English 225, Academic Argumentation

Links to:

  1. Sample Assignments
  2. Sample Class Activities
  3. Sample Student Work
  4. Sample Course Evaluations

Course Syllabus: Fall 2011

Course Description

This writing course focuses on examining and employing effective academic argumentation. Academic argumentation here refers to the presentation, explanation, and assessment of claims through written reasoning that utilizes appropriate evidence and writing conventions. This course builds on and refines skills from introductory writing courses English 124 and 125 and provides a basic introduction to finding and effectively incorporating research into one’s writing for use in a range of future academic contexts. In this particular course, students will focus on writing in the complex and ever-changing disciplines of the academy; multiple assignments will ask students to examine and produce writing in the disciplines. Assignments will also ask students to consider and write about their places in the academy and in specific disciplines.

Course Goals

  • Students will write 25-30 pages of polished, revised, and reviewed prose on various topics, in various genres, and using various writing process techniques during the course.
  • Students will conduct rhetorical readings and analyses of texts from various academic disciplines.
  • Students will read and review their classmates’ papers on a regular basis and use peer review and workshop opportunities to refine their own writing.
  • Students will engage in comprehensive and rigorous revision and editing of drafts for major papers.
  • Students will construct arguments about and within specific disciplines’ genre/discourse expectations.
  • Students will hone mechanics, attention to language and audience, style, and craft in their academic writing.
  • Students will develop a working set of skills and resources for academic research projects, including the distinction between primary and secondary sources, and an understanding of how to begin, carry out, and complete a writing assignment incorporating research.

Themes and Sub-themes / Course Organization

This course is organized around one central theme and four sub-themes. The central theme of this course – Writing Within and About Academic Communities – is designed to help you consider your role in academia generally and, more specifically, in particular academic disciplines that interest you. As students at the Universityof Michigan, you are still (re)defining yourself as a writer, a student, an academic, and in many ways, an individual. It is my hope that this theme and its associated sub-themes prove not only interesting to you, but also challenging, thought-provoking, and inspiring. The sub-themes, as outlined on the course calendar, are Observation, Experience, Participation, and Meta-Awareness. Each of these sub-themes will be associated with one of our four formal compositions for the semester, each of which will be peer reviewed, drafted, and revised one or more times. You will notice in your assignments that while the themes and foci of readings have been chosen for you, your topics for your papers have been left entirely up to you. This should allow you to experiment with writing across disciplines, as well as across genres.

Required Texts

While there is no required text for this course, we will have occasional outside readings that you will be expected to complete. Some of these readings are models for your own writing, while others are “craft” readings that will help you think about your writing and how you approach it. These readings can be found on our CTools website under “Resources à Readings.” Please read online and take notes or print and take marginal notes. Bring readings and notes to class.

I reserve the right to add readings to the calendar if they pertain to the writing we are doing in class, and will probably do this on occasion. Students should plan ahead and be ready to discuss readings in class – student participation grades will be based largely on student attendance at and participation in discussions around the various readings for the course (including peer essays).

Assignments and Grade Breakdown

Students in this course will be graded on a point-based system; in other words, larger formal assignments/papers and paper drafts will be worth more than daily assignments and participation grades. The following section breaks down the points possible in the course and the types of assignments you will be expected to complete.

Major Papers

You will complete four major papers during the semester. The first two papers will be worth 150 points each; paper 3 will be worth 250 points; and paper four will be worth 200 points. You will receive grading guidelines for each of these papers when they are assigned. Usually, papers will be graded based on the support and development of your argument, the organization of your paper, and the revisions and improvements you have made throughout the process of writing the paper. While the rubric for each paper will be slightly different, the master rubric under “Resources” on the course website is a good representation of how each paper will be graded. Some papers will come with extra composition components to their requirements, such as multimedia compositions, that you will also need to complete by the designated due date. These papers will all have different specific foci, but for the most part should adhere to the MLA formatting guidelines. For help with MLA formatting, reference the resources listed on our CTools site.

