English I, Section 004:  "Where we stand"
Spring 2001--Jamieson.

Class meetings:  Tue. & Thur. 11:50-1:05.  Hall of Sciences 52.
Office hours: Mondas, Tuesdays, and Thursdays 2:00-4:00, & by appointment:  118 S.W.Bowne.
Telephone:  x3499.
E-mail:  sjamieso@drew.edu.

  The Course   Course Goals   The Texts   Grades
Informal Writing   Collaboration    Ground Rules   A warning

The Papers
Summaries   Synthesis #1 Research  #1 Synthesis #2
Comparison #1 Comparison #2   Final Paper Due Dates

Web Resources   Daily Syllabus   Media Links   Main Page


The Course:
Most of your college papers will ask you to make an argument--to take a  stand.  But where should one stand when one makes an argument for college?   Where do other people stand?  What different position do people occupy in different disciplines?  What difference does it make where you stand?  In this class we will explore the standpoint of authors and writers.  We will read the New York Times  and other national and local newspapers on-line and we will try to work out what position each writer writes from:  what assumptions do they make about reading and writing? about their audience? about themselves? how do you react to those assumptions?  how do they influence what you read and how much you trust it?  How does it influence the kinds of things you might have to write about it?  what stands might you take as you write responses to your readings?  We will also read essays on writing and on research and ask the same questions.  Then we will explore the stances you  might make as an author of academic papers for different audiences and purposes.  Finally you will write a research paper exploring the different stances adopted by academics and others on a specific topic.  Your task is not to create one perfectly unified argument that might appear to be "truth."  Rather, your purpose is to explore in writing the debate--the similarities, differences, and overlaps--between the authors you read to help the people who read your paper come to a fuller understanding of the complexity of the issue and the factors which influence one's position on it.

The Work:
The writing in this class will be frequent and varied, ranging from informal "dialoging" (see below), through exercises, to a formal research paper, with many small papers and writing work-outs in between.  At times I will ask you to hand in two or more copies of a piece of writing so that we may evaluate it in class during workshops.  In order for you to practice writing in response to a number of different stimuli, I will design some specific writing assignments that everyone must complete, other assignments will be collectively designed by the class, and yet others will be of your individual choosing in response to what you have been reading and thinking over the course of the semester.  Because students come to college with different levels of preparation, we will work on issues of grammar, style, and general language use both in class in the context of our readings, and in conferences and individual projects.  Each student will help me to design an “individual writing program” which will build on areas of strength and develop two specific skills of each student's choosing.  Students will work on their program at their own pace, and will be graded on that work as part of the final grade for the course.

Informal Writing:
Research shows that frequent writing produces stronger, more fluent, and more comfortable writers.  Writing is a skill, and all skills need practice, so I suggest that you practice writing by keeping a Writer's Journal. Most of you have already kept such a journal (see handout if you would like to know more about this valuable form of writing workout);  however, for this class you are not required to keep a journal.

Instead of a journal, I will ask you to participate in weekly "dialogues" with me.  Once a week you will write me a letter.  In the first dialogue you will respond to class discussion, readings, and events on campus, in the state, the nation, or the world.  I will reply to your letter, and you will then reply to my reply, introducing new topics or raising questions as necessary.  Each student will converse in writing with me over the course of the semester, and in so doing will strengthen his or her critical thinking and overall writing skills.  This is a different kind of "thinking-in-writing" than journals require, but it will help you to achieve the same goal.
 Your letters will be sent to me via e-mail (to either of the addresses listed above) by midnight each Friday.  If you send me more than one letter in any week, I will try to reply to each letter, although I may respond to all of them at once if they seem to be addressing the same theme. 

Collaborative Research:
in the world of the work place, and in many academic disciplines too, collaboration is the name of the game.  Corporations organize workers into teams responsible for conducting necessary research, identifying problems, brainstorming solutions, and then writing up what they find.  In this class you will engage in at least one project where the research is collaborative although the writing will be individual.  At first you may not like this kind of research, and with some cause as it involves cooperation, trust, and some loss of ego--things we have learned to avoid if possible.  Yet these team skills are also the very things that will make you successful in the workplace and, more important to me, in college.  There are a number of ways to research and write collaboratively, and you will learn them in this class.  There are also strategies to make it less painful, and you'll learn those too.  The end result will be worth it.  Collaborative research allows team members to find a lot more relevant material than individual research. 

