Writing Arguments (CO300) Spring 2000


Instructor: Ms. Sutton

Office Hours: MWF 11:00 - 12:00 & By Appointment

Office: Eddy 323A


English Office: 359 Eddy

Writing Center: Eddy 6


The Aims of Argument, A Brief Rhetoric 3rd Edition, by Crusius and Channell


Being in the World by Slovic and Dixon

Course Description: CO300 focuses on reading and writing a range of arguments appropriate for academic and general audiences. This course offers students many opportunities both to read, analyze, and respond to a variety of arguments. Students will complete a carefully sequenced series of assignments that will include summarizing, responding, convincing, persuading, and analyzing. Many arguments that will be crafted in this class will be based on library and field research.

 Policies and Procedures:

____1. Portfolio Grading and Workshops - Parts of this course will consist of putting together a portfolio of writings. This semester you will be preparing two portfolios of writing. Portfolio One will consist of 3 papers (Detailed Summary, Text Analysis, and Summary/Response). Portfolio Two will consist of two papers (Convincing Essay and Persuasive Essay). Why portfolios? Research and experience show that writers learn and perform best when they have multiple opportunities to try, fail, learn, think, get feedback and revise. It can be argued that the only way to improve one's writing is to write. A portfolio approach is designed to give plenty of practice and feedback so that you can develop a wide repertoire of strategies for approaching writing assignments. In addition, by giving you credit for all of your work - practice work as well as finished products - portfolio grading shows that, while ultimately we must judge the final product, the process of learning and creating writing is valuable.

____2. Drafts-in-progress - From time to time I will ask that you submit a draft-in-progress for me to comment on. When I read these drafts, I will suggest possible revisions for the most striking feature; I do not comment on every possible problem in the paper. Please remember that my comments are suggestions and not prescriptions. Note also: you must revise for other problems or weaknesses that I may not have commented on. Even though I will comment on drafts and as a class we will have regular in-class workshops during which your classmates will also comment on your papers, remember that you are in control of your writing. You should consider the comments of your readers, but don't expect them to do all your rewriting for you. Failure to turn in drafts-in-progress when collected will result in the lowering of the portfolio grade. Please note that you may submit intervention drafts anytime. I will arrange to turn them back to you the next class period or soon thereafter.

____3. Term Topic - We will be writing on the relationship between humankind and the environment in this section of CO300. It is your responsibility to change sections if you can't stand the idea of writing on these subjects. I will not accept papers on the legalization of marijuana, gun control, and abortion.

____4. Writing Exercises will help students understand their writing processes, collect information to be expressed in their papers, read critically and analytically, and evaluate effective or non-effective writing. These Exercises will be collected for credit. Each Exercise will be marked "satisfactory" or "unsatisfactory," according to whether the student has followed the directives given concerning the assignment and the effort shown by the student when addressing the prompt. Then a Writing Exercise grade will be determined as a percentage (# completed/satisfactory out of the # assigned) and converted to a letter grade.

____5. Since this class relies heavily on workshops, discussions, and in-class practice, your attendance to each class is essential. I will be conscientious about lowering an attendance grade after 5 absences. Please note that excessive absences or tardiness may result in failure of the course and, typically, result in low grade percentages. Class participation includes coming to workshops prepared and demonstrating an overall interest in improving your writing skills. You will be penalized for TARDINESS via the class participation portion of your overall grade.

____6. Do not borrow ideas. Although you will regularly share papers and exchange suggestions for composing, your work must be your own. Plagiarism merits severe penalties. Penalties include failure of the course and possible University discipline. Please refer to the "plagiarism" handout attached (below).

____7. Supplies - Students will need 2 pocket folders, notebook paper, and 3.5 floppy storage disk. These should be brought to every class session along with the textbook.

____8. With regard to the role of computers in this course, there may be occasions when having email will help students throughout this course. Course materials are located on the CO300 web site (either section 1 or 3 depending on which section you are enrolled in); we will be referring to this web site throughout the course. Computers are available daily for use by CO300 students in Eddy 300. This is a writing class not a class in computers; however, a basic understanding of computers is essential. You should know how to "surf the web," cut and paste, and word-processes. There are tutorials available for Windows and WordPerfect in room 300 if you need to brush up on these skills. The class will not slow down to teach individual class members these basics.

____9. No late papers will be accepted.

____10. If you need extra help, the writing center is available to all students. Times will be posted and noted in class.

____11. Evaluation

Portfolio One - 30%

Annotated Bibliography - 5%

Portfolio Two - 35%

Argumentative Analysis - 10%

Daily Assignments - 10%

Class Participation/Attendance - 10%

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How will your writing be evaluated in CO300?

