You are communicating the wisdom you acquire.

In this great books curriculum, you are not just studying great ideas in the abstract. You are reading some of the best-crafted texts from the master writers of Western civilization. You begin your study of writing through your practice of reading. From there, you can see that the finest writing gives life and relative permanence to ideas that have consequences. You see that well-crafted words that are fixed on a page have power to stir up thought, affection, and action. Then, in session, you start putting your own understanding into words. You give verbal accounts that your group might challenge, refine, adopt, or amplify. Together as a group, you gather what wisdom you can and discover what language will successfully convey that wisdom to one another.

Still, with so much reading and talking, you could run the risk of never finishing thoughts, of constantly exploring but never arriving. Your writing accomplishes, among other goods, moments of fixity and firmness in your sea of learning. Even your written notes (both pre-class and in-class) are part of your writing practice in this regard. Mostly, though, you practice your own writing craft throughout the semester in Pull Questions and a Torrey Paper.

You practice your writing craft to become more winsome and compelling communicators. Every writing exercise can be a practice in the art of persuasion. Every writing exercise can be a practice of the art of taking what you have learned and giving it to others.  

Some of your writing assignments (notes, some Pull Questions) will prompt you simply to explore the ideas you’re garnering from books and discussion. In this case, you’re mostly writing to learn. But also, your writing practice in Torrey should help you learn to write. This is certainly the case in your Torrey Paper. But it is also possible to use all your writing assignments (Pull Questions and even Pre-class Notes) to sharpen your writing craft.

Your major writing assignments are the Pull Questions and Paper. But even your written notes can contribute to your growth as a writer.

Pull Questions

While much of your Torrey work (reading, session, and notebook) is primarily exploratory and expansive, Pull Questions are a key opportunity for you to tie down your opinions and practice the craft of writing. Tutors ask Pull Questions at the end of every session, and their questions are writing prompts that help you pull together your thoughts from the book and session. Your semester’s detailed reading list tells you the exact Pull Question requirement, usually one per book.

Pull Questions are written responses to the tutor’s prompt, typically 300-600 words. You should answer the question well, with an eye to the book that prompted the inquiry. Pull Questions are always due by Mid Rags and Don Rags. Mentors may collect your Pull Questions more frequently and in advance of Mid and Don Rags.

The Torrey Paper

Your Torrey paper is a rich opportunity to work deeply on one thing over the course of the whole semester. We require your sustained attention to one large writing project not only for the sake of the final paper you’ll produce, but also for the unique goods that come from participating in such a dynamic process. Because you work through different stages of the paper process across the entire semester, the assignment asks for a high degree of investment, investigation, reflection, and revision.

The Torrey Paper is the product of your sustained and focused work on one particular thread of the curriculum. This paper and its thesis should be analytic in that the majority of your insights come from your analysis of primary texts and their ideas. It should be argumentative in that you could imagine other responsibly thoughtful people having different ideas than you do and that you intend to demonstrate that your ideas have the most warrant. It should be persuasive in that, both in style and content, you make every effort to convince your reader to arrive at the same conclusions as you have. There are many excellences that distinguish a successful paper; among them are insight, cogency, organization, and clarity.

Missing or late work at any stage of the paper process—proposal, first submission, or second submission—may result in grade penalty.


1. All students are required to follow the formatting rules in Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations.

2. There are three main phases of the assignment, all of which receive faculty feedback: the proposal, the first submission, and the second submission.

3. Revision is mandatory for all students. Failure to revise results in grade penalty.


Paper proposals should reflect some significant work on your part to find an argument you are interested in making and a plausible framework for it that is coherent. Your mentor will assign and collect your paper proposal. Specific proposal prompts come directly from your mentor. The scope and aim of the proposal assignment is for you to articulate a working concept of your whole paper, its argument and plan. Mentors troubleshoot, refine, or accept your paper proposal without qualification. If your proposal is rejected, you must resubmit a proposal in short time.


Paper length expectations and source freedom both increase with your status. The standard expectation is that you must have had session on a book to use it as a primary source for your paper.

