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Course Syllabus - Spring 2011

Course Description

ENGL121: Comp II: Researching the Public Experience (3 credits)
Focuses on academic writing and inquiry. Students use multiple modes of research to develop literacy used in academic and other public contexts. Through extended reading and writing, students engage in the process of writing researched essays that reflect conventions of standard written English and standard documentation styles.

Course Overview

In ENGL121 we are persistently concerned with writing and research. Through a series of written projects, some short and provisional, others longer and more precisely crafted, you will gain experience with research practices that underpin selected evidence-driven genres common in academic contexts. We are inquiring into food this term, and to do this well we will approach food-related issues through a variety of encounters, some mediated (readings, photographs, documentary film) and others immersive (interviews, site observation). The purpose of this thematic focus is to write toward collectively and individually enriched stances on food-related issues. We will be writing through five different approaches to research to grasp more fully an issue or series of issues related to food, its import in our lives, and different values we associate with it. The five research approaches are memory work, word work, site observation, interview, and source work, and we will adapt these to a number of questions, including:

Course Outcomes

More fully elaborated explanations of the following outcomes for ENGL121 are available at FYWP Outcomes. Early in the course, we will spend time in class reviewing these processes closely.

Composing Process Outcomes

  1. Critical Reading and Analysis
  2. Research Practices and Processes
  3. Writing Processes and Representation
  4. Use of Evidence
  5. Syntax and Mechanics

Learning Process Outcomes

  1. Investment and Engagement
  2. Autonomy and Authority
  3. Sense of Perspective
  4. Competence and Confidence
  5. Resource Use
  6. Reflection

Work of the Course

Over 7.5 weeks, our inquiries will circle through writing, reading, and (re)searching, although not in a particularly lockstep or predefined way. You will write a series of seven research memos and five "tracings." Each of the tracings will be linked with one of the research practices listed in the course overview above. You will bring writing with you every day we meet, and we will concern ourselves for a substantial portion of each class with these daily writings. Over time, the memos and tracings will accumulate, and near the end of the term you will develop a researched argument from this collection.

Our in-class time will consist of brief opening remarks and full-group discussions; however, for a substantial portion of each class you will be working in small groups toward a consensus valuation of another group's work for that day. Think of this as an in-class blind review. In a group of five, you and your classmates will read, discuss, and deliberate through open conversation, about writing from another group. Another portion of in-class time will take these conversations a step further as the full class looks at pieces particular groups have identified as compelling and distinctive for some reason. In short, you will learn about writing and research by doing a lot of both and by persistently returning to questions opened through our dwelling on writing done by others in the class. Even while we are inquiring into issues related to food, we are foremost concerned with writing and research practices.

Throughout the semester we will read from the course text and from selected PDFs and hyperlinks available to you in EMU Online (see Doc Sharing). Writing and reading are interdependent, integral practices, and you will move between the two regularly throughout the course.

Course Texts and Materials

Eating Animals

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Back Bay Books, 2009. ISBN 978-0-316-06988-5. (required)
Amazon.com | Half.com

This text is available at the EMU Bookstore in the Student Center.

Supplemental readings will be available to you as PDFs and hyperlinks accessible in EMU Online (see Doc Sharing). You should access these materials for reading on the screen or, if you prefer, for printing and reading. Plan to spend as much as 20 USD on printing and photocopying over the course of the semester.


You will receive many different kinds of feedback to your writing during this course. Some responses will come from fellow students and some will come from me. All forms of feedback, including responses you receive from scheduling individual or group appointments in the University Writing Center or the Academic Projects Center, are important; they tell you in various ways how your readers are responding to your writing. This will also help you learn how to assess your own work.


