Friday, January 5, 2018

Handout QAHO: Q&As (honors, online, and 300-level sections)

What is a Q&A?
A Q&A is a relatively brief writing assignment that asks each student to answer one question (typically posed by the professor) and to raise two further questions about a particular subject/text (I could more accurately call these assignments "A&Qs," but that acronym sounds ugly to me). Students will compose essays every one or two weeks.  Typically, Q&As are posted by Friday evening in the margins of my main weblog on the Q&A page corresponding to the course and due the following Friday (or in two Fridays) in hard copy at the close of class (the final exam period will serve as our final due date).

Why write a Q&A?
(1) Q&As encourage critical, careful, deliberate reading of texts — readings which begin with thorough exposition and end with critical interpretation; (2) Q&As create a more permanent (written) record of the reader's reflections on a text and its author's (apparent) intentions; (3) Q&As, qua a literary form, allow students to practice and perfect their own artistic products; and (4) Q&As can promote and assist classroom/online discussion of texts.

How does one successfully complete a Q&A? 
A complete Q&A consists of these four parts (their approximate value indicated in percentages):

1. (70%) Each student produces a 500-750-word (two-to-three full double-spaced pages) answer to the question I pose.  Answers should be typed and free of grammatical/stylistic errors (see the "Writing Checklist"). In most cases, all answers must take the form of well researched, argumentative (or "critical" or "persuasive") essays. (I will, on occasion, allow other literary forms.)  I've outlined the format for composing these essays in Handouts CR1, CR2, and CR3.  Two related components, therefore, must be present:

2. (15%) A complete CRITO outline (on a separate page from the main essay; see the example in red included on Handout CR3); and

3. (10%) Full bibliographic reference to and use of, minimally, one outside resource (a resource other than the target reading I assign).  Properly cite all quoted or paraphrased material.  Any established style is acceptable (MLA, APA, etc.)  My only concern is that the method you choose is consistent, complete, and accurate.

And finally,

4. (5%) each student then composes two well-formed and thoughtful questions related to the topic at hand, avoiding rhetorical ("who's to say what is really true?") or simple ("how do you pronounce Kant?") questions in favor of substantive issues of genuine concern to the student. It is not necessary to answer the questions you raise.  Simply number the questions "1" and "2" and position them at the bottom of your essay.

How are Q&As graded?
Each student will receive, in traditional, face-to-face courses, a grade of "check minus minus," “check minus,” “check,” or “check plus,” corresponding to the letter grades D, C, B, and A (I will simply assign letter grades for all online courses).  Though grading is a fallible affair, in general, most Q&As will receive a “check” or "check minus" (B or C) unless obviously deficient or exemplary in some respect.  For an explanation of any abbreviations included in my commentary, consult my "Editorial Suggestions Key."

Note well: Q&As are the only graded components of the course, so missing an assignment or two beyond the one allowable typically leads to failure.  I collect hard copies of papers on the due date at the close of class.  Aside from fully online courses, I do not accept papers in electronic form.