AP English January 2014 “I-Search a Word” assignment
Assignment: Write a paper of 5 to 7 pages containing an extended definition of a single word, a commonly used word, but one with an abstract or intangible quality to its meaning. In your paper you will make full reference to the sources you have consulted, but the style of the paper will be a first-person account of your search for the word’s ultimate meaning and an analysis of what you learn along the way.
Sources: Consult the following sources to include all the necessary information in your paper:
1. The Oxford English Dictionary (20 volume 2nd edition) in our library—what are the earliest uses and contexts for your word recorded in the English language? What meanings have evolved over time? Which uses are now obsolete? Which ones match your understanding of your word? Which contain surprises?
2. Webster’s Third International Dictionary (3 volumes) in our library—what key definitions, examples, and other information does the dictionary give for the word? How is the information organized differently from the OED?
3. Either or both of the following: Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary (available online) or Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary (available through onelook.com).
4. A dictionary of etymology, either online or in our library. How does its information compare to that of the OED?
5. A print or online thesaurus—what are the most important synonyms for your word? Include a list from the thesaurus in the sources section of your folder.
6. A Concordance to Shakespeare—how frequently does your word occur? Copy a few key speeches containing the word and the plays in which they are found. Give an example of an interesting or original way in which Shakespeare uses the word.
7. A Concordance to the Bible—list a few important verses containing the word and copy these verses onto a page in your sources section. How do they help you understand the full significance of your word? Pay special attention to the Authorized or King James Version of 1611 (KJV). Compare a key verse to that of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of 1946.
8. A statement of what the word means to you, both before and after you conduct your research.
9. Optional sources to round out your understanding: a dictionary of slang, a poem in which the word occurs, a citation from an online quotations list, a work of art or music, a book about words and language, a work of history, a newspaper article, cartoon, television show, or movie.
Process: Gather your findings in a binder. The first thing in the binder you submit will be the final copy of your paper, then your draft, edited by two peers, and a section containing the annotated printouts of all your research materials with sources clearly indicated.
Rationale: According to Edward Jenkinson and Donald Seybold, “it is extremely difficult for anyone to define a word that does not have objective [meaning]. Yet the ideas, feelings, and emotions that are most significant in our lives are conveyed [by such words]. . . .Everyone who uses such words as freedom, rich, or love has slightly different notions about what those words mean, [yet] we frequently act as if we are talking about the same thing when we use such words.” Thus, this assignment is to sift through our assumptions about one abstract word to find relevant historical information about its uses and meanings throughout the history of the English language.
· Have your word chosen and approved by me by the beginning of class 3 (January 13, preferably sooner). Everyone must have a different word.
· We will spend parts of two classes in the library looking at the OED and other source material.
· Your journal for class 4 will include your previous understanding of the word along with a brief summary of what you have learned so far in your research. It may be incorporated in some fashion into your draft the following week.
· Class 8 (January 27), bring your drafts to class, five pages minimum.
· Binders are due at the beginning of class 10, January 30. Final drafts must also be submitted by that time to turnitin.com (assignment title: I-Search a Word).
Style: Write your paper as a first-person account of your search for the ultimate meaning of your word. Use your sources to make your analysis of the word credible, but connect those sources to your personal quest for the word’s meaning, your previous understanding of the word, and what you learned along the way, both about the word and the research process. You should both summarize and analyze the information you gather from your sources in the body of the paper, searching for meaningful connections between sources. Information should be cited parenthetically, linked to a properly formatted list of Works Cited at the end of your paper.
Words: I’ve brainstormed over 100 words, but you may suggest a word not on this list, as long as it meets the requirements stated above. Everyone must have a different word. Here is my list:
What word interests you sufficiently to spend two weeks researching and writing about its history and most important meanings? After we review this assignment during class 1 for both sections, I will accept requests for words beginning after lunch Wednesday January 8.. By class 2 (January 9), everyone must have selected a word to work with.