The breakdown of graded items is as follows:

*Research Memos (7): +3-2-1-0 pts.
*Tracings (5): +10-8-6-0 pts.
*Researched Argument (recombination): +20-18-16-14-0 pts.
*Portfolio with letter: +10 pts.
Conference (up to 2): +2
UWC Consultation for Tracing (up to 2): +2

ENGL121 is graded on a base-100 point system, but you will likely notice right away that more than 100 points are possible. This approach adopts a gaming logic by which you will add points as you go. This system encourages you to actively pursue the scoring level you seek. Attendance and in-class participation are integrated with the research memos and tracings. Points are awarded, though, not merely for showing up to class but for showing up to class with your work printed and ready to share. The credit-bearing unit for attendance, then, is not only "student," but "student+writing." Each of the starred projects will be described fully in separate prompts that I will circulate at an appropriate time in the semester. All grades will be posted in the EMU Online (eCompanion) gradebook associated with this course. You must complete all starred projects (i.e., research memos, tracings, researched argument, and portfolio with letter) to be eligible for a passing grade in ENGL121.

Turning in Work

Paper and Electronic Copies
Turn in all starred items listed above in EMU Online's Dropbox before the start of class (9 a.m.) on the day the assignment is due. Also bring paper copies of your work to class. On days when memos are due, bring six one-page copies of your memo, and when tracings are due, bring two copies to class.

Anonymous Printouts and File Naming
Do not include your name on the paper copies you bring to class each day. Instead, use the four digit number I have assigned to you. For electronic copies submitted in EMU Online, use the following naming formula: 121-FirstnameLastname-Assn. That is, filenames should always include the course number, your first and last name, and the abbreviated name of the assignment, with a hyphen between each. For example, my own copy of the first memo would be 121-DerekMueller-M1, and my own first tracing would be named 121-DerekMueller-T1.

Late Work
All work must be submitted before the start of class on the due date to be considered on time and therefore eligible for full credit. This policy applies whether or not you are in class on a given day. In other words, if you miss class, you are still responsible for meeting all related deadlines, including the submission of work to EMU Online. Late work will not be accepted for credit, except as discussed in relation to the portfolio. Missed memos and tracings may be turned in with the portfolio at 50% credit.

Course Policies

Attendance and Participation

ENGL121 is a course in language learning, and language is learned in communities, usually by social interactions; therefore, it is essential that you attend class and participate in a manner respectful of differing learning styles and worldviews. Participation, involvement, and engagement with the activities of the class will be factored into your overall grade in association with the writing due that day. Absences and lack of preparation for class will affect your classmates' work as well as your own. The work you do in and in preparation for each class is vital to our daily sessions. In addition, our syllabus and schedule are only a projection and may be subject to occasional changes and revisions as it seems appropriate, necessary, or just interesting.

If you must miss a class, you are still responsible for all work assigned, including turning work in by stated deadlines. Please realize, however, that class time cannot be reconstructed or made up, and that your performance, your work, and your final course grade will be affected by absences. Class begins promptly at 9 a.m. You will not be counted present past 9:05 a.m. unless you provide an official documented cause that day. Missing two or more classes without any official documented cause will make it exceedingly difficult to pass ENGL121. I do not anticipate any of you will be in that position, however, and I would greatly prefer to see everyone become invested in the coursework, come to class, learn a lot, and make ENGL121 a meaningful experience. [Added for clarification: Legitimate documented causes for absence or tardiness are 1) illness, 2) car accidents, and 3) death of a relative.]

We will meet this term in Porter 306. You may at times be tempted to use laptops or mobile devices for checking email or browsing the web. As a rule of thumb, I ask that your in-class uses of mobile devices (e.g., cell phones) and computers be focused on class-related activities. Obviously, you should silence your phones before coming to class. As long as everyone is respectfully attentive when someone is speaking, in-class technology use will not be a problem. In-class attentiveness, engagement, and preparedness (i.e., having read and prepared for each class) are what I mean by "presence."

Computer and Internet Usage

We will be interacting with a variety of sites on the internet during the course. Please let me know if you have not had any experience using a browser such as Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. When using a computer, save your work frequently, always make backup copies, and plan your projects with extra time allowed for unexpected challenges.

