University Writing loosely follows the schedule outlined here.
In our first class of the semester, we will go over the course syllabus and discuss its learning objectives.
The handout we will review summarizes what skills you need to succeed in this course. I emphasize the importance of this summary because knowing and developing these skills will help you write at the university level.
Students will also learn what to expect from the course, how it is organized, and how their work will be assessed.
The course begins with a bird's eye view of academic writing as a means of sharing ideas, knowledge, and research. It is the main vehicle for what you'll come to know as the "scholarly conversation," which happens in a broader public context.
We start with a premise for this course and its overarching objective: to understand the relationship between the quality of your ideas and how you express them.
At the end of the class, I'll ask you to complete a casual "assignment" to introduce yourself and to reflect upon the role of a university education in your life. More details can be found in the slides. I'll also direct you to the course website, where you can find your pre-class readings under Week 2 in the schedule.
This session will introduce students to writing practices and conventions in an academic context. We will discuss the purposes writing serves in university and how it is a tool for communicating our knowledge of culture, society, and all areas of academic inquiry.
Our primary takeaway and guiding principle for this discussion is that writing is not only the way in which we communicate our ideas and knowledge but also our primary means of knowing and thinking. This context will inform how I introduce the basic strategies and principles used to approach each writing task in university.
During this class, we will also start a conversation about the "academic style." The underlying concepts of this discussion will lead us to various avenues throughout the semester, all in an effort to identify what constitutes "good writing" and how we can apply that knowledge to our work.
Extra Help for Grammar, Sentence Construction, & Parts of Speech
Our discussions this week will be informed by questions and concerns surrounding academic integrity. We will also discuss writing techniques that demonstrate reading comprehension: summary, paraphrase, and quotation.
Academic integrity is a core value that governs how educators and students study, write, and conduct themselves both within and outside of education. Primarily, it is the guiding principle that demands we are honest and fair in our work.
In education, work exists in the form of learning, which involves studying, researching, and writing. "Plagiarism" is how we refer to violations of academic integrity in research and in writing, and naturally it will occupy much of our focus for this class. Plagiarism is the use of others' work without attribution. It is the presentation of others' ideas as your own.
We will examine intentional and unintentional plagiarism and a variety of examples of each, and our focus will move to avoiding plagiarism through intuitive and attentive strategies and practices. These discussions will stress the profound importance of academic integrity and its relevance to our identity as students and educators.
The strategies and practices to avoid plagiarism include purposeful use of summaries, paraphrases, and quotations, three methods writers use to present the knowledge and ideas of others. These skills allow writers to fluently integrate arguments, opinions, and facts into their own work while giving credit to the original author.
By the end of this class, you will be able to distinguish between summary, paraphrase, and quotation. You will also know _when _each method should be used in your own essay and how to effectively use them. You will also be well-equipped to avoid all forms of plagiarism whenever you integrate or rely on sources in your writing.
Our discussion on critical reading expands on our topics from week 3. We take a deeper look at the methods and strategies writers use to get more out of a text. Summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting are used to present information in a new context, but critical reading is how we make sense of attitudes, ideologies, and patterns of thought in a complex work. We'll discuss Tom Chatfield's "I type therefore I am" and show how close reading leads to exposition, two essential tools for reading and writing in an academic context.
Please print out and bring copies of "I type therefore I am" and the assignment instructions for your first essay. We'll discuss how essay prompts and questions are drawn from a primary text. To participate in this discussion it is essential to have these documents on hand.
We'll also talk about paragraphs, a topic that serves as an introduction to the structure of academic essays. We'll define the paragraph as a microcosm of the whole essay by talking about topic sentences and how to support them. We'll also emphasize two features of effective paragraphs that help us think about effective structure more generally: coherence and unity.
These topics will span two weeks. The class on February 2nd will be a more extensive discussion on paragraphs as the building blocks for the academic essay.
No pre-class readings for this week. You'll complete a short mid-term test worth 15% that will assess the modes of restatement we've discussed in class -- summary, paraphrase, and quotation. Please review the slides from the previous weeks so you have a solid foundation and ensure that you closely study the readings from week 3. To prepare for this test, you must be able to differentiate between the three methods, and you must be able to distinguish them as a whole from other writing tasks that are expected at the university level. You should also have a firm grasp on how to prevent plagiarism when integrating evidence.
Peer Review Workshop
February 23 - 1: Thesis Statements and Essay Structure
The next two weeks we'll be focusing on thesis statements, essay structure, and effective argumentation. We'll discuss how to write and revise thesis statements that are qualified, argumentative claims that assert the crux of the essay and provide guidance for your reader. We'll examine and compare a few examples of strong and weak thesis statements.
Expanding on our discussion of thesis statements, we'll also discuss the structure of an academic essay more broadly. We'll develop a conceptual understanding of introductions and conclusions to understand their specific purposes. To this end, we'll discuss how they serve as "transition points" for your audience, and we'll go over different strategies and techniques writers use to write effective introductions and conclusions.
We'll also return to body paragraphs in order to understand how they can be integrated well into an effective argument. You'll learn how each body paragraph serves to support, expand upon, and validate your essay's central claim. You'll also learn how ideas are organized, expressed, and supported by the logical connections your paragraphs make between generalized claims and specific evidence and examples.
In addition to your textbook, there are many resources available online that cover and expand on these topics. I've identified a few of them above, but I welcome you to share resources you find useful on our Slack channel.
No pre-class readings this week. Please use the time to prepare a draft of your argumentative essay, whose instructions are available here. During your writing process, you should refer to the summary of skills for reminders on elements of critical essays.
After a close overview of a sample argumentative essay, you'll break into groups to share your work and review the work of others. Please use the suggestions in the class slides when reviewing your own draft before submission.
The next two classes will provide an overview of how research works in an academic context. We will discuss how to find, evaluate, curate, and integrate information from sources to strengthen your writing process. You will learn to identify credible sources and how to read and analyze sources to complement and sustain a broader argument.
This class reviews all of the grammar topics we've discussed throughout the semester. Our review includes an extensive preview of how the grammar test is structured, with specific examples and terms you need to know to do well on it. Students should be prepared to discuss the elements of composition and grammatical concepts we've learned throughout the course.
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