Skip Navigation

Writing Analysis & Persuasion (NCAA Approved)

Open to: Grades 8 - 12
Eligibility: CTY-level or Advanced CTY-level verbal score required
Prerequisites: see below

Challenge Level: College Sophomore

Course Formats: Session Based; email or web-based (NCCA approved). See calendar for session dates and application deadlines. 

Recommended School Credit: One-half academic year

Course Length: 20 weeks (Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter, Spring); 12 weeks (Early Summer: Email only); 6 weeks (intensive Late Summer: Web-based only)

Course Codes: EMA4 (email), WRW4 (web-based, NCAA approved)

Course Description

This course builds on the techniques learned and practiced in prerequisite courses. Here, students learn the rhetorical modes of discourse. Examples of these modes include persuasion, definition, analysis, and narration. While inculcating the modes of classical discourse, this course typically focuses on cultural criticism.

The work of contemporary writers such as Ann Lamott and Susan Orlean may provide inspiration and, at times, subjects for critical analysis. Opportunities for revision allow students to hone skills and combine rhetorical modes for maximum effect. By the end, students are able to analyze and evaluate most prose forms. Students should be able to argue their interpretations convincingly.

The highly interactive Web-based format culminates in a capstone essay incorporating the skills students have learned. This essay is based on a five-hour observation of social interaction in a cultural group. For more information, see "Cultural Studies and the Capstone Essay" on the Course Details tab. The majority of assignments apply the strategies of classical rhetoric (narration, definition, argument, persuasion, and so forth) to the interdisciplinary field of cultural studies, which is concerned with the production of meaning in society. Students read essays by authors including Susan Orlean, Joan Didion, and Anne Lamott as well as more traditional writings about argument by Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren.

Integral is a substantial metacognitive dialogue with the instructor about writing.

Students seeking an NCAA approved course should enroll in the web-based format.

Grammar Note

Skilled, careful writers follow the conventions of Standard Written English, but writing is much more than mere adherence to convention. Instructors discuss grammar only when it affects meaning. Writing courses are not remedial. Students must already be proficient in Standard Written English.

Note: This course description applies to session-based courses with a start date prior to June 30, 2019. To view the course description for this session-based course with a start date after July 1, 2019, choose from the links below:

Students interested in flexible pacing should view the course description for this course in the individually paced format: Writing Analysis and Persuasion – Individually Paced. Course formats cover the same concepts but differ in approach.



Completion of grade 9 English and satisfactory writing sample (instructions below), or successful completion of one course below:

CTY Online Programs

CTY Summer Programs

Details about completion of grade 9 English and submission of a satisfactory writing sample

  • The writing sample demonstrates command of skills students would otherwise learn in one of the prerequisite CTY courses Please follow this link, then select the "Demo" tab and write that assignment.
  • Submit the writing sample as an attachment to an email. Put your full name and CTY Student ID # at the beginning of the file and in the body of your email message.
  • Also attach to the email a copy of a year-end report card showing completion of 9th grade English.
  • Email the writing sample and report card to Steve Barish ( Allow 5 business days for a response, please.

Questions? Phone 410-735-6140 or email


Materials Needed


The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession by Susan Orlean (Ballantine Books, 2000) ISBN 978-0449003718



Formats cover the same concepts, but differ in approach.

In the email format, students email finished essays to instructors and receive detailed critiques of those essays. Assignments in this format may be individualized to address a particular student's needs; thus, the assignments may vary by instructor and from student to student.
This format is best for independent, well organized students whose other commitments limit their available time.

The web-based format provides a process-oriented approach. Students work through lessons and receive instructor feedback on prewriting exercises during the process of writing the essay as well as a detailed critique of the final writing assignment. In addition, students participate in a mandatory online peer review workshop in which they critique each other’s writing. In the web-based format, although interaction is frequent, it is not real time. Interaction is conducted asynchronously, not via chat, I.M, or whiteboard. Students can work morning, noon, or night, so long as they meet the deadlines. Students deliver work by uploading it to a private space. They download instructor responses from the same place. Virtual classrooms are provided by a course management system.
This format is best for students who enjoy computer-mediated interaction, relish sharing their writing with an audience, and can commit adequate time to the work (see time commitment, below). Please review technical requirements.

