WRT 205: Studio II: Critical Research and Writing: Syllabus

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Spring 2007
Section M500, No. 39199

Course Description and Rationale

Writing 205: Studio II: Critical Research and Writing is a course designed as an introduction to research-driven academic writing. Our focus this term begins with an inquiry into the production and circulation of knowledge in your chosen field of study. What are the prominent publishers, journals, conferences, and related events in your field? What are the most recent and relevant arguments or concerns as suggested by journals, conferences, and other venues? Where and among whom do those conversations play out besides the expected academic channels? What are the theories and methods a graduate in your field must be conversant with? How do you learn about these (how are they made? how are they put into circulation?)? We'll describe this opening project as inquiry because we can't know full-well in advance what we will find. In other words, while you might have a preliminary sense of your direction, you will further develop, refine, and trace out your own questions about the nature of knowledge production and circulation from your present perspective as a senior at the university.

Guided by insights from your first project, the second project of the term involves collection and annotation—building a personal research database. Ultimately, you will decide the extent to which your work on the second project—"How To Do Things with Data"—functions like a conventional annotated bibliography and how much, on the other hand, it explores and experiments with web-based systems, such as del.icio.us, Notefish, and Zotero. The purpose of the second project is for you to practice building a collection of research materials with annotations suited to the final project in the course, an extended research project that focuses on a topic or set of topics with explicit relevance to your chosen field.

Together, these three projects will be grounded in each of your respective majors or primary fields of study, and the books, articles, and other readings you choose will follow suit. Methods of research in this course will range from interviewing your mentors and professors about articles and essays (or whole journals) they find indispensable to those intent on understanding the field to text-based methods of reading, selecting significant passages, summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting directly. In addition to the three large projects for the semester, you will complete several shorter assignments—a summary of a scholarly article, a book review, a research memo (proposal), and a descriptive outline of your extended research project, to name a few. Writing each of these pieces is meant to familiarize you with a variety of ways of working with texts as an active, thoughtful, and invested participant in your chosen field of study.

Because our course takes place almost exclusively online, we share an added responsibility for exploring questions and concerns with each other and for asking for clarification or elaboration any time you think it would be helpful. Also, this means that most of our interactions will manifest in writing. As such, there is an even greater premium on taking time to work through the tasks, projects, and assignments posed to you in the months ahead.

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 activities and practices. During the course you may annotate readings, keep a record of ideas and responses, register observations, take notes on discussions online, experiment with different styles and organizational choices, and engage in a variety of drafting and revision activities, much of which will unfold in Blackboard and in Google Docs. All of these activities are important and will have an impact on your development and success as writers in various academic disciplines.

Writing well also depends upon reading well. Readings you begin to identify and assemble during the first weeks of the semester will provide you with ideas and arguments, facts and data that will ground your work later on. Readings, along with the assignments, will prompt thought as you develop provisional claims and look for ways to qualify your ideas. Selected shared readings (available in Blackboard) will 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, integral practices, and you will move between the two regularly throughout the course.

Course Texts and Materials

Because this course places tremendous emphasis on research, we have no pre-determined textbooks for this section of WRT205. Instead, throughout the early weeks of the semester, you will identify books and articles that will ground your work in the course, including a summary of a scholarly article and a review of a scholarly text from your field (i.e., major). Most of these resources will be available in Bird Library, by interlibrary loan, or online. In some cases, it will be necessary to pay for library photocopies or to purchase hard-to-find research materials online or from booksellers. The highly customized nature of the reading for the course is especially appropriate given that everyone enrolled in this section of WRT205 is currently a senior at SU.

You should be prepared to provide electronic 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 in Blackboard, which you should plan to download and print or, alternatively, read on the screen. Whatever the case, plan to spend as much as $15 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 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:

Major Projects 75%
1. Field-based Inquiry: Knowledge Production and Circulation, +5 pp., 20%
2. How To Do Things with Data: Collection and Annotation, +7 entries, 25%
3. Extended Research Project, +14 pp, 30%

Related Assignments 25%
Researcher's Profile, 2 pp. (3%)
Scholarly Article Summary, 2 pp. (3%)
Scholarly Book Review, +4 pp. (6%)
Research Memo, 1 p. (1%)
Descriptive Outline, 2 pp. (2%)
Peer response (5%)
Conference preparation
Discussion board participation (5%)

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 at an appropriate time in the semester.

