Class Participation 100 points
Peer Review (3 at 33 points each) 100 points
Peer Review Letters (3 at 33 each) 100 points
Coming to Terms 100 points
30 Day Challenge Report 200 points
Researched Argument 300 points
Infographic 100 points
Total 1000 points


Required Assignments


Class participation 

Students are expected to attend all class meetings.  You should come prepared for discussion, and always with the appropriate book in hand.  Your class participation will factor into your grade (as 10% of the final grade).  Here is a general sense of the grading criteria for class participation: someone who engages actively and constructively to class discussion will receive an “A,” someone who listens politely but rarely contributes will receive a “C,” and someone who consistently falls asleep, is rude to me or to fellow students, or is otherwise detached from class (on the internet, doing work for other courses) will receive an “F.”  Even if you’re shy, make an effort to participate; you will get much more out of class if you actively participate.  Absenteeism will affect your grade – you must be in class to participate.

Peer Review

Peer Review sessions will be conducted for each major assignment.  Peer review sessions are a great opportunity to debate the strengths and weaknesses of your projects, to get feedback for revision, and to apply concepts learned in class to your writing.  Missing peer review sessions will have a negative impact on your grade – each peer review session is worth 33 points, and you must be present to receive credit.


Peer Review Letters

Before each peer review session, you will exchange papers within your peer review groups.  You will then compose suggestions in track changes/comments, totaling at least 250 words, to each group member. Specific revision questions will be assigned for each paper and will be distributed before each peer review session. We will also discuss sample peer review commenting strategies as a class. Each letter is worth 33 points.


Your comments serve a dual purpose: to guide classroom discussion during peer review sessions and to provide each group member with feedback they can use during revision.  Your peer review letters will be due to me on the date of the peer review session.


Coming to Terms

This short essay (3 pages, 800 words) is an exercise in critical reading and analysis.  For this essay, you will respond to a difficult secondary text by following the advice in Joseph Harris’ “Coming to Terms.”  Rather than simply summarizing a selected essay, or outlining it point by point, you analyze the ways in which the author builds an argument. Reading a text with an eye to the rhetorical moves a writer makes will, in turn, help you become a more conscious and persuasive writer.


Reflect upon some of the specific claims. How does the argument develop? What is the organization? Where does the author go for support? How does the author substantiate claims? (What are the aims, methods, and materials?) Think, too, about audience: what is the format? How does the text begin? What is the tone? Why?


Be detailed and specific in your essay. Point to particular statements or passages.  You may think of your audience for this assignment as your classmates and me.  Therefore, you do not have to include a basic explanation/summary. Here’s an outline that I’ll use to grade the assignment:


Evaluation  – Coming to Terms

Exemplary Competent Developing
Critical Analysis (e.g., Does the author clearly identify the text’s project?  Does the author analyze the text’s purpose and argument?)
Rhetorical Analysis (e.g., Does the author identify the type of evidence the text relies on?  Does the author analyze the rhetorical moves that make the text successful/unsuccessful?)
Organization (e.g., Is the report structured logically and persuasively? Are paragraphs linked with strong topic sentences?)
Style/Mechanics (e.g., Does the author employ a style that is readable for the audience? Is the document free of errors?)


30 Day Challenge Project

This project will have two parts: a “thick description” of your participation in a 30 day challenge and an analysis/synthesis of your results. It will be composed in the IMRAD formula common to science/technical writing.

Part One: Thick Description

For the thick description (a term I draw from anthropology), you will keep a sort of diary in which you write – every day – about your experiences with a 30 day challenge. You can choose any type of challenge you’d like. Here are a few to get you thinking about it: 30 day fitness challenges, such as abs, triceps, or planks; a self-esteem challenge30 day cold shower challenge; or a handwriting challenge. Here’s a list of a 100 different ideas. Whatever you choose, you must keep at least 5 data points.  For example, over the summer, I completed a 30 day writing challenge. I challenged myself to write at least 300 words (or roughly one page) per day. My five data points were: words written; disposition before; disposition after; type of music playing while writing; mode of writing (revision, writing from sources, etc). Keeping at least 5 data points will allow you to make conclusions about the success or failure of your experiment.


