Expository writing e25: academic writing and critical reading



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Akbari (Expo E25 Syllabus, Fall 2013)

EXPOSITORY WRITING E25: ACADEMIC WRITING AND CRITICAL READING
Expo E25, Section 1 (14258) Tom Akbari

Fall 2013

Thursdays 7:40-9:40 ET via online web conference

http://isites.harvard.edu/k97213 akbari@fas.harvard.edu


DESCRIPTION

What is academic writing and how do you write an academic essay? Academic essays can shape themselves into perceptive, persuasive, analytical arguments on art, science, history, religion, philosophy, politics, or culture—any academic topic. In this course, you’ll consider argument and audience through wide reading and focused writing of the flexible literary genre of the academic essay. Our explicit objective is a sequence of study to introduce and develop academic writing and analytical reading skills applicable to the variety of subjects encountered across the college curricula in the humanities and beyond. All along we’ll push our thinking and hone our intellectual curiosity, which is perhaps a disciplined form of childlike wonder and morbid fascination, something absolutely required for a good argument and a good essay.

You will begin by reading a great variety of thoughtful essays, recognizing terms and modes of debate, taking tremendous risks with your thinking, cultivating penetrating judgment on evidence, and writing arguments of your own. You'll employ the essential practices of preliminary writing, drafting, and revising in order to analyze and connect texts that differ widely in form and content; use primary and secondary sources and your own experiences as evidence; engage complexity in terms, concepts and outcomes; exercise self-critique; read and evaluate the work of your fellow student writers as you refine your sense of audience; and write with concision and flair. In your writing you’ll develop new knowledge and an authoritative voice that speaks to other writers and your academic audience.
PRINTED TEXTS

AT THE HARVARD COOP, 617.499-2000, and widely available elsewhere

Samuel Cohen, ed., Fifty Essays: A Portable Anthology, 3rd ed. (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011, ISBN: 0-312-60965-5)
ONLINE TEXTS (available through the course website)

Harvard Guide to Using Sources (HGUS) (http://usingsources.fas.harvard.edu).

Course Workbook

Other readings
STRUCTURE

Expository Writing E25 will guide you through the preparation of three original and compelling essays. The first (3-5 pages) entails close, analytical reading of an assigned essay; the second (5-7 pages) uses one text as a frame (or lens) for connections among several assigned sources; the third (6-9 pages) expands these practices and approaches to an intellectual problem by drawing on assigned essays, an essay of your own choosing, your own experience, and focused library research into sources.

Preparation of these essays entails rough drafts and exercises in revision and peer review. Before beginning a draft, you'll complete a short preliminary exercise to build specific writing skills and address specific problems in the reading. These exercises will be posted online so that we can all exchange our written ideas. After submitting a rough draft, you’ll confer with the instructor to talk pointedly about your writing and revision in preparing a final draft. You’ll also confer with fellow students on your writing in “revision club,” which includes written evaluation of your fellow students’ work. You'll make a brief oral presentation at the end of the semester to experiment with alternatives in presenting your argument to an audience.

All written work should be carefully proofread. Grammar and punctuation will be addressed as an integral part of the writing process, not separately. If you have special concerns with grammar and punctuation, please seek personal help from me.

Please feel free to talk to me about any difficulties or concerns you may have. And let me know what you think is going well. Remember, your teachers are here to help.

ONLINE WEB CONFERENCE

Our course meets as an “online web conference” at the appointed moment each week. It uses web software called Blackboard Collaborate v. 12.5 (http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Overview.aspx).

To join the class, please follow the weblink to our Collaborate classroom on the web, a link that will be provided by the Extension School in an email with detailed instructions before class begins. This link and a link to an archive of recorded class sessions will also be available exclusively to enrolled students logging in to our course webpage.

Our online class will function as a seminar. As “moderator,” the instructor will lead discussion. You must come to each class prepared to discuss and write on the day's reading. Because we are meeting online, you will participate by speaking to the class via microphone and by typing questions and responses into the “chat” box of the software. You may also present material that you’ve loaded onto the “whiteboard” of the classroom. We may take advantage of video functions as well. You are also expected to offer thoughtful written and oral comments on the work of your peers.




LEARNING GOALS

Each passing essay in this class will achieve the following goals (essays earning a grade above C will surpass these goals):




  • A concise introduction, with motive and analytical question, which sets the stage for the essay and compels its audience to read further; articulates the problem to be figured out; suggests the essay's new thinking on that problem.