Much of the work you do for this class will be typewritten, using Google Docs or some other word processor. When turning in documents like this, please use an easily readable typeface, such as Times New Roman 12. Assign one inch margins and adhere to the page layout and documentation conventions established by MLA. Whatever the format of the assignment, I strongly urge you to plan ahead, to familiarize yourself with file formats and with the submission process, and to approach me with questions about submissions well in advance of the due dates.

Communication with Peers; Communication with the Instructor

While you can expect a fair amount of leadership and direction to come from me, you should also make arrangements early in the semester to communicate with your peers. In other words, you are strongly encouraged to identify one or two (perhaps more) peers in the class with whom you can discuss readings and assignments, work through questions brought up in the class, and approach when you find something unclear. In short, my hope is that we all will prefer climate in which dialogue and interaction runs between the instructor and students and also between and among students when questions come up. Finally, you should always be proactive about asking questions when you have them, either by raising questions during class or contacting me or one of your peers privately.


To communicate by email we will use our emich.edu accounts, accessible via mail.emich.edu. You can send email to me or to classmates via the EMU Online (eCompanion) site associated with this course. You may call and leave a phone message, but you will at times find it more effective to use email to contact me about your work in the course. You can also set up an appointment to meet with me on campus, or to ask a question. With rare exceptions, I will respond to all email inquiries within 48 hours.

Academic Integrity

Plagiarism occurs when a writer deliberately passes off another's words or ideas without acknowledging their source. For example, turning another's work as your own is plagiarism. If you plagiarize in this class, you will likely fail the assignment on which you are working and your case may be passed to the university for additional disciplinary action. Because of the design and nature of this course, it will take as much (or more) work for you to plagiarize in it than it will to actually complete the work of the class. For a more detailed explanation of Eastern Michigan University's stance on academic integrity, refer to Section V.A. of the Student Conduct Code.

Disability Resource Center (DRC)

If you have a documented disability that affects your work in this (or any other) class, the Disability Resource Center can provide support for you. It is my goal that this class be an accessible and welcoming experience for all students, including those with disabilities that may impact their learning in this class. If anyone believes they may have trouble participating or effectively demonstrating learning in this course, please meet with me (with or without a Disability Resource Center (DRC) accommodation letter) to discuss reasonable options or adjustments. During our conversation, I may suggest the possibility/necessity of your contacting the DRC (240 Student Center; 734-487-2470; swd_office@emich.edu) to talk about academic accommodations. You are welcome to talk to me at any point in the semester about such issues, but it is always best if we can talk at least one week prior to the need for any modifications.

Academic Projects Center

The Academic Projects Center is located in 116 Halle Library (487-0020, extension 2154). The Center is open M-Th from 11-5 and is staffed by University Writing Center consultants, Halle Librarians, and Information and Communications Technology staff who can help with writing, research, or technology needs. No appointment is necessary. When you visit the Academic Projects Center, be sure to bring a draft of what you're working on and your assignment sheet with you.

University Writing Center

The University Writing Center (115 Halle Library) offers one-to-one consulting for both undergraduate and graduate students. Students can make appointments or drop in between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays.  Students should bring a draft of what they’re working on and their assignment. Students should bring a draft of what they’re working on and their assignment.

The UWC also offers small group workshops on various topics related to writing (e.g., Reading in College: Tips and Strategies; Incorporating Evidence; Revising Your Writing).  Workshops are offered at various times Monday through Friday in the UWC. To register for a workshop, click the "Register" link from the UWC page at www.emich.edu/english/writing-center.

Contact Information

Derek N. Mueller, PhD
Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Writing
Director of Composition
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Office: 315 Shanks Hall
Spring 2020 Office Hours: T, 12-3
Phone: +1-734-985-0485

"Let's say you were from somewhere else, seeing this Earth from space for the first time. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't be satisfied with that view; I'd want to get closer, walk around on it, even get down on my hands and knees. That's how I prefer to see the Earth." —Wendell Berry, Interview with Jordan Fisher-Smith

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