Enrolling in college means becoming a member of a new community, the academic community, and so the goals of this course are to initiate students into this new community by showing them how to participate in it. Since participation takes place mainly through discussion and writing, the course introduces students to genres of academic writing, as well as the process of scholarly debate and conversation known as academic discourse.
The heart of the academic enterprise is research and the sharing of information and ideas. Therefore, to practice participating in academic discourse students will read dissertations and journal articles, consult with librarians, meet graduate students, learn how to participate in research as an undergraduate, attend symposiums, sit in during conference presentations and of course, write their own research paper.
A series of scaffolded assignments walk students through the process of research: from the initial stage of inquiry, to examining the historical context of their topic, to the formation of a thesis, to the crafting of a thesis-driven research paper, and finally to the presentation of their findings to an audience.
1. They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing by Gerald Graff &
Cathy Birkenstein. New York: W. W. Norton, 2006.
2. Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues
from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M.
Conway. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2011.
The assignment trajectory guides students through the process of library research, thesis development, writing an academic essay, and presenting their findings to the public in the form of a conference presentation. Attention is given to emperical research methods, the process of peer review, and logical argumentation.
1. Topic Selection - students choose a topic based upon their interests or major.
2. Annotated Bibliography - students assemble the existing relevant scholarship on
3. Bibliographic Essay - students draw conclusions about how the scholarly debate
surrounding their topic has changed over time
4. Thesis Development - based upon conclusions drawn from their reserach,
students develop an arguable thesis.
5. Aristotelean Essay - students write a thesis-driven argumentative essay supported
by relevant scholarship
6. Conference Presentation - students develop and give a 20-minute multi-media
presentation about their findings and conclusions.
Week 1 – The Process of Writing
welcome & ice-breakers
class introduction & syllabus review
what is a university? what goes on here?
writing is thinking (Lev Vygotsky theory)
writing is revision / shitty first drafts / writing is an act of discovery
inventing the university
Week 2 – What is Science, Scholarship, and Academic Discourse
what is a research university? what goes on here? who are academics?
academic discourse (what is) vs. public discourse (what should be)
what is academic freedom?
science vs. pseudoscience
a canon of methods
what is an academic journal?
review: intellectual autobiography assignment
Week 3 – What is Science, Scholarship, and Academic Discourse, part 2
paradigms, theories, hypotheses
what is empiricism and empirical evidence?
what is evidence? what is a text? It depends on the discipline
homework: read an compare an academic article with a popular press article
due: intellectual autobiography assignment
Week 4 – Finding a Research Topic
conferences with instructor
review: the annotated bibliography genre
discussion: the purpose of literature reviews
citation styles: MLA vs. APA
paraphrasing vs. summarizing vs. quoting
due: research topic proposals
workshop research ideas
Week 5 – How to Conduct Academic Research (in the library)
visit library, meet librarians
how to search for books on the shelves and identify appropriate sources
introduction to academic databases
homework: paraphrasing practice
Week 6 – Evaluating Sources
primary vs. secondary vs. tertiary sources
peer review and academic journals
in-class exercise: evaluating sources used by previous students
in-class exercise: evaluating the credibility of websites
Google’s ranking method and its problems
due: annotated bibliography 1st draft
Week 7 – The Merchants of Doubt
have finished reading The Merchants of Doubt
discussion of conclusions we can draw from The Merchants of Doubt
retype the first chapter of The Merchants of Doubt
read Kenneth Goldsmith’s Uncreative Writing
due: annotated bibliography 2nd draft
Week 8 – The Bibliographic Essay
review of the bibliography essay genre
MLA formatting of essays
identifying how ideas change over time
how texts are “talking” to each other
expository vs. argumentative essays
informational vs. argumentative thesis
Week 9 – Self-Editing and Revision
integrating evidence, in-text citations
avoiding vague statements and fluff
details, details, details
due: bibliographic essay 1st draft
Week 10 – Self-Editing and Revision, part 2
junk words, passive voice, and other problems
topic sentences & transitions
in-class workshop of sample bibliographic essays
due: bibliographic essay 2nd draft
Week 11 – The Thesis-Driven Research Paper
the Aristotelian essay genre & format
thesis development exercise
workshop of sample thesis statements
due: thesis statement proposal
workshop of thesis proposals
Week 12 – Logical Fallacies
what is a logical fallacy?
in-class exercise: identifying logical fallacies in sample essays
due: thesis-driven research paper 1st draft
Week 13 – Workshop of Sample Essays
Week 14 – Workshop of Sample Essays
due: thesis-driven research paper 2nd draft
Week 15 – Conclusion
end of semester self-assessment
exam week—no class!
due: final portfolios (annotated bibliography, bibliographic essay, research paper)