University Writing 30:151

This course introduces students to the strategies and principles of writing an academic essay. Throughout the semester, students will learn and practise the foundational skills of academic inquiry and thesis-based writing. The topics studied in depth include essay and paragraph structure, thesis statements, argumentation and exposition, evaluating and using evidence, citation practices, and more. We will also discuss how skillful uses of language—grammar, usage, diction, style, and tone—contribute to effective academic writing. Although topics will vary between conceptual and practical, the main objective of the course is for students to understand the relationship between quality and clarity of thought and expression. Students are primarily assessed on the writing and research demonstrated in the assigned essays, whose topics and content are chosen from assigned lists or developed in consultation with the instructor.


Moran, Michael and L. Karen Soiferman. A Student's Guide to Academic Writing. Don Mills: Pearson, 2014. Print.

Other assigned readings available online.


Engkent, Lucia and Garry Engkent. Essay Do's and Don'ts: A Practical Guide to Essay Writing. Don Mills: Oxford UP, 2013. Print.

Assignment Schedule and Assessment

Assignment instructions will be distributed throughout the semester. Please read the instructions carefully and refer to the summary of skills handout for assessment guidelines. Page totals for assigned essays do not include the title page, endnotes, or bibliography. (Assignment instructions are also available online. See below.)

  1. Essay workshops (5%, dates one week before #4 and #6)
  2. First essay: 4-page expository essay (15%, due February 9)
  3. Short test on summary, paraphrase, and academic integrity (15%, February 9)
  4. Second essay: 5-page argumentative essay, with at least 1 external source (20%, due March 8)
  5. Annotated bibliography: 4 sources (10%, due March 22)
  6. Third essay: 7-page research essay, with at least 4 external sources (25%, due April 5)
  7. Grammar test (10%, April 5)

Topic Schedule

Course Policies


Assignments submitted for this course must be typed in a standard 12-pt sized font, double-spaced, and formatted according to APA or MLA guidelines. Although we will discuss these citation styles in class, you are expected to refer to the textbook (or an updated MLA or APA guide) for questions about formatting, citation, and bibliographies. Essays that do not meet the page or citation requirements will affect your grade. Once your essay is finished and presentable, you can submit it either directly to me or to the Arts office (CHO 100). Students who prefer a digital copy of their marked essay should discuss it with me.

Assignments that are submitted after the deadline without notice will lose one letter grade per day. Students who need additional time to work on their essays should contact me to discuss an extension. Failure to attend class, obtain the assignment instructions, or discuss the course requirements with me are unacceptable reasons for unsubmitted or late work.

Failure to submit an assignment will result in a mark of 0. If you have not submitted the required coursework by the end of the term or discussed your situation with me, you will receive a 0 on the unsubmitted work and your grade will be calculated accordingly.

All essays will be returned to you with corrections and, more importantly, constructive feedback that specifies what works well in your writing and what needs improvement. Please use this as a learning opportunity to improve for your next essay.

All assignment instructions and essay questions are available on the online course hub. Please contact me to clarify instructions or discuss assignments.

Academic dishonesty

The university imposes serious penalties on students whose assignments and tests contain evidence of dishonesty or misconduct (see Section 4.2.2 of the General Calendar). Plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated, and it is an offense that I take very seriously. Your essays are subject to scrutiny in many aspects, and I consider carelessness in citation or misrepresenting another's ideas as your own to be inexcusable. Although we will discuss plagiarism in class, you should still be familiar with the University's policy on academic dishonesty.


Students are encouraged to ask for help whenever the need arises. If you wish to discuss your status or progress in the course, I welcome you to either visit my office during the appropriate hours or email me to arrange another time.


Please do not interrupt the class while using electronic devices.


We're using a simple website to help you stay organized throughout the semester. The online course hub is the easiest way to access course resources, including this syllabus, the course schedule, lecture slides, assigned readings, and assignment instructions. To succeed in this course, it is essential that you regularly check the course hub for updates and that you use the resources available through it.


This course emphasizes the need to write clearly, concisely, and logically. I believe one component of learning how to write effectively is through understanding sentence composition. We will discuss grammar not as a set of rules you must obey but as a concrete way of improving your writing. You are expected to follow the conventions of Standard Written English in any writing you submit for this course. This expectation will prepare you to write at the university level.


A full grading guideline will be distributed at the beginning of the semester. You should refer to the summary of skills and assignment instructions for more specific guidelines for how each essay is evaluated. The following breakdown for letter grades is used within the course:

An "A" is reserved for excellent work that shows proficiency in structure, argumentation, organization, writing style, and engagement with research. An "A" paper expresses complex ideas with clarity and rigour. The essay's content reveals the depth of the writer's knowledge about the topic, and the author provides insight beyond the basic provisions of the assignment. The significance of the essay's argument emerges due to rhetorical strategies, a precise and lively prose style, and an intelligent and interesting perspective.

A "B" indicates above-average achievement in the course—it is for work in which arguments are present, the writing is specific and clear, and examples, illustrations, and sources are used throughout. A "B" paper lacks the complexity and rhetorical effectiveness that merits an "A."

A "C" is for satisfactory work in which the essay is undermined by grammatical errors and stylistically weak writing, lack of depth, an underdeveloped or poorly supported argument, structural issues, and ineffective use or absence of sources. "C" papers often lack the analytic depth that should be present in academic essays. A "C+" shows average understanding of the course material.

"D" essays are unsatisfactory in multiple areas. The writing suffers from severe issues with coherence and clarity, while the essay's argument lacks focus, purpose, and organization. The thesis statement is either weak or otherwise insufficient: it does not communicate the essay's main idea or meet the requirements for a meaningful argumentative or interpretive claim. Ideas are lacking, undeveloped, or poorly articulated. Unsubstantiated generalizations are frequent, and the tone is unsuitable for the context. Analysis and argumentation are not explicit, or are superficial or simplistic, and the meaningfulness of the topic does not emerge from the discussion.

An "F" is the product of unsatisfactory work that is insufficient at the university level. Blatantly plagiarized work will receive a 0.