English 105.013, Spring 2015: Academic Writing II

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Theme: Academic Writing Using Multi-Media Information Derived from Commercial Product Reviews, Short Fiction, Movies, and Independent Scholarly Research

Professor Arnie Sanders,

Office: VM 141 (x6515) Office Hours: TuTh 11:30-12:30 and by appointment (just call or email).  Page last updated: 05/04/2015 11:59:53 AM

New!:   5/1/15--For the last week of classes, we will concentrate on choosing and revising a Final Portfolio Revision paper which will substantively improve the Hawthorne, film, or independent research papers.  Tuesday's workshop will discuss "binary oppositions" as a thinking tool that can be used to discover fundamental assumptions sources are making and analyzing them for things they unconsciously ignore or suppress.  Binary oppositions are associated with the theory known as Structuralism, and structuralist analysis works in almost all disciplines, though it grew from early work in linguistics and anthropology.  We also will go back to the "research well" again to improve the FPR paper's source support.

        On Thursday, we will work to add interdisciplinary strengths to the paper under revision.

        Deb Roy: The Birth of a Word

        Please fill out the online course evaluation form to make the Provost happy and get him to stop pestering me with emails about how many and exactly which students in my classes have filled out the course evaluations.  Note that every single one of your professors will be told, numerous times, exactly who has not filled out these evaluations.  I think it's a lousy idea because it might prejudice a teacher against students who did not do it, so I do not look at the lists, but be warned that other instructors might look and might develop opinions about based on them.

Click on the "Style Sheet" menu item below for the basic instructions for MLA citation format, but click here for explicit guidance for various types of Internet sources.             

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    This section of 105 requires only one print textbook, an affordable, basically reliable print edition of Hawthorne's short stories: Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories (N.Y.: Dover, 1992).  The Goucher bookstore should sell it to you for $2.00 plus tax.  The rest of the "textbook" for this section is contained in the pages of this Web site, especially the syllabus linked in the menu at the bottom of this page.  If you have trouble reading online, print the syllabus.  I will announce in class any changes made to the online version, so you can update your print copy.

     This 105 section's "theme" does not compare easily with the word's common usage in literary analysis, a repeated word or idea, like "Harry Potter" or "community activism."  All English composition courses (103, 104, 105 and 106) teach skills writers need to meet the College Writing Proficiency criteria, which you can see in the page linked to the menu below.  We only began using "themes" for composition courses because writers need something to write about, and that "something" works better when the writers are enthusiastic about it.  Typical 105 course themes build upon a sequence of reading assignments or other experiences to enable writers to attempt more and more complex academic writing on the topic.  We hope most students will choose sections whose themes appeal to them.  Nevertheless, I recognize that some students find themselves in my section of 105 because it fits their schedule, not because the "theme" attracted their enthusiasm.  For that reason, I have organized the course by varying the mode of primary source information.  Wise students will see, in the Hawthorne stories and the two films, some interesting similarities of plot, character, and (yes) theme, but you do not have to consider that our primary purpose in studying them.  Creative thinking can enable you to invent ways to approach any of the stories or films from many disciplines beyond the study of literature or film.  The stories and movies are a storehouse of evidence useful to historians, biologists, sociologists, psychologists, studio artists and art historians, musicians, economists, and many other types of scholars.  Work with me and I will show you how to use the style of thinking you are passionate about in order to become a better writer.

     The first assignment, writing a "product purchase recommendation," will use a lot of online information to research a wide-open topic to give writers some experience choosing and focusing their writing on an appropriate task for an appropriate audience.  (I spend a lot of time on "audience" because most new college students need help anticipating what academic readers expect writing to do for them--see the "best reader" discussion in Week 1's first class.)  The writing situation should be free enough to enable you to create a successful paper because you will have almost unlimited choice of product and audience, as long as your choice works for a real, knowable set of readers with needs you can predict and that fit the products' features.  The assignment's deeper learning will be about locating reliable sources of information.  Because consumer product information often is provided by unreliable sources, a major task imposed by the assignment will be determining the trustworthiness and reliability of the sources.  This will cease to be a problem in the rest of the assignments which must be based on peer-reviewed scholarly sources, or their nearest equivalents for film studies, but it's important to have some experience vetting "wild-caught" Internet information.