Freshmen: 2,100  3,000 words. Use of up to two Torrey texts allowed.
Sophomores: 3,000 – 3,600 words.
Juniors: 3,600 – 4,500 words.
Seniors: 4,500 – 5,400 words.


You may solicit feedback from your mentor throughout the drafting process, but need not. The paper you submit on the first submission deadline should be the finest version you are capable of composing so that your revision work will actually produce growth in your writing capacities. The quality of your first submission may bear upon your final grade. Your mentor will return your paper with revision feedback.


Your revision process should richly improve your first submission. Your mentor will provide you with guidance and requirements for revision. In addition to adhering to your mentor’s revision feedback, you should pay fresh attention to every word, sentence, and paragraph you have placed in your paper. You will turn in a second submission of your paper (with your first submission attached to it) on the department’s second submission deadline. Your mentor will grade your final submission. By Don Rags, your mentor will return your graded paper.


Since there are so many skills, habits, and activities that could contribute to your wholesoul development, you have the occasional opportunity to propose a project in lieu of a paper. To be eligible for a project, your mentor must determine that you have demonstrated enough skill in your writing to be released from the paper requirement for a semester and you should write at least one term paper for Torrey in the academic year.

The sky’s the limit for fruitful projects. You propose your project to your mentor. For many projects, time spent will be an important criterion, in which case the department standard is that projects should take a minimum of forty hours. As with a paper proposal, your mentor retains the right to disapprove, troubleshoot, refine, or pass your proposal without qualification.

A project proposal format will be specified by your mentor, but any sound project proposal should include the reason you’re doing the project, the scope of your work, and the plan for grading and evaluation. You should begin a conversation with your mentor about project ideas at the beginning of the semester. Mid Rags is the latest deadline for project proposals.

Some standard categories into which project proposals often fall are listed below.


(Performance Oriented) The department grants paper credit for student participation in Torrey Theater Club, Torrey Music, and Urban Plunge leadership. The clubs (and their participation requirements) are student-run with faculty oversight.


Students often want to internalize some significant portion of the Scriptures or a poetic text. Students work with mentors to determine the scope of the project as well as the criteria for assessment. As a point of comparison, students regularly tackle epistles like Ephesians, Colossians and once, even Romans!


There are numerous ways that students could pursue and practice the arts (musical, visual, verbal, or performance) for a project. The evaluation rubric will vary with the scope of the particular project, but forty hours of work is a minimum requirement.


Often students want to incorporate new or more rigorous practices of prayer or solitude or fasting or the like. Mentors collaborate with students to craft a semester-long project that includes some reflection on the practices adopted.


Students might want to explore ways to bring their big ideas to life in real communities. Legitimate projects would include at least forty hours of work that is not compensated or incentivized apart from of the academic credit received in Torrey. Students have also pursued projects like teaching poetry to juvenile hall residents and composing and implementing unique Sunday School curricula.

Work and service in local communities gives you the opportunity to witness ideas in action and ideals in practice. It provides you with the an opportunity to learn from persons, communities, and institutions outside the walls of the university. ASL pairs the practice of virtues such as humility and charity with skills such as strategy and creativity. ASL is built into the JH Sophomore Fall course and the MH Sophomore Spring course as a requirement.

Torrey Solidarity 

All sophomores have the unique opportunity to do Torrey Solidarity as a project option instead of writing a paper for one semester (JH fall and MH spring). This 40 hour project will help expand your view of the great conversations initiated in your texts by putting them, and you, in a shared context beyond the classroom. At least half of that time will be spent serving and learning with our community organization partner in Fullerton—Solidarity. For the rest of the time, you will process your experiences individually and with other Torrey students and draw connections to your texts. Participation in this successful program is highly recommended but option. 


Students often want to master a body of literature that is not part of the Torrey curriculum. Student reading projects are usually at least 1500 pages. A legitimate proposal for a reading project includes a description of the student’s motivations and aims, a draft of a reading list (with page count), deadline(s), and a presentation plan.

Presentation could take the form of reading notes, a final brief reflection paper, conversation(s) with faculty, an annotated bibliography, or any other satisfactory means by which a faculty mentor can gather sufficient evidence to confirm the completion of the assignment.

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