Research Assignment #1
Between 2/15 and 2/19 you will be assigned to work in the library in small groups (see the syllabus for 2/11).  At a time convenient to all members of your group, you will meet with a reference librarian in a follow-up session to the one you had in your First Year Seminar last semester.  For this assignment, your group must find the following:
1)  at least four sources that provide background information on the news topic you have selected (this can include one encyclopedia entry if you like).  Try to find material from the most academic sources you can find/understand;
2) at least four other contemporary perspectives on the topic (this can include one cartoon, one table or graph, and no more than two Internet sources).  Your goal here is to find a range of opinion.  Look for left-wing, right-wing, and liberal news media, academic and non-academic journals, and both reliable and questionable sources.
You will write up your library findings by first summarizing and then synthesizing the background information (due 2/23) and finally comparing the contemporary perspectives (due 3/5).  As you work on the final paper you will share your research and ideas, brainstorm connections and review each others drafts.  The papers will be written individually with citations of any group member whose ideas you used in addition to citation of your sources.

You will write a series of summaries for this class, all of which will be handed in as part of your summary portfolio.  In addition to summarizing chapters from the handbook, you will write at least six other summaries.

  • The first two summaries will be written in class in response to two articles selected by the teacher.  The first will be a collaborative summary.  The second will be an individual summary to be finished as homework if necessary and handed in via the k:/drive.
  • The second two formal summaries will be written as homework on Feb. 4-6:  Select two important news stories from Thursday's and Friday's or Saturday's New York Times (i.e.: stories that appear near to the front) and write a 250 word summary of each.  Take two copies, typed, double spaced, to class Tuesday Feb. 9 along with a print-out of each article you summarized.
  • The next set of summaries will be written on one of the topics you selected for your Feb. 4 summaries (we will discuss which stories are likely to remain in the news for a while and select a list of topics based on that discussion--for a list of topics check the library sign-up list!).  For your homework on Feb. 9, write a 150 word summary of an article from that day's Times  (or other on-line newspaper) on your topic, and write another on Wednesday on the same topic. Take both to class Thursday 11, along with a printout of the articles you summarized.
  • Your final summary will be on Feb. 11, when we will write a summary of a table and a graph in class, which you will revise as homework.
All of these summaries will be handed in as part of the Summary Portfolio on Feb. 16, correctly cited and with no plagiarism of sources.

You will write several different kinds of synthesis in this class.  The first will be a general synthesis of the information you summarized from the newspapers about your topic.  The second will be a synthesis of background information on your topic.  The third will be a brief synthesis of material from tables and graphs.

  • Synthesis #1:  Informational synthesis:  On Feb. 15 you will begin work on a synthesis designed to introduce readers to the general topic you've been following in the Times.  Your synthesis paper can adopt either of two strategies depending on the material (and which seems most logical to you).  Whichever you select, your purpose is to introduce the story to someone else in the class who has not been following it and provide as much information as you can in the most practical way.  (In addition to information, you may use whole sentences from your summaries as necessary.)  There are two basic structures you can adopt for such an assignment, and depending on the story one will probably work better than the other.  They are:
    •    (1) a narrative of the way the story has developed since you began to follow it with paragraphs organized chronologically, each with a topic sentence that identifies the stage/event the paragraph will discuss, and information in the paragraph from several sources (cited).   or
    •     (2) a basic introduction to the story telling us about the people involved and the events that have occurred, organized by character or pertinent information rather than chronologically.  Each paragraph will begin with a topic sentence that identifies what the paragraph will discuss, followed by information from several sources (cited).  Bring your narrative and all the articles you found to class on Thurs.  REMEMBER TO INCLUDE CITATIONS OF ALL OF YOUR SOURCES.
    Synthesis #2:  Background Synthesis:  You will begin your second synthesis, a background synthesis, on Feb. 22.  Look at the background information you gathered via the Internet.  Write a second synthesis, this time on the background to the story you are following (a background synthesis).  Your thesis is "In order to really understand the events surrounding [your topic] it is necessary to understand [list the point(s)/information you believe to be necessary] because [state why]."  In the paper, write a paragraph for each thing that you believe we need to understand.  Each paragraph will begin with a topic sentence informing us what this detail helps us to understand, followed by a synthesis of the sources you found on that aspect of the topic.  In addition to information, you may use whole sentences from the introductory synthesis if necessary.
Synthesis #1 and Synthesis #2 will both be handed in as part of your SYNTHESIS PORTFOLIO, due on March 1.  This portfolio will also include the synthesis of tables and graphs begun in class on Feb. 22.

