English 125: Writing and Academic Inquiry

Writing and Academic Inquiry

English 125

Instructor: Ann Burke acburke@umich.edu

Course Description for English 125:

This class is about writing and academic inquiry. Good arguments stem from good questions, and academic essays allow writers to write their way toward answers, toward figuring out what they think. In this course, students focus on the creation of complex, analytic, well-supported arguments addressing questions that matter in academic contexts. The course also hones students’ critical thinking and reading skills. Working closely with their peers and the instructor, students develop their essays through workshops and extensive revision and editing. Readings cover a variety of genres and often serve as models or prompts for assigned essays. The specific questions that students pursue in essays are guided by their own interests.

Course Description for this Section of English 125:

In this inquiry-driven course, we will explore the complexities of text through reading, writing, and responding to different rhetorical situations. For instance, we will discuss questions like, how is text defined? What constitutes writing? In an attempt to answer these questions, we will situate ourselves in communities, in and outside of the classroom, to practice critical thinking and writing strategies such as invention, drafting, and revision. Through these processes, we will consider myriad factors like contemporary social issues, technologies of composition, and audience. This course affords us the opportunity to compose arguments within academic contexts and to demonstrate an awareness of our roles as researchers and writers in various communities.

125 Course Goals (from The University of Michigan English Department Writing Program (EDWP) Website):

“The goal of the First-Year Writing Requirement is to prepare students for the type of writing most often assigned and valued in University courses.”

Learning Goals:

  1. To produce complex, analytic, well-supported arguments that matter in academic contexts.
  2. To read, summarize, analyze, and synthesize complex texts purposefully in order to generate and support writing.
  3. To analyze the genres and rhetorical strategies that writers use in different rhetorical situations.
  4. To develop flexible strategies for organizing, revising, editing, and proofreading writing of varying lengths to improve development of ideas and appropriateness of expression.
  5. To hone skills at critical self-assessment and reflection on the process of writing.
  6. To collaborate with peers and the instructor to define revision strategies for particular pieces of writing, to set goals for improving writing, and to devise effective plans for achieving those goals.

Outcomes (From the University of Michigan EDWP)

  1. Students will produce 25-30 pages of revised, polished prose, in addition to other (often ungraded) writing, all of which should reflect the learning goals of the course.
  2. Students will develop each major essay through several stages of revision under the guidance of their instructor and/or peers.
  3. Students will meet with the instructor for at least one individual conference about their writing.
  4. Students will be able to use accepted citation practices (MLA or other guidelines) appropriately.

Required Texts/Materials:

  • Coursepack—this can be picked up at Dollar Bill Copying (611 Church Street)
  • One composition notebook for in/out of class writing.
  • Regular folder or binder with pockets on both sides for use as a portfolio.
  • Recommended flash drive or Dropbox account to backup files (Dropbox is probably easier these days).
    • Other required readings will be provided in class, on CTools, or via e-mail

*Most readings are in order of when they will be assigned. However, depending on the pace and flow of the class, readings might fall out of order. Pay attention to any changes in the schedule.

*Additional readings, outside of the coursepack, may be assigned. Pay attention to the class schedule.


Assignments: Below are brief explanations of the assignments you will complete over the course of the semester. More details will be provided as they are assigned. For each assignment, an initial draft will be due for peer review. These first drafts will not receive a letter grade. Once you have revised first drafts, a final draft will be submitted to me for a letter grade. These due dates can be found in the course schedule, provided below. For all assignments, I will base final grades on how actively you are involved in the writing process, and a provided evaluation criteria (see resources folder in CTools). Did you submit a first draft on time and participate in peer review/intensive review, as a writer and reviewer? How did you respond to feedback? What revisions were made between the first and final drafts? Consider these questions as you draft and submit assignments. Revision gives you the opportunity to reflect and act upon feedback, to turn in a more polished draft. Revision involves careful consideration and action based on the overall delivery of a piece of writing (e.g. organization, flow, voice, etc.). Revision is global. Changing a few things “here and there” will not suffice in the revision process. All final drafts should follow MLA guidelines (or guidelines of a different style that is appropriate to your major/field) and be double spaced, in 12 pt. font, with one-inch margins.

