Book Report on The Sixth Extinction

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English 101 – Maselli

Topics for Essay 2 (based on The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert)

Required Length:  750 words (+ or – 50)




Choose ONE of the following topics based on Elizabeth’s Kolbert The Sixth Extinction.  Do not respond to the topic questions “point by point.”  Instead, develop a unifying thesis that you can develop fully in the course of your essay. (For information on writing your thesis, review Writing Analytically, 147-60 & 175-9.)  Organize your points into an organic whole, and remember to use transitions that effectively connect your ideas.   Avoid writing a summary in response to the topic; this essay requires textual analysis.


Take notes as you work on your paper, so you will write a better cover letter.  Before submission, check your paper to correct any sentence, grammar, or spelling errors.  Use a handbook to help you.


  1. Choose one of the following subjects.


  • Panamanian golden frog
  • Great auk
  • Ammonites
  • Coral reefs
  • Brown bat
  • Sumatran rhino
  • Neanderthal


What is the nature and condition of your subject?  Make your analysis

thorough, specific, and focused on the subject’s unique situation in time and place.

In your discussion, assess the role of human activity and long-term consequences.

Link your discussion to Kolbert’s central arguments in The Sixth Extinction.


  1. According to Kolbert, this year (2106) scientists will vote on whether to designate a new epoch — beginning anywhere from the Industrial Revolution to post-WW II — called the “Anthropocene,” in consequence of massive human interference that will affect our planet for millions of years. For this paper, review what human-driven changes Kolbert examines.   Using evidence that she provides, analyze one of these human-driven changes, for instance its causes and motivations; then, evaluate and respond to the strength of Kolbert’s conclusions.


  1. As smart as humans are, we resist absorbing disruptive information. But, eventually, the crisis engendered by the disruption must force us toward recognition, e. a “paradigm shift.”  This pattern of resistance (to the point of tragedy) followed by accepting a new reality is a recurrent pattern even in literature. The pattern greets great scientific discoveries. (Remember when the earth was flat?) Based on your reading of The Sixth Extinction, what paradigm shift has the science that studies extinction brought about? Is it urgent for humans to embrace this paradigm shift?  Why or why not?  Be specific.


  1. Write an overall analysis of Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction that draws from the following:


  • Author’s thesis, conclusions, solutions
  • Methods of argument (induction, deduction) – give examples
  • Research (consider end-notes and bibliography along with the text) – give examples
  • Arrangement of the chapters and content
  • Purpose (consider audience as part of purpose)


Organize your points into a thesis-driven, organized, and interesting paper.

Incorporate your own reflections.


  1. Kolbert begins the book with an epigraph from E.O. Wilson that reads “…[I]n the instant of achieving self-understanding in the mind of man, life has doomed its most beautiful creation.” What qualities do humans possess that have caused and still cause extinctions — even of our close Neanderthal “relatives” — but may finally serve the cause of preservation? What are scientists and others doing to stem mass extinctions of non-human species? Are these efforts sufficient? Base your paper on the text of The Sixth Extinction.




  • Do not consult any secondary source, such as the Internet. The Sixth Extinctionis your primary source and must be cited in a work-cited page. Note: If you consult a secondary source, the paper will incur point deductions or fail.


  • Use MLA format.  (See the video on MLA format in the Introductory Module.)


  • An original title related to the paper’s thesis is required.


  • The opening paragraph must include the book title (italicized) and the author’s full name. In subsequent references to the author, use only her last name.


  • Use at leastfour relevant quotations that support your analysis.  Integrate quotations into the flow of your paper.  Also cite additional specific examples from the text. Quotations and textual reference require in-text documentation according to MLA style requirements. (You can use Son of Citation Machine if you need assistance formatting the work-cited entry.)


  • Your 250-word cover letter, describing your writing process, should be uploaded as a separate document. (See the instructions for the cover letter.)


  • Record the paper’s word count at the bottom of the essay and also the cover letter

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