Students seeking an NCAA approved course should enroll in the web-based format.

Detailed Course Information - Web-based format (NCAA Approved)

Cultural Studies and the Capstone Essay

Cultural studies approaches social interaction as a "text" to be analyzed, interpreted, and critiqued. Three assignments -- 6, 8 and 10 -- depend on observing a cultural group, (brother's Cub Scout pack, mom's finance group, friend's computer club: any group where there is significant social interaction).

Students write an informal proposal of the observation -- a description of the group,how to arrange the logistics(parental okay, how often to meet, transportation to and from, etc.), and, most importantly, WHY the group will make an interesting observation. The instructor approves the group and the logistics.

  • Observations must have begun by the time students begin writing Assignment 6
  • Observations must be completed by the time students begin writing Assignment 8

The capstone essay, Assignment 10, is a substantial revision of Assignment 8. This revision is intended to incorporate all the skills and rhetorical modes that students have worked on.

Writing Analysis and Persuasion - Web-based format (NCAA Approved) - Sample Syllabus


Skills Taught

Persuasive Essay – Design your own educational experience

Intro to persuasion

Extended Definition – Part 1

Chunking assignment

Writing process
Topic development
Thesis development

Topical Persuasive Essay

Taking a position
Thesis statements

Extended Definition – Part 2

Body paragraphs

Analysis of Creative Nonfiction: The Orchid Thief excerpt

Writing about literature
Close reading
Quoting from/citing the text
5 Components of creative non-fiction

Subculture Narrative—initial meeting

Narrative: setting, character, theme

Division and Classification Essay

(Revision of 4)
Revisits Thesis & Introductions

Subculture Analysis

Cultural analysis—
Writing the 5 components of creative nonfiction

Cause and Effect: "Deride and Conquer," Mark Crispin Miller

Literary analysis
Cause and effect

Revision of Essay 8—add research

Supporting assertions with research
Using quotations

Detailed Course Information - Email format

Writing Analysis and Persuasion - Email format - Sample Syllabus


Skills Taught

Redesign your own educational experience

Intro to persuasion and thesis
Intro to documentation
Purpose and audience
Writing process
Intro to essay structure
Introduction and conclusion
Intro to revision

Personal Narrative


Narrative design and purpose
Using details effectively

Division and Classification Essay

Organization and paragraphs

Topical Persuasive Essay

More about persuasion
Claims and evidence
Using sources effectively

RevisionGlobal revision
Common grammar issues

Literary Analysis: The Orchid Thief excerpt

Writing about literature
Close reading
Quoting from/citing the text
Components of creative non-fiction

Cause and Effect

Analyzing cause/effect
Defining culture
Metaphors, similes, analogies

Book, Movie, or Play ReviewAnalyzing meaning
Writing for an audience
Persuading about "Meritocracy"Analyzing a culture
Formulating a thesis


Revision review
Revising "good" work
Using editing tools

Time Required

Web-based format (NCAA Approved)

  • 3 hours weekly for the 20-week sessions (Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter, and Spring)
  • 2 hours daily Monday – Friday for the intensive 6-week session (Late Summer)

Email format

  • 2 hours weekly for the 20-week sessions (Early Fall, Late Fall, Winter, and Spring)
  • 3.5 hours weekly for the 12-week session (Early Summer)

Summer Session Daily Calendars

Summer Schedules

Up to two weeks of vacation is allowed in the Early Summer Session. No vacations are allowed in the intensive Late Summer Session.

Down to Late Summer Session (6 weeks)

Sample Early Summer Session: June 4 - August 26, 2018 (12 weeks)



  • Work is due by end of the day, not start of the day. Students use the due day to complete work due that night.
  • Vacations are allowed (this session only). Students may miss up to two due dates but must negotiate with the instructor which two, if any, at the start of the course.
  • 10 assignments and 12 due dates allows each student to miss 2 due dates or to finish 2 weeks early.
  • When a student takes vacation, the schedule moves to later (#2 is due when #3 was due, #4 is due when #5 was due, etc.). Assignments cannot be moved out of sequence.
  • No textbook purchase is necessary.

