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ENGL 101-Optimism One: Home

This guide will help you successfully navigate Essay One.

Navigating Essay One

Step One: Become an Expert on Your Tendency (pg. 15)

Since you must connect with one of "The Four Tendencies" in your essay, take the online quiz, download the report, and pour over it like you would your favorite horoscope.  Do you recognize yourself in the description? Which parts are most applicable? Can you think of specific examples where habits you've tried to make or break in the past were effected by your tendency to uphold, oblige, rebel, or question? 

Step Two: Reflect on the Distinctions (pg. 31)

Revisit the chapter on distinctions. The author suggests that good habits are most effectively formed when we fully understand those parts of our personality that are foundational and largely unchanging.  She presents a series of competing personality pairs (Owl vs. Lark, Finisher vs. Opener, Promotion vs. Prevention Focused, etc).  Read through each pair to figure out which distinction best fits with you. Again, it's helpful to think of specific examples where these distinctions have manifested in your life. That way you can understand them experientially, not just intellectually. Your distinctions will help you figure out potential challenges. For instance, if you are a night Owl (as opposed to a morning Lark), it might be hard for you to adopt a morning exercise routine.

Step Three: Which Pillars Do You Lean On? (pp. 45-100)

The section on Pillars of Habits is another place to revisit, reread, and make notes.  Acknowledge who you are in terms of what motivates you to maintain good habits. Knowing what works to motivate you is very useful as you think about what steps you need to take to successfully adopt and maintain a new habit.

Step Four: Choose a Meaningful Habit

Embrace the opportunity to spend the semester bettering yourself in some small but significant way. Have you been thinking you need to eat better, sleep more, or exercise regularly?  Maybe you need to improve your attendance at school, your homework habits, your relationship with screen-based technology? How about adopting a habit that improves important relationships: walking your dog every day, reading to your child, calling a grandparent every week? Try to avoid picking a habit you think will conform to the paper; instead, pick a habit that is really meaningful to you and the paper will be much easier to complete. 

Step Five: Explore Your Habit

After you identify a habit you would like to adopt, Google the habit to learn more about it.  What are the benefits of adotping this habit? Are the benefits physical? Psychological? Economic? Environmental? Can you find ideas on how to successfully adopt and maintain the habit from others who have embarked on a similar journey. Some questions you might want to start answering for yourself: 

  • Why is this habit important?
  • How does it improve your life?
  • How does it improve the life of others?
  • Can you find advice on the specific steps to take to adopt and ultimately maintain this habit?
  • Can you find advice on potential obstacles to adopting this habit? Maintaining it?

The Web is a great place to find background reading on your topic. You'll finds lots of easy-to-read popular and substantive sources that can help you generate ideas about the concept and how it fits into your life (or maybe how you wish it fit into your life!). You won't be citing any of these sources in your essay; instead, you'll use them to better understand the the answers to the questions

Also, keeping a running list of search terms is a GREAT IDEA. 

Step Six: Find Your Database Sources

Once you have a good working knowledge of yourself and your habit, it's time to find some credible, academically appropriate sources to back up your essay. You need to find a minimum of two research sources:

  • One of these sources can be any source found in the library databases (including magazine, newspaper, journal, and encyclopedia articles, videos, and books)
  • One of these sources must be from a peer-reviewed journal. 

The MJC Library subscribes to nearly 100 databases. A selection of these databases are linked below

Preliminary reading

Preliminary Reading Evaluate and Refine topics



What IS Peer Review, Anyway?

Step Five: Evaluate ALL Sources Before Use

Finding information is these days is easy. Your job is to find reliable information. You can use the CRAAP Test to evaluate your sources. 

CRAAP Test criteria


For more in-depth information about the evaluating sources, follow the links below

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