What do you suppose is the most common college writing assignment in America?

As a college librarian there are several topics I get asked so often that I’m a walking annotated bibliography on them: I can tell you what books we have, what articles we have and what magazines, journals and or databases they appear in, best websites to go to, etc., because I’ve had so many other students doing identically the same report so damned many times. Most other college reference librarians and English professors are probably pretty much the same way.

This has me wondering: what do you suppose the single most commonly required writing assignment is in American colleges? I’m not referring to the general “introduce yourself” or the “tell us why you want to be a ____” some freshmen have to write but those on a particular individual topic that requires some library research.

Two I would guess would be on the short list:

A Rose For Emily- the exact thesis may vary, but that must be the single most assigned literary analysis paper in all of human history. I honestly believe that if you went back in time to the era of Gilgamesh when the Epic of Gilgamesh was still the only great story that had been written down and the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents of William Faulkner’s great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents were still thousands of years off you’d still have had to write a paper on A Rose for Emily (at least an oral tale that involves a girl name Imm-a-Li who grows old with a dead guy in her hut) before you could get out of cuneiform school.

Legalization of Marijuana- probably is to persuasive papers what Rose/Emily is for literary analysis papers. (Worst are the students who think they’re being original and or edgy in choosing the pro- side of the topic.)

What else would be on a list of “Most Assigned (or at least most written about) Topics”?

Abortion. Abortion. Abortion.

Top three topics I never want to read another freshman essay about.

Good call.

For my comparative religion class we had to write a paper on anything. What was funny was on the prompt the teacher wrote, “Yes, we all know religion has been very kind to women, but I don’t want a paper on it.”

So I’m assuming he just got tired of reading the same papers over and over again and just banned it wholesale.

Sis, can you write a note to school from Mom for me?

I’ll see your Rose for Emily and raise you a Shakespeare. At the college level, probably Hamlet.

Which religions would that include?

When I was in college I recall an assignment for a paper on a “great debate”. 99% of the class went directly to abortion, religion, etc. My friend wrote a paper on a big debate involving baseball players and the MLB (think 1978-ish for the time-frame) and the prof was SOOOO thrilled to get something other than the norm she got the only A+ in the class.

A friend who went to school in Montgomery, Alabama said his (black) social studies teacher gave an assignment to do a report on “An African American Hero or Heroine (who wasn’t named Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Booker T. Washington or George Washington Carver)” because she was so tired of papers on those four. (All four have local connections- in fact this was at G.W. Carver High School, which is distinct from Booker T. Washington High School, also here in town.)

Abortion, Euthanasia, Suicide.

Though it was high school, not college, those three topics were banned in a few of my classes. Also in once class; sovereignty, but it was the mid-90s and in Quebec, so I doubt that applies anywhere else!

The homeless.

I had never heard of “Rose for Emily” had to wiki it. Sampiro and kunilou, are you Southerners?

Whoops. That was supposed to be “hasn’t been very kind…”

One of those typos that change the entire meaning.

Abortion, really? I never would have guessed. What assignment usually leads to an abortion paper? I mean, are these short stories with an abortion plot, or persuasive papers? Is it a controversial subject among most college freshmen?

I’ve never even heard of A Rose for Emily. Good thing I’m not a lit major, I guess. :smiley:

Really? We read “A Rose For Emily” back in high school, and we’re about as Northern as you can get on this coast.
My guess for most common essay topic would be something on Huck Finn. Not only did I have multiple college lit classes that covered HF, two of them were the same damn semester. I’ve never liked HF, so I was really thrilled.

I would say exploitation/treatment of women is a huge one in freshmen college writing classes.

At least in our class it was interesting because the topic in question was “women in pornography”

As far as analysis of a book for freshmen: Walden and Civil Disobedience by Thoreau. God what a horrendous piece of shit that book is…

Hey, Runs With Scissors, I got an A on my paper about the homeless.

Granted, it was about efforts to aid people whose villages were burnt in the 30 years war.

Around here it’s ecology topics. Today I did Earthships and passive heat, yesterday it was permaculture, the day before I think it was…energy something? Ecology is pretty much a daily thing here, and I only work a couple hours a day.

I never get Hamlet; I get analysis of zombies in pop culture. In fact about the only traditional literature I get is drama students looking for scenes in modern plays. But I work at a CC.

I get tons of papers about the origins of holidays.