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Teaching Ideas

10 Ways to Teach About 9/11 With The New York Times

Ideas for helping students think about how the Sept. 11 attacks have changed our nation and world.

assignment 2001 question

By Nicole Daniels and Michael Gonchar

Sept. 11, 2001 , is one of those rare days that, if you ask most adults what they remember, they can tell you exactly where they were, whom they were with and what they were thinking. It is a day seared in memory. But for students who were born in a post- 9/11 world and have grown up in the aftermath, it is complex history that needs to be remembered, taught and analyzed like any other historical event.

Twenty years ago, four commercial planes were hijacked by operatives from the radical Islamist group Al Qaeda. One plane was flown into the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and two others were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. A fourth hijacked plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa. Almost 3,000 people died that day, including more than 400 emergency workers.

In the wake of those attacks, the United States initiated a global “war on terror” to destroy Al Qaeda — a campaign that expanded into decades-long wars in Afghanistan, Iraq (even though Iraq was not responsible for Sept. 11 ) and elsewhere. In the wake of Sept. 11, the United States changed in other fundamental ways as well, from increased police surveillance to a rise in Islamophobia .

Below, we provide a range of activities that use resources from The New York Times, including archival front pages and photographs, first-person accounts, and analysis pieces published for the 20th anniversary . But we also suggest ideas borrowed from other education organizations like the Choices Program , RetroReport , the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and the Newseum .

On Sept. 30, we are hosting a free event, featuring Times journalists, for students that will look at how Sept. 11 has shaped a generation of young people who grew up in its aftermath. Teachers and students can register here , and students can submit their own videos with questions, many of which we hope to feature during the live event.

1. Reflect on What 9/11 Means to You

In the essay “ What Does It Mean to ‘Never Forget’? ,” Dan Barry writes:

Inevitably, someday there will be no one alive with a personal narrative of Sept. 11. Inevitably, the emotional impact of the day will fade a little bit, and then a little bit more, as time transforms a visceral lived experience into a dry history lesson. This transformation has already begun; ask any high school history teacher.

Or, ask any student. They are at the center of the transition that Mr. Barry describes.

Invite students to respond to one or more of the following questions, and share their responses with other students from around the world by responding to our related Student Opinion question :

What does Sept. 11 mean to you? Is it mostly a “dry history lesson” or does it resonate for you in deeper ways?

What do you know about the events that took place on Sept. 11? Where and how did you learn about them?

What questions do you have about that day and what happened next?

Have the events of Sept. 11 and its aftermath affected you personally in any way? If so, how? How do you think they may have shaped your generation as a whole?

Note: To ensure your class has a shared understanding of what happened on Sept. 11, you might want to have students watch this two-minute video or scroll through this interactive timeline , both created by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Alternatively, students can watch this five-minute video from the History Channel which is focused on the attacks at the World Trade Center.

2. Interview Someone Who Remembers

Although teenagers today are too young to have their own personal memories of Sept. 11, people they know and love do. The Choices Program at Brown University has created a lesson plan that walks students through the process of conducting an interview about Sept. 11 with someone they know while also considering the importance of oral history.

The accompanying student handout suggests questions that students may want to ask, such as: What were you doing on Sept. 11, 2001? How did you find out about the attacks?

After conducting their interviews, students can share what they have learned in small groups and with the class. They might even create an oral history book or site that they can share with future classes.

For inspiration or as mentor texts, students can take a look at this “Revisiting the Families” collection of short follow-up interviews and articles that Times reporters did to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the attacks. It offers small glimpses of those who lost family members, and of their lives since.

3. Revisit History’s First Draft

Newspapers have been described as “history’s first draft.” Reporters and editors from around the world who published on the morning of Sept. 12 had less than a day to figure out how to make sense of what happened for their readers.

Invite students to look closely at the New York Times front page (or the full paper ) from that day. They can click on the individual articles as well. What do they notice? What questions does the front page bring up for them? What do they learn about coverage on that first day?

Then they can investigate front pages from other newspapers from around the world and across the country. The Newseum (you’ll need to create a free account) provides images of front pages of over 100 newspapers from dozens of cities — from Anchorage and Richmond, Va., to Turku, Finland, and Osaka, Japan. Business Insider compiled some of the images from the Newseum’s archival, to show what the front pages of newspapers from around the world looked like on Sept. 12 .

Students can choose three or four front pages and take note of the similarities and differences that they see in coverage; what choices might they have made had they been editors that day; and what additional questions these front pages raise for them.

4. Look Closely at Archival Photos

Photographs can be a powerful and accessible way for students to learn more about what happened on and after Sept. 11. Students can study the New York Times photo collection “ The Towers’ Rise and Fall ,” which was originally published on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, to see what stories these 72 images tell about the World Trade Center, the terrorist attacks and the aftermath.

Students can closely investigate two or three images using our What’s Going On in This Picture? protocol from Visual Thinking Strategies :

What is going on in this picture?

What do you see that makes you say that?

What more can you find?

Or, you can invite students to take on the role of curator in a museum who is creating an exhibit about Sept. 11 in New York. They can choose only six to eight photographs to tell the story. Which images would they select and why?

5. Listen to and Read First-Person Stories

Students can watch one or more of the three-minute videos from the “ Portraits Redrawn ” series that was created by The Times for the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. The six videos are all interviews with people who had a family member die in the attacks.

They can watch this 10-minute video from VICE in which a civilian mariner talks about assisting with the world’s largest boat lift that rescued half a million people from Lower Manhattan.

They can also watch this 12-minute RetroReport video that features interviews with emergency workers who survived the attacks at the World Trade Center and do all or part of this related lesson plan (and student activity ).

Or, students can read this article about a survivor navigating life with post-traumatic stress disorder after the attack on the World Trade Center.

After watching or reading, they can consider: What have you learned about Sept. 11 by hearing stories of survivors, families and people who died in the attacks? And, how do first-person stories change, or deepen, your understanding of what happened?

6. Consider the Importance of Memory

Op-docs: where the towers stood, the world trade center wreckage once smoldered here. now visitors come from around the world to learn, remember and grieve the loss of 9/11..

[somber music playing] [airplane engine] See it? Yeah. Am I just seeing things? Oh, jeez. Oh, they’re people. Oh. Oh, jeez, they’re people. They’re people. They’re people. [quiet music playing] I’m going to take us right here to this tree where there in shade and there is sun, so you could have which ever you prefer. So we don’t get in everyone’s way, if we can stay over here on the left hand side, we’ll be in good shape. The memorial is designed for you to make physical contact with it, to actually touch the names. So do not feel that the appropriate behavior that shows respect is to be standoffish. It is not. The only thing that we do ask — and I really doubt that any of you would have the impulse to do this anyhow — do not put things on the name. Coats, elbows, cups, bags, anything like that. The other thing I want to say to you is this was truly — you’re an international group of people — this was the World Trade Center. People from over 90 countries died here that morning. They were Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists. Some made their way in the world washing dishes, others ran powerful companies, but almost every single one of them dies that morning because they do something that all of us do with most of our lives — they woke up and they went to work. [somber music playing] Excuse me. Hello. Hello, hello, hello. There’s no smoking in the plaza. No smoking in the plaza. That’s quite all right. Thank you. So I want to talk to you about the pools. Directly in front of you is the south pool. The south pool stands in the footprint of the South Tower, World Trade Center number two. So that’s exactly where World Trade Center number two stood. Can everyone see that line of trees that goes around the pool? That line of trees represents the outer wall of the building. So that means in a few minutes when we go up to see the falls and you go past those trees, you will be standing in what was once the lobby of World Trade Center number two. You’re going to see the falls. The falls come out in individual rivulets, one for each person killed on 9/11. Goes down about 20 feet or so into a huge pool. In the center of the pool, another opening goes on another 10 feet or so. No matter how hard you try, you can’t see the bottom of that opening because it’s a void, and the void is a symbol of the emptiness that we feel here over the loss of life. I’m sure all of you can see the water under the names. That water comes directly from the pool. What someone will do, visiting a loved one — and please feel free to do the very, very same — take their hand, put it in the water, rub their hand over a name. Water, of course, a symbol of life. And notice how the names are on the wall. They are not arranged in alphabetical order. For example, people who worked in the same office in this building, they’re together. Firefighters out on the same firehouse, together. Police officers out of the same police precinct, together. We call that meaningful adjacencies. People together in death just the way they were together in life. I have a stupid question. The names of the killers. Are they — Absolutely not. Not. Absolutely not. Yeah. The only place you’ll find them is if you should go into the museum, there’s a special part that deals with Al Qaeda. [somber music playing] [water cascading] [somber music playing]

