102 Sample Writing Assignments

Below are some sample assignments that can be used for “Writing to Inquire.”

Essay One: Exploratory Research

By Liza Long

Licensed CC BY 4.0

Our first essay is an open topic, APA style research essay that answers a specific research question. Your instructor must approve your research question in advance.


  • 1500-2000 words (6-8 pages, not including references or cover page), typed, double-spaced, 12-point Times New Roman font
  • Minimum of five sources of at least two kinds (basic internet, magazine, newspaper, academic journal, book, personal interview, etc.). One of the sources must be from an academic journal.
  • Follows APA 7th edition guidelines for format, in-text citations, and References page.
  • Addresses a topic of interest to the student that is narrow enough for a relatively short essay.
  • Should be an “exploratory” essay rather than an argumentative one. While you may suggest a solution or viewpoint, the essay’s purpose is not to persuade but to answer the research question (inform).
  • The essay should use a mix of first and third person points-of-view. Use “I” when sharing about your connection to the topic, and otherwise use third person. Do not use the informal second person pronoun (“you”).

Grading and Major Due Dates

  • 100 points for PeerGrade writing and review tasks (weeks 2-5)
  • 25 points for draft submitted to Blackboard (week 5)
  • 100 points for revised essay as part of your final portfolio—see the essay rubric for specifics (week 16)

Success Tips

  1. Choose a topic that really engages you—for example, Star Trek‘s influence on the development of technology or hot spring conservation in Idaho.
  2. Make sure your topic is narrow and focused enough for a short essay—for example, the history of the death penalty is too broad, but the application of the death penalty to a specific type of crime or population would be appropriate.
  3. Read examples of exploratory essays in our Unit One Readings Folder:

Here is a student example of an exploratory research essay: “Does Texting Affect Writing?” http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/write/writesite/Web_Essays/Cullington2015.pdf

Basic Rubric

This is used to help determine whether the PeerGrade tasks and essay draft will earn full, partial, or no credit.

Format & length check:

  • Final paper is complete and correctly formatted. Yes      /       No

Topic—The essay is on topic and contains a clear research question and answer

  • The research question is focused and neither too narrow nor too broad

Yes      /     No


“They Say/I Say”—The essay summarizes five quality sources that address the research question.

  • The sources are applicable to the research question. Yes /     No
  • The essay uses “They Say” templates to summarize and quote sources. Yes /     No
  • The essay includes “I Say” templates to agree, disagree, or both. Yes /     No
  • The essay includes personal experience where relevant. Yes /     No


  • The author uses at least five high-quality, reliable sources. Yes /     No
  • Sources are integrated correctly; any quotes are explained (use quote sandwiches) Yes      /     No
  • Source are cited for all “how do I know this?” information Yes /     No


  • The essay is thesis-driven (the thesis should answer the research question) Yes /     No
  • The essay has an effective introduction and conclusion Yes      /     No
  • Paragraphs are organized around topic sentences Yes      /     No
  • The paper uses transitions to connect ideas logically Yes      /     No

Citation and Mechanics 

  • All sources are properly cited in the text. Yes      /     No
  • Errors in References entries are few and minor. Yes      /     No
  • There are few errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Yes      /     No


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Write What Matters Copyright © 2020 by Liza Long; Amy Minervini; and Joel Gladd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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