WRT 205: Writing Studio II: Critical Research: Syllabus

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Projects: An Inventory of Effects | Rhetoric of Data Visualization| Reach-Search

Spring 2005
TR 5-6:20
HBC 213B and HBC227
Section M320, No. 32818

Course Description and Rationale

Foremost, Writing 205: Critical Research is a course designed as an introduction to research-based academic writing. We'll begin this term by exploring just what "research" means in our present context--a surrounds consisting of institutional dynamics, your unique interests and academic pursuits, and an endlessly shifting, complex terrain of informational contour, from print texts to digital media and the numerous emergent, blended forms tugging us in multiple directions. When we say "research," what do we mean? How does the term change when we partner it with "writing" as in "research writing"? How do information environments variously reconstitute keywords such as these?

Marshall McLuhan speaks of the force of the "habit of data classification" as it is being replaced by "mode[s] of pattern recognition." As a form of response, counter-force or resistance to this force, our early-term work will attempt to find traction among these terms, particularly as we work together to assess the internet's vibrancy against the conventions of the age old medium of print. What patterns do these mediums share? Throughout, we'll discuss methods of accessing and connecting information from divergent genres and sources; starting with the ordinary practices of searching and browsing, both in traditional spaces such as the library and through the computer interface, we'll extend our conversations to RSS and aggregation--two of the latest turns in reading the web.

We'll do a fair amount of reading and writing in WRT205, all the while asking questions about the research methods represented in the texts we read and employed in the texts we write. Later in the term, we will choose from among the methods demonstrated by scholars writing about the science of networks--Barabási, Gladwell, Buchanan, and Brown and Duguid. We'll apply similar methods as we undertake our own research projects extending our explorations of network theory, the power of links and the social formation of knowledge.

Finally, we will pause regularly throughout the course to reflect on what all of this means for our continuing roles as readers, writers and researchers, both in the academy and beyond. Specifically, discussing the tempo and rhythms of writing regularly in interconnected spaces will, if all goes as planned, guide us toward lasting habits of mind.

Course Goals for WRT 205

Students will:

  • learn to approach a topic of inquiry from multiple perspectives and multiple genres.
  • learn to apply their critical reading skills to analyzing print and online texts from diverse fields.
  • learn and analyze critically multiple research strategies (e.g., interviews, online, library, database).
  • learn the skills necessary for collaborative work.
  • learn more than one genre of the research text.
  • gain experience in producing multimedia presentations of their research.
  • learn conventions of quotation and citation appropriate to various disciplines, such as APA and MLA.
  • learn editing appropriate to various audiences, contexts, and genres.
  • develop a working theoretical understanding of the research process.
  • develop a working understanding of the potentials and problems of academic research and writing, including issues of audience, style and language, and rhetorical situation.
  • learn to use electronic technology for drafting, for online research, and/or for web-based activity as part of a course on composing and writing.
  • learn how to incorporate additional media into their course work (e.g., photographs, drawings, video clips, web pages).

Work of the Course

You will devote time, thought, and energy to a variety of informal and formal reading and writing practices. During the course you may annotate readings, keep a record of ideas and responses, register observations, take notes on class discussions, experiment with different styles and organizational choices, and engage in a variety of drafting and revision activities, all of which will unfold both in and out of class, both on the course weblog and on paper. All these activities are important and will have an impact on your development and success as academic writers.

Writing well depends upon reading well. The course essays will provide you with ideas and arguments, facts and data. They will prompt thought as you agree or disagree or qualify those ideas. They enlarge the context for our class discussion. And they illustrate choices other writers have made as they composed, particularly writing by integrating and reiterating the ideas previously explored by others.. Writing and reading are interdependent practices, and you will move between the two regularly throughout the course.

Course Texts and Materials

(available at both the University Bookstore and Follett's Orange Bookstore)

Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science and Everyday Life, by Albert-László Barabási
ISBN: 0-452-28439-2
The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, by Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore
ISBN: 1-58423-070-3
The Harbrace Writer's Handbook Brief, Second Edition, by Cheryl Glenn et al
ISBN: 1-4130-0236-6
Companion site for students
The Harbrace Writer's Handbook Brief

You should also be prepared to provide copies of your work for everyone in the class (or in your peer response group) at various times during the semester. Supplemental readings will be available to you as PDF files, which you should plan to download and print or, alternatively, read on the screen. Whatever the case, plan to spend as much as $10 on printing and photocopying over the course of the semester.