Monday, June 4

Course begins
Students download materials from the course access page 

Download the first assignment right now: see "Demo" tab.

Friday, June 8

Assignment 1 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, June 15

Assignment 2 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, June 22

Assignment 3 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, June 29

Assignment 4 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, July 7

Assignment 5 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, July 13

Assignment 6 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, July 20

Assignment 7 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, July 27

Assignment 8 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, August 3

Assignment 9 e-mailed to instructor

Friday, August 10

Assignment 10 e-mailed to instructor

Most students complete their course here, but those who took vacations may use the missed assignment due dates below to complete by August 26.

Friday, August 17

Makeup Assignment #1

Friday, August 24

Makeup Assignment #2

Sunday, August 26

Course ends
No work accepted after today


2 to 3 weeks after the course ends, students receive:

  • Certificate of Participation
  • Detailed, one-page course completion document 

Sample Intensive Late Summer Session: July 2 - August 12, 2018 (6 weeks)



  • Deadlines are by midnight of the due date. Students use the due day to complete their work. No textbook purchase is necessary.
  • Vacations are NOT allowed, and absences must be negotiated at the start of the course.
  • Workshops last a full week, which means that workshops for separate lessons will overlap.

Sunday, July 1

Students have downloaded materials by now from the course access page

Monday, July 2

  • Post Introductions to Welcome forum 
  • Read Subculture Observation Project 

Tuesday, July 3

Lesson 1 due

Thursday, July 5

Subculture Observation Project Proposal due
Lesson 1 begins

Monday, July 9

Lesson 2 due

Tuesday, July 10

Lesson 2 Workshop begins

Wednesday, July 11

Lesson 1 Workshop ends

Thursday, July 12

Lesson 3 due

Friday, July 13

Lesson 3 Workshop begins

Monday, July 16

Lesson 4 due
Lesson 2 Workshop ends

Tuesday, July 17

Lesson 4 Workshop begins

Thursday, July 19

Lesson 3 Workshop ends

Friday, July 20

Lesson 5 due

Monday, July 23

Lesson 5 Workshop begins
Lesson 4 Workshop ends

Tuesday, July 24

Lesson 6 due
*Midterm reports posted - share with parent & ask parent to acknowledge receipt*

Wednesday, July 25

Lesson 6 Workshop begins

Friday, July 27

Lesson 7 due

Monday, July 30

Lesson 7 Workshop begins
Lesson 5 Workshop ends

Tuesday, July 31

Lesson 6 Workshop ends

Thursday, August 2

Lesson 8 due

Friday, August 3

Lesson 8 Workshop begins

Monday, August 6

Lesson 9 due

Tuesday, August 7Lesson 9 Workshop begins

Thursday, August 9

Lesson 10 begins

Friday, August 10

Lesson 10 due

Sunday, August 12

Course Ends
No work accepted after today.


2 to 3 weeks after the course ends, students receive:

  • Certificate of Participation
  • Detailed, one-page course completion document 

Sample Assignment


Down to first assignment -- all formats

Subculture Observation Project (web-based)

Hi Everybody,

Three of your assignments -- 6, 8 and 10 -- depend on information you gather from your observations of a subculture. What do I mean by "subculture"? According to The Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and Cultural Criticism, "Generally speaking, the term subculture refers to a distinctive clique within a larger social group . . . subcultural activity does not aim to overthrow the dominant culture in the name of some more humane vision, but seeks only a measure of autonomy expressed in symbolic gestures, such as the distinctive forms of clothing, speech, and music . . ." (290-291).

