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In the context of ENGL121, research memos are motivated by a call to address questions, experiment with research techniques, inventory databases and other resources, and explore methods. You will be assigned several memos, but you are welcome to produce additional memos and to revise those already shared in class as these will prove later to be a strong complement to your end-of-term portfolio.

Submission Process
Research memos are due at the start of class, both on paper and in EMU Online. Upload your completed memo to EMU Online no later than 9 a.m., and bring six paper copies of your memo to class. This is important. Without enough copies, review groups will not have be able review your writing in class. Make sure you do not put your name on the paper copies you carry into class. Instead, post the 121-ID provided to you on the first day of class. Late memos may not be submitted for credit, except in the final portfolio where missed/unsubmitted memos may be awarded up to 50% of credit.

Formatting and Length
Memos must fit on a single 8.5x11 page. Prefer 1-inch margins, single-spacing, and a standard 12-point typeface, such as Times New Roman. At the header, flush left, include the following:


Memos should be as focused and as carefully developed as possible within one page. On average, memos will be approximately 450 words in length.

In-class Peer Review
Each day a memo is due, we will work in peer review groups to read, discuss, and arrive at a consensus ranking (based on some shared criteria) of the top one or two memos produced by another group. These distinguished memos will in turn serve as our focus for another segment in class, during which we will look more closely at the writing samples and discuss their qualities, both as pieces of writing (e.g., stylistic and rhetorical qualities) and as pieces of research (e.g., insights and investigative qualities).

Prompts and Deadlines

For Th.May.5
DUE Memo.1 Food, Inc. Review
Write a concise review of Food, Inc. (the portions we watched in class on 5/3) that summarizes the documentary, provides your critical perspective on the documentary's general area of concern, and that takes a stance on whether or not the film makes an argument. If space allows, you may also elaborate upon this final point to include how it does or does not make an argument. Your review should not quote from any outside resources, although you might consult the Food, Inc. page in the IMDB to double-check identifying details (e.g., producers, date of release, etc.). Include an MLA works cited entry for the movie.

For Tu.May.10
DUE Memo.2 Food Memories
After carefully reading the opening section of Foer's Eating Animals, what do you think are useful components and tactics in food storytelling? Another way to put this: What makes up a compelling or evocative food-based story? You can focus a portion of the memo on what you see Foer doing well in the opening section, but you should also try to describe qualities apart from the specific details of Foer's writing. You might find it helpful to frame this memo (in part) as a recipe: one part of this, another part of that, a pinch of this. What would these ingredients be? And finally, write two ideas you have for developing your own food-based story. Limit these ideas to a single sentence each and number them at the end of the memo (e.g., 1. and 2.).

For Tu.May.17
DUE Memo.3 Reference Inventory
How would you define a word in depth? In preperation for the Word Work assignment, Tracing.2, develop a list of three online reference resources you would consult for defining a word in depth. Include the name and URL for each site (or resource), and write a short paragraph for each explaining how it is distinctive from the others. If there are special instructions for using the reference, include them in your memo. You are welcome to ask a Halle Reference Librarian for recommendations. Please do not list any simple search engines (e.g., Google.com) unless you include an example of the command for searching definitions in Google. A strong reference inventory will include three distinctive references, their web addresses, and carefully written descriptions of how each is uniquely useful for defining words in depth. At the end of your memo, list three words you are considering developing definitions for in the Word Work Tracing due on Thursday.

For Tu.May.24
DUE Memo.4 Descriptive Dimensions
In the first section of this memo, tell someone else what it means to describe something and how you recommend going about it. In the second section, write a description of a mundane, everyday object. At the bottom of the memo, identify the site you will be observing for Tracings.3.

For Tu.May.31
DUE Memo.5 Generative Questions, Generative Asking
A basic web search will lead you to several collections of "interview questions," and while some of these might be helpful as you prepare for an interview, you will probably need to customize them. Your task in this memo, then, is to develop a list of ten interview questions. Next, explain why are you asking the questions you have posed, and identify the person you will be interviewing. If you do not know the person's name yet, refer to them as specifically as you can by their position, how you know them, and the perspective you are seeking from them.

For Tu.June.7
DUE Memo.6 Source Inventory
This memo functions like an annotated bibliography. Locate, select, and annotate three sources. At least one of the sources must come from the list below. The two other sources must be articles you will use as support in the researched argument. Provide correct MLA Works Cited entries for each source followed by a summary-annotation of approximate 100 words. We will discuss the formatting and purpose of annotated bibliography entries in class.
Wendell Berry, The Pleasures of Eating
Eric Schlosser, Why Being a Foodie Isn't 'Elitist'
Blake Hurst, The Omnivore's Delusion: Against the Agri-intellectuals
Michael Pollan, Unhappy Meals
*William Neuman, U.S. Seeks New Limits on Food Ads for Children
*Lois Rain, Your Guide to the Illegal Farm Photos Bill
*NYT Editorial, Hiding the Truth About Factory Farms

For. Tu.June.14
DUE: Memo.7 A Writing Researcher's Stance: Closing Argument+Splicing/Recombination
Begin with a brief summary of your researched argument in which you state your position or stance, identify an audience, and describe your strongest forms of support or evidence. Then, list the memos and tracings from this term that will directly contribute to your researched argument (e.g., which memos and tracings will make an appearance in your researched argument?).

Evaluation Criteria

Each memo will be scored on the following scale:


Additionally, a +1 is awarded when a group determines a memo to be distinctive during peer review phase of class.

EX: Exceptional. The writer has addressed the call thoughtfully and with distinction.
AC: Acceptable/meets expectations. The writer has addressed the call to a satisfactory degree.
NI: Needs improvement. The writer has minimally addressed the call.
NA: Not available. The writer has not addressed the call.

NA is assigned when 1) a memo is not produced, printed, and ready for circulation when you arrive to class or 2) when a student is absent.

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller, PhD
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing
Director of Composition
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Office: 315 Shanks Hall
Spring 2020 Office Hours: T, 12-3
Phone: +1-734-985-0485

"Let's say you were from somewhere else, seeing this Earth from space for the first time. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be satisfied with that view; I'd want to get closer, walk around on it, even get down on my hands and knees. That's how I prefer to see the Earth." —Wendell Berry, Interview with Jordan Fisher-Smith

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