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To learn more about the 9/11 Memorial in New York City, students can watch the above 18-minute video from our Film Club series. Then, they can respond to the questions below in writing or discussion.

What moments in this film stood out for you? Why?

Were there any surprises? Anything that challenged what you know — or thought you knew?

What messages, emotions or ideas will you take away from this film? Why?

What connections can you make between this film and your own life or experience? Why? Does this film remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen? If so, how and why?

Then, students can read a 2019 article about the opening of the 9/11 Memorial Glade in Lower Manhattan — a memorial for people, largely rescue and recovery workers, whose illnesses and deaths came years after Sept. 11, 2001.

After watching the video and reading the article, students can reflect on the following questions in a class discussion:

Why do we memorialize people or events? What purpose should a memorial serve?

What purpose does memorializing Sept. 11 serve? How do you think Sept. 11 can be most effectively or meaningfully memorialized?

What concerns or challenges should societies or organizations be mindful of when they create memorials? Why?

If you’re interested in furthering the conversation about the memorial in your class, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum has a collection of resources for teachers and students.

7. Evaluate International Repercussions

How the u.s. military response to the 9/11 attacks led to decades of war., officials who drove the decades-long war in afghanistan look back on the strategic mistakes and misjudgments that led to a 20-year quagmire..

Two decades after invading Afghanistan, the United States is withdrawing, leaving chaos in its wake and the country much as it found it 20 years ago. “The Taliban don’t just control Kabul, but the whole country.” How did a war that began in response to the 9/11 attacks become the longest in American history? “If somebody had told me in 2001 that we were going to be there for another 20 years, I would not have believed them.” And what lessons can be learned for the future? “We were doing the same thing year after year after year, expecting a different result.” “Nearly 2,400 Americans have died in Afghanistan.” “More than 43,000 Afghan civilians lost their lives.” “You can’t remake a country on the American image. You can’t win if you’re fighting people who are fighting for their own villages and their own territory. Those were lessons we thought we learned in Vietnam. And yet, 30, 40 years later, we end up in Afghanistan, repeating the same mistakes.” On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush was visiting an elementary school in Sarasota, Fla., when he received word of an attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. “We’re looking at a live picture of the, of the building right now. And, uh, what would you say? That would be about the 90th floor or so?” The president joined his staff in an empty classroom, where his C.I.A. intelligence briefer, Michael Morell, had been watching the attack unfold. “There was a TV there and the second plane hit.” “Oh my goodness.” “Oh God.” “There’s another one.” “Oh.” “Oh my goodness, there’s another one.” “God.” “And when that happened, I knew that this was an act of terrorism.” At the Capitol in Washington, Representative Barbara Lee’s meeting was interrupted. “I heard a lot of noise saying, ‘Evacuate. Leave. Get out of here. Run fast.’ So, I ran up Independence Avenue. As I turned around, I was able to see a heck of a lot of smoke.” “Another aircraft, unbelievably, has crashed into the Pentagon.” “What you have to understand is this is the largest attack ever in the entire history of the country.” At 9:59 a.m., the second World Trade Center tower to be struck collapsed. Twenty-nine minutes later, the other tower followed. “The president, he asked to see me in his office on Air Force One. The president looked me in the eye and he said, ‘Michael, who did this?’ I told the president that I would bet my children’s future that Al Qaeda was responsible for this attack.” Within hours, evidence surfaced that Al Qaeda, a multinational terrorist organization headed by the Islamic fundamentalist Osama Bin Laden, had committed the attacks. The group was being given safe haven in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime. “The president’s inclination was to hit back and hit back hard.” “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people — ” “So the president decided to go to war.” “ — And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” “We had to go to Afghanistan. There’s no question in any of our minds, it’s a war of necessity. We had to go after Al Qaeda, we had to kill them, we had to get them out, and we had to pursue them to the ends of the earth.” “The word on the street was everyone’s got to be united with the president. You know, the country is in mourning.” Three days after the attacks, Lee was under pressure to vote yes on a resolution in Congress to authorize going to war against Al Qaeda and its allies when she heard a eulogy at a memorial service. “That as we act, we not become the evil we deplore.” “It was at that point I said, We need to think through our military response, our national security response and the possible impact on civilians.” “Mr. Speaker, members, I rise today really with a very heavy heart. One that is filled with sorrow for the families and the loved ones who were killed and injured this week. Yet I am convinced that military action will not prevent further acts of international terrorism against the United States.” “Got back to the office and all hell was breaking loose.” “The only dissenting voice was Democrat Barbara Lee of California, voting no.” “Phone calls, threats. People were calling me a traitor. She’s got to go. But I knew then it was going to set the stage for perpetual war.” Within weeks of 9/11, the U.S. struck back in Afghanistan. “The United States military has begun strikes against Al Qaeda terrorist training camps and military installations of the Taliban regime.” Soon after, U.S. ground troops arrived in the country. “The invasion was a success very quickly.” “At the gates of Kabul, news of a Taliban collapse had already reached these thousands.” “The Taliban retreat has turned into a rout.” “By the end of the year, the Taliban had been driven from power. A large number of Al Qaeda operatives had either been killed or captured.” And although Osama Bin Laden had managed to escape, the U.S. had accomplished its main goal. “Al Qaeda could not operate out of Afghanistan anymore.” President Bush knew there was a history of failed military campaigns in Afghanistan. “We know this from not only intelligence but from the history of military conflict in Afghanistan. It’s been one of initial success followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure. We’re not going to repeat that mistake.” [Applause] But after his initial success, Bush expanded the mission to nation-building. To prevent further Al Qaeda attacks, his administration said it wanted to transform the poor, war-torn country into a stable democracy, with a strong central government and U.S.-trained military. “The idea was it would be impossible for the Taliban to ever return to power and impossible for Afghanistan to ever be used as a safe haven again.” “There were girls starting to go to school, there were clinics and hospitals being set up, there were vaccinations, there were elections planned. Everything was kind of humming along and we all thought, OK, this is going to be fine.” But by the mid-2000s, after the Bush administration expanded the war on terror to Iraq, Richard Boucher realized that the U.S.-backed Afghan government was plagued by corruption and mismanagement. “I used to say to my guys on the Afghan desk, ‘If we’re winning, how come it don’t look like we’re winning?’” “The Taliban have staged a major comeback, seizing control of large swaths of the country.” “The people were not rejecting the Taliban. And that was, in the end, because the government couldn’t deliver much for the people. Everybody had this idea in their heads that government works the way it does in Washington. But Afghanistan hasn’t worked that way in the past. I think that was a moment we should’ve at least asked ourselves whether it wasn’t really time for us to leave and to say to the Afghans, ‘It’s your place, you run it as best you can.’” Instead, by 2011, President Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, had sent nearly 50,000 more troops to Afghanistan, hoping to reverse the Taliban’s gains. “I think one of the biggest mistakes we made strategically, after 9/11, was to fail to finish the job here, focus our attention here. We got distracted by Iraq.” One of those troops was Marine Captain Timothy Kudo. Part of his job was to shore up support for the government by digging wells and building schools. He soon lost faith in that mission after, he says, his company killed two Afghan teenagers they mistakenly believed were firing on them. “And their family saw this happen. The mothers, the grandmothers, they came out. It was the first time I’d ever seen an Afghan woman without wearing a burqa. They were sobbing and crying uncontrollably. I mean, how can you kill two innocent people and expect anything that you say to matter at that point?” “People here have little faith in U.S. forces anymore. More Afghans now blame the violence here on the U.S. than on the Taliban.” Weeks after Kudo returned home from Afghanistan, there was a monumental development. “I started getting all these texts, like, ‘You’ve got to check out the TV.’ My roommate calls me from the other room. ‘Turn on CNN.’” “The United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda.” “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” “In that moment, people are celebrating in front of the White House. They’re celebrating by Ground Zero.” “This is where it happened. We’re back. It’s justice!” “And to my mind, there’s no more reason to go through this madness. And, of course, we then did it for another decade.” “I think the military and the national security apparatus thought they could win. And I think that they also wanted to believe that because they had invested so much. People had died and they didn’t want them to die in vain.” “2011, Bin Laden is now dead. Why was it so hard to de-escalate?” Jeffrey Eggers was on President Obama’s National Security Council. He says that the goal since 9/11, to make sure Afghanistan would never again be a safe haven for terrorists, had become a recipe for endless war. “We will forever prevent the conditions that led to such an attack.” “Danger close!” [Gunfire] “And if you define it that way, when are you finished?” [Gunfire] “Go! Come on, come on, come on!” Though the surge failed to push back the Taliban, the U.S. drew down troop levels even as doubts were growing that Afghan forces would be able to defend the country. In 2021, President Biden, the fourth president to preside over the war, announced that he would withdraw U.S. troops, a plan set in motion by his predecessor, Donald Trump. “Nobody should have any doubts. We lost the war in Afghanistan.” “And we’re clear to cross?” “It wasn’t a peace agreement; it was a withdrawal agreement. The agreement was essentially, As we withdraw, don’t attack us.” As the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, the Taliban is taking over again, having quickly overrun the Afghan Army, which the U.S. spent more than $80 billion to train and equip. “The Taliban are out in full force. And their Islamist rule is already coming back.” “They can use this as a recruiting tool. They are now the champions of the jihadi movement because they pushed out the United States.” And U.S. officials are reflecting on the beginning of the war, 20 years after 9/11. “More people should have thought about endless war, not just in Congress but in the State Department, in the Defense Department, C.I.A. and elsewhere, in the White House. That the recipe of using military means to go after terrorism was just going to get us into one fight after another after another. One can only hope that Americans of the new generation will think about this.”