  • A concise orientation to the subject matter and its importance, defining contexts and terms, if necessary, describing events and materials, if necessary; summarizing concepts and information from source texts; identifying source texts and authors.

  • An effective thesis statement.

  • Effective close reading of evidence: quotations of source text(s), observations of text(s), judgments on text(s) offered as analysis.

  • A coherent structure of argument, building on close readings, pulling thesis through essay. Paragraphs well-developed with transitions between.

  • Thoughtful attention to possible counter-perspectives, complications, qualifications, limitations.

  • Precise syntax, grammar, spelling, formatting, punctuation, citation.


EVALUATION

The evaluation of papers follows the learning goals. You will receive a letter of evaluation for each final draft, which comes on a form that lists each learning goal. A copy of this form is attached at the end of this syllabus. You will also evaluate fellow students during “revision club.” During the course of the term you will become increasingly adept at formulating the kind of writing we aim to achieve. Note that much greater value is placed on the last essay so that improvement is a significant factor in earning a course grade.


Essay 1 20%

Essay 2 30%

Essay 3 40%

Online writing, class participation, peer review 10%


Each unit receives a letter grade. These letters have the following values: A=4.0, A-=3.7, B+=3.3, B=3.0, B-=2.7, C+=2.3, C=2.0, C-=1.7. In determining a course grade, each unit’s grade value is weighted following the scheme above, and the four values are summed up. The course grade is determined by where this sum falls on the following range: A=3.85-4.0, A-=3.50-3.84, B+=3.15-3.49, B=2.85-3.14, B-=2.50-2.84, C+=2.15-2.49, C=1.85-2.14, C-=1.5-1.84.

Please feel free to talk to me about any difficulties or concerns you may have. And let me know what you think is going well.


BLOGGIES

As you begin to think about each set of readings in each unit and prepare to write an essay, you’ll do some of your early thinking in writing. This writing you’ll share with the class, extending our in-class discussions and propelling yourself into the essay. This preliminary writing is going to take the form of a required blog entry, or bloggy. The purpose of these bloggies is to give you writing you can place into your rough draft. Each of our unit assignments will detail what these bloggies should do (under the heading “Bloggy 1” etc.). Post your bloggies by 5 PM on the days they’re due. Our blog may also serve as a forum for ideas of all sorts, especially those, of whatever nature, pertinent to the class (events of interest, for example, or books or whatever materials). If you have concerns about this technology, please discuss them with the instructor, and, if you desire, the class.


HOW TO USE THE COURSE BLOG

You can link to our blog by going to the course website (http://isites.harvard.edu/k97213). Log in to the site with your Harvard ID and PIN. Upon logging in, the “Course Blog” box will appear at the bottom of the left hand column. In the “Course Blog” box, click on the “Post a new item” link and type into the “Message” box directly. You can also paste into the “Message” box text created by some other program. You will post bloggies, rough drafts, and final drafts on the blog. You can also post questions, remarks, and announcements you think are useful to the class.



Please subscribe and send your first bloggy by Monday, 9 September. In this first bloggy, briefly tell us where you’re from and why you’re interested in pursuing collegiate study at Harvard Extension. Or tell us anything you’d like, whatever you think we should know as we start the class.
POLICIES

• Students must submit rough and final drafts of all three essays, meeting all due dates, to pass the course.

• Students will receive comments on rough and final drafts; only final drafts are graded.

• Student should submit each final essay electronically to the course blog by the deadline.

• Drafts are due at the beginning of class on their due date, or precisely at the time specified on non-class days. Online writing (bloggies) is due at 5 PM on specified dates. Late work cannot be accepted.

• Good attendance is essential to our work in the course, which follows a sequence. Students who miss more than two classes without excuse of religious holiday or documented illness may be excluded from class and failed. Tardiness on two occasions by more than ten minutes constitutes an absence. Our online class session may be closed to latecomers fifteen minutes after the class begins.


WRITING CENTER
The Extension School has a Writing Center that supports students on campus and on on-line. If you are taking a distance education course, you may request a Skype conference or an e-mail conference with a member of the Writing Center staff by sending a message to writing_center@dcemail.harvard.edu. Please see http://www.extension.harvard.edu/resources/writing-center for full information.