Drafts and Peer Reviews

In preparation for each of the four major papers, you will complete many smaller writing assignments and activities. Peer reviews are an integral part of this process. As such, you will complete multiple reviews of your classmates’ papers for each of the four major papers. You will receive points for both your commentary on classmates’ papers and your active participation in small-group and full-class peer review workshops. Each peer review/workshop session will be worth 10 points. It is very important that you are present in class on workshop days and that you keep up with peer review assignments, because your classmates will be depending on your feedback (and because earning the points for peer review will be impossible if you are absent; emailed feedback letters are necessary in the event of an absence, but the points for those letters cannot be made up).

Response Assignments

The best way to become a better writer is to write; therefore, we will do a lot of informal writing in and out of class, which you will occasionally turn in for credit. These smaller writing assignments will be largely reflection-based; because of this, you should feel free to experiment with your writing in your response papers, since they will be graded mostly for completion, thoughtful reflection, and participation. These will help you sharpen your writing skills and will help me to better understand you as a writer as we move through the semester. Response assignments that receive full credit should be the equivalent of 1.5-2 double-spaced pages in length, should engage with either the assigned readings for the week or with class discussions/topics at hand in class, and/or should discuss current challenges, questions, or successes with assignments. I will often give you specific aims/topics for your reflections and/or ask you to focus on something specific.

Discussions / Participation

When we discuss readings as a class and/or when we discuss readings online, it is important that you actively take part in order to both practice your writing and explore new concepts as they relate to your writing and that of your classmates. As such, your participation in class discussions will account for 25 points, and your grade will be determined by my observations in class throughout the semester. Participation will also be determined by your completion of smaller assignments; these will account for the remaining 25 points of participation. Please note that participation in this class is absolutely essential – the discussions we will have will help you develop ideas for your papers, consider different ways in which to engage your ideas in your writing, articulate your personal beliefs about writing. Please come to class ready and expecting to participate.

Grade Breakdown

Assignments Points per Assignment Total Points Possible in the Semester % Final Grade
Major Papers Varies x 4 = 750 75%

-Paper 1: 15%

-Paper 2: 15%

-Paper 3: 25%

-Paper 4: 20%

Paper Drafts and Peer Reviews 12 x 10 = 120 12%
Participation 25 x 2 = 50 5%
Response Papers and Homework 10 x 8 = 80 8%


Conferences and Office Hours


In addition to discussing your papers with your classmates in peer review sessions, you will meet with me, one-on-one, to discuss your writing throughout the semester. You are required to attend at least two 15-20 minute conferences with me. One of these conferences must take place on either Monday 10/10 or Tuesday 10/11 (see course calendar). The other conference must take place on either Monday 11/21 or Tuesday 11/22. It will be up to you to run the conference – be sure to come with questions, ideas, and content to discuss. Conferences are required in order to receive full credit in the course; each missed conference will reduce a student’s final grade in the course by 5%, or half of one letter grade.

Office Hours

I encourage you to attend office hours regularly to discuss any concerns you might have about the class or your papers, to brainstorm ideas, to get help finding sources for your papers, etc. While my office hours are on Mondays from 10-12, feel free to request another time if this time does not work for you – I will do my best to be available to answer questions. I am also available via email and will do my best to answer your questions promptly.

Paper Length

In order for a major paper to receive full credit, it must fall within the parameters of length given for the assignment. This means that there will be penalties for going under the specified page limit. These penalties are directly related to how much a student goes under the assigned page requirement; for example, if you were to turn in two pages for a paper that was assigned as a 3-4 page paper, then the highest grade you could receive would be a 67% (or, 2/3 of 100%).  All page requirements assume MLA formatting: 12 pt. Times New Roman, 1-inch margins, double-spaced. If your formatting is different, just make sure that it falls within the parameters under those formatting guidelines, and you’ll be “safe.” If the paper is specifically supposed to be formatted according to MLA, make sure it follows those guidelines.