How to Go About It

Make plans to observe a group with which you are not familiar. It could be your brother's Cub Scout pack, your mom's finance group, a friend's computer club: any group where there is significant social interaction. Ideally, you will not be a member of this group. For example, say you have always been fascinated by the clique of "regulars" who go to your local coffee house daily, as if it were an important ritual that gives their lives meaning. What is it that compels them to go there each day? Why do they get along so well in this isolated half hour to an hour of time and never have anything to do with each other outside of the coffee house? Why do they have their own little rules and codes? How were these codes introduced and how did a silent consensus form?

If you MUST observe a group of which you are a member, please email me with some details so I can evaluate whether the group is appropriate. (Before emailing me, please read this whole assignment.)

Plan to observe this group for at least 5 hours. Fewer hours are not permitted. More hours are good. You only need to observe the group for 1 hour to write the #6 Narrative. The rest of the observation time should be spread out over the rest of our term, finishing your minimum 5 hours before you start writing Assignment #8. Don't get too caught up in the details of writing Assignments #5 or #8 right now. What you need to focus on now is choosing the group to observe.

Part of this course is learning to schedule your time wisely and independently. It is crucial that you make a schedule NOW for the rest of the term. Don't just assume you can drop in any time for do the observations later. Set a schedule. Put it on your calendar.

How to choose your group

  1. You MAY NOT CHOOSE groups that are dangerous for you or other people. No terrorists. No drug rings. No Columbine High School types. No bungee jumping. Nothing illegal. Nothing dangerous. Nothing unhealthy.

    Be aware that comments about dangerous actions (for you or anybody else, including allegations of abuse of any sort or threats to use violence) must legally be referred to the people in charge of this program and, ultimately, to the University's General Counsel (lawyers). After consultation with the University's General Counsel, action may be required in your home state. The particular action depends on where you live and can have quite far-reaching consequences. In short, please choose your group wisely.

  2. You may not disrupt the group beyond your entrance into it. Please don't use your course as an excuse to disturb the group's usual activities. Your job is to observe, take notes, learn about these people, and write an essay for me.
  3. Discuss your choice of a group with your parents since they are likely to have to drive you to the meeting site or approve your late stays at school or whatever) and get parental/guardian approval to join the group.
  4. Look for a group with significant interaction among the same people. A group of ice-fisherfolk on one lake that each fishes in separate ice-fisher houses and never speak to each other is inappropriate. A kiosk in a shopping mall might not work well because the customers would be constantly changing, and the number of employees would be too few to observe extensive interaction. A group of Warhammer players who paint their own models in shared space and don't speak to each other is inappropriate. A group of chess players who kibitz each other is okay BECAUSE there is social interaction. A group of mall walkers might work perfectly for this assignment. (Kindly choose your own group rather than following these examples.)
  5. Choose a group that is accessible. If you live in Seattle, don't choose an ice skating class in Minneapolis. If your parents will have to drive you, be sure they're willing to do that as often as necessary.(Also, don't use this obligation to evade another obligation: "I can't mow the lawn because I have to do my observations.")
  6. Choose a group that isn't composed of people exactly like you. The idea here is that you are learning about folks who aren't you. Although some writers have been wonderful self-observers (Proust, perhaps), it's easier to observe people you don't know (or whom you don't know well in the context of this group).
  7. Pick a group that you're going to be comfortable working with for the next few weeks. Make sure it's a group that will hold your interest. In fact, pick a group that you will ENJOY learning more about!

What I need from you now

Once you have decided on the social group that you will observe, write a paragraph or two (but no more -- this is not a formal essay) letting me know about the group you intend to observe for our upcoming Subculture Observation Project.


  • the name of the group,
  • the type of group it is (the purpose of the group),
  • and how often it will meet during our course term.


  • that you have or can get your parent's permission to observe,
  • as well as any permission you may need from the group itself.

As you are thinking this through,

  • make sure you will have ready transportation to the group meetings when you need it.

Along with those essential details,

  • show me why you are excited to be observing this subculture (thereby getting me excited about the possibilities)

This is not a report of your observations of the group. It is a proposal about which group you want to observe. Do not start observing until you have received my approval of your group. Once your group is approved, start observing and take good notes. Your first report on your observation is in Lesson 6.