First Essay: This I Believe 15% Second Essay: Profile Project 15% Third Essay: Community Research 25% Fourth Essay: Multimodal Project 15% Final Reflection 10%

Participation 20% (Peer Review/Intensive Review Participation, Attendance/Promptness, In-Class

Participation, Following instructions)

Grading Scale:

95-100%   A

90-94%     A

87-89%     B+

83-86%     B

80-82%     B

77-79%      C+

73-76%      C*

70-72%      C

67-69%      D+

63-66%      D

60-62%      D

59% or below F

I Believe: Finding your voice in community

For your first major writing assignment you will express a personal belief through writing. Although you might take a stand on something, this does not mean you will persuade your audience to believe what you believe, but you will express what you believe by incorporating personal experience. At the same time, while you are establishing your belief, readers should be able to relate to a more global argument as well. This is will give you an opportunity to practice establishing an argument for a variety of audiences. 4-5 pages

Project: Giving voice to others in community

You are to write a researched essay profiling a figure in a community of your choice, while persuading your audience that your subject is important to that particular community. Your job is not to simply research a person and report on the findings, like a biography, but rather, relate their contributions to a given community, and how this influence has taken shape. 6-8 pages

for the Community: Implications for the “we” of community

For this assignment you will synthesize the writing techniques you used in the previous two units (take a stand, use and evaluate rhetorical appeals, remember the basic principles of the rhetorical situation). Additionally, prior to writing this assignment, you will observe a community of your choice and collect fieldnotes. This collection of data will allow you to hone in on an idea or issue relevant, and worth arguing, for your community. Consider a specific issue/topic you are interested in, and one that you can research. Along with primary research, you will also conduct secondary research, which will include an initial annotated bibliography. In composing your argument, consider its implications for a broader audience and how it is relevant to a specific audience. Consider this: How is one community and its issues relevant to another community?

parts: Fieldnotes (double entry notetaking), Proposal (1-2 pages), Annotated Bibliography (at least 10 sources), and Essay (8-10 pages)

Project: Seeing community from a different angle

For your final challenge of the semester, you will consider the various communities you have observed and research. From a community of your choice, you will create a multimodal text that embodies an argument for an aspect of that community. You might even find an interesting angle you can take from what you’ve written for previous assignments.

Multimodal can be defined as a text composed in more than one mode (i.e., visual, audio, gestural, spatial, or linguistic). Multimodality can therefore be presented in various formats like, for instance, a photo essay, video, poster presentation, infographic, etc. Consider how this composition might appeal to various audiences/communities. Because the multimodal project will not be composed in the traditional format, page length will vary, but each project is required to incorporate, at least, the linguistic, audio, and visual modes. With a compilation of these modes, the final text should embody 5-10 pages.

Assignments: Informal, ungraded writing assignments will occur throughout the course of the semester more regularly and frequently than the major assignments listed above. Sometimes, I will collect these assignments, sometimes I won’t. Ultimately, the effort you put forth for these activities will be factored into your participation grade. Be diligent and keep up!


For your final assignment, you will also provide a written reflection on your time spent in English 125.

In this reflection, explain to me how you think you progressed in this class over the course of the semester. Identify any discoveries made in your writing and research, strengths you developed, and challenges you faced that you have overcome or still need to work on. Reflect on your “old self” as a writer, and your “new self,” as a writer. Additionally, consider how your English 125 experience will prepare you for future writing endeavors. 1-2 pages


Through class, peer and intensive reviews (see below), and presentations, you will be evaluated on your contributions to class.

Be present: In this class, we are a community of writers and researchers, and in a working community, members communicate with each other. During class time, you must be actively present. Your contributions, feedback, and attentiveness (e.g. resist texting, facebooking, etc.) are always important to the overall dynamic of the class. I will grade you based on my observations as you complete informal and formal assignments, and how you interact with others in class activities (e.g. peer review and intensive review).


