Remember that English teacher who taught you to write five-paragraph essays? The pattern was simple: introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Tell them what you’re going to tell, tell them, and tell them again.
From this basic structure, the writing assignments evolved. They moved from exposition to more complex arguments, pages instead of paragraphs, primary and secondary research, visual rhetoric, a companion video or slide deck.
For me, it all came together in a paper on John Milton’s epic poemParadise Lost, arguing for an interpretation of Satan as epic hero that differed from popular criticism. My desk was littered with the flotsam and jetsam of my efforts—the primary text (PL); a position to take; a list of key points, supporting data, and examples from the text; a somewhat annotated bibliography of my research sources; what might pass for a flowchart that laid out the argument and possible objections; and a rough outline of the paper.
That desk doesn’t look much different today.