Kevin Reyes: Rationale for Informal Writing Exercise – Reliability
The assignment asks students to read two quotations and to write a portrait
of the person referred to. The portrait can include both physical and psychological
characteristics. The students' written descriptions then become the basis for
a discussion about the type of person they imagined.
After this discussion, we read aloud the quotations. I then reveal that both
quotations refer to the same person, Olaudah Equiano, a slave who worked and
bought his freedom within the British Empire during the 18 th century. The
only difference between the two quotations is that one is taken from a history
book and the other from the memoirs of Equiano himself.
The revelation that these two very different descriptions are about the very
same person provides leaping off points for discussions regarding the reliability
of narrators and of sources, the comparison of data for critical analysis,
and the use of quotations.