Placement Assignment

Fall 2014 - Scarcity

The writing assignment below asks you to read an excerpt from the Fall ’14 Montclair Book, Mullainathan and Shafir’s Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much (2013), and to write an argumentative essay that works with concepts in the book. You can easily buy this book online or at your local bookstore, or you can borrow it from your local library. (You will also be using this book in your First-Year Writing course in the fall and so you should consider purchasing it now.)  

In order to complete the assignment, you must read the introduction and first chapter of Scarcity (pages 1-38). As you will notice throughout their book, Mullainathan and Shafir rely on anecdotes to help them illustrate the major concepts that drive their project, such as “tunneling,” “scarcity,” and “focus dividend,” among others. As the authors note, these phenomena tend to operate both beneficially and detrimentally. Tunneling, for example, inevitably excludes a lot even as it allows for pointed focus.

Writing Assignment:

Considering the concepts explored in the assigned pages, write an essay that makes an argument about the extent to which one or more of these concepts have functioned in a particular instance in your own life. Build an argument that analyzes your own experience in light of Mullainathan and Shafir’s concepts. In order to be successful, you’ll need to not only describe your experiences but also explain the connections between your experiences and the authors’ concepts, quoting from the reading and building a well-organized argumentative essay.

Requirements for Placement Assignment:

Length: The placement draft must be 2 to 3 pages long (typed and double-spaced).  

Style: MLA – a full description of MLA style can be found in a writing handbook or online here.

Sources: You must appropriately cite and refer to Scarcity and no other materials.

Academic Honesty: You are expected to write this paper alone and without consulting or using additional sources. For help in understanding academic dishonesty, please review the University’s policy.

Students who are interested in receiving feedback on their essays-in-progress are encouraged to visit the Center for Writing Excellence (CWE), located on the first floor of Sprague Library. Please visit the CWE’s website for hours and to make an appointment:

Looking ahead to September: Your professor will lead you through more extensive reading and discussion of Scarcity, as well as through further development of this assignment in new and likely less personal directions that challenge you to apply your understanding of Scarcity to broader contexts. This assignment will therefore become the foundation for the first grade you receive in your writing class, so be sure to save a copy of your essay in an electronic form you can access once you have begun classes.

Further Questions?

Please email any questions you may have to