Final Essay Guide

Assignment Goals

Answer the following question: What can we learn relevant to our present food system and about our relationship to food by studying the history of food and technology?

This assignment shows that you’re able to summarize key course themes and use the course material to make smart arguments about the future of food using historical precedents. As a final exam, your answer should draw widely from the entire course to show me how much of the material you’re now able to use. Your essay is to an extent an opinion piece, but I care less about what your opinion IS than how you back it up. In other words, you can argue anything you want—there’s no right or wrong answer per se—but you need to make a coherent argument supported by historical evidence and examples. Think thematically and synthetically.

Assignment Format

  • Your essay must be ~2400 words. As with all the assignments, even though this one has more words, the challenge is NOT to meet the word count, but to pack as much analysis and synthesis into that space as you can. Think thematically and synthetically.
  • 11 pt. Times New Roman (or very similar serif font)
  • 1” margins on all sides. I’m not going to mark these up like your other ones.
  • 1.5 Spacing. Anything less is too hard to read.
  • Don’t forget your name!


Pausing the obvious for a moment: Your audience is NOT ME as your professor who is grading your paper. It’s someone you want to impress and who asks you what you learned in your food technology class. If you just recite facts or historical tidbits your learned in the class, your audience will not be impressed. They want the big picture. The so what. The who cares. What kinds of issues are important for this person to think about that they probably haven’t or maybe only superficially? Think thematically and synthetically.

Organizational advice

There is no set structure like for the book review. But your paper must make a coherent argument throughout, not just randomly drift from topic to topic in the hopes of mentioning everything that you think I might be looking for. I’m definitely not looking for that! You have already practiced doing this with your book reviews and summaries.

In general, think thematically and synthetically and give specific examples. Don’t write a whole paragraph about olives making people sick. Who cares?! Write a paragraph or more about consumer trust or the role of the media in which olives making people sick is mentioned as a specific historical example.

References and Citations

Anything in your text that refers to a specific point or idea should a have parenthetical page reference. These show me as the grader how you are using course materials in your review. Use author/date format like (Gibbs, 75). When we’ve read more than one thing from an author, cite a short title of the work as well, like (Jenkins, Food Fight, 33).

Tips for success

  • Create a thread. Make sure each sentence naturally flows from one to the next. Abrupt changes in topic, tense, style, etc, are quite jarring for a reader. This is almost impossible to do well when drafting your initial ideas (unless you are an extremely talented writer already), so look to improve this aspect as you revise.
  • Be specific. Give a specific example to illustrate your general point whenever possible. Never, even mention only that something relates to something else. You must explain how and why and the significance of the relationship. This is probably the biggest weakness with most essays.
  • Don’t dwell. You want to give a lot of analysis in a short space, so most points you’ll want to make should get compressed into a couple sentences. Don’t write a whole paragraph about, say, the writing being repetitive. “Despite the repetitive writing, the author makes the important point that…” OR, conversely: “Despite the interesting analysis of consumer trust, the repetitive writing challenges the reader’s will to continue reading.”
  • Paraphrase. Avoid long quotations in your critique, since you want use all the space for your own thinking!
  • Be selective. You can’t fit everything worth saying into your essay. Choose carefully what you think is most important!
  • Think thematically and synthetically. Have I mentioned that?
  • Revise, revise, revise. Once you have a complete draft of everything you want to say, you are about 50% done. Set it aside (and budget time for this!), then come back and economize your prose. Remove simple sentences that force you to be unnecessarily verbose. See the revision guide. Revisions are hard! But they are the only way to make your writing—and your THINKING—shine.


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