This assignment shows that you’re able to apply the course discussion and activities in the real world by critically analyzing a kind of course (like one of our required books) that you might read even outside of this course. This is the goal of the entire course—see the learning objectives on the syllabus!—to help you think carefully and historically about food. In terms of the writing itself, the assignments encourage/force you to focus on the clarity and concision of your thinking and expression. It’s a super useful skill that you’ll frequently employ in your future career, whatever it is.
Your essay must be ~900 words. This restrictive format is very deliberate, to force you to think about quality over quantity. The challenge isn’t to meet the word count, but pack as much analysis and course synthesis into that space as you can, and to make your writing as concise as possible.
You should have three sections to your paper, each around 300 words.
You should begin your essay with a quick summary of the source—you have about 300 words for this section—so that your readers have an idea of what the point is (assume they have not read it themselves). As part of your summary, comment briefly about the evidence used to make the point. Maybe there are “scientific” studies, maybe anecdotal evidence, maybe nothing.
How did the book succeed in its aims for you? What did you find lacking? Are you convinced by the evidence? What is problematic or missing? What are the assumptions of the author about the relationship between food and technology?
Is there anything beside historical knowledge that we should take away from the book? Are there lessons we should learn? Can you imagine an analogous situation that we might need address in the future? What are the implications for the modern consumer?
You should cite passages from the readings with author-date notation.
An example: Although Cheyne appealed to his personal experience with diet, he himself was extraordinarily large (Shapin, “Trusting,” 276). Note that I’ve used an abbreviated form of the article name since we read two things by Shapin. You can omit that if there is only one source by the author, like (Cowan, 15).
If you cite something from outside the class, you need to provide a foot- or endnote with a full reference to that source (either a URL or regular bibliographic citation). You can use any format you want, but be consistent.
In the process of getting your ideas on paper, you might end up with something like: “This article does not cite any research. The lack of research means it is difficult to understand if it should be trusted.” (22 words)
During revisions, you should rephrase this to: “The article’s lack of research compromises its authority.” (8 words) This gives you much-needed space for more analysis!
Note: Revisions are hard! But they are the only way to make your writing shine.
It is always worthwhile to talk about these things in class; don’t hesitate to ask! Questions are ALWAYS relevant to more than just you. Email is OK, too, especially for quick questions.