WRIT 1122: Rhetoric and Academic Writing
WRIT 1122 teaches strategies that are vital in writing for well-educated readers, primarily in situations that require you to present and justify positions. The course teaches rhetorical analysis and practices, the effective use of readings and source materials, and techniques for generating, revising, and editing texts produced to meet specific situations. WRIT 1122 provides sustained practice in writing, with systematic instructor feedback, that results in at least four finished and polished papers, totaling some 20-25 pages by quarter’s end. Students will additionally complete several informal or drafting exercises.
Goals of WRIT 1122
- Demonstrate practical knowledge of the concept “rhetorical situation,” through the abilities both to analyze and to write effectively in different kinds of situations.
- Demonstrate proficiency with basic elements of rhetorical analysis (such as logos, ethos, and pathos) in a range of texts, and the application of that facility in their own writing.
- Demonstrate the ability to produce writing that effectively provides evidence and reasoning for assertions, for audiences of educated readers.
- Demonstrate the ability to incorporate and attribute or document source material in rhetorically effective ways.
- Demonstrate the ability to use feedback to revise their own writing and the ability to provide useful feedback to others.
- Demonstrate the ability to edit and proofread their writing.
Elaboration of the Goals for WRIT 1122
1. Demonstrate practical knowledge of the concept “rhetorical situation,” through the abilities both to analyze and to write effectively in different kinds of situations. A rhetorical situation has a purpose, an intended readership, and a writer. Situations are embedded in contexts, which bring certain expectations by readers of textual conventions, what will count as effective rhetorical moves, genres. (For example, arguments about individual privacy rights in 2000 differed from those in 2002.) No single course can teach students to be effective in every possible rhetorical situation. However, a course can—and should—teach students the need to adjust for writing situations, and students should demonstrate their grasp of that concept, including by producing pieces of writing that would be successful in different ones.
2. Demonstrate proficiency with basic elements of rhetorical analysis (such as logos, ethos, and pathos) in a range of texts, and the application of that facility in their own writing. Teachers of WRIT 1133 should expect students to come to their classes 1) knowing the terms logos (including assertions, evidence, and logical arrangements), ethos (the type of persona the writer creates and projects for his or her reader), and pathos (strategies for eliciting emotional or affective responses) and 2) having some experience with rhetorical analysis. As a result, students completing 1122 should be able to discuss and write meaningful things about strategies that writers have employed in particular rhetorical situations (both what and why), even to point out the weaknesses, limitations, or critiques of their choices. Of course, there are many layers and complexities for each of those terms, centuries of rhetorical theory. The point is not to bury students (or teachers) with all the nuances and complexity, although some teachers may choose to include more than others. The point is to give them some theoretical knowledge (and associated techniques) and the opportunity to practice it.
3. Demonstrate the ability to produce writing that effectively provides evidence and reasoning for assertions, for audiences of educated readers. While 1122 broadly teaches rhetorical analysis, it privileges logical reasoning, for two reasons. Logical reasoning is privileged in academic writing (a practical reason), and civic society would be better served by discourses in which claims were supported with evidence and reasoning (an ethical and idealistic reason). As a result, a substantial amount of writing for the course should be for “educated” (even idealized) readers.
4. Demonstrate the ability to incorporate and attribute or document source material in rhetorically effective ways. Students in WRIT 1122 should come to understand the rhetorical uses of sources—to enhance ethos, to add support, to generate contrasting ideas, etc.—as well as the ethical. Effective rhetorical use of sources also includes providing clear, in-text attributions for public and professional writing, following conventions for in-text citation and bibliographic pages in academic writing, and incorporating quotations effectively. The emphasis in 1122 is on using sources (summarizing, paraphrasing, critiquing, synthesizing) rather than finding sources. As a result, teachers may find it most productive to have students work with “given” readings—and with one or two source materials—rather than on extensive “found” sources.
5. Demonstrate the ability to use feedback to revise their own writing and the ability to provide useful feedback to others. As the features of 1122 and 1133 make clear, all elements of composing are important. This goal underscores the revision as a key skill to be developed/demonstrated in the course. Revisions are changes to a text that would change the summary (or propositional content) of that text. Because much writing occurs in collaborative contexts, it’s also important for students to develop abilities to give productive help to others.
6. Demonstrate the ability to edit and proofread their writing. Texts that have errors in word choice, spelling, grammar, conventional usage, or punctuation significantly compromise the ethos of their writers and may even cloud meaning. Texts whose style, voice, or register is inappropriate to the rhetorical situation at hand also compromise ethos. Students unable consistently to produce generally well-edited or proofed texts have not accomplished this goal.
Features of Both WRIT 1122 and 1133
1. Focus on the production of student texts. The feature that most distinguishes writing courses from, say, other classes that may include written assignments is the former’s sustained emphasis on student writing. The student’s texts are the primary focus of the course, receiving as much respect as expert texts—and more time and attention. The focus can be seen in several practices, including explicit instruction on writing strategies and processes; sharing student writing with others in the course; peer workshops; writing center consultations; individual conferences with the professor, and so on. While students do engage readings, they do so primarily in order to improve their own writing and their critical/analytical facilities. Students will have an opportunity to write for different purposes and audiences, with the goal of developing tools they need to communicate effectively in various academic and civic contexts.
