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Assignment 1: Summary and Response

Vital Info:

Length: 3-4 pages

Sources: The text to which you are responding (“source text”) and any other sources you deem necessary to support your own ideas.

Relevant Chapters from EAA: Chapters 1-5, 18-22, plus the chapter (8,9,10,11,12) that corresponds to the genre of the essay you choose for this assignment.

Documentation Style: MLA; see EAA Chapter 22 “Documenting Sources’ MLA Style, pgs. 496-515 (sample MLA-formatted essay w/works cited page is on 516-17}

Important Dates: See your Course Calendar for dates pertaining to drafting, peer review, and final due date.


For Project 1 you will choose from one of the essays in your textbook (see below), and write your own essay in which you first summarize and then respond to the main idea (thesis) and supporting points made by the writer. You may choose to agree or disagree with the writer, but you must remember that, regardless of your position, your response should be developed using sound logic, credible sources and examples, and with an awareness of audience (remember the Rhetorical Triangle!).

Remember, it is possible to agree with a main idea and disagree with the way it is presented or with one of the supporting points. Similarly, it is possible to disagree with the main idea, but to agree with some aspect of the source text.


You should develop a thesis that acknowledges the author’s position on the subject and then expresses the main idea of your own response. A simple way to think of this is by constructing a “they say” (the writer’s position on the subject)/”I say” (your response to their claim) statement. You should then work to refine that statement as you develop your argument.

Choosing a Source Text

You may respond to any of the essays from your assigned reading in the first 5 weeks of class, all of which are found in your textbook.

Remember that in order to complete this assignment successfully you will have to read your source text several times, identifying the writer’s primary thesis, as well as the supporting claims and evidence they provide to support it.

You must also work to craft a response that is credible (ethos), logical (logos) and engaging (pathos).


  • The goal of a summary is to briefly paraphrase the main ideas in an essay.
  • The author and title of the essay being summarized should be Identified in the first sentence of the summary.
  • Summary should explain the essay’s thesis and main ideas.
  • The essay’s supporting examples are usually NOT covered in the summary, although they may be addressed in the response.
  • The essay’s major points are usually presented in the order the author made them.
  • It’s a good habit to refer back to the author as you present his/her points; e.g. “Murray argues that,” “According to Murray”—see EAA Chapter 20 “Using Sources” for advice on paraphrasing, summarizing and using signal words and phrases
  • The summary should take up no more than roughly a third of your Project.


  • When you respond you analyze or critique the ideas presented in the essay.
  • You present your opinions in relation to the writer’s. Do you agree or disagree?
  • Make sure your own responses are rooted in logical reasoning. This is not about what you feel; it is about presenting logical and sound replies to the ideas presented in the essay you summarize.
  • Identify the strengths and the weaknesses in your source text. Consider the following
    • Reasoning and logic
    • Supporting examples
    • Tone, style, and organization
  • This is a persuasive essay. Your goal is to persuade your reader (and even the author of your source text) that your ideas on the subject matter have merit.
  • Cite facts, examples, and even personal experiences (be careful here though, don’t use your experience as the prime or only source of support for your ideas). And remember to use MLA format for citing sources.
  • You can choose whether you want to support or refute the writer’s primary thesis and major points.


Students who meet expectations will

  • Fulfil all the expectations laid out in the assignment.
  • Present a clear, identifiable thesis
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the elements of the Rhetorical Triangle.a
  • Present a final project that demonstrates an ability to express your ideas clearly and in a well-organized fashion (See handout on Organizing a Summary & Response Essay on D2L)

Students who exceed expectations will

  • Do all of the above, as well as…
  • Present a thesis that demonstrates a real understanding of the issue
  • Use word choice, sentence structure, and organization in order to craft a distinct and interesting tone. (See “Style” handout on D2L)
  • Demonstrate a clear awareness of audience.
  • Use the tools of rhetoric to persuade your audience.
  • Show real attention to detail: in citing sources, use of signal phrases, proofreading, spelling, and overall editing.
  • ——————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Summary & Response: A Guide

Everything’s An Argument

  • If you consider that almost everything you say should make sense and that you should be able to explain what you mean logically and credibly, then you understand that almost everything we say is contentious. Look up that word, and you will understand this point.
  • Be sure to utilize all the relevant material from your textbook to help you craft and develop your essay. (see Assignment 1 for a detailed list)
  • Every contentious point (anything worth arguing is contentious) exists within a broader and ever-changing dialogue involving various experts, innovators, pundits, thinkers, and (of course) writers.
  • When you choose to express your opinion, you are entering that conversation. You have made a rhetorical move. It is then your task to make a convincing, rhetorically-savvy case for your position as you enter the conversation.
  • If you want to be taken seriously by your audience you need to enter the conversation with a working understanding of what some of those involved in the debate about your topic are saying. Rhetorically speaking, this is linked to all three elements of the Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.
  • If you want to be taken seriously by your audience you have to have a working understanding of who they are, what they know, and how you might best approach them. (ethos & pathos)
  • Specifically for this assignment, you will show that you understand your topic (summarizing and responding to any of the essays from your assigned reading in EAA) by first summarizing the main ideas of the essay you have chosen. (ethos and logos)