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In an address to Congress and the nation on Sept. 20, 2001, President George W. Bush made it clear that the response to the terrorist attacks would not be confined to a single military strike on one group, network or country: “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”

Help students uncover the motivation behind the attacks and evaluate the international repercussions of the “war on terror” using the following resources:

The Terrorist Attack : Who was responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11? Why did they target the United States, and particularly civilians? Britannica and USA Today each offer brief summaries of the plot and the roles of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. To go more in depth, you might have students watch the three-part documentary series “ Road to 9/11 ” from the History Channel, which provides a 360-degree overview of events that led to the attack.

To help students understand why the World Trade Center, Pentagon and U.S. Capitol were targeted, see the 9/11 Memorial and Museum lesson plan, “ Targeting American Symbols .”

The U.S. Response and the Global “War on Terror”: On Oct. 7, 2001, just weeks after the attacks, Mr. Bush announced that America had started a bombing campaign against Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the attacks, and the Taliban, the group that harbored them in Afghanistan.

So began the longest war in American history, which ended this year with the removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. What did the war accomplish? Use our Lesson of the Day on “ The U.S. War in Afghanistan: How It Started, and How It Ended ” to have students evaluate the causes and consequences of the 20-year conflict. They can also watch the 10-minute RetroReport video (embedded above), which looks at the decisions that shaped the war. And, they can use our Lesson of the Day “ What Will Become of Afghanistan’s Post-9/11 Generation? ” about how the lives of young people in Afghanistan have suddenly changed with the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Beyond The Times, see the five-part lesson plan “ The Costs of War ,” created by the Choices Program, which examines the human, economic, social and political costs of the “war on terror” through videos and class discussions.

Veterans of the War in Afghanistan: Listen to voices of veterans in The Argument podcast episode “ You Don’t Bring Democracy at the Point of a Gun ” or read about their experiences in the essay “ Serving in a Twenty Year War .” How do these firsthand accounts and perspectives change how students understand the realities of the so-called war on terror? What questions would they ask these veterans if they were New York Times reporters?

After exploring one or more of the pieces in this section, students might discuss the prompts below:

What is terrorism? Why do some individuals and groups target civilians for political purposes?

Was the United States justified in using military force in Afghanistan after Sept. 11? What is the legacy of the “war on terror”? Has it made us safer?

What lessons can we learn from the war? How do you think the United States and other countries should work toward preventing future terrorist attacks? If the United States, or another country, were hit by foreign terrorism again in the future, how should we respond? What principles, critical questions and experiences should help us form our response?

8. Examine Ripple Effects in the United States

In the two decades since Sept. 11, many aspects of American life have changed, from travel and art to education and immigration . Your conversation with students about post-9/11 America could take on any one or many of these topics. Below, we suggest two possible lenses, based on recent Times texts, through which to examine the ripple effects in the United States:

Muslims in America : Invite students to read “ Muslim Americans’ ‘Seismic Change’ ” by Elizabeth Dias and consider how the aftermath of Sept. 11 has brought both challenges, including a surge in Islamophobia, but also possibilities for the Muslim American community, such as the election of Muslim Americans to Congress and award-winning television featuring Muslim American actors and stories, that would have been unfathomable 20 years ago.

Civil Liberties and Surveillance: Two decades after the attacks, police departments across the United States, and particularly the N.Y.P.D., are using counterterrorism tools, like facial recognition software, to combat routine street crime. Although police officials say these methods have helped thwart would-be attacks, others say they subject everyday people to “near-constant surveillance — a burden that falls more heavily on people of color.” Invite students to read “ How the N.Y.P.D. Is Using Post-9/11 Tools on Everyday New Yorkers ” and debate the benefits and drawbacks of these tactics.

After reading one or both of these articles, students might discuss the following questions:

In what important ways has Sept. 11 transformed American life?