SCHEDULE (may change)

Readings are listed on the day they are first to be discussed. All readings are found in Fifty Essays. Due dates and times are listed in bold type.


Unit 1. Close Reading and Argument
Week 1

Introductions. What is an essay? What makes good writing? On writing in college, critical thinking, argument, complexity, personal experience. Writing exercise. Syllabus, Unit 1 assignments, questionnaire issued. Orientation to the functions of our online course.


Week 2

Monday. Post first, introductory bloggy. Return questionnaire.


Thursday. Variety of essay. Reading, from Fifty Essays: Jefferson, Kingston, Orwell, Swift. From Course Workbook: Elements and Methods 1, 2, and 3. From Harvard Guide to Using Sources: Introduction, Why Use Sources?, Integrating Sources.

Workshop: close reading, thesis, motive, analytical problem, types of the essay. Conference sign-up. Return questionnaire.


Friday. Bloggy 1 due, 8 PM.
Week 3

Rough Draft, Essay 1 due. Reading, from Course Workbook: Sections on Revision, pages 4-11. Workshop on student drafts: close reading, use of quotations, evidence. Conferences.
Week 4

Revision Club. Conferences.


Unit 2. Multiple Sources: Framing an Approach
Week 5

Final draft, Essay 1 due. Workshop on sources. Introduction of Unit 2, excerpts of Unit 2 reading.
Week 6

Thursday. Reading, from Fifty Essays: Carson, Ehrenreich, Eighner, Mukherjee, Rodriguez, Thoreau. From Course Reader: Elements and Methods 4 and 5. Workshop on keyterms, placing sources into dialogue, framing a text.


Friday. Bloggy 2 due, 8 PM.
Week 7

Rough draft, Essay 2 due.
Week 8

Revision Club.


Unit 3. Engaging an Intellectual Problem and Synthesizing Your Voice
Week 9

Final draft, Essay 2 due. Introduction of Unit 3.
Week 10

Thursday. Reading, from Fifty Essays: Alexie, Diamond, Hurston, Schlosser, Sedaris, Sontag, Vowell. From Harvard Guide to Using Sources: Locating Sources, Evaluating Sources, Avoiding Plagiarism, Citing Sources.


Friday. Bloggy 3 due, 8 PM.
Week 11

Workshop on research.


Week 12

Rough draft, Essay 3 due.
Week 13

Revision club.


Week 14

Oral presentations.


Week 15

Last class. Final draft, Essay 3 due.


ACADEMIC HONESTY

Below is Harvard Extension School’s statement on academic honesty, stated in its Handbook for Students. It applies to our work.


Plagiarism is the theft of someone else’s ideas and work. Whether a student copies verbatim or simply rephrases the ideas of another without properly acknowledging the source, the theft is the same. A computer program written as part of the student’s academic work is, like a paper, expected to be the student’s original work and subject to the same standards of representation. In the preparation of work submitted to meet course requirements, whether a draft or final version of a paper, project, assignment, computer program, or take-home examination, students must take great care to distinguish their own ideas and language from information derived from sources. Sources include published primary and secondary materials, the Internet, and information and opinions gained directly from other people. Whenever ideas or facts are derived from a student’s reading or research, the sources must be properly cited.
Students are also expected to read and understand the “Avoiding Plagiarism” chapter of the Harvard Guide to Using Sources (http://usingsources.fas.harvard.edu).


Assessment Sheet
















Expo E25




















































 

Failed

Poor

Satisfactory

Good

Excellent

Concise introduction, with motive and analytical question, which sets the stage for the essay and compels its audience to read further; articulates the problem to be figured out; suggests the essay's new thinking on that problem.

 

 

 

 

 

Concise orientation to the subject matter and its importance, defining contexts and terms, if necessary, describing events and materials, if necessary; summarizing concepts and information from source texts; identifying source texts and authors.

 

 

 

 

 

Effective thesis statement.

 

 

 

 

 

Effective close reading of evidence: quotations of source text(s), observations of text(s), judgments on text(s) offered as analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

Coherent structure of argument, building on close readings, pulling thesis through essay. Paragraphs well-developed with transitions between.

 

 

 

 

 

Thoughtful attention to possible counter-perspectives, complications, qualifications, limitations.

 

 

 

 

 

Precise syntax, grammar, spelling, formatting, citation.

 

 

 

 

 





































Grade:



















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