Now that you know what you'll be doing over the whole course, it's time to go on to your first full-fledged assignment.

Sample 1st Assignment - Email & Web-based formats

Redesign your educational experience

Welcome to CTY Online Programs! We hope you have a wonderful experience writing analytical and persuasive essays.

TOPIC: Redesign your educational experience. Figure out what would make school really great, or at least worthwhile, and persuade me of your ideas' benefits.

As you know, there is no maximum length to your essays. Write as much as you want, but instructors usually expect essays to have a minimum length of about 500 words, or about 2 typed pages.

Why This Assignment?

This essay will introduce your instructor to your writing style. It also allows us to jump right into persuasion (a standard essay form in which you should become most fluent) about a topic you know well and are likely to care about.

Planning Your Content

If you are a homeschooler, feel free to write your essay on the benefits and deficits in your educational experience, however contained or wide it is. In other words, don't get stopped by the word "school." Write about your own educational experience.

The first step is to begin thinking about what ideas you'd like to cover in this assignment. This essay question is broad and can lead you in many directions, so it is important to focus your topic. For instance, you could choose to write about curriculum, arguing that English classes would be more useful if students studied more contemporary writers, or perhaps you could argue for a shorter - or longer - school day. Other questions to consider might include the following:

  1. What would you study in a typical year?
  2. What stuff are you reading, writing, drawing, building, performing?
  3. Who is teaching you and how are they going about it?
  4. What role does the computer, including the Internet, play in your education?
  5. What does the school look like, and what facilities does it have?
  6. What are the criteria for evaluating student work?

School is something that you know a lot about, and you probably know how to make it better. The trick is to narrow your topic. Don't try to discuss everything. Find the most promising ideas for which you can argue convincingly.

So what makes a good argument? Ideas and real evidence to back up those ideas (see Guidelines for Persuasive Writing, below). In an assignment like this, you are probably going to be using mostly anecdotal evidence (for example, "Four out of five of my classmates sleep through trigonometry."). That's fine, but you should also try to draw in the rest of the world as you know it. So, if you just read that math scores are down, you might try and explain that from your perspective. A mix of the individual and the (believably) global is ideal. You also might want to consult some outside sources. In that case, make sure you document any ideas that aren't yours. (See "Documenting Your Sources" below.) Of course, it doesn't hurt to believe in your cause.

Don't forget a key to effective persuasion -- an awareness of your reading audience. For instance, you are writing to an instructor who probably believes in education at least a little. So perhaps you would think twice about trying to persuade your instructor that no one should go to school at all. But, see for an example of a veteran public school teacher and New York State Teacher of the Year who doesn't believe in school.

Documenting Your Sources

It is very likely that you might consult an outside source to provide evidence for your essay. The authors of Writing Worth Reading: The Critical Process clearly explain the importance of documentation of sources:

Documenting is an essential part of presenting evidence. You must identify the source of every quotation, fact, statistic, graph, or opinion about your subject that you include in your paper. You must tell your reader where you got every bit of information that you use. Further, you must list for your reader every source you have cited in your paper. In short, you must thoroughly document your research (375).
Writing Worth Reading: The Critical Process, by Nancy Huddleston Packer and John Timpane (1997, Boston: Bedford/St.Martin's)

Since we're working with the humanities (literature, history, philosophy, etc.) here, and MLA style is used in the humanities, that's what we'll use. The basic form is to use the page number in parentheses at the end of a sentence containing a quotation.


As a rule, your instructor will expect you to write at least one draft and make significant changes to it BEFORE mailing the essay. Some instructors ask to see your earlier drafts, and others do not. You may write and revise as often as is reasonable.

When writing a first draft, don't worry much about such niceties as spelling and punctuation and subject-verb agreement. You'll clean those up later. The first draft is for discovering what you have to say: it doesn't matter how you say it, whether you say it perfectly, or if you say too much. The idea is to get lots of thoughts on paper. Author Annie Dillard claims, "It doesn't hurt much to babble in a first draft, so long as you have the sense to cut out irrelevancies later."

