English 104.10: Academic Writing I ("Hard Choices")

Professor Arnie Sanders, Fall 2012  VM G57 (x6515) Office Hours: Mon. and Wed., 11-11:50 and by appointment.  Home page last revised: 11/30/2012 02:22:50 PM

New!: 11/26/2012--If you are eligible to submit a portfolio of papers to the Writing Program to attempt to pass the College Writing Proficiency requirement (i.e., B+/A- or better for a final grade, consistently strong writing research skills), I have to submit the portfolio with my cover letter to the Writing Program Director by Monday, December 10.

        As an aid to the "children's speech acquisition" part of Barber's article, I hope we can watch all of Deb Roy's 19 minute TED talk about his long-term study of his son's learning so speak English.  The part that starts at 4:24 compresses a year's worth of the boy's learning to say "water" from the repeated sound "gah-gah" to some intermediate sounds to "wah-ter."  Contact theory: cry, call, word (ullulation example of "call" from David Lean (dir.), Lawrence of Arabia).

        Click here for a guide to preparing the final portfolio revision paper. 

General class description:  Like all English 104 classes, this one will teach writers to meet all the College Writing Proficiency criteria except the use of scholarly sources and research tools, which most students will learn in English 105.  The theme of this writing course is based on case studies of actual events that will require writers to analyze the events' complex, emotionally charged situations and to write essays that may explain or improve the events, or encourage or prevent the events from happening again.

        Although we all will be starting each paper's discussion with a given case study, you can approach your paper on the case from the point of view of any discipline of knowledge taught at Goucher College.  In fact, learning to produce new knowledge within a disciplinary field is one of the course's large scale, "meta-goals" for each student.  It will prepare you to understand how the liberal arts curriculum operates to prepare you for a complexly changing future.  There is no better way to make sense of the world's many challenges, though each individual discipline has its own strengths appropriate to given topics.  Knowing how to choose among a number of possible widely shared disciplinary approaches to a problem will enable you to survive when narrowly focused specialists are baffled.  Combining interdisciplinary approaches to a given problem is commonly the best way to discover new knowledge, and even new ways of knowing it.  

        If you are ready to engage scholarly sources in your analysis of the evidence for your papers by December, you may be able to meet the CWP criteria by submitting a Writing Portfolio of papers to me that I will forward to the Writing Program Director.  In order to qualify for a portfolio, your overall work during the semester usually should be earning an A- or better for the course.  Please contact me if you are interested in this possibility.  Otherwise, sit back, enjoy the semester, and trust that English 105 will take care of it in the spring.

 Chip art.

        Friday conference schedule.  Remember, just showing up is not attendance at the Friday conferences.  Your paper has to show up, too!  It certainly does not have to be "finished," but it should be a good faith effort to engage the topic that meets the basic requirements for a draft we can discuss.

H. P. Grice's "Maxims" for ordinary language communication--four rules to make your prose communicate effectively.

alphaDictioanry.com--an alphabetized list of words every college senior should know how to use and understand, with etymologies (where it came from--essential to use) and cautions about similar but different words with which they can be confused, important for the learner.  To write better, you need better and more words. 

The World Wide Words site--another vocabulary development site, less well-organized than alphaDictionary but with more obscure and rare words.

 Are you sure you can tell the difference between accurate, legal paraphrase and an illegal paraphrase which might be considered plagiarism?  Many undergraduates willingly admit they are unsure about the rules for paraphrase, and others think they are safe but are not.  The "Paraphrase-Plagiarism Risk Quiz" gives you a chance to find out, anonymously, how well you can tell the difference between illegal and legal paraphrase of source passages.  Choose among passages from Literary Criticism, Science (Biology), Social Science (Anthropology), Economics, and History.  Taking this quiz may save you enormous trouble with the Academic Honor Board, or it may confirm your belief that you can paraphrase competently.  Please try it.  For my English 105 students, it is required.  Please send comments and questions to asanders@goucher.edu and be sure to specify which passages you were working with.

 "Academic Honor Code: Reference to the academic honor code is required of all course syllabi as a reminder to students.  Suggested wording includes: Reminder: All students are bound by the standards of the Academic Honor Code, found at www.goucher.edu/documents/General/AcademicHonorCode.pdf."  I distinguish between accidental forms of plagiarism, in which the author obviously intended to cite sources but cited them at the wrong place, from pure carelessness (no citations, even if sources are listed at the back) and outright theft of intellectual property intentionally passed off as one's own.  The first type of cases usually are opportunities to teach and learn.  The second type are more troubling and may go to the Honor Board if they happen late in the semester, after we have discussed source use and its importance to your readers.  The last will be sent to the Honor Board without hesitation.  Students also are increasingly content to cite sources long after their prose has begun to borrow ideas from those sources.  That is technically plagiarism, too, but it has become so common that I must spend gallons of ink and hundreds of keystrokes un-teaching it.  Never make me guess whose ideas I'm reading.  Cite sources when you first depend on them.  I want to know how well you can think, not how well your sources can think, which is a matter of historical record for anyone who reads them.  Let there be a bright line of fire between ideas that are originally yours and those of other writers to which you refer. 

Student Learning Outcomes for English 104 (click on this hyperlink for advice about how to interpret "SOLs"):

Students will write academic prose using clear, accurate, and appropriate diction to construct effective and coherent complex, compound, and simple sentences, using standard grammar and spelling and avoiding unnecessary use of the passive voice.