  • Your summary is your first step into the conversation. You will literally begin by telling us what “they say.” (ethos & logos)
  • Beginning this way allows your source to define the specifics of the conversation you are entering. There’s no need for you to establish your credibility (ethos) in terms of the overall topic. Instead your credibility comes in how well and how clearly you sum up your source text. (ethos)
  • Once you have summarized the views of the author of your source text, you must continue to keep those views in mind as you write your response. (ethos & logos)
  • Remind readers what you are responding to by referring back to your source text, specifically you should reference the writer by last name throughout your essay (after identifying him/her by first and last name in the intro to your summary) and you should consider when and where to include quotes from your source text as you craft your response. (ethos & logos)
  • Summary implies that you are putting someone else’s ideas into your own words. Save the quoting for your response. (logos)
  • Be careful not to mischaracterize your source text in your summary. (ethos)
  • In order to summarize your source text, you will have to read it multiple times. Accept this. You cannot enter into a conversation unless you understand and can articulate the very premise you wish to respond to. (ethos)
  • In a sense, your summary will reflect what stands out most to YOU. Thus it is possible that your summary will, to some extent, reflect what aspects interest you, the writer. But you must present the ideas of the source text clearly and without mischaracterization. (ethos & logos)
  • Try to suspend your own opinions as much as possible when summarizing. Save your opinion for the response. (logos)
  • Remember your essay should be 1/3 summary and 2/3 response. But the ideas presented by the source text should be referenced throughout, as this is what you are responding to.
  • Be careful not to confuse what you believe with what your source text says. Don’t warp or twist the source to fit your agenda (ethos).


  • As you introduce quotes from your source text, use appropriate and interesting signal verbs. See EAA chp. 20 474-475
  • See EAA chp. 20 471-73 for guidance on quoting “selectively and strategically”
  • Use quotes to show what “they say” and then as a springboard for what “I say.”
  • Anything worth quoting is worth discussing. You should never simply include a quote. You should discuss it in relation to the claim or idea you want your audience to accept.
  • Quotations are always enclosed in double quotation marks. Single quotation marks are ONLY used to indicate that something you are quoting appeared in quotation marks in the original text.
  • Stick to short quotations in a S&R assignment. At times you may want to only quote a short phrase (but don’t misrepresent or take it out of context). Brief quotes (approx. two typed lines) are acceptable. Save long quotes (over 4 lines of typed material) for another project.
  • If you want to cut out a few words or lines from a quote make sure that doing so doesn’t change the meaning of the material and indicate that you have omitted some words by placing ellipsis dots (…) where the excised material would appear.


  • You may choose to agree or disagree with your source text. In either case, it is not enough just to do so. You must make a logical and interesting case for WHY. See EAA chps. 2-4 for details on the elements of a rhetorical argument.
  • If you disagree, focus on why. Look for faults in the logic of the source text, ideas or facts they left out or misrepresented or interpreted. (ethos & logos)
  • If you agree you must show how, even though you agree, your ideas are distince from the author of your source text. It’s not enough to tell us the author is right about a point. Offer another perspective or more support from other sources. (logos & pathos)
  • You may both Agree and Disagree with your source text. This can be an opportunity to really engage with your topic. Often times we get so deeply entrenched in our positions that we cannot fathom the “other side.” Taking a “Yes, but” or “No, but” approach to your source text may help you to establish a rapport with your audience. (pathos, ethos, logos)
  • You may agree or disagree with most of your source text, but try to find at least one point of concession (a “Yes, but” or “No, but” moment). (pathos)
  • Don’t use the option of agreeing and disagreeing as an excuse to not have to take a position of your own. (ethos & pathos)


  • In the simplest terms, your thesis should encapsulate the “they say/I say” premise. You want a direct, clear, and assertive statement that clearly states the main premise of the source text and your response to it. (ethos & logos)
  • Your thesis will likely appear in 2 places: following your summary of the source text, and then again in your conclusion. Resist the urge to copy and paste it. Try to restate your thesis in your conclusion in more complex terms (now that you’ve told us what “they say” and what “I say” in detail, restate your thesis based on everything we now know, thanks to reading your summary and response. (pathos)
  • Avoid cliché! Don’t center your response around tired and worn-out arguments that we’ve all heard repeatedly. (logos & ethos)
  • Instead, try to offer your audience a new or different way to look at the topic. (pathos)

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