English 481: Popular Then/Classic Now: Advanced Study in American Authors, 1865-1940

Spring 2012

Précis Assignment
Précis rubric

Due: April 3, 2012. Paper versions are due in class; electronic versions must be uploaded to Angel by 9 p.m.
Length: Approximately 2 typed, double-spaced pages (500-600 words)
For this assignment, you’ll write a précis on a journal article or book chapter that relates to the topic for your second paper.


  • You should consult the MLA Bibliography, not merely ProQuest, Project Muse, JStor, or another online database, in choosing your article.
  • You’ll receive extra credit for using a book or journal that is not online.
  • Your précis must include either a link to the online source or a photocopy of your print source.
  • The précis should be formal in tone, although you may use “I” in the second paragraph as you evaluate the work.
  • Although reading this article may help you in writing your final paper, you aren’t required to use the article in your paper. You may discover that the article is not as useful as you might have hoped.
  • Form:

    A précis is a summary and critical evaluation of a piece of scholarly work. It will typically take the following form:

    1. Full bibliographic citation in MLA format of the article or book chapter.
    2. First paragraph: an objective summary or abstract of the article. This paragraph should present the information as objectively as possible. You’ll have a chance to critique the argument in the second part of your précis. You should not use the abstract published with the journal article or book chapter. The first paragraph should contain the following information:
      1. The overall argument that the author is making, including the author’s thesis, the logical thread of the argument, the kinds of support provided, and so forth. If the author invents or uses special terms to argue the case, mention and define them.
      2. The context for the argument. What critics or points of view is the author attempting to refute? Where does the author’s argument fit into the larger critical discussion of the issue? Is the author attempting to overturn certain assumptions about the work, and, if so, what are those assumptions?
    3. Second paragraph: a critical analysis of the article. In this paragraph, you’ll assess the strengths and weaknesses of the article and discuss the implications of its reasoning for future study of the work. These questions may help you get started:
      1. What parts of the article were especially strong or insightful, and why?
      2. In what parts of the essay (if any) did the author make claims that were not supported by the evidence? Were there any flaws in the logic of the piece?
      3. In what ways is this article useful for understanding the novel? How significant is it?

    You may use more paragraphs if you need to, but you should follow this basic format.

    The précis will count for 5% of your grade (see syllabus). It will not receive extensive comments; instead, it will be graded using the following rubric:


    Possible Points

    Actual Points

    Full bibliographic citation in MLA format of the article or book chapter.



    Printout of article handed in with précis



    Summary of article (first paragraph)



    Critique of article (second paragraph)



    Quality of writing (style, grammar, punctuation, etc.)






    Extra credit for writing about an article or book chapter not available online



    Last Modified 02/27/2012 10:55:43


    Paraphrase, Summary, and précis from the University of Kansas


    Last Modified 02/27/2012 10:55:43