Students will write academic prose unified by a clear thesis that develops an argument in logically organized paragraphs, supported by properly cited sources and committing no acts of plagiarism.

Students will locate, evaluate and analyze primary and secondary sources, and will engage conflicting arguments and incorporate sources’ thinking into their own arguments.

For the Writing Program web site, click here.  For the Writing Center web site, click here.  To make an appointment, call 410-337-6551.   Click here for the current Writing Center schedule and tutors' names.  To preserve their privacy, we do not publish their phone numbers, but Goucher students can look them up in the campus phone book or by using CampusWeb.

      Course Description     

       This course will teach you to write papers based on college-level analytical insights that mean something important to you.  Our goal is to enable you to communicate those insights to your readers so that they will be persuaded to see the situation from your perspective.  Ordinarily, this course will help students meet the non-research criteria for College Writing Proficiency, but if you also can learn to use relevant scholarly sources to support your thesis, you also may be able to meet all the CWP criteria by submitting a portfolio of three papers to the Writing Program in December.  I am willing to give willing students additional instruction to help them accomplish this goal, but our primary course objective remains to develop mature analytical writing skills.  Analysis is an important type of mental behavior that produces many types of writing you already can do, and it leads logically to more difficult types of writing. You might think of it as something you might do in five stages, each of which drills down more deeply into what we can know of what we're analyzing.   Your composing process will have to become more flexible and will take longer to develop final drafts.  Nevertheless, what you eventually write in those final drafts will become increasingly mature, scholarly, and uniquely your own intellectual property.  The final stages in the development of your writing process will occur in English 105 and in writing for your major, but English 104 will ask you to take some big steps toward those goals.  If you are not sure this course is right for you, click here to learn what steps you can undertake to find out, and to learn something about how I will teach the course.

Case Study Papers:  The course will unfold in a series of four "Cases" based on events which pose serious problems for our culture, problems which will require us to make hard choices.  In every case, "not making a choice" will constitute just another choice--"doing nothing" is always "doing something" when dealing with dynamic complex systems.  Successful papers usually will engage some limited aspect of the case as a problem to be solved, and will help readers make some progress toward a solution, even if the solution, itself, is unattainable.  What we cannot solve, we must improve, if only by understanding it better.  Cases will unfold over two weeks during which, on Mondays and Wednesdays, we will analyze the cases and plan possible papers responding to them.  The first Friday class of every case week will be cancelled so that I can meet with each of you, one-on-one, to discuss your rough draft responding to that case, which will be due in the conference.  Graded revisions of those drafts will be due in the following "Process Writing Friday" class.

Texts:  Like any professional writer, you will need a writer’s handbook to help you remember solutions to grammar problems and document format rules.  If you have a printed handbook that was published within the last two or three years, it will do the job.  If you prefer Web-based online help, I recommend the University of Illinois at Champagne Urbana Writers Workshop Handbook.  You can find a list of other acceptable sites on the menu below.  Because grammar, usage, and even spelling are governed by widely shared social conventions all handbooks will tend to agree, and almost all will warn you that language "rules" are not the same as the laws of physics or nations.  We are following the conventions of "American academic prose," a conservative dialect of English you need to master for success at Goucher.

     You also should consult this course web site at least once before each scheduled class meeting.  Look at the New! note at the top of the page for tips about recent changes and tips to help you prepare for class.  This site will help you develop your papers, and it contains useful links to sites generally useful for Goucher College writers.  All other readings will be provided in photocopied or Web-based documents, though you certainly will want to introduce the products of your own research.  In doing so, however, start using the best, expert sources, ideally peer-reviewed scholarly authors' work.  Do not use anonymous or non-expert "wild" Internet Web sites.  They often are the source of misinformation and propaganda, and are not acceptable support for papers in this class except as evidence of what untested notions the non-college-educated public may believe.  (E.g., "As an example of public opinion about this case, see the following Web sites . . . ")

"Process Writing Fridays":  On the Fridays of weeks 1, 3, 5, 9, and 12, when the revised drafts are due for your case study papers and the research project (see below), you will have no additional tasks to prepare for class.  Concentrate on making your papers as good as they can be in the time available.  On these five "Process Writing Fridays," I will be responsible for introducing you to some writing process strategies that will help you improve your performance of its important repeated sub-skills, like brainstorming, sentence casting, paragraph reorganization, and coherence editing.  Some of you may have heard of, or even used these process writing techniques before, but I can guarantee you were not told everything you need to know about why they work, and how to use them more effectively.  By the end of the semester, you will have some new writing strategies that will help you make the best use of the skills and knowledge you have acquired.  Click on the "Process Writing" hyperlink above for more about what research tells us about the advantages of learning to control the various elements of your composing process.

"Working Holidays"  To give you a break between weeks in which drafts of papers are due, there will be no full-length papers due in weeks 6-7, 10, and 13-14.  During these three "Working Holidays," we will spend class discussing research methods of professional scholars, formal logic and logical fallacies, and how to prepare for and write the in-class essay exam.  Each project will produce a short written document that will count for 1/24th of your grade--not enough for any one of them to damage your final grade, but enough to hold your attention.  They will help you rethink the basic thought processes and social expectations which are fundamental to academic writing at the college level.  We probably will have to "un-teach" some of what you learned in high school if your teachers did not expect that you would study at a school with Goucher's standards.  This is your chance to rethink what thinking is, how we can claim to know the truth, and how our knowledge gets measured and appreciated.

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