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Course Syllabus
WRTG121: Composition 2: Researching the Public Experience - Winter 2018
MW, 9:30-10:45 a.m., Room: PH414, (CRN: 23617)

Course Description

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 WRTG121 we are concerned with the interrelationship of 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 matters of waste and environmental justice this term, and to do this well we will approach selected environmental issues through a variety of methods, or approaches to research questions: memory work, word work, site work, interview, source work, and data work. The purpose of our shared focus is to write toward collectively and individually enriched stances on issues related to just, ethical, and sustainable futures. We will be writing through a series of different approaches to research to grasp more fully an issue or series of issues related to waste, garbage, land and water rights, and attitudes toward the environment. The three major projects entail a source-based proposal, the carrying out of a research method, and sharing your research with audiences, both in-class and at the Celebration of Student Writing.

Course Outcomes

More fully elaborated explanations of the following outcomes for WRTG121 are available at FYWP Outcomes. Early in the course, we will spend time in class reviewing these outcomes carefully.

Course Texts and Materials

EasyWriter for Eastern Michigan University

Lunsford, Andrea A. EasyWriter for Eastern Michigan University. Boston: Bedford St. Martin's, 2017. ISBN 978-1-319-13090-9. (required)

Losh, Alexander, Cannon, and Cannon. Understanding Rhetoric

Losh, Alexander, Cannon, and Cannon. Understanding Rhetoric (2nd Edition, EMU Custom Edition). Boston: Bedford St. Martin's, 2017. (required)

These two texts are available as a bundle at the EMU Student Center Bookstore. Copies are also on reserve in Halle Library. Supplemental readings will be available to you as PDFs and hyperlinks accessible in Canvas. 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. 

Other readings will be available to you as PDFs and hyperlinks accessible in Canvas (see Files). 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:

P1.Proposal and Invention Portfolio: 10
P2.Report and Invention Portfolio: 40
P3.Presentations and Invention Portfolio: 30
Portfolio with reflective cover letter: 20

Each of the projects will be described fully in separate prompts that I will circulate at an appropriate time in the semester. Grades on projects will adhere to the University’s A-F system. All grades will be posted in the Canvas gradebook associated with this course. You must complete all major projects and participate in the Celebration of Student Writing on Thursday, April 12, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. to be eligible for a passing grade in WRTG121.

Turning in Work

Turning in Writing/Keep Everything
Sometimes you will turn in shorter assignments in class. Longer assignments listed above will be turned in via Google Drive before the start of class (9:30 a.m.) on the day the assignment is due. Keep everything you write for the class because you will gather the invention portfolio and drafts of projects three times throughout the term.

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 Google Drive. Late work will not be accepted for credit, except as discussed in relation to the portfolio. Missed invention portfolio items may be turned in with the portfolio on the project due date for partial credit. 

Course Policies

Attendance and Participation

WRTG121 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.

Students enrolled in English Department classes are expected to participate in daily interactive activities. They will, for example, routinely discuss reading assignments, write in class on impromptu topics, participate in collaborative activities, or engage in peer review of drafts. Students who miss these activities regularly cannot reasonably make them up. As a result, students who do not participate regularly should expect to receive lower grades in the course, and students who miss more than the equivalent of two weeks of class should consider withdrawing and taking the class in a future semester. 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 WRTG121 a meaningful experience.

We will meet this term in Pray Harrold 414. 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 accounts, accessible via You can send email to me or to classmates via the Canvas 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 passes off another's words or ideas without acknowledging their source, whether intentionally or not. 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.1. 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; 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; 734-487-0694) 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 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays. Students should bring a draft of what they’re working on and their assignment. The UWC opens for Winter 2018 on Monday, January 8, and will close on Thursday, April 19.

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 2019 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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