University of Wisconsin–Madison

A Take-Home Midterm in Dairy Science

Professor Michel Wattiaux, Dairy Science 375: Mexico Seminar

Guidelines for Take-Home Midterm


In the first part of this seminar, we have read and discussed articles on global population and how changes in population structure in various countries have impacted government policies on a number of issues (immigration, birth rate, social security, etc.). We have also touched on “society and environment” as well as the potential of the “Livestock Revolution” as a way to fight poverty and promote sustainable rural development in poor countries. We also looked at world food (livestock product) production and discussed the similarities and differences between “developing” and “developed” countries. We discussed the contribution of livestock to societies around the world, defined “resource-poor farmer” (small-holder), and briefly described technology and other factors associated with the “development” of agricultural production in a country. Also, we have discussed international trades, and we watched clips from a movie called Life and Debt showing how Jamaica was handled by the Inter-American Bank and the International Monetary Funds (IMF) and how in the 1990s “globalization policies” imposed on Jamaica by the international banking system put an end to a growing dairy industry on the island. The goal of this midterm is for you to CONNECT information/data we have read and discussed so far in the class. To do so, you will make up a “story” of your own.


Your assignment consists in developing a 1000-1200-word report / story / newsletter / article / “research” proposal / letter to a newspaper editor / letter to your senator / personal “journal entries” or any other form of creative writing that will help you summarize, analyze, and connect from a particular perspective some of the material discussed in class so far. To help you understand “what I am looking for,” follow these steps:

  • Pick some of the themes/topics and the “set-up”: Review some of the articles and discussions and decide on the key points that were most relevant, striking, or of interest to you for at least two of the weekly readings and discussion topics of the seminar, and around which you would be comfortable to “build a story.” Think about possible “scenarios” (see examples above).
  • Pretend you are somebody else, pick a role you want to play: Decide who you want to be as a writer. For example, you can imagine yourself as a (dairy) producer, a teacher, a journalist, an anti-globalization demonstrator, an environmental advocate, a salesperson, or the CEO of a commercial company exporting goods and services to developing countries. Note that you should not pretend to be yourself, but it is okay to impersonate, for example, a Peace Corps volunteer.
  • Pick an “audience,” a “target group”: For whom are you writing? Your audience can be for example, other farmers, other teachers, policy makers in the state capital, K12 kids, your president, future Peace Corps volunteer, etc.; note that your “audience” cannot be your class instructor.
  • Given your role and your target audience, decide what is/are the main message(s) you want to get across:0 Given the perspective of the person you pretend to be, what do you want your audience to know about the topic? What is/are your bottom-line message(s)?
  • Start writing (be it your report/story/newsletter/letter, etc.):
    1. In a direct or indirect way, introduce who you are / who you represent. Also make sure that your intended reader(s)/audience is identified clearly either directly or indirectly.
    2. Explain the purpose of your writing to your target audience (why did you write this report for her/him/them?).
    3. Introduce the issue(s) you want them to know about / what is/are the problem(s)?
    4. Discuss the issue(s): What are the reasons for the “current situation,” what is the “good news” or the “bad news”? What are the success stories? What are the things that we need to work on? What would happen if your message / your plea is not heard?
    5. Develop a series of arguments as much as possible based on facts/evidences presented in the readings and Q&A to convince your audience of a few important points. What is it that you are trying to “teach” or “convince” them of? Again, try to rely as much as possible on what we have discussed in class and (or) related literature to build your arguments.
    6. Conclude with “logical” bottom-line messages you want your audience to take home and a vision of how to make the future better.
    7. Include a short citation list (web pages, article discussed in class, and other “reliable” source of information you have used in creating your “story”).

Drop (i.e., upload) your report in the website dropbox at and be prepared to make a short oral presentation of your story to the class (see course schedule for more details).


This take-home midterm will count for 20 points for the total of 100 for the class. Although the rubric below shows 25 points for the written material, the grade will be recalculated and will count for 15 points in the final grade. The oral portion will count for 5 points.

Written grading rubrics will be as follows:

Advanced (≥ 23/25; letter grade A): Exceed expectation; follows all instructions described above. The writing conveys clear ideas; it is thoughtful and carefully formatted. Connections between selected topics are clearly established. The main statements and arguments are supported by cited material. Independent analysis is provided in the form of qualitative and (when/if available) quantitative evidences. The writing presents a good balance between being a “summary,” an “analysis,” and a “commentary” of the selected topics.

Proficient (20 to 22/25; letter grade AB): Met expectation; follows most of the instructions described above. The writing conveys important ideas but some of them may be somewhat disconnected from the main theme of the paper. The document is properly written and formatted. The statements and arguments are expressed clearly and supported by cited evidence. The text includes fact and figures that are useful to the intended target audience. However, the report is written more as a “summary” of what we discussed in class or as a “commentary” rather than an original and independent analysis.

Basic (17-19/25; letter grades B and BC): Below expectation; follows partially the instructions described above. The document does not convey ideas and issues clearly. The statements and arguments are either not expressed clearly and/or not supported by evidences. The document does not include a citation list. Bold and unsubstantiated assertions are made with little or no argumentation and justification. The text provides little evidences of independent analysis. The writing is almost exclusively a “summary” or a statement of personal “opinion” (rather than a grounded position on an issue).

Minimal (≤16/25; letter grades C, D and F): Far below expectation; hardly follows any of the instructions described above. The report is confusing and poorly written. The statements and arguments are poorly articulated and no evidences are provided. The document does not include a citation list. No analysis is provided in the report. The text reveals poor attention to grammar and spelling. The report is a disjointed summary of various topics covered in class.

Checklist, evaluation criteria, and grading scale of your take-home “story”

Rubric itemsPtsPtsPtsPts
Have you identified the report/writing perspective (the protagonists): who you are as an author and who your audience is, has been made self-evident early in the story.0 – 1  2
Have you made the objective(s) of the writing clear/obvious?0 – 1  2
Have you identified clearly the issue(s) you want to focus on and connect with each other?0 – 1234
Have you conveyed your ideas/concepts clearly to your audience?0 – 1  2
Have you relied on data or evidences (as discussed in class and/or from other reliable sources of information) that you have compiled in a citation list?0 – 1234
Have you provided an independent analysis of the situation? (i.e., helped your chosen audience to “really think about” and gain new “insights” in the issues they need to learn about and have you provided information/data beyond what has been read/discussed in class?)0 – 1234
Have you written a story that contains a good balance in that it provides a clear overview of a problem, an analysis of the situation and a “commentary” consistent with the chosen perspective? (i.e., does it all “tie” together).0 – 1  2
Have you written a logical and convincing summary/conclusion(s) that is consistent with the “story”?0 – 1  2
Have you paid attention to word count, format (headings/paragraphs/ and other formatting details), grammar, and spelling?0123
Total (maximum):   25


Checklist, evaluation criteria and grading scale of your take-home “story”

Rubric items1.0 Pt2.0 Pts2.5 Pts
The “set-up” (characters at play, the story at hand, etc.):BoringInterestingInnovative
Quality of the oral presentation:UnpreparedNormalEngaging
Enthusiasm of the presenter:LittleAs expectedContagious
Credibility of the arguments (elements) of the story:FlawedConsistentTrustworthy
Total (maximum):48 10

Midterm take-home final score (30 points) will be calculated as the written score (up to 25 points) plus a rescaled oral presentation score (up to 5 points).