Late Work
All work must be submitted on time to be considered for full credit. Work that is submitted late will receive a full grade deduction for each day that it is late. Therefore, an essay that is due Friday afternoon by 5:00 p.m. will not earn passing credit after Sunday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. Discussion forum posts must be completed by the end of the week to be considered for credit.

Course Policies

Attendance and Participation
Our online course meets asynchronously or, that is, at irregular and uncoordinated times throughout the week. Attendance, therefore, requires only that you login to the course, participate in the threaded discussions and listserv interchanges, and show up on time for all scheduled face-to-face meetings, such as conferences in Bird Library. Generally, you should expect to interact with your peers or me three or four times per week, either by email, discussion board, IM, telephone, or in person. If you miss a deadline for an assignment, if you miss a face-to-face appointment, or if you do not log into Blackboard in a given week, you will be considered absent. Excessive or extended absences can significantly impact your chances for passing the course. You should note, too, that your regular, attentive, and vocal presence is vital to this online course because the syllabus and schedule are subject to modification as seems appropriate, necessary, or better suited to the cohort of students enrolled this term.

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 communication channels both 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 sending a note to the listserv or contacting me or one of your peers privately.

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.

The Writing Center
According to a recent survey, most S.U. students who use the Writing Center have GPAs higher than 3.0; moreover, one in four have GPAs higher than 3.6. At the Writing Center (101 HBC; 443-5289) experienced, professional writing consultants will help you succeed on individual assignments and ultimately become a better writer. They work one-on-one to help you understand assignments, discuss your responses, revise your drafts, develop proofreading strategies, and more. Appointments are available in 25- or 50-minute sessions, Monday through Friday, and can be reserved up to seven days in advance via their online scheduling program: http://tutortrac.syr.edu. Drop-in appointments are welcome Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. This is a free resource to all students and highly recommended for every assignment you work on in this class.

Computers, Multimedia and Technology
If this is the first time you have enrolled in an online course, you should let me know during the first week of class. With the exception of one or two on-campus conferences (one-on-one or small group meetings, probably in Bird Library), all of our interaction and involvement will require a moderate level of computer proficiency. In other words, you should be able to send and receive emails; log into Blackboard, the library's research databases, and other sites on a regular basis; save and back-up files; copy and paste digital content; and keep copies of all of your written work throughout the semester.

Document Sharing. Early in the semester, you should visit Google Docs and set up an account. Google Docs is where you will turn in much of your work throughout the semester, including drafts of projects that I will then comment on using the commenting features available there. This gives us more flexibility than the dropbox feature in Blackboard and will prove much less cumbersome than relying on email attachments to share documents and responses. The interface for Google Docs is user-friendly. You should explore the features it makes available and test out the collaboration option early on as you will need to invite me as a collaborator to each of your pieces of writing. Note: Rather than trusting Google Docs alone for storing all of your files, you are strongly encouraged to save a backup copy each time you login and make changes to a document there.

Email. We will also use our syr.edu accounts, accessible via Mymail, for communicating messages not appropriate for the discussion forum in Blackboard. You may call and leave a phone message, but it is best to use email or AIM to contact me about your coursework, to 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.

Web Browser. As you might expect, we will be reading and engaging 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 Mozilla Firefox, Netscape or Internet Explorer. In general, I encourage you to use Mozilla Firefox for this course, only turning to Internet Explorer when a particular online application requires it. You can download and install a free copy of Mozilla Firefox here.

Listserv. Blackboard provides us with a means to email others in the class, but I have also set up a listserv so that you can send email to everyone from your email client. Simply sending a message to wrt205@electracuse.com will distribute your message to everyone enrolled in our section of WRT205. Keep in mind that messages to the listserv should be carefully considered in terms of proof-reading and providing context. You might, at times, receive reminders and announcements from me sent to the listserv. When responding to such messages, be sure to double-check that your own responses are addressed the way you intend them to be, either to the entire group or to an individual addressee.

Contact Information
Derek Mueller
Office: HBC 002
Spring '07 office hours: Mon., 9-10 a.m. and by appointment
Phone: (315) 443-1785
AIM: ewidem