Did anything described in the articles connect with anything you’ve experienced, read or witnessed? How have these changes affected your life, whether you knew it or not?

What does America’s response to Sept. 11 say about the United States today?

9. Explore Why Conspiracy Theories Sometimes Flourish

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Today’s students are often familiar with conspiracy theories and their popularity on social media. Here is how one student responded to our 2020 Student Opinion question: Do You Think Online Conspiracy Theories Can Be Dangerous? :

Conspiracy theories can either be malicious, dumb fun, or anything in between. Some conspiracy theories can be serious and about tragedies such as 9/11, but some conspiracy theories can be interesting, such as bots in a video game being alive. I enjoy a conspiracy theory every now or then, but I wouldn’t take them as an absolute truth, you always have to take them with a grain of salt.

In the article “ How a Viral Video Bent Reality ,” Kevin Roose writes about how the conspiracy film “Loose Change” energized the “9/11 truther” movement and also supplied the template for the current age of disinformation.

Students can read this article and consider some of the questions raised in the article:

Why do you think some people are drawn to conspiracy theories?

What role does technology play in the spread of conspiracy theories?

Respond to this quote from the article: “A more urgent lesson to take from ‘Loose Change’ is that conspiracy theories tend to flourish in low-trust environments, during periods of change and confusion.” Why do you think that is? How does that lesson apply to today’s world?

You can pair this article with the Student Opinion question mentioned above, inviting students to post their own comments in response to that question, or with our Lesson of the Day “How to Deal With a Crisis of Misinformation,” which includes strategies for countering misinformation.

10. Watch Our On-Demand Panel for Students: The Post-9/11 Generation

How did 9/11 shape the generation that grew up in its aftermath?

With New York Times journalists and student voices, we discuss this question in our special interactive panel. The panel features Yousur Al-Hlou and Biz Herman, who examined how Sept. 11 has been taught in classrooms around the world, and Kiana Hayeri, who photographed young Afghans as they experienced the recent withdrawal of U.S. troops from their country. Invite students to register and view the on-demand panel .

Want more? For the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, in 2011, we published this roundup of hundreds of resources from The Learning Network and The New York Times for teaching about Sept. 11 and the aftermath, including ideas from educators across the country and links to the front pages of The Times for the 10 days after Sept. 11.

Nicole Daniels has been a staff editor with The Learning Network since 2019. More about Nicole Daniels

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Bell Ringers

Bell Ringer: The Immediate Impact of September 11, 2001

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Timeline of the September 11, 2001 attacks

A look at the timeline of events from the September 11th, 2001 attacks. A clip of President Bush's cabinet meeting from the following day where he discusses national security and retribution is also included.

Description

This bell ringer explores the immediate and subsequent impacts of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Bell Ringer Assignment

  • CLIP 1: How did President Bush characterize the attacks in his press conference on September 12, 2001?
  • CLIP 1: What do you think President Bush meant when he said that the attackers were a “different enemy?” (Student answers will be speculative.)
  • CLIP 1: What two things does President Bush say the enemy was trying to do?
  • CLIP 2: What percentage of those who died on September 11, 2001 have been officially identified to-date?
  • CLIP 2: What do you think the last statistic suggests, and how might this continue to impact the families of those who perished? (Student answers will be speculative.)
  • CLIP 2: Per the data shared by the hosts, describe the economic, social, and logistical impacts of the terrorist attacks and subsequent aftermath.

Related Article

  • 9/11 FAQs - 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Additional Resources

  • Bell Ringer: September 11 and Government Surveillance Programs
  • On This Day: September 11, 2001
  • Bell Ringer: The War on Terror
  • Video Clip: September 11 - Remembrance and Reflection
  • Video Clip: Homeland Security since 9/11

Participants

  • Ground Zero
  • World Trade Center

Assignments usually ask you to demonstrate that you have immersed yourself in the course material and that you've done some thinking on your own; questions not treated at length in class often serve as assignments. Fortunately, if you've put the time into getting to know the material, then you've almost certainly begun thinking independently. In responding to assignments, keep in mind the following advice.

  • Beware of straying.  Especially in the draft stage, "discussion" and "analysis" can lead you from one intrinsically interesting problem to another, then another, and then ... You may wind up following a garden of forking paths and lose your way. To prevent this, stop periodically while drafting your essay and reread the assignment. Its purposes are likely to become clearer.
  • Consider the assignment in relation to previous and upcoming assignments.  Ask yourself what is new about the task you're setting out to do. Instructors often design assignments to build in complexity. Knowing where an assignment falls in this progression can help you concentrate on the specific, fresh challenges at hand.

Understanding some key words commonly used in assignments also may simplify your task. Toward this end, let's take a look at two seemingly impenetrable instructions: "discuss" and "analyze."

1. Discuss the role of gender in bringing about the French Revolution.

  • "Discuss" is easy to misunderstand because the word calls to mind the oral/spoken dimension of communication. "Discuss" suggests conversation, which often is casual and undirected. In the context of an assignment, however, discussion entails fulfilling a defined and organized task: to construct an argument that considers and responds to an ample range of materials. To "discuss," in assignment language, means to make a broad argument about a set of arguments you have studied. In the case above, you can do this by
  • pointing to consistencies and inconsistencies in the evidence of gendered causes of the Revolution;
  • raising the implications of these consistencies and/or inconsistencies (perhaps they suggest a limited role for gender as catalyst);
  • evaluating different claims about the role of gender; and
  • asking what is gained and what is lost by focusing on gendered symbols, icons and events.

A weak discussion essay in response to the question above might simply list a few aspects of the Revolution—the image of Liberty, the executions of the King and Marie Antoinette, the cry "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!" —and make separate comments about how each, being "gendered," is therefore a powerful political force. Such an essay would offer no original thesis, but instead restate the question asked in the assignment (i.e., "The role of gender was very important in the French Revolution" or "Gender did not play a large role in the French Revolution").

In a strong discussion essay, the thesis would go beyond a basic restatement of the assignment question. You might test the similarities and differences of the revolutionary aspects being discussed. You might draw on fresh or unexpected evidence, perhaps using as a source an intriguing reading that was only briefly touched upon in lecture.

2. Analyze two of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, including one not discussed in class, as literary works and in terms of sources/analogues.

The words "analyze" and "analysis" may seem to denote highly advanced, even arcane skills, possessed in virtual monopoly by mathematicians and scientists. Happily, the terms refer to mental activity we all perform regularly; the terms just need decoding. "Analyze" means two things in this specific assignment prompt.

  • First, you need to divide the two tales into parts, elements, or features. You might start with a basic approach: looking at the beginning, middle, and end. These structural features of literary works—and of historical events and many other subjects of academic study—may seem simple or even simplistic, but they can yield surprising insights when examined closely.
  • Alternatively, you might begin at a more complex level of analysis. For example, you might search for and distinguish between kinds of humor in the two tales and their sources in Boccaccio or the Roman de la Rose: banter, wordplay, bawdy jokes, pranks, burlesque, satire, etc.

Second, you need to consider the two tales critically to arrive at some reward for having observed how the tales are made and where they came from (their sources/analogues). In the course of your essay, you might work your way to investigating Chaucer's broader attitude toward his sources, which alternates between playful variation and strict adherence. Your complex analysis of kinds of humor might reveal differing conceptions of masculine and feminine between Chaucer and his literary sources, or some other important cultural distinction.

