composition syllabi

an Introduction to Academic discourse

This freshman college course prepares students for library research and introduces them to the conventions of academic writing.


Enrolling in college means joining the academic community and the goal of this course is to teach students how to participate in that community. Academic discourse takes place largely through reading and writing, so students read journal articles, become familiar with academic publishing, practice library research, map a decade of academic debate as it appeared in print, and compose three papers across three genres of undergraduate academic writing.


Additionally, the course asks students to consult with librarians, meet graduate students, learn how to participate in research as an undergraduate, and even attend symposiums and conferences. If you do not teach at a research university, these elements can easily be removed from the course calendar without disrupting the sequence of major assignments.

an introduction to public discourse

This freshman college course introduces students to common essay genres used in the public forum.


This class focuses on the primary purpose of civic debate: the solving of shared problems. Students read newspaper editorials, essays, calls to action, and may even attend local government meetings to study how they might persuade others to endorse a course of action.


Over the semester, students find a problem within their community, investigate causes and consequences of the problem, identify relevant stakeholders and their interests, map past and present conversations about the problem, propose solutions, and then use writing to build consensus around a solution.


The goals of the course are not simply to teach students how to write a persuasive essay, but to encourage them to get out of the classroom, into the public sphere, and help solve a problem in their community.