Website Analysis Guide

Spring 2020 • HIST 412

Website Analysis Guide

Your Assignment

Your challenge is to write a review/critique of some webpage that discusses whether GMOs are safe (just Google ‘are GMOs safe’ or something similar). Questions to consider in your essay:

  • What’s the agenda?
  • How does it make its point?
  • How is it convincing?
  • How is it misleading?
  • What kinds of assumptions does the author make?
  • What issues are NOT raised that should be?

Don’t choose something that is super long or complex; that creates way more work for you than is necessary here. Also, don’t choose anything that is super short and trite; it simply won’t give you enough material to work with.

Assignment Goals

This assignment shows that you’re able to apply the course discussion and activities in the real world by critically analyzing some source 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 diet and health. As with all your assignments, the goal is to put the course to use in addressing ‘real-world’ discussions about food production issues. The best essays will draw together various themes from the course. In other words, be sure you are analyzing your webpage in terms of the course.

General Requirements

  • ~900 words
  • 1.5 line spacing
  • 11 pt. Times New Roman
  • 1” margins on all sides
  • Your name at top

Organizational advice

You should begin your essay with a quick summary of the source—no more than a few sentences—so that your readers have an idea of what the point is (assume they have not read it themselves).

Then, comment about the evidence used to make the point. Maybe there are “scientific” studies, maybe anecdotal evidence, maybe nothing. Relatedly, how does the author establish expertise or authority?

Are you convinced by the evidence? What is problematic or missing? What are the assumptions of the author about the nature of diet and health?

Tips for success

  • Be specific. 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 say “This advice is like what Galen said.” Give more details about how (and how much) such a claim is true, cite relevant passages from Galen (and/or readings about him), and why your comparison matters.
  • Provide specific citations. This forces you to double check your own memory and interpretation of the readings, and helps you avoid making false claims.
  • Don’t be banal. Avoid trivial statements that are simply fluff and don’t show you engaging with the course materials or your source.
  • Paraphase. 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!
  • 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.

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.

Resubmissions

If you are not pleased with your grade, you can revise and resubmit them within 2 weeks of getting them back. You get an average grade between the two, though I tend to count the second one a bit more. I encourage you to meet with me about your essay before revising it to make sure you have a clear plan for revisions.

Questions

Please email me anytime with questions or concerns, including whether a particular source will work with the assignment. It is always worthwhile to talk about these things in class, too. Don’t hesitate to ask.