Comparison Papers

You will write two comparison papers in this class.  The first is a short comparison of the different stances people take to the media story you decide to follow at the beginning of the course.  The second is a longer paper that may become the basis for your final research paper if you like.

Comparison Paper #1:
Using the Internet as a resource, you will select four contemporary sources that take different stances on your topic (we will discuss what constitutes an appropriate source in class).  In class on March 1 you will work with your group to describe and analyze the stance of these contemporary sources.  You will write a draft of a paper in which you compare the different stances people in the media take on your topic as homework for that class, revise it in class on Tues. March 6, and hand in the final paper on Thursday March 8. (You may hand in a revised version for the mid-term portfolio due on March 9, and for your comparison portfolio, due on March 30.)

Comparison Paper #2
As homework for March 21-23 (when you go to the library), you will read the New York Times from the day you were born and select a story, opinion, advertisement, or feature that seems particularly dated.  The first thing you need to do, then, is select the thing you will evaluate and make a copy of it (recording the information you will need for a correct citation of course).  Next you need to learn enough about the event, issue, of topic of the piece you have selected to enable you understand it (yes, just like synthesis # 2).  Then you will analyze the piece itself (as you did in comparison paper #1 and in class on the 20th).  Finally, you will explore what makes the piece seem dated to you. Based on all of this research and thought, you are ready for Comparison paper #2. 
        In this paper you will compare what we knew or assumed to be true when you were born with what we know or assume now, and so draw conclusions about the two different time periods.  Your thesis will focus on what your comparison reveals about the differences between then and now.  This can include our level of ignorance about issues, so don't worry if you don't fully understand the significance of the story you read, that can become part of the paper -- and if you would like to learn more about that significance, the background, or the time period of your birth, you can conduct research for the final paper.

These comparison papers will be due, along with all of your drafts and notes, in the comparison portfolio on April 3.

Final Research Paper
There are two possible topics for this paper:

Topic 1:   Working in a group, or alone, your task this time is to find out the history of an education-related topic that has been raised in the Times or The Acorn (which you should also read every week) this semester.  Looking back over old editions of The Acorn (yes, they are in the library) and other news media you will explore the history of your topic and take a stance on it.  Your final paper will have several parts.  Part (i) will summarize the history of the topic you have selected; part (ii) will synthesize the opinions (stances) you have found on the topic; in part (iii) you will take a stance on the topic and argue a position.  This stance might take the form of a call for change, a claim about the significance of the event/topic, or a comparison and evaluation of two reactions.  The introduction to the paper will introduce readers to the three parts of the paper and the stance (thesis) you will argue.  Topics for research can range from school desegregation, campus activism, education reform, affirmative action, multiculturalism,  or "political correctness," to education financing, the use of part time faculty, general education programs, curriculum revision, faculty salaries, codes of practice, campus Judicial Boards and/or codes of conduct or whatever issue appeals to you.

Topic 2:   Read The New York Times for the day you were born and conduct research on the background of one story from that paper.  What do you need to know to understand the event in question?  What does it reveal about the U.S. of your birth year that this story made the news?  Would we consider it newsworthy today?  Is the issue still of concern to us today, or has it been resolved?  You may use the comparison paper you wrote for April 3 to help you think about this topic if it seems helpful, but the final paper must use significant research (even if it adopts the same thesis as the earlier paper).

Topic 3:   Working in a group, or alone you may continue your research on the topic you followed for the first half of the semester.  You may draw heavily from your synthesis papers and/or Comparison Paper #1, but the final paper must use significantly more research and must include material found in books and/or articles as well as from the internet.  This paper must make an argument about the topic, although you may need to conduct significantly more research before you can identify what that thesis will be.

Course structure and goals:
English 1 is designed as a writing workshop where you will learn strategies for writing academic papers and improving your overall writing skills.  We will work on the basic skills of effective college-level writing, especially how we can use style, grammar, and word choice to create specific effects in written prose.  In this first section of the course you will practice writing definitions, summaries, classifications, and comparisons.  We will analyze the prose of others, imitate their writing strategies and prose styles, and summarize their points in a few sentences.  You will practice several expository forms including description and narration.  In the second section of the course we will focus on academic writing itself, beginning with what academic writers must do before they begin to write: you will learn how to analyze a topic/assignment, how to use all that you know to best respond to it, how to focus your knowledge and organize your ideas, and how to focus a topic for research.  You will select a research topic, find sources, and practice the skills learned in these first two segments of the course by compiling an annotated bibliography.  Next you will learn how to refine your relationship with your audience and structure a paper accordingly.  As you read the texts you have selected for your research, you will practice comparison, critique, and synthesis by writing about that material.   This will lead you to the final component of the course: a thesis-driven research paper.  You will strengthen your ability to focus a topic, write a research proposal, conduct additional research, formulate a thesis, plan a paper, and write an 8-10 page thesis-driven research paper.