Analysis involves both a set of observations about the composition or workings of your subject and a critical approach that keeps you from noticing just anything—from excessive listing or summarizing—and instead leads you to construct an interpretation, using textual evidence to support your ideas.

Some Final Advice

If, having read the assignment carefully, you're still confused by it, don't hesitate to ask for clarification from your instructor. He or she may be able to elucidate the question or to furnish some sample responses to the assignment. Knowing the expectations of an assignment can help when you're feeling puzzled. Conversely, knowing the boundaries can head off trouble if you're contemplating an unorthodox approach. In either case, before you go to your instructor, it's a good idea to list, underline or circle the specific places in the assignment where the language makes you feel uncertain.

William C. Rice, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

Browse Course Material

Course info.

  • Prof. Mary Rowe

Departments

  • Sloan School of Management

As Taught In

  • Business Ethics
  • Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management
  • Communication

Learning Resource Types

Negotiation and conflict management, assignments.

Grades are based 50% on class work and 50% on writing: your Little Papers, the journal and Separate Pages. Please write in your confidential journal and write evaluations of your colleagues every week. I will read your papers, keep them confidential, and return the papers at the next class – no one else sees them.

Many of the documents that relate to these assignments can be found on the lecture notes page.

2 What Kind of Negotiator am I? Hand in your journal, which should include the following four assignments:

  • The Class Notes reading assignment for today: Rowe, Mary. Options and Choice for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace , in Negotiation: Strategies for Mutual Gain , by Lavinia Hall, ed., Sage Publications, Inc., 1993, pp. 105-119, ends with an “Exercise” which is your first self-assessment. Write about your conflict management preferences and those of people close to you.
  • Score the Thomas-Kilmann Questionnaire – the second self-assessment. Please write about your scores in three areas of your life. Some people photocopy the questionnaire and the answer sheet for a Significant Other before filling it out, either to find out the self-analysis of the Other, or to see how the other person thinks you would answer it, or both.
  • Write about the $2 game: How did you feel about the negotiation conditions, and the tactics you used or observed in the $2 game? Whose negotiating behavior particularly impressed or irritated you, and why?
  • Turn in at least one Separate Page, about the negotiation behavior of someone in the class which you found particularly noteworthy on the first day.

There are pages on the study materials page with questions that may be useful in this analysis. The separate page should include the name of the person whose negotiation you are describing. You do not need to sign the page but if you want to write an anonymous page – and also wish me to give you credit for writing a great assessment – then put your name on it with a sticky note, and I will remove the note before giving the page to the person named. These pages will be sent to all of you after the end of the course. Previous classes have suggested that this feed-back is useful to the recipients of the pages. My first interest, however, is that you should be able to analyze and understand how others negotiate, and how various negotiations strategies and styles affect you.

Case this week: Stratego Aero I. (Please save your copy of the case)

For next week: Please find the Ethics and Machiavelli Questionnaires , and scoring sheets in the Class Notes, for the assignment due in Session 3. Pick up your part in Terry and Josephine at Navigational Systems . 3 Distributive and Mixed Motive Bargaining Hand in: Ethics and Machiavelli Little Paper #1 ( PDF )

The Ethics and Machiavelli Questionnaires are the third and fourth self-assessments of this class. You will find the Ethics and Machiavelli Questionnaires , and scoring sheets, in the Class Notes. If you wish, photocopy the questionnaires and give a copy to someone who knows you well, to fill out about you and return to you. NB: The Machiavelli Questionnaire is at best quaint and sexist, and there are no right answers. The point is to assess the extent to which you think or act in a way that others might think is “Machiavellian,” and to see if you believe that your thinking and behavior reflect your own values. Please feel free to (re) read The Prince , or recall anything you would like about Machiavelli, as you think about this. Alternatively, just deal with the image of “Machiavellianism” and whether you think it suits you.

Also – please write in your journal and, as usual, please write a separate page about the negotiation of someone in the class (journals are handed in during Session 6).

Case: Prepare your role in the Terry and Josephine case. If you can, prepare together with anyone who is playing the same role as you.

For Next Week: Pick up your roles for next week in the Hiring/Salary case ( Barrister ) and the Performance Evaluation case ( The Yearly Review ). Prepare with someone else with the same role if you can. 4 Integrative and Mixed Motive Bargaining This week there is a lot of reading, writing and case preparation but nothing to hand in.

Write: Write in your journal, (which is due in Session 6). As usual, please write a separate page about your observations of someone in the class?

Cases: Prepare your role in Barrister, Counselor, Solicitor and Avocat , and your role in The Yearly Review . Please prepare together with anyone who is playing the same role as you.

Pick up copies of the Aggressive Competitive Negotiator and Tax Books cases to prepare for next week. Choose a partner for next week – the negotiation next week will be two on two. 5 Competitive and Cooperative Styles and Do Gender or Culture Make a Difference? Write: Write in your journal, plus the “separate page” about the excellent (or otherwise remarkable) negotiation of a classmate.

Cases: Prepare the Tax Books case with a partner. NB: Please together choose a negotiating style and strategy and tactics that you and your partner will pursue – see the tactics sheet from Negotiation 101 (refer to the study materials section). Keep your plans secret from the other side, but please tell me in your journals how the planned choice of strategy, style and tactics influences (if at all) your negotiating, and the outcome of the case. See if you are able to figure out which strategy and style the other team adopted? In real life, can you recognize the strategy and style of others? ( negotiated two on two )

Please also prepare the Aggressive Competitive Negotiator with your partner. Come up with several suggestions about how you might deal with this ACN.

Pick up your role in Telemachus , for next week. Please prepare with someone who has the same role. 6 Negotiating in Context Hand in your journal – plus separate pages about people who have inspired you, or who have done something you find questionable, in class negotiations. The journal – covering classes and readings (and your life?) during the period of Session 2 up to today – is due today.

Case: Prepare Telemachus , (but not the Coalition case). Prepare together with anyone who is playing the same role as you in Telemachus . Please pay special attention to the question of choosing a strategy and style and planning your tactics – again please review the Tactics sheet from Negotiations 101 and review the possible roles Ury describes for a Thirdsider – two pages at the end of N101 (refer to the study materials section).

Next Week: Please do the reading for Session 7, before you write your Perceived Injurious Experience letter. Then read the instructions in the Class Notes on how to write a P.I.E. letter. This letter is your Little Paper #2, due in Session 7. You may turn this assignment in early if you wish to because you are taking a trip. Please try hard to follow the instructions even if you think they are too rigid. Holiday Week Optional Assignment: Enders Game , as suggested earlier and/or Joan Slonczewski’s A Door Into Ocean , Avon, 1986, science fiction, which presents a profoundly different view – from Enders Game – of sources of power in dealing with armed conflict. As with Enders Game , this book may interest you especially in the light of hostilities in many parts of the world. If you do read either or both books, please consider writing in your journal your responses to the questions I asked for Session 4, with respect to Enders Game. 7 Origins of Conflict – Dispute Prevention – Delegating Conflict Management to the Disputant Write: In your journal – and look for behavior in a classmate that will inspire a separate page.

**Hand in Little Paper #2: “Perceived Injurious Experience.” **

  • Assignment Description for the PIE Letter ( PDF )
  • Drafting – and Perhaps Sending – A Private Letter to a Person Who has Harassed or Offended You ( PDF )
  • Joe and Josephine at Biochemix ( PDF )

Please try hard to follow the instructions, even if you think they are too rigid? 8 Your Employer’s Dispute Resolution and Complaint Handling System Write: In your journal and, if possible, a separate page. If you read or skimmed the MIT Guide to Dealing with Harassment consider writing a paragraph of critique or commentary. Read the questions posed for last week and answer them?