Revision happens after the first draft. Revision is the act of re-seeing, of perfecting your language and ideas. Painters will go through a series of sketches to get to the final vision they want on the canvas. The same is true for writers. With each draft or revision, the writing moves closer to a final vision. Many writers save grammatical and spelling corrections for the last draft.

In College Writing: A Personal Approach to Academic Writing (1991, Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook), Toby Fulwiler provides two easily applied revision techniques.

  1. I read aloud to myself and listen for the places where the language sounds thick. (In the previous sentence, the first version read like this: "I read out loud to myself and am able to hear when a sentence is not economical." I didn't like the rhythm or precision and so recast it.) (127)
  2. In the following case, too many prepositional phrases slow down the reader:
    "The success of a company can be attributed to the market analysis of the executives of the company."
    To rewrite this sentence I would go after the three "of" constructions:
    "The company's success can be attributed to its executives' market analysis" (128).

How much revision is "reasonable"? Those who seldom revise should do one more than they want to. Those who always revise may do one less. You know which you are.

In a perfect world, we would revise until the essay was perfect. Walt Whitman revised his book of poems, Leaves of Grass, ten times. But in the real world, we must stop revising when the assignment is due. To do well then, you should start writing when you get the assignment, not the night before it is due in the mail. (Instructors usually recognize rush jobs, though they don't always say so.)

Think and design first, and then try for clean, clear prose. To your computers (pens). Design and persuade on! Do your best and enjoy this challenge. Your instructor is looking forward to the results.


The following are guidelines for writing persuasive essays. During the course we will focus on each one particularly, but it is never too early to take all these points into account as you write your papers. Keep this list beside your due dates calendar.

  1. THESIS: having a strong thesis -- i.e., a statement that succinctly gives your opinion about your limited subject -- is essential. You need to be able to articulate what you think if you have any hope of persuading another to accept your point of view.
  2. PERSONA: you need to have a personal stake in what you assert. Your reader will be more persuaded by you as an authority with first hand knowledge of a subject than about vague, distant claims.
  3. PROS (i.e., reasons for): you need to present multiple reasons for why your position is valid. "Just because I say so" is not enough.
  4. CONS (i.e., reasons against): this one is especially tough because it forces you to imagine points of view other than your own. A powerful persuasive argument brings up opposing views, then counters them to prove them wrong, or concedes them to admit they have a point but then show how pros outweigh the conceded cons.
  5. ORGANIZATION: a strong persuasive essay is architecturally constructed, following a clear outline. Unlike creative writing, which may evolve through play of imagination, persuasive pieces are very carefully planned. Of course, the early stages involve scattered brainstorming, but the final form is tightly constructed. Remember, writing an essay involves several steps:
    1. draft,
    2. revise for organization,
    3. draft again,
    4. copyedit/proofread
  6. SPECIFIC DETAIL: your paper comes alive with specific detail. Stronger than "The lifeguard wasn't very good" is "The Monday afternoon lifeguard ignored five boys running beside the pool and didn't warn the mother who brought glass bottles of Coke."

[Yes, all this takes thinking! You can do it.]

  1. Minimum 500 words on redesigning your educational experience
  2. Your thoughts about the planning, documenting, and revising of this essay.
  3. (Optional) If you have a question about an earlier draft (perhaps a qualm that you removed something you shouldn't have), feel free to send that earlier draft for comparison with the last version, along with a note about why you're sending it.

Technical Requirements

This course requires a properly maintained computer with high-speed internet access and an up-to-date web browser (such as Chrome or Firefox). The student must be able to communicate with the instructor via email. Visit the Technical Requirements and Support page for more details.



"It was really fun an interesting. I learned a lot and am glad I took the course."

"Excellent course and outstanding instructor. I loved every minute of it. Thank you."

"[Instructor's first name] was a supportive instructor and as a parent, I enjoyed reading her comments each week."

"Dr. [Instructor's last name]'s detailed and thoughtful comments on essays are greatly appreciated."

"This was the first course that I felt my daughter was really pushed to improve her writing assignment, and my daughter actually liked having to work harder at improving her writing ability."