Exploratory Writing: Writer’s Journal

Exploratory Writing: Writer’s Journal

Length Requirement: 4 pages (about 1200 words)

Assignment Overview

For part of the exploratory writing component of this course, you will be keeping a writer’s journal throughout the semester. This journal will function as a way for you to explore topics we discuss in class and to help brainstorm for the formal essays. Ultimately, this will help you personalize this class to your own needs. To complete this assignment, you’ll have to reflect on your own writing experiences to determine what areas you need to concentrate on the most.


Nuts and Bolts

  • Each entry in the Writer’s Journal will consist of a writing prompt and your response to it. You will generate both the prompt and the response.
  • You can write as many entries as you feel you need, as long as you complete the length requirement by the end of the semester.
  • Your entries can take whatever form you feel is most helpful to you. If you feel that you need more practice reflecting on course readings before class, then you should write a paragraph responding to the reading. If you feel that you need to write an outline or an idea map to prepare for a formal essay, then you should do that.
  • You can keep your writer’s journal either electronically or on paper. I’ve set up a Writer’s Journal area on eCampus if you wish to complete the assignment electronically. (Make sure you read “How to Upload a Journal” in the Writer’s Journal content area of eCampus.) Of course, old fashioned paper and pencil will work, too.


Due Dates

Your Writer’s Journal entries will be due twice throughout the semester: Feb. 14 and Apr. 25. The rate at which you complete the entries is up to you. You may want to finish the journal by midterm, or you may want to stretch the entries out equally throughout the semester. The decision is yours, but be careful not to procrastinate. Typically, if you write several entries the night before you turn it in, the quality of your writing suffers.



At each due date, your new entries will be graded according to the rubric on page xiv of Joining Academic Conversations and these more specific guidelines:

  • Poses well-developed ideas
  • Provides original and innovative insights
  • Takes risks with writing
  • Generates new knowledge
  • Tries out new techniques

As you can see from the rubric, ideas and insights matter more than grammar and spelling. That does not mean you can ignore your grammar. “A” level journals will succeed in providing insights as well as using correct grammar and spelling.

The Writer’s Journal will be worth 40 points of your Exploratory Writing grade.

 Generating Topics and Prompts

To help you come up with topics to write about, we’ll set aside 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each class to brainstorm possible writing prompts based off that day’s discussion. I’ll give you a few minutes to silently reflect on the materials we’ve covered and give you a chance to think about what types of writing exercises could help you practice those skills. Everyone will verbally offer their thoughts, and then after class I’ll summarize the ideas in a document on eCampus. You can respond to one of those prompts, or you can create your own to respond to.

Some example topics:

  • Prepare an outline for an upcoming essay
  • Freewrite on possible topics for a formal essay
  • Write 1 or 2 pages of a rough draft for an essay
  • Respond to an assigned reading

Prompts should be questions, and your response to the prompt should be one to three paragraphs long. You should start each entry with the date and the prompt that you’ll be responding to. You do not need to start each entry on a new page.

Sample Entry

Aaron Rovan

January 10, 2015

Prompt: What are my writing weaknesses? How can I focus on improving them?

Response: I’ve learned over the years that my main writing weakness is procrastination. I often start a semester with high hopes of completing all my assigned papers weeks before the due date. But when it comes time to actually write, I end up filling the time with other activities: video games, shopping, household chores, or just napping. Inevitably, this leads me to start writing the paper with not enough time to actually do my best work. Though I’ve never actually missed an assignment deadline, I almost always feel like I could have done a much better job if I just had another day or two to polish my essay.

Actually fixing this problem is harder than it might sound. I truly have the best of intentions each semester to stay on top of assignments. But no matter how hard I try, I still end up procrastinating. One thing that might help me is to set up small goals throughout the semester so that I’m not trying to tackle the whole paper at once. For example, setting a firm date, early in the semester, to create an outline could be really helpful. If I don’t stick to that deadline, then I’d have to give up something fun—like watching my favorite TV shows. I think another thing that might help is telling someone about my plans and deadlines. That way, I’ll be responsible to someone other than myself if I don’t meet the deadline. That friend can help enforce my deadline and can encourage me to stick to my plans. I think that these two suggestions could really improve my problem with procrastination.



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