Alternative Ways to Complete RA3

If you prefer, RA3 can be completed the same way that your first two rhetorical analyses were: as a traditional essay posted on your blog. But if you like, I’m giving you two alternative ways to complete the assignment: collaborate with one other person or create a video analysis.

Collaborate with One Other Person

Because we’re studying collaborative writing, you may fulfill the RA3 assignment by producing a single text written by two people. If you choose this path, the following guidelines apply:

  1. The assignment is the same: the essay still must analyze the rhetorical strategies used on a Wikipedia talk page. You’ll still need to study the original assignment sheet carefully.
  2. The essay’s length and detail should reflect the fact that two writers were working on it. If necessary, the authors may choose to write about more than one talk page to find enough things to write about; however, if they use more than one talk page, the pages should be on similar topics.
  3. The total time spent planning and writing the essay should be the same amount of time spent if each student planned and wrote an individual essay.
  4. Both students are equally responsible for the entire essay. It will receive a single grade that will be applied to each student’s grade.
  5. If you know another student taking another section of RHET 351 from me this semester, you may collaborate with that student (if you get my permission first).
  6. Each student will email me an individual statement about what the collaboration process was like. This is due the same day and time that the final draft of the essay is due. Though this statement can be informal, it should be a detailed, multi-paragraph narrative of what steps the team took. This is also the place to share private reflections on the strengths and weaknesses of your writing partner. (I won’t share these emails with anyone else.)

To successfully collaborate on this assignment, I have a few suggestions (which you can take or ignore as you wish):

  • Communication is key. Get each other’s phone numbers and email addresses (and maybe Twitter accounts?) as soon as possible, and discuss right away how you want to meet. (In person? Over Skype or a Google Hangout? Over email? By adding comments to a document? How often?)
  • Consider setting up a collaborative document that you can both edit whenever you like (like at Google Docs), as opposed to sending attached documents back and forth over email.
  • I love this page on Group Writing from the writing center at UNC Chapel Hill (@UNCWritingCTR). It might be worth skimming over it with your partner to see if it raises any questions you’d like to address together.

Create a Video Analysis

Or, if you prefer, you may compose a video analysis of your Wikipedia talk page. If you choose this path, these guidelines apply:

  1. Your assignment is the same as in the original RA3: you’ll analyze the rhetorical strategies used on a Wikipedia talk page. You’ll prove your ideas in an organized, evidence-filled production. But instead of writing an essay, you’ll create a screencast: a video where the viewers see your screen and hear your voice talking about what you see. (Most of the videos I make are screencasts; for example, this introduction to the course is a screencast.)
  2. This video will be assessed in the same four areas described in the main RA3 assignment sheet, with the style grade assessing your speaking voice–its clarity, liveliness, and suitability of word choice for a video’s audience.
  3. If you choose to create a video, you must submit it the same way you submitted your audio version of RA1: you’ll create the video (see below for my software recommendations), upload it to YouTube, and then embed that YouTube video into a new post on your blog along with a detailed written Statement of Goals and Choices. (See my post on how to write an SOGC for reminders of what I expect.)
  4. The video analysis may not be done collaboratively.

If you choose this path, I have the following suggestions:

  • While there are many options for screencasting software, I strongly recommend Camtasia, a popular and user-friendly program. The 30-day free trial is fully functional, so you can download it, use it for this project, and then decide later whether you want to buy it or uninstall it. (I use it a lot as well, so I would be able to help.)
  • If you use Camtasia, you can easily edit out moments where you mess up while recording. So if you make a mistake, you don’t need to stop your recording and start over; you can simply continue recording and edit out the mistake later.
  • There are lots of good tutorials on how to use Camtasia; if you’re confused, read the software’s official documentation or just search Google or YouTube. I bet someone else will have had the same problem.
  • You’ll want to plan your video extensively, including the big picture of what you’ll show when (to keep your viewers from getting bored) and the detailed picture of what you want to say. You may feel most comfortable reading from a script, or you might rather simply talk casually from an outline. Do whichever will make you sound the best (to keep your style score from suffering).
  • Obviously, much of what the viewer sees will be the Wikipedia talk page itself. But to keep the video visually interesting, consider what else you might show to help you make your point.
  • I use a free browser plug-in called Diigo to highlight text on webpages in different colors. If you want to highlight the text of your page, this might be a strong option. Consider what other creative ways you might emphasize your points (perhaps by zooming in and out or using other techniques).
  • Remember that you can check out USB headsets from the library for 1 day, to be used outside of the library. Using a microphone will help your voice quality sound much stronger and clearer (helping your style grade).
  • UPDATE: A scholar named Dan Anderson gives a screencasting assignment to his students, and he has lots of good advice on that page. I especially like his bulleted list of things you can show in a Screencast, like video of yourself typing, and his list of sample screencasts at the bottom.