You will receive many different kinds of feedback during this course. Some will come from fellow students and some will come from me. All forms of feedback, including responses you receive from scheduling independent appointments in the Writing 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 is as follows:

1. An Inventory of Effects 15%
2. The Rhetoric of Data Visualization 20%
3. Reach-Search: A Critical Inquiry 25%
Course weblog (~8e/16c) 25%
Inventive work/Invention portfolio (three increments) 15%

All work listed here will be assigned a letter grade corresponding to a 4.0 scale.

Each of the numbered projects will be described fully in a separate prompt that I will circulate later in the semester. With each project, your work will accompany an invention portfolio--a collection of all drafts, notes, provisional outlines and idea maps, and so on: the paper stuff that best represents your process. The collection will also include all of the brief in-class work and short homework assignments. In simple terms, it will be turned in incrementally, so the assessment of your invention portfolio will be distributed across the three projects. Active engagement in our in-class conversations is also a part of the inventive work in WRT205.

The course weblog is a space in which you will post regular entries--a minimum of eight total entries throughout the semester. Early in the term, I will provide you with loose deadlines (two entries, for example, are due before the end of week four). You are welcome to post more frequently. We'll cover all of this much more thoroughly in the early weeks of the semester, but in general, substantive entries can range anywhere from 200-600 words (more or less depending, of course, on the case). As you write in the course weblog, you should be mindful of linking--directing readers of your entry to the sites/sources that influenced your thinking. For each entry, you should plan to register two comments. Such comments can be conversant with those who comment on your entries or they can comment on the posting done by others. At times, weblog entries will follow a brief prompt for writing, evaluating a source or reporting on a research tool.

Course Policies

Attendance and Participation
Writing studios are courses in language learning, and language is learned in communities; therefore, it is essential that you attend class and participate. Absences and lack of preparation for class will affect your classmates' work as well as your own. The work you do in class, the work you do to prepare for each class, is as important as any polished assignment you turn in for a grade. In addition, our syllabus is only a projection and may be subject to occasional changes and revisions as it seems appropriate, necessary, or just interesting. That is another reason why your attendance is vital. As a general rule, you do not need to explain reasons for absence unless you anticipate an extended absence.

The Rule of Ask Three
If you must miss a class, you are responsible for work assigned or missed, so it's a good idea early in the semester to get acquainted with three peers who will share notes or recaps of missed class sessions. 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.

Special Needs and Situations
Students who need special consideration because of any sort of disability or situation should make an appointment to see me right away. You should also refer to the Office of Disability Services for additional information.

Use of Student Writing
It is understood that registration for and continued enrollment in this course constitutes permission by the student for the instructor to use any student work composed for the course.

The Writing Center
Nearly all writers benefit from interchanges and discussion; as noted above, all forms of thoughtful feedback inform your understanding of the ways written texts perform for various readers and, therefore, such feedback is valuable throughout the writing process. Consultants in the University's Writing Center are available to consult with you at any stage of the writing process. For more information about The Writing Center's hours of operation and instructions for scheduling an appointment, check out the Center's web site: http://wrt.syr.edu/wc/wcintro.html.

Computers, Multimedia and Technology
Most of the work you do for this class will be handed in word-processed. Use an easily readable font, such as Courier New 10 or Times New Roman 12. Include one inch margins and follow the page layout used by the MLA format described in your handbook.

We will also use Orangemail for communicating outside class. While to may call and leave a phone message, it's best to use email or AIM to contact me about your coursework, to set up an appointment to meet with me outside class, or to ask a question. With rare exceptions, I will respond to all email inquiries within 48 hours.

Additionally, we will be reading and engaging with a variety of sites on the internet at times during the course. Please let me know if you have not had any experience using a browser such as Mozilla, Netscape or Internet Explorer. We will run through basic technological literacies in the early weeks of the course.

Computer technology provides us with an impressive range of tools and applications for composing. Such technologies present us with numerous choices as well as the potential for multimedia enhancements and greater compositional neatness and efficiency. Nonetheless, the usual warnings about saving your work apply. When relying on computer technology, take appropriate steps to ensure that your work is backed up and plan extra time, as needed, for integrating multimedia features in your work.

Contact Information
Derek Mueller
Office: HBC 002
Spring '05 office hours: Tue., 3:30-4:30 p.m. and by appt.
Phone: (315) 443-1785
AIM: ewidem