At each stage of the process you will learn how to evaluate your own writing and that of others, making you a more effective editor and writer. As you become more of an expert writer, you will learn how to understand the writings of others more fully: how to perceive their thesis, analyze the assumptions they make about their audience and follow their overall patterns of organization. This, in turn, will make you more able to analyze questions and understand what you read.  It will also, I hope, help you to become a more confident writer who appreciates the power of written language, is able to use that power, and enjoys doing so!

Ground rules:
A seminar is only as strong as its laziest member, so it is essential that each member of the seminar accepts her or his responsibility to the other members.  Thus:

  1. You will be expected to attend every class prepared to participate and share your ideas and writing with your writing colleagues.  If you are unprepared, the workshop will not work, your colleagues will suffer, and you will be marked as absent.  Three unexplained absences will result in your final grade being lowered by one letter;
  2. You must respect your fellow writers.  This means that you must take them and their ideas and writing seriously and comment constructively with sensitivity to their feelings.  Failure to do this will result in a collapse of the trust necessary for a workshop and you will be asked to leave (and marked as absent).  Lack of respect ranges from discriminating comments (homophobia, racism, sexism, etc.), to yawns, the pulling of faces, drumming fingers, laughter, asides to other members of the seminar, and so on.

The grades for this course are assigned on the basis of the distance each writer travels during the semester in addition to the place each person has reached by the end of the course.  Specifically, grades will be based on the following:

  1. Preparedness and contribution to class discussion and writer's workshops (10%):  Obviously if you do not attend class, sleep through it, or otherwise fail to participate I cannot assess the extent of your preparation, and will be forced to assume there was none.  Failure to attend conferences with me will lead me to the same conclusion.
  2. Overall effort toward improvement (30%):  I will judge this on the basis of your weekly dialogues and the notes, drafts, and general writing assignments given in English 1, thus it is important that you keep drafts and notes, bring them to class, and put them in the relevant portfolios when you hand them in.  I will also determine your effort from our conferences and your visits to my office hours.
  3. Application of the material covered in the class (60%):  This will be determined from the two portfolios you will compile, one in the middle and the other at the end of the semester.  Each portfolio will contain two papers and a preface in which you discuss the papers and the reasons you selected them rather than others you have written in this class.  These portfolios will be graded by me and by at least one other person teaching English 1 this semester.  Portfolio graders will be looking at the overall quality of the finished papers based on a list of skills that we will discuss in class (see handout).  The grades for the two portfolios will be divided as follows:
  Mid-term portfolio (2 papers)  20%
  Final portfolio (1 paper and your research paper)  40%

Please buy the following:

  • Chris Anson & Robert Schwegler's The Longman Writer's Companion  (the same book you used for your FYS and English 1-A)
  • We will read the New York Time on-line, but the on-line edition (which is free) is only available for the day of publication (you must pay to read archived articles on-line), so you might want to pick up a free copy in the residence halls.
  • You also need:

  •  °  a good dictionary—the heavier the better (which you should bring to class),
     °  pens of several colors (at least one green, purple or red),
     °  two plain loose paper manila folders to hold portfolio work,
     °  a three-ring folder for handouts from this class—including this syllabus,
     °  A LAN card & cable and a LAN account (and password)
     °  A computer disk to backup store your work for this class. 
    COMPUTER CRASHES AND OTHER MISHAPS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE EXCUSES FOR LATE PAPERS IN THIS CLASS.   (So you are responsible for making backups and saving on the LAN.)

Class time:
This class meets in a seminar room for good reason.  Classes will be spent writing, workshopping or discussing writing, writing assignments and examples of writing produced by writers from a variety of discourse situations, including this class.

A Warning!
Students get exactly the same amount of learning out of a writing class
 as the amount of effort they put in.  This puts the onus on you—if you
 don't put anything in, you won't get anything out (except a bad grade).


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