before there were courses in writing, before there were even courses in English departments, the curriculum focused on three related elements for composing a speech and (later) a written text: logic, rhetoric, and grammar.

We can think of those three elements today as categories that a strong writer works on when producing a composition and that an engaged reader expects from the composition when receiving it. We can also think of these three traditional categories in relation to the three core perspectives of the Humanities course: ethical (elements of our logic and ideas), rhetorical (elements of our composition), and aesthetic (elements of our language).These three categories, renamed and elaborated below, provide the rubric we will use in developing the formal writing, the Stalkings and the Final Project position paper. Your goal, then, is the same goal I have with my own academic writing: strong, rhetorically successful , and aesthetically engaging composition of ideas and arguments.

[1]Critical Thinking [Logical and Ethical Perspective]

  • Clarity of your thinking [10 points]
    • Articulates a stake and purpose for the argument/claim
      • Establishes appropriate context for argument
      • Pursues an arguable, specific answer to a question or a solution to a problem. In other words, argument answers: So what? Who Cares? What’s the difference?
  • Complexity of your thinking [10 points]
    • Uses keywords and terms effectively, providing new insights for conventional ideas, complicating simplistic ways of thinking about a topic (including your own assertions).
    • Effectively uses arguments of others (your participation in the critical conversation), including arguments other than/counter to your own.
  • Coherence of your thinking [10 points]
    • Refines and reiterates (threads) the thinking throughout the composition, including keywords of your argument.
    • Uses logic effectively, avoiding logical fallacies.

Elements to focus on while reading, responding, composting, and revising.

[2]Rhetorical Knowledge and Writing Process [Rhetorical Perspective]

  • Arrangement of the composition as a dynamic (not static) argument [10 points]
    • Effective paragraph structure:
      • Movement (transition) from effective beginning (introduction), middle (supporting readings, complications) and ending (conclusion)
      • Movement within each paragraph, from initial to closing sentence.
    • Effective introduction and conclusion
      • Setting up the context of your argument/focus and leaving the reader with implications for further thinking.
  • Development of the composition [10 points]
    • Deliberate reading/forwarding of ideas and texts in key moments:
      • Close reading/analysis of texts, including effective use of quotation, extending the interpretation and complicating the argument
    • Effective use of evidence in support of argument, moving from paraphrase and synthesis to interpretation
  • Revision of the composition[10 points]
    • Effective and active use of feedback and revision strategies in moving from initial drafts to final product

Elements to focus on while revising

[3]Awareness of Conventions [Aesthetic Perspective]

  • Language [10 points]
    • Deliberate choice in words (precision, connotation) and syntax:
      • Attention to specific word choices and sentence style: such as passive and active sentences, varying long and short sentences.
    • Use of language, images, and rhetorical figures that impress, surprise, move, and effectively address the audience.
  • Usage [10 points]
    • Editing for misspelling, typos, missing words, incomplete sentences, fragments, punctuation and other usage errors;
    • Editing for violations of academic and print writing conventions that you have not consciously chosen for effect.
  • Audience [10 points]
    • Attention to the formal presentation of your narrative
      • Effective title, use of meta-commentary, and other ways of addressing the audience of your composition
      • Proper formatting, spacing, indenting, proper conventions for citation, following all expectations of the assignment.

Elements to focus on while editing.


[4]Chesapeake Semester Focal Point [Interdisciplinary Perspective]

  • Integration [10 points]
    • Effective and thoughtful connection of interdisciplinary perspectives from among the Chesapeake Semester courses and field experience



Each of the categories will be worth 10 points (for a total of 100 points). The scale I will use is the following:

10: excellent; the element is prominent in the composition, demonstrating a thorough and impressive grasp—ready to work on other elements from the rubric and/or to-do list.

8-9: strong to very strong; the element is mostly present and effective, demonstrating a good grasp with room to continue development to enhance effect—keep on list, but almost ready to check off.

7: emerging; the element is present in spots, but not effectively or consistently present, demonstrating an emerging grasp in need of further development—keep on list and follow up in conference.

5-6: weak; the element is mostly absent, not effective in the composition, demonstrating a limited grasp in need of more extensive development—keep on list and take into conference with me and/or writing center before next project.

1-4: insufficient; the element fails to be present or is not addressed as expected, demonstrating a poor grasp in need of immediate attention—plan a conference right away to discuss further what should be improved for the next project.

0: not completed as expected


In my evaluation of your writing projects, you will receive from me comments that address some strengths and weaknesses of the essay, using this rubric of 10 categories. I will expect you to refer back to this rubric as a way to follow up on my evaluation and continue to improve upon your writing in the next project. I am willing to discuss questions about the overall grade you receive on a project, but that discussion will focus on strengths and weaknesses related to these categories. So be prepared to respond to my comments.



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