Extension Option

Students may use one extension on one of our four major papers. In order to use this extension, you must do the following:

  • Notify me at least 24 hours in advance of the time the paper is due (so, by 1:00 the morning before it is due).
  • Set up a time for the paper to be turned in.
  • Turn the paper in at the established time on the established date (no exceptions).
  • Turn the paper in before the next paper is due.

There will be no extensions or credit given to late first/second drafts or informal writings, because those pieces will be used in class discussions and peer reviews; failure to complete early drafts on time will result in lost credit. After a student’s extension has been used, no additional late work will be accepted.

Revision Option

You have the opportunity to revise and re-submit the final draft of one of the five papers over the course of the semester for a new grade. In order to use your revision option, you must take the following steps:

  1. Turn in the original final draft on time and in completion (papers that do not meet assignment guidelines on the first submission may not be resubmitted for revision)
  2. Inform me when you decide you want to resubmit a revision so we can establish a due date for the revision
  3. Complete your revisions
  4. Write a one-page reflection explaining the changes you made, why you made them, and how you feel your paper has improved since the first submission
  5. Submit your revision and reflection, along with all previous drafts of the paper, on the agreed-upon date
  6. Complete the revision before the following paper is due (so, you can’t revise paper one at the end of the semester).

A few guidelines: Due to the nature and pace of the course, the revision option may not be used on a paper that also received an extension. Revising a paper does not guarantee the student a higher grade on the paper – the paper is completely open to re-grading regardless of the previous grade given. Students should keep in mind, also, that revision is a whole-paper process; simply addressing teachers’ or peers’ comments will not necessarily result in a higher grade.

Late Work

It is necessary that your work be turned in on time, since much of our class time will be spent doing peer reviews and discussions of our writing. Because of the way the course is structured, late work outside of acceptable extension situations (see above) will not be accepted. **If an extenuating circumstance arises (such as a death in the family or a significant medical issue), please notify me as soon as possible. I will require written proof of any medical or family events necessitating that I accept late work**

Laptops and Cell Phones

Please keep cell phones on silent (not vibrate) during class time and refrain from checking messages, etc. Even if I don’t mention it to you during class, I will make note of students using cell phones, and this could impact students’ grades at the end of the semester. Laptops, I am more lenient about, since many students like to mark up papers and readings on their computers. You may have your laptop with you in class, but if we are discussing something that does not require it, I ask that you put it away. I also reserve the right to revoke students’ laptop privileges if they are abusing them.

Attendance Policy

It is exceedingly important that you be in class every day since class time will be used to workshop and peer review papers; it is my preference that all students be present for every class period. However, I understand that illness or other circumstances may necessitate an absence, so students are allowed to miss two class sessions without penalty. These should be used wisely, since each subsequent absence after the two “free” absences will result in a 5%, or one half of a letter grade, deduction of a student’s final grade for the course, and five absences will result in automatic failure of the course. Also, students should keep in mind that even though missing a single day may not result in a final grade penalty, our class is largely based on participation and peer review; if a day is missed during which we do class activities or peer reviews, these points cannot easily be made up, and so a student may lose points in the course by not being present. Any students who will be absent due to a legitimate extracurricular conflict should inform me as soon as possible (at the start of the semester) and arrange for work that will be missed. Students should also be on time to class; if a student is ten or more minutes late to class, he or she may be marked absent, which could potentially result in a loss of credit.

Student Accommodations

In accordance with the Universityof Michiganpolicy, I am happy to provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities, and I will protect the confidentiality of students’ individual learning needs. I work closely with the Office for Students with Disabilities (SSD), and if you need accommodations and have not already contacted them, I encourage you to do so. Please email me by the second week of the term if you would like to show me your letter from SSD describing approved accommodations. I will set up a confidential appointment with you to discuss these accommodations.

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