2. Include specific instruction in rhetorical and critical analysis. Rhetorical and critical analysis helps students become more astute readers, analysts, and critics of published texts, focusing on how and why writers achieve effects on readers. Students will learn how texts vary in both form and content according to their intended audiences, their purposes, and the contexts in which they were written. Students will learn to read a text closely, and write about the way it functions, and not just what it contains. They will also learn to evaluate claims, evidence, reasoning strategies, and ethical and emotional appeals as well as logical. WRIT 1122 focuses on basic strategies for rhetorical and critical analysis, primarily in popular and civic discourses. WRIT 1133 emphasizes how these skills function within the contexts of research and disciplinary traditions, including in relation to more popular writings about academic knowledge.
3. Include specific instruction and practice in using rhetorical strategies. The emphasis on using rhetorical strategies complements instruction in rhetorical and critical analysis. The shift in emphasis is from analyzing what others have done, with what effect, and why, to using those strategies in students’ own writings. Writers face a host of decisions as they plan, organize, and compose texts. They must persuade audiences situated within a certain historical time and cultural place, limited by certain constraints: time, money, logistics, etc. Vital to navigating this maze of choices is understanding the particulars of the rhetorical situation. What does my audience know or believe, and what implications does that have for me as a writer? What evidence and reasoning will be most effective? What tone should I adopt, and how should I present myself? What organizational strategies are most effective in this given situation? How do I best deal with points of view different from my own?
4. Emphasize writing for well-educated audiences, generally for public/civic purposes (1122) and academic audiences (1133). In the finite time of a single course, it’s clearly impossible to give students practice in all types of writing and writing situations they will encounter. For example, writing to people with high school educations and who may do fairly little reading, may invoke strategies significantly different from writing to college graduates subscribing to Wired orHarpers. Similarly, there are important differences between writing in professional/workplace situations, writing for personal development and pleasure, writing in specific academic disciplines, and writing on subject matters, issues, and ideas for a broader reading public. This latter falls under writing for civic purposes, that is, writing that seeks inform and influence thought and decision making in various public spheres.
5. Substantially use process pedagogies, including regular attention to invention, production, revision, editing, and design; responses to multiple drafts and works in progress; and so on. Good writing does not occur magically. Process pedagogies recognize that strong writing skills develop over time through practice. Rather than focus solely on the finished product (e.g. the final exam; the one-time graded paper; the longer research paper), process pedagogy guides students through various aspects of writing, from invention to drafting to revision. A key feature of process pedagogies is providing feedback to students during the process. These may include small group feedback sessions, teacher-student conferences, comments on drafts, and in-class workshops.
- Invention is the act of generating ideas and content or discovering new directions that writing might take. Invention strategies may include systematic inquiry heuristics, free-writing, journaling, preliminary research, outlining, questioning, along with classroom collaboration and discussion. Through invention, students discover both what they already know about their subject and what they need to know.
- Drafting is the fundamental process of getting words down on the page or screen in a productive order informed by purpose, audience, and context when producing any document.
- Revision involves considering the fit between a developing text and the rhetorical situation for which it’s being produced. Revision attends to substantive issues, including overall structure, argument and logic, purpose, and uses of evidence. Based on their self analysis and feedback from instructors and peers, students doing revision work make additions, subtractions, transpositions, and substitutions to their texts, at levels ranging from sentence to paragraphs to ideas and sequences.
- Design means attending to the physical features of the text as it is delivered to its audience. At one level, design includes features such as typefaces, margins, and spacing. At another level, it includes the incorporation of visual elements (images, tables) and document layout. At still another level, it may include multimedia or digital texts, perhaps even including sound or video.
- Editing means attending to surface-level features of texts to make them conform to readers’ expectations of style, grammar and usage, manuscript conventions, and so on. Editing involves both proofreading and focusing on textual features as small as words, phrases, and sentences to promote not only correctness but also precision and rhetorical effectiveness. See #8, below.
6. Include a reading component. Reading in WRIT 1122 and 1133 is important both for practice in rhetorical analysis and for providing content for students to write about, with, through, and against. Through active reading, students come into conversation with texts by others, analyzing received positions and arriving at their own. Students need to be able to summarize readings, interpret their meanings and implications, analyze their rhetorical strategies, relate them to other texts about the same subject matter, and explain their limitations or inadequacies. To practice these skills, students in WRIT 1122 and 1133 may read a text or set of related texts; discuss them (unpacking the meanings, debate the terms used, arriving at an interpretation); write in response; synthesize multiple readings; produce critiques or reviews; and use summary, paraphrase, or quotation to incorporate ideas into their own texts. Reading of student writing in the course is also important, using all the strategies one might use for published writing.