Preparing for Next Week: Read the instructions (in the Class Notes) for Little Paper #3, “Seeing Both Sides of a Dispute”, due on Session 9.

Pick up Stratego Aero II . Check to see that you still have Stratego Aero I . You will need both I and II to prepare for next week.

Before you leave class please arrange to prepare together with one or more people playing the same role as you in the mediation next week. Preparing for any important negotiation is probably the most important skill in negotiations. It is especially vital if you are going into a mediation in any role. You will find the Moore readings useful, so try to do the readings for next week before you meet with a colleague who has the same role. See also the Moore chart: Figure 2.1 from Moore, Christopher W. The Mediation Process: Practical Strategies for Resolving Conflict. 2nd ed. Jossey-Bass, 1996. Holiday Week Optional Assignment: Rent the video The Return of Martin Guerre . The question is, whom can you believe? Is it possible to tell if someone is lying? If so – how will you do it as a manager? If not – how will you manage? 9 Conciliation and Mediation Write: Write in your journal and – if possible – a separate page.

Hand in: Little Paper #3: Seeing Both Sides of a Dispute ( PDF )

Case: Prepare Stratego Aero II . To do so, you should have re-read Stratego Aero I as well as your Stratego II Secret Instructions. Prepare together with someone who is playing the same role as you and please prepare carefully. Otherwise you will mess up your colleagues’ role-playing, and they will write me fierce notes about requiring people to prepare better.

Pick up cases for next week. These cases are somewhat controversial. Can you find a classmate, or someone else quite different from you , to read the cases together with you, and help prepare for the class discussion?

Remember the double class (6 hours) next week with pizza. 10 Investigation, Arbitration and Exceptionally Difficult People (Double Class, 6 hours) Write: In your journal - and try for a separate page? By now you are totally exhausted with the semester, but the colleagues you write about will (probably) be grateful - and you need all the practice you can get in evaluating Others.

_The last journal (covering the period Session 6 through today) and separate pages, are due after this class, any time later this week. _ Class: Certified Public Accountants, Inc. (Theft); Discussion of Cases Distributed in Class (Drugs, Whistleblowers, and a Convicted Employee).

Cases: Please prepare to discuss the cases. If you possibly can, prepare by asking people outside the class – preferably ask someone who is not of your own background – what should happen in any of these cases. There is no role-play preparation. 11 More Negotiating with Difficult People Hand in: Your journal (covering the period since Session 6) and separate pages are due today if you did not send them in during this past week.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Understanding Assignments

What this handout is about.

The first step in any successful college writing venture is reading the assignment. While this sounds like a simple task, it can be a tough one. This handout will help you unravel your assignment and begin to craft an effective response. Much of the following advice will involve translating typical assignment terms and practices into meaningful clues to the type of writing your instructor expects. See our short video for more tips.

Basic beginnings

Regardless of the assignment, department, or instructor, adopting these two habits will serve you well :

  • Read the assignment carefully as soon as you receive it. Do not put this task off—reading the assignment at the beginning will save you time, stress, and problems later. An assignment can look pretty straightforward at first, particularly if the instructor has provided lots of information. That does not mean it will not take time and effort to complete; you may even have to learn a new skill to complete the assignment.
  • Ask the instructor about anything you do not understand. Do not hesitate to approach your instructor. Instructors would prefer to set you straight before you hand the paper in. That’s also when you will find their feedback most useful.

Assignment formats

Many assignments follow a basic format. Assignments often begin with an overview of the topic, include a central verb or verbs that describe the task, and offer some additional suggestions, questions, or prompts to get you started.

An Overview of Some Kind

The instructor might set the stage with some general discussion of the subject of the assignment, introduce the topic, or remind you of something pertinent that you have discussed in class. For example:

“Throughout history, gerbils have played a key role in politics,” or “In the last few weeks of class, we have focused on the evening wear of the housefly …”

The Task of the Assignment

Pay attention; this part tells you what to do when you write the paper. Look for the key verb or verbs in the sentence. Words like analyze, summarize, or compare direct you to think about your topic in a certain way. Also pay attention to words such as how, what, when, where, and why; these words guide your attention toward specific information. (See the section in this handout titled “Key Terms” for more information.)

“Analyze the effect that gerbils had on the Russian Revolution”, or “Suggest an interpretation of housefly undergarments that differs from Darwin’s.”

Additional Material to Think about

Here you will find some questions to use as springboards as you begin to think about the topic. Instructors usually include these questions as suggestions rather than requirements. Do not feel compelled to answer every question unless the instructor asks you to do so. Pay attention to the order of the questions. Sometimes they suggest the thinking process your instructor imagines you will need to follow to begin thinking about the topic.

“You may wish to consider the differing views held by Communist gerbils vs. Monarchist gerbils, or Can there be such a thing as ‘the housefly garment industry’ or is it just a home-based craft?”

These are the instructor’s comments about writing expectations:

“Be concise”, “Write effectively”, or “Argue furiously.”

Technical Details

These instructions usually indicate format rules or guidelines.

“Your paper must be typed in Palatino font on gray paper and must not exceed 600 pages. It is due on the anniversary of Mao Tse-tung’s death.”

The assignment’s parts may not appear in exactly this order, and each part may be very long or really short. Nonetheless, being aware of this standard pattern can help you understand what your instructor wants you to do.

Interpreting the assignment

Ask yourself a few basic questions as you read and jot down the answers on the assignment sheet:

Why did your instructor ask you to do this particular task?

Who is your audience.

  • What kind of evidence do you need to support your ideas?

What kind of writing style is acceptable?

  • What are the absolute rules of the paper?

Try to look at the question from the point of view of the instructor. Recognize that your instructor has a reason for giving you this assignment and for giving it to you at a particular point in the semester. In every assignment, the instructor has a challenge for you. This challenge could be anything from demonstrating an ability to think clearly to demonstrating an ability to use the library. See the assignment not as a vague suggestion of what to do but as an opportunity to show that you can handle the course material as directed. Paper assignments give you more than a topic to discuss—they ask you to do something with the topic. Keep reminding yourself of that. Be careful to avoid the other extreme as well: do not read more into the assignment than what is there.

Of course, your instructor has given you an assignment so that they will be able to assess your understanding of the course material and give you an appropriate grade. But there is more to it than that. Your instructor has tried to design a learning experience of some kind. Your instructor wants you to think about something in a particular way for a particular reason. If you read the course description at the beginning of your syllabus, review the assigned readings, and consider the assignment itself, you may begin to see the plan, purpose, or approach to the subject matter that your instructor has created for you. If you still aren’t sure of the assignment’s goals, try asking the instructor. For help with this, see our handout on getting feedback .

Given your instructor’s efforts, it helps to answer the question: What is my purpose in completing this assignment? Is it to gather research from a variety of outside sources and present a coherent picture? Is it to take material I have been learning in class and apply it to a new situation? Is it to prove a point one way or another? Key words from the assignment can help you figure this out. Look for key terms in the form of active verbs that tell you what to do.

Key Terms: Finding Those Active Verbs

Here are some common key words and definitions to help you think about assignment terms:

Information words Ask you to demonstrate what you know about the subject, such as who, what, when, where, how, and why.