In an "A" paper
-The rhetorical context of the writing is clear.
-The writer's voice is strong, assuring the reader that the writer is confident about the information that is being communicated.
-The work is rich in information. The subject matter is expertly focused for the length of the essay and is supported by carefully selected and carefully detailed examples and comparisons.
-Organization of the essay is logical; the reader never has to reread for understanding since facts and ideas flow in a sequentially smooth order.
-The writer makes use of a variety of sentence structures resulting in graceful style and fluid, easy reading.
-The writer uses words, especially verbs and nouns, which further the purpose of the essay.
-Punctuation is natural and unquestionably helpful to the reader.
-Mechanical errors (grammar and spelling) are rare.

A "B" paper should have many of the characteristics of an "A" paper except
-The information may not be as rich, and the illustrations supporting the focused topic may appear "forced."
-Some sentences may be in need of reworking because of occasional awkwardness.
-Choice of words is still on target, but an occasional one or two might lack the intended spirit of the essay.
-Punctuation might cause some minor confusion.
-Though there are some mechanical errors, they do not detract from the reading of the essay.

A "B" paper is very good; a "C" paper is average. In a "C" paper
-The rhetorical context of the writing is not clear.
-Writers have adequate control of the topic, but their voices are less impressive and confident than the voice of the writers of "A" and "B" papers.
-The subject matter is adequately focused but lacks strong supporting examples.
-The reader must sometimes reread parts of the essay because of unclear organization.
-Sentence structures lack variety, sometimes resulting in choppiness.
-Choice of words conjure up less vivid images than those employed by writer of "A" and "B" papers. Cliches, "big words," and colloquialisms detract from the potential quality of the writing.
-Grammar and punctuation problems are a problem.
-Although readers of a "C" paper have to work harder to understand what they are reading, writers of a "C" paper "get the job done."

Writers of a "D" paper do not "get the job done." In a "D" paper
-There is no realizable attempt to establish a rhetorical context.
-The subject matter is too loose and confusing to be adequately covered in one essay, usually because of haste on the part of the writer.
-Details are scanty.
-Organization, though discernible, is neither effective nor clear.
-Sentences are awkward, and diction is not effective.
-Punctuation, spelling errors, and mechanical errors abound.
-There is some sense to the paper, but the reader must dig to find it.

An "F" paper is unable to fit into any of the above categories.

(adapted from TETYC Spring 1981)

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The following is a table that addresses some assertions that students often make and my responses. Please review this table carefully.

Student note or assertion My response

My grade point rests at a 4.0. Will I be able to maintain an A average in this class?

35% of the syllabus is S/U (based on whether you complete the prompt thoroughly and thoughtfully) and whether you follow the policies and procedures and meet the due dates. Consequently, I have provided ample means for grade points to be maintained; however, the class is rigorous and time consuming. I adhere to the grading guide for essay evaluation, and essays are not graded on whether or not the student spent a great deal of time/energy on the writing; essays are graded based on their effectiveness and the consideration of the rhetorical context of the writing.

I overslept. I missed the workshop.

The portfolio will have the final grade lowered one letter grade. The rigorous CO300 syllabus, for sections 1 and 3, demands for personal responsibility and consideration for classmates. It entails that you maintain some discipline with regard to time management throughout the semester. I suggest that you drop before the "W" drop period ends on March 20 if you can't reach the class room prepared and on-time.

Why do we post many of our drafts on the forum?

The forum is used so that students fine-tune their abilities to discern effective writing from ineffective writing. The forum allows students to compare their "take" on or understanding of an essay from that of their peers. It is very important that students understand the authors' views as they read critically. Consequently, the forum allows for students to gauge just how effectively and insightfully they are reading.

Can I meet with you on Tuesday or Thursday?

No. Rarely am I able to come to campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However, on occasion, I can come to campus on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday afternoons to conference about student writing. I also can dialogue with you with regard to your essays and writing processes via email. I am usually diligent about responding to email. I will not be able to stay after class at 1:00 P.M. to meet with students or answer questions. My schedule demands that I leave the University no later than 1:00 P.M.

My workshop partners loved my essays. How can you deem the writing ineffective?

I review over and over again the grading guide above while I am evaluating a set of portfolios. The letter grade assigned to essays in CO300 (sections 1 and 3) is based on the grading guide above. I also do not "make meaning" out of the writing or words on the page; I may know what you mean, but because readers will expect you to communicate clearly without putting the burden of interpretation on them, I must point out the ineffectiveness.


It has been a week since we turned in our portfolios. Why haven't you returned them?

I spend a minimum of 1 hour per portfolio, making marginal and end comments. The final page of comments are, oftentimes, one processed page long. With 50 students, total, I cannot return portfolios in a week's time.