7. Teach basic techniques for incorporating and documenting sources. In WRIT 1122, students will begin to develop an awareness of, and comfort with using, sources in their writing. The course will focus primarily on working with sources, rather than finding them, and concentrate on dealing effectively with a limited number of sources, rather than an extensive list of them. This will include learning how to summarize accurately, paraphrase key ideas, and quote or cite specific ideas or information concisely, accurately, and in ways that blend source materials effectively with their own writing. Students will consider such questions as Why draw on sources? What types of sources will best support particular arguments or rhetorical situations? How do writers evaluate sources, attending to such things as the author’s credentials and quality of reasoning and evidence, the timeliness of the research, its intended readership, and so on? Students will gain basic experience in documenting sources appropriately according to MLA and at least either APA or Chicago Manual of Style. The goal is not to have students master all conventions of all style manuals but to teach them how to use style manuals and to understand the vital importance of following conventions to document sources aptly
8. Teach students editing and proofreading strategies in order to produce texts that meet the grammar, usage, and delivery expectations of their readers. Students should learn that careful attention to editing and proofreading strengthens their ability to be taken seriously by their readers. At the same time, students learn that the absence of sentence-level errors does not necessarily mean that the writing is effective. Students should learn strategies for editing and proofreading in the context of their own writing, rather than through generalized grammar exercises. Based on need, instructors may devote small amounts of class time to particular issues in style, or to grammar, punctuation, and usage errors. Editing is understood as having both an emphasis on style (e.g., word choice, diction, emphasis, transition, gracefulness) and on managing errors in grammar, punctuation, and usage.
- Editing for style: As time allows, concepts about editing as stylistic craft are introduced, with reference to course readings for positive models. Though students may not be ready for more sophisticated stylistic editing, they will benefit from introductory instruction on word choice, sentence structure, and other stylistic elements that can be used to enhance meaning.
- Editing as error management: Students learn to make distinctions within a continuum of concerns—between higher order and lower order writing errors. They learn to identify their own patterns of error and develop a variety of strategies for addressing and correcting these patterns. Students develop long-term skills for self-diagnosis of error and successful use of available resources, including use of a handbook and familiarity with the Writing Center. As students become proficient in self-diagnosis, explicit emphasis is placed on high-order errors, such as sentence-boundary confusion, that block readers from understanding the text.
Proofreading is a last step to ensure that the text is as free as possible from errors or unintentional elements. Students learn strategies for catching typographical errors, inconsistencies in spelling, and other purely surface-level mistakes that irritate readers and affect the author’s ethos. Because research indicates the limited efficacy of marking all errors in a piece of writing as a means of teaching mechanical proficiency, instructor marking and evaluation of editing and proofreading errors is constructive and instructive, rather than punitive. Student writing is not expected to be error-free by the end of WRIT 1122, but by the end of the course, students should be able to distinguish different categories of error, be able to identify their individual error patterns, should have developed strategies for addressing these, and should be aware of the some of the resources available to them for strengthening their writing at the levels of style, grammar, usage, and punctuation.
9. Require students to produce from 6000 to 8000 revised and polished words (20-25 pages), in at least four texts. Just as musicians and athletes learn by practicing—by “doing” rather than by “studying about”—so do writers develop by writing. Students can generally expect many writing assignments, some of them single-drafted, even informal exercises, others more formal papers multiply drafted and revised. As a four-credit courses, WRIT will have students complete 8 to 12 hours of out-of-class work each week, the bulk of it in their own writing. Students will generally write several thousand words, in as few as four to as many as twenty individual writing assignments. Of that total volume produced, students will complete a least four “finished and polished” pieces, together totaling 6000-8000 words. By “finished and polished,” we mean writing that is thoroughly revised and carefully edited, usually based on responses from the instructor (and peers), and represents the student’s best work in given rhetorical situations.
10. Accomplish the course goals through a well-conceived sequence of activities and assignments. A commitment to the process of writing, which is at the heart of our pedagogies, informs the design of both courses: each section provides a careful sequence of reading and writing assignments designed to build student skills and abilities. Sequences of writing activities, for example, will equip students with the rhetorical skills to use in future or longer assignments. The cumulative sequence of assignments means that students continually draw upon what they have learned already in order to push themselves even further. Our goal is not only to provide students with a repertoire of writing tactics but to teach them how to combine those tactics into coherent, purposeful, and context-specific strategies.
11. Require a brief final portfolio. At the end of WRIT 1122, students will turn in a portfolio containing three pieces of writing that demonstrate their knowledge of and ability to use rhetorical strategies. Two of the pieces should be papers written during the course. The third piece (which might count toward the “revised and polished” course total, if suitable) should be a compelling analysis of the other two, persuasively explaining how they demonstrate the writer’s facility with rhetorical strategies. At the end of WRIT 1133, students will turn in a portfolio containing four pieces of writing. Two should be written during the course, and one should come from another course the student has taken at DU. The fourth piece (which might count toward the “revised and polished” course total, if suitable) should be a compelling analysis of the other three, persuasively explaining how they demonstrate the writer’s ability to write researched papers for different expectations or situations.