You can come up with the challenge yourself, so long as you articulate the challenge clearly. If you choose this option, make sure you clear your detailed proposal with me (via email or during office hours).

In your diary, you will write about everything you can think of: when you completed the challenge, how you felt about it, what was keeping you from succeeding or helping you to succeed, the temperature, etc. You’ll aim for at least a long paragraph per day (or roughly 6 sentences). Take photographs if you can or if you feel it’s appropriate.

Part Two: Analysis

After you’ve accumulated your 30 diary entries, you will then use that data in order to write a report, in the style of an IMRAD report, in which you analyze your data. You will have Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion sections, complete with figures and visual aids where appropriate. Your analysis should be between 3-5 pages of text (800-1200 words).


And a short disclaimer: because some of these challenges are relatively personal in nature, you certainly won’t be required to share anything you don’t care to share. I will also use the same rubric as the Researched Argument assignment.


Researched Argument

“Art is limitation. The essence of every picture is the frame.” – GK Chesterton

In this long, argumentative essay (8-10 pages2,000 – 2,500 words), you will research a controversial topic, construct a thesis-driven argument, and defend your argument using research and sources found in the University’s library.  This assignment is the capstone of first year writing; and as such it will require many drafts and several peer review sessions.  As a research-based essay, you will be required to incorporate at least sevensources (journal articles, book, and no more than two internet sites).


Evaluation Criteria – Researched Argument Exemplary Competent Developing
Rhetorical Analysis (e.g., Is the report clearly aimed at a specific audience? Does the report have a clear argument?)
Rhetorical Moves/Organization (e.g., Is the report structured logically and persuasively? Are paragraphs linked with strong topic sentences?)
Evidence (e.g., Is there enough information for the author to make a strong argument? Is there at least 7 scholarly sources? Are those sources well integrated?)
Style/Mechanics (e.g., Does the author employ a style that is readable for the audience? Is the document free of errors?)
Documentation (e.g., Does the report feature accurate, ethical, and consistent documentation of sources?)

A Note About Good and Bad Research Topics

 It’s nearly impossible to say anything productive about abortion, school uniforms, steroids in sports, assisted suicide, eating disorders, gay marriage, legalizing marijuana, college athletes getting paid, raising the drinking age, global warming, childhood obesity, or the influence of media on body image. There’s been so much that has been said about these issues that it’s nearly impossible to find anything interesting to add to the conversation.

Instead of those worn-out topics, think about the PowerPoint “Choosing a Research Paper Topic.” I chose to think about food because it’s my favorite thing. Start with an interest – with something either you like to think about or something important to your major/area of study.

Sample Topics – Questions of Intelligence If you’re interested in the issues of intelligence that we’ve been reading about, you might approach that issue through several different lenses:

Dietetics/Health Science: What is the relationship between nutrition and intelligence?

Nursing: Does birth method influence intelligence? (natural vs. c-section, hospital birth vs. midwife)

What do each of these potential topics have in common? They’re all questions that don’t have easy answers. They’re all questions that will require research to try to address (just as the “A Bridge in the Wrong Place” need much research to address).


Specific Instructions: Your task is to design an infographic that explains a portion of your Researched Argument for a general public audience. Your infographic should present a thesis supported by clear, carefully-researched evidence presented graphically.


Specific Instructions for Your Documents

  • Use color, visuals, and white space to effectively communicate your data and argument
  • Include a headline and relevant text (but be sparse!) to facilitate audience understanding
  • Provide useful visuals that are thematically related to your data/argument
  • This graphic should be readable to a non-expert audience (think of USA Today)


Finally, this guide is useful:


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