— ENGL001: English Composition I —
No matter what career you pursue, you must be able to communicate effectively and clearly if you want to be successful. This course will enhance your ability to do so by sharpening your critical thinking and writing skills. We will begin with a unit designed to change the way in which you think about writing. First, you will learn to think of writing not as a solitary act but as a conversation between yourself and an audience. In this light, writing becomes a dynamic, interactive, and creative rather than a rote practice. You will also begin to value writing as a process - an admittedly difficult one - rather than a product. You will come to see that writing is an act of discovery rather than a recitation of prefabricated ideas.
Because this course is designed specifically for students in a university setting, the second unit will focus on academic writing. We will learn how to respond to an assignment or test question by using the "PWR-Writing” or "Power-Writing” Method (PWR: Pre-write, Write, Revise) while learning the ins and outs of building a solid thesis and supporting that thesis with evidence. The remaining units will focus on the minutiae of good writing practices from style to citation methodology.
Because the goal of this course is to improve your ability to write clear, grammatically-sound expository and persuasive prose, every unit will include a "Grammar Capsule,” focusing on a specific grammatical issue.
We begin this course by refining how we think about writing. Let's begin by acknowledging that writing is a difficult, complex process. It does not come easily; it takes quite a bit of work and thought. However, if you realize that all writing is a conversation between yourself and an audience, then the task becomes a little bit easier. If you envision your work as a response to an existing prompt, the way you write will be shaped by the reader with whom you are "speaking.” Imagine, for example, that someone asks you, "Why does it rain?” If that someone were your five-year-old cousin, you might respond one way, but if it were your sixty-five-year-old aunt, you would likely respond differently. You will need to approach every writing project with that same awareness of audience.
We will also work to recognize writing as a process rather than a product. You often need to start writing in order to know what you think about a subject. Keep this in mind as you work through this unit.
As a student at the university level, you will need to know how to write an effective academic essay. At its core, any academic essay is an argument. By argument, we do not mean a series of aggressive verbal attacks; instead, we mean language used to persuade someone to adopt a perspective. For example, you might be assigned an essay on how the Revolutionary War changed American culture. You may not have known it, but your response to this question is an argument. It is designed to persuade your audience that the War changed American culture for the three or four precise reasons you have identified. As you prepare to draft your essay, you will need to identify evidence, intuit possible inconsistencies or contradictions that your argument involves, and anticipate counterarguments (those that will argue that American culture did not change or that there are actually twenty different reasons why it changed, not just the three or four you identified).
This unit will go over these issues in great detail and will provide you with a highly structured approach to writing an argument. By the end of this unit, you should be ready to write an academic essay.
Style refers to the way in which you write a sentence and assemble it within a sequence of sentences. A sound writing style is not a luxury; it is a necessity if you intend to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively. You may write with perfect grammar, but if your style needs work, your audience may not understand what you are trying to say. While "style” is inherently subjective, this unit will provide you with some guidelines that are generally agreed upon by most academics. The goal of this unit will be to teach you to write as clearly, persuasively, and elegantly as possible.
A well-placed quote can make all the difference when you are making an argument. A quote can convince your reader that other respected, intelligent individuals have shared your perspective; it can argue your point with winning style or rhetorical power; it can prop up your argument where you may need help; and so forth. This unit will teach you how to use the work of others in order to strengthen your argument while ensuring that you avoid letting others take the spotlight. This unit will also address the problem of plagiarism--and how and why to avoid it at all costs.
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