  • define —give the subject’s meaning (according to someone or something). Sometimes you have to give more than one view on the subject’s meaning
  • describe —provide details about the subject by answering question words (such as who, what, when, where, how, and why); you might also give details related to the five senses (what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell)
  • explain —give reasons why or examples of how something happened
  • illustrate —give descriptive examples of the subject and show how each is connected with the subject
  • summarize —briefly list the important ideas you learned about the subject
  • trace —outline how something has changed or developed from an earlier time to its current form
  • research —gather material from outside sources about the subject, often with the implication or requirement that you will analyze what you have found

Relation words Ask you to demonstrate how things are connected.

  • compare —show how two or more things are similar (and, sometimes, different)
  • contrast —show how two or more things are dissimilar
  • apply—use details that you’ve been given to demonstrate how an idea, theory, or concept works in a particular situation
  • cause —show how one event or series of events made something else happen
  • relate —show or describe the connections between things

Interpretation words Ask you to defend ideas of your own about the subject. Do not see these words as requesting opinion alone (unless the assignment specifically says so), but as requiring opinion that is supported by concrete evidence. Remember examples, principles, definitions, or concepts from class or research and use them in your interpretation.

  • assess —summarize your opinion of the subject and measure it against something
  • prove, justify —give reasons or examples to demonstrate how or why something is the truth
  • evaluate, respond —state your opinion of the subject as good, bad, or some combination of the two, with examples and reasons
  • support —give reasons or evidence for something you believe (be sure to state clearly what it is that you believe)
  • synthesize —put two or more things together that have not been put together in class or in your readings before; do not just summarize one and then the other and say that they are similar or different—you must provide a reason for putting them together that runs all the way through the paper
  • analyze —determine how individual parts create or relate to the whole, figure out how something works, what it might mean, or why it is important
  • argue —take a side and defend it with evidence against the other side

More Clues to Your Purpose As you read the assignment, think about what the teacher does in class:

  • What kinds of textbooks or coursepack did your instructor choose for the course—ones that provide background information, explain theories or perspectives, or argue a point of view?
  • In lecture, does your instructor ask your opinion, try to prove their point of view, or use keywords that show up again in the assignment?
  • What kinds of assignments are typical in this discipline? Social science classes often expect more research. Humanities classes thrive on interpretation and analysis.
  • How do the assignments, readings, and lectures work together in the course? Instructors spend time designing courses, sometimes even arguing with their peers about the most effective course materials. Figuring out the overall design to the course will help you understand what each assignment is meant to achieve.

Now, what about your reader? Most undergraduates think of their audience as the instructor. True, your instructor is a good person to keep in mind as you write. But for the purposes of a good paper, think of your audience as someone like your roommate: smart enough to understand a clear, logical argument, but not someone who already knows exactly what is going on in your particular paper. Remember, even if the instructor knows everything there is to know about your paper topic, they still have to read your paper and assess your understanding. In other words, teach the material to your reader.

Aiming a paper at your audience happens in two ways: you make decisions about the tone and the level of information you want to convey.

  • Tone means the “voice” of your paper. Should you be chatty, formal, or objective? Usually you will find some happy medium—you do not want to alienate your reader by sounding condescending or superior, but you do not want to, um, like, totally wig on the man, you know? Eschew ostentatious erudition: some students think the way to sound academic is to use big words. Be careful—you can sound ridiculous, especially if you use the wrong big words.
  • The level of information you use depends on who you think your audience is. If you imagine your audience as your instructor and they already know everything you have to say, you may find yourself leaving out key information that can cause your argument to be unconvincing and illogical. But you do not have to explain every single word or issue. If you are telling your roommate what happened on your favorite science fiction TV show last night, you do not say, “First a dark-haired white man of average height, wearing a suit and carrying a flashlight, walked into the room. Then a purple alien with fifteen arms and at least three eyes turned around. Then the man smiled slightly. In the background, you could hear a clock ticking. The room was fairly dark and had at least two windows that I saw.” You also do not say, “This guy found some aliens. The end.” Find some balance of useful details that support your main point.

You’ll find a much more detailed discussion of these concepts in our handout on audience .

The Grim Truth

With a few exceptions (including some lab and ethnography reports), you are probably being asked to make an argument. You must convince your audience. It is easy to forget this aim when you are researching and writing; as you become involved in your subject matter, you may become enmeshed in the details and focus on learning or simply telling the information you have found. You need to do more than just repeat what you have read. Your writing should have a point, and you should be able to say it in a sentence. Sometimes instructors call this sentence a “thesis” or a “claim.”

So, if your instructor tells you to write about some aspect of oral hygiene, you do not want to just list: “First, you brush your teeth with a soft brush and some peanut butter. Then, you floss with unwaxed, bologna-flavored string. Finally, gargle with bourbon.” Instead, you could say, “Of all the oral cleaning methods, sandblasting removes the most plaque. Therefore it should be recommended by the American Dental Association.” Or, “From an aesthetic perspective, moldy teeth can be quite charming. However, their joys are short-lived.”

Convincing the reader of your argument is the goal of academic writing. It doesn’t have to say “argument” anywhere in the assignment for you to need one. Look at the assignment and think about what kind of argument you could make about it instead of just seeing it as a checklist of information you have to present. For help with understanding the role of argument in academic writing, see our handout on argument .

What kind of evidence do you need?

There are many kinds of evidence, and what type of evidence will work for your assignment can depend on several factors–the discipline, the parameters of the assignment, and your instructor’s preference. Should you use statistics? Historical examples? Do you need to conduct your own experiment? Can you rely on personal experience? See our handout on evidence for suggestions on how to use evidence appropriately.

Make sure you are clear about this part of the assignment, because your use of evidence will be crucial in writing a successful paper. You are not just learning how to argue; you are learning how to argue with specific types of materials and ideas. Ask your instructor what counts as acceptable evidence. You can also ask a librarian for help. No matter what kind of evidence you use, be sure to cite it correctly—see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial .

You cannot always tell from the assignment just what sort of writing style your instructor expects. The instructor may be really laid back in class but still expect you to sound formal in writing. Or the instructor may be fairly formal in class and ask you to write a reflection paper where you need to use “I” and speak from your own experience.

Try to avoid false associations of a particular field with a style (“art historians like wacky creativity,” or “political scientists are boring and just give facts”) and look instead to the types of readings you have been given in class. No one expects you to write like Plato—just use the readings as a guide for what is standard or preferable to your instructor. When in doubt, ask your instructor about the level of formality they expect.

No matter what field you are writing for or what facts you are including, if you do not write so that your reader can understand your main idea, you have wasted your time. So make clarity your main goal. For specific help with style, see our handout on style .

Technical details about the assignment

The technical information you are given in an assignment always seems like the easy part. This section can actually give you lots of little hints about approaching the task. Find out if elements such as page length and citation format (see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial ) are negotiable. Some professors do not have strong preferences as long as you are consistent and fully answer the assignment. Some professors are very specific and will deduct big points for deviations.

Usually, the page length tells you something important: The instructor thinks the size of the paper is appropriate to the assignment’s parameters. In plain English, your instructor is telling you how many pages it should take for you to answer the question as fully as you are expected to. So if an assignment is two pages long, you cannot pad your paper with examples or reword your main idea several times. Hit your one point early, defend it with the clearest example, and finish quickly. If an assignment is ten pages long, you can be more complex in your main points and examples—and if you can only produce five pages for that assignment, you need to see someone for help—as soon as possible.