     The second assignment will seem more traditionally focused on textual evidence from Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories and peer-reviewed scholarship from academic journals.  That will reduce, though it will not eliminate, the source quality problem.  Writers will be asked to search for patterns of evidence that will support original theses about the texts.  The theses should help competent readers of the stories to understand them with more insight about their design, Hawthorne's motives in writing them, their use as evidence of Hawthorne's historical situation, etc.  Detecting patterns of evidence and explaining their significance is the analytical skill fundamental to all disciplines of knowledge in higher education.  The second paper's humanities focus will rely almost exclusively on textual evidence because print literacy and textual interpretation are central to humanistic studies, though the creative thinker will soon realize that a successful paper on Hawthorne might find important patterns in that evidence by examining it from many disciplinary perspectives.  Discovering one's preferred disciplinary perspective is a crucial step in discovering what department one wants to major in, and it is also an important stage in identifying one's best readers. 

     The third assignment shifts the evidence source to films, which give writers evidence like that found in the social and natural sciences.  When viewing the films, we are gathering evidence from an experiment we are witnessing, or a culture we are observing.  We are still looking for patterns in that evidence, but more often the evidence will be visual or aural (sound).  The films' visual and aural evidence will impose descriptive tasks upon writers that ordinary textual analysis does not require. You may have to find your own words to describe the gesture a character makes, the tone with which a character speaks, or the physical relationship of characters and their costumes to each other in a shot.  As in the case of the Hawthorne project, the film paper's thesis will be based on some pattern of evidence its writer can use to teach readers to see the film with more understanding.  Because the writers will have to find words to describe the visual or aural evidence, they will learn to solve a fundamental problem for researchers in the sciences, and a reason why they like math so much.  You can use math, too.  Counting numbers of instances of events, and noting their distribution, even in literary texts, can be a surprisingly persuasive strategy. 

     Finally, the independent research project will allow students to get to know a potential major department through conversations with one of its instructors, investigation of an issue currently debated by its members, and use of research tools specifically designed for its theory and methods.  Even if you do not yet know your intended major, this is an opportunity to try one on.  If you feel you are unprepared to work in disciplines outside the humanities, your training in the short story and film papers will have prepared you to work on a new topic using either of those types of evidence.

General News: The new Book Studies minor (BKS) has been approved.  If you are interested in old books and manuscripts, the history of literacy and book production, and hands-on work with rare objects, please consider signing up for English 241, Archeology of Text in Fall 2015.  Click on the link to see the course home page--a link to the most recent syllabus is on the bottom menu.

  • Please consider taking your notes and ideas for all English 105 assignments to the Writing Center to talk it over with one of the tutors.  I have taught them all and they can help you understand what I am looking for in academic prose.  Writing complex documents coherently is hard work.  Seek help and you will have more fun doing it.

              Click here for some good practices to follow when submitting professional documents by email.  H[enry] P[aul] Grice's Maxims of Ordinary Language Use--these are not bad summaries of what the CWP criteria were intended to produce.


          Course Description

           This course will teach you to write papers based on college-level analytical insights supported by scholarly research, and your writing for the course will be evaluated for College Writing Proficiency. Assignments will begin with modern consumer product research using Internet sources, and will practice using and testing the quality of online documents' evidence.  The second assignment will advance to literary analysis of some Nathaniel Hawthorne short stories to practice using textual evidence from primary sources and textual evidence from scholarly secondary sources relevant to literary analysis, history, biology, sociology, or any other disciplinary approach suitable to the stories.  The third major assignment will come from viewing two 20th-century films from the film noir period (Casablanca and The Third Man), to practice using primary evidence based on observation and listening skills, and textual evidence from scholarly sources on film, history, music, or any other approach suitable to the films.  The final assignment will allow students to choose their own topics from any discipline one can major in at Goucher, and the paper will use scholarly sources, documenting them in any format appropriate to the discipline in which the paper is being written.  

          Since good research writing depends upon the writer's curiosity and intellectual concentration, we frequently will ask ourselves what we want to know, why we want to know it and how we can better find out. Professional research almost never is done as it is in high schools, where students are instructed to find out "all about" their subject and report everything they can discover. Professionals do research to solve problems which have arisen when they try to explain some original insight about their topic. This research is always guided by the problems the research will help solve, though it also is always alert to unplanned discoveries. Professional researchers seek only expert, sources, usually scholarly, peer-reviewed sources, because those sources are the root of professional knowledge.  They never trust popular sources which only know (imperfectly) what the professionals have told them. We want to become good hunters and gatherers of relevant, qualified information that solves problems.   For further explanation of this English 105 section's approach to research as a part of scholarly life, click here.

    Student Learning Outcomes

            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 at least some properly cited scholarly sources and committing no acts of plagiarism.

            Students will locate scholarly sources by using modern online bibliographic tools, will evaluate and analyze primary and secondary sources, and will engage conflicting arguments and incorporate sourcesí thinking into their own arguments.

    Honor Code Statement

     "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, but the second type may have to 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 deliberate and disguised theft of others' ideas and/or language 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. 


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