Short Assignment 1: Life as Research

DUE: September 9

2-3 pages


All of the writers we have discussed so far are using writing as a way to explore ideas and understand their own experiences. Lamott, Eggers, and Wiesel all make use of their own experiences as part of the way they come to understand complex ideas. In this way, they are all acting as researchers of their own lives. Your job is to reflect on your own life in order to research a concept.

For this assignment, you have two options:


In “Shitty First Drafts,” Lamott explores not only the act of writing a draft, but the concept of a draft (what counts as a draft). In “Serve or Fail,” Eggers not only creates a proposal about a service requirement, he also explores the concept of service. You might also say he explores the concept of higher education, too, or even what it means to be a student.

Like these writers, use your own life and observations as evidence for researching a concept of your choice.

Remember that a concept is an abstract idea, so your essay will not only be a description of an experience. Think about how Lamott uses detailed descriptions of moments related to writing in order to explore the concept of “a writing draft.” Or how Wiesel uses her own story to make a larger argument about bearing witness. Your piece does not need to do all the same things that Lamott or Wiesel do, but try to include details that give your reader access to your own process of discovery.


For this option, think of a time in your past when you became disillusioned with a person or persons, or with a place, or with an activity or item, that you previously admired. Eggers, for example, experienced a kind of disillusionment with the idea of higher education based on his experience as a college student. On a larger scale, Wiesel, arguably, becomes disillusioned with humanity and social responsibility.

Maybe someone you admired did something you disagreed with and you stopped liking hum or her because of this. Maybe you were living a particular lifestyle—say, one that left you unhappy—and suddenly realized it was empty and unsatisfying compared to the richer life you could have been living. How did this moment help you gain a new perspective or understanding?

Your piece of writing should be approximately 2 pages

Successful papers will:
  • Develop and describe a concept providing enough detail to sequence the reader throughout the story
  • Connect personal observations or experiences to a larger idea
  • Communicate effectively to the reader the connection between observation and idea

See Short Assignment 2.