Tricks that don’t work

Your instructors are not fooled when you:

  • spend more time on the cover page than the essay —graphics, cool binders, and cute titles are no replacement for a well-written paper.
  • use huge fonts, wide margins, or extra spacing to pad the page length —these tricks are immediately obvious to the eye. Most instructors use the same word processor you do. They know what’s possible. Such tactics are especially damning when the instructor has a stack of 60 papers to grade and yours is the only one that low-flying airplane pilots could read.
  • use a paper from another class that covered “sort of similar” material . Again, the instructor has a particular task for you to fulfill in the assignment that usually relates to course material and lectures. Your other paper may not cover this material, and turning in the same paper for more than one course may constitute an Honor Code violation . Ask the instructor—it can’t hurt.
  • get all wacky and “creative” before you answer the question . Showing that you are able to think beyond the boundaries of a simple assignment can be good, but you must do what the assignment calls for first. Again, check with your instructor. A humorous tone can be refreshing for someone grading a stack of papers, but it will not get you a good grade if you have not fulfilled the task.

Critical reading of assignments leads to skills in other types of reading and writing. If you get good at figuring out what the real goals of assignments are, you are going to be better at understanding the goals of all of your classes and fields of study.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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  5. PDF 9/11: A Nation Remembers Classroom Activity About this Lesson

    The events of September 11, 2001, changed our nation forever. Students in grades 7-12 are old enough to remember the events of this historic day. This guide is designed to help students consider the idea of memory in connection to the events of September 11. The activities included are presented in three parts: a warm-up activity, introducing ...

  6. The Immediate Impact of September 11, 2001

    Description. This bell ringer explores the immediate and subsequent impacts of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Bell Ringer Assignment

  7. PDF 2001 AP Statistics Questions

    AP Statistics 2001 Free-Response Questions. The materials included in these files are intended for use by AP teachers for course and exam preparation in the classroom; permission for any other use must be sought from the Advanced Placement Program. Teachers may reproduce them, in whole or in part, in limited quantities, for face-to-face ...

  8. September 11, 2001 Study Guide Flashcards

    Two things that happened following September 11, 2001. Sets with similar terms. Chapter 36 Section 4: Terrorism ... Related questions. QUESTION. Which do cellulose fibers come from? 3 answers. QUESTION. What technological advances in the last 50 years have provided new methods of drawing preparation?

  9. PDF 2001 APfi Human Geography Free-Response Questions

    The following comments are provided by the Chief Faculty Consultant regarding the 2001 free-response questions for AP Human Geography. They are intended to assist AP workshop consultants as they develop training sessions to help teachers better prepare their students for the AP Exam. They give an overview of each question and its performance ...

  10. How to Read an Assignment

    How to Read an Assignment. Assignments usually ask you to demonstrate that you have immersed yourself in the course material and that you've done some thinking on your own; questions not treated at length in class often serve as assignments. Fortunately, if you've put the time into getting to know the material, then you've almost certainly ...

  11. MAT 2001 : Statistical Reasoning

    KGarmon_MATFPX2001_Assessment6.docx. 1 Interpretation of Survey Results Kenya Garmon MAT-FPX2001 Statistical Reasoning Capella University 18 March 2024 f2 Overview of Survey The study aimed to explore the perspectives of various individuals on whether teleworking is as efficient as coming in. MAT 2001.

  12. EVR 2001 Module 1 Flashcards

    EVR 2001 Module 1. Scientific Method. Click the card to flip 👆. Question> Observation and Measurement> Substantiated Hypothesis> Experiment. Click the card to flip 👆. 1 / 5.

  13. Assignments

    The Class Notes reading assignment for today: Rowe, Mary. Options and Choice for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace, in Negotiation: Strategies for Mutual Gain, by Lavinia Hall, ed., Sage Publications, Inc., 1993, pp. 105-119, ends with an "Exercise" which is your first self-assessment. Write about your conflict management preferences and ...

  14. PDF 2001 AP English Language Questions

    AP English Language and Composition 2001 Free-Response Questions. The materials included in these files are intended for use by AP teachers for course and exam preparation in the classroom; permission for any other use must be sought from the Advanced Placement Program. Teachers may reproduce them, in whole or in part, in limited quantities ...

  15. Math2001 ass1-20-sols

    MATH2001 Assignment 1 Solutions. Question 1. (4 marks.) Solve the initial value problem. x 2 + 2xy−y 2 = (2xy−x 2 +ey)y′, y(1) = 1 3. Present your solution as a relation definingyimplicitly as a function ofx.

  16. Understanding Assignments

    The assignment's parts may not appear in exactly this order, and each part may be very long or really short. Nonetheless, being aware of this standard pattern can help you understand what your instructor wants you to do. Interpreting the assignment. Ask yourself a few basic questions as you read and jot down the answers on the assignment sheet:

  17. COE 2001

    Rating. year. Ratings. Show 2 more documents. Show all 10 documents... There are no questions yet. Studying COE 2001 Statics at Georgia Institute of Technology? On Studocu you will find 79 practice materials, 29 lecture notes, 10 assignments and much more for COE.

  18. 9/11 Project Assignment Flashcards

    2) After reading the History Channel document, students are to watch the attached NBC News Live Coverage of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. - look it up. 3) After reading the attached document and watching the attached video, students are to answer the questions below in a Google Doc. Question A: "Imagine that you are alive on September 11, 2001 ...

  19. A3 instructions

    PSYC 2001: Research Methods - Assignment 3 DUE: December 2nd, 2019@ 11:59pm Worth: 10% of your overall grade. Background This assignment is designed to teach you how to write a short research proposal. Rather than write a full research proposal, this assignment is a good outline or execuive summary for what a full proposal might look like in research. ...

  20. PDF 2001 AP® Statistics Commentary

    scheme B in part (a), the student made random assignments of tree variety so that both varieties were given an equal chance to be planted in the upper or lower treatment group. Question 5 Response: 1 of 3 Score: 4 The response correctly states the hypotheses with respect to mean difference. Two different

  21. rending 2001 Assignments Assignment 3: Process

    Submit your question to a subject-matter expert. rending 2001 Assignments Assignment 3: Process Modeling and Analysis Assignment 3: Process Modeling and Analysis At Star Due Wednesday by 3:29pm Points 100 Submitting a file upload Available Nov 1 at 12am. Dec 25 at 11:59pm about 2 months Assignment 3: Process Modeling and Analysis Due 11/18/2021 ...

  22. ASSIGNMENT-2001 (b) Provision for Depreciation of

    Question: ASSIGNMENT-2001 (b) Provision for Depreciation of Motor Vehicles Fol Amount Dr Date Details Fol Amount Date Details (8) Disposal of Motor Vehicles (C) Dr Date Cr Amount Fol Details Details Fol Amount Date [16] TOTAL MARKS: [100] 16 NSSCO ACCO-Ansignment 1 - 2021 .

  23. Solved IBM 2001 Assignment 2: Management by Objective (MBO)

    Operations Management questions and answers. IBM 2001 Assignment 2: Management by Objective (MBO) Name Student Number It is stated that goals are only useful to the extent that you are motivated to achieve them. In setting motivational goals, when "using SMART" the following steps should be followed: a) Assign Specific goals b) Assign ...