Come to class prepared and ready to learn. At Michigan we go by “Michigan Time,” which means all classes begin 10 minutes after the course catalog states as the beginning of class. So we begin promptly at 10:10 AM. If you arrive after 10:10 a.m., you will be considered late. I know life happens, and often our priorities need to shift, but if you must miss class, keep me informed.

Additionally, missing more than two classes will affect your grade in a negative manner. After two absences, a 2% deduction will occur for each additional absence (e.g., a 90% “A-“ will become an 88% “B“). Five absences can result in a failing grade. Missing a conference also counts as an absence.

If you represent the university in a university-sponsored activity such as a sporting event or academic tournament, it is your responsibility to inform me at the beginning of the term which days you will miss. You are responsible for completing the work that you will miss, early. If you miss several classes due to extenuating circumstances, you may be required to complete additional make-up work.

Complete all assignments on time: I will excuse an absence due to family emergencies, medical emergencies, or required attendance at university-sponsored events. However, you must bring a note from a doctor or health professional, a signed letter from a University team or program, or documentation of a family emergency.

Conferences: You are required to meet with me, one-on-one, to discuss your writing throughout the semester. Conferences will take place Wednesday, February 26 and Thursday, February 28.

Each student will sign up for a 15-20 minute conference for one of those days. Come prepared to conferences with questions and ideas about your writing for the class. Missing a conference will result in an absence.

Late Work Policy:

I typically do not accept late work, unless you are in a dire situation that is out of your hands, and have documentation of that situation (e.g. doctor’s note). Technological issues are annoying, but not excuses. If you are for some reason absent on a day something is due, arrange to turn that assignment in prior to that day. Remember, if absent, it is your responsibility to gather and complete missed work.

Always have a backup plan. Use dropbox, save work on mfile.umich.edu, or google docs—something that will prevent those annoying technological issues and allow you to turn your work in on time.

Review Workshop Policies:

Peer Review and Intensive Review (IR): In this writing community, it is important to celebrate and encourage our efforts. Through peer review, you will each share and respond to various writings. When each first draft is due, students will be arranged into small groups (3-4 people per group) to share and discuss drafts in class. These groups might also meet occasionally to brainstorm, discuss readings, and progress in various writings. For first draft peer review sessions, students will share google docs and provide feedback via the comment and document functions.

Reviewers will leave comments in the margins of the document, as well as an end comment, based on overall reactions to the writing, at the end of the document. I will monitor this process and consider online contributions when determining points for participation.

Additionally, intensive review (IR) will entail a process for which each student shares his/her work with the whole class. This is a low-stakes opportunity for each of us to garner feedback as we practice writing different genres. More details will be provided before the first round of IR, and I will model this process for the whole class. After the first draft has been submitted for an assignment, and peer review has occurred, 4-5 students per IR session will share a section of their draft, by reading it aloud, and receive verbal feedback from the larger group. Choose carefully the section on which you want to focus. Are you having trouble articulating a particular idea? Do you really like a section, but can’t figure out where it should go in the essay? Ask yourself questions about your writing to help you choose what you will share with and ask of the larger group. The IR candidate

will take notes on feedback and make adjustments accordingly. Reviewers will also be active in this process, taking notes during the reading, and providing feedback to the writer. I will keep track of who participates in this process and factor it in to class participation.

In both peer review and intensive review, while positive comments like, “I really like your idea,” are nice, they are often “fluff” and not helpful to other writers. If you have positive feedback, there should be purpose behind that feedback to help writers hone in on their strengths. Similarly, feedback should not be mean-spirited or counterproductive. Be thoughtful with constructive criticism and support each other.

of Technology Policy and Classroom Behavior:

Avoid texting, tweeting, facebooking, talking over others, and other behavior that demonstrates disrespect towards others or disrupts the learning environment. If any technology is used in class, it will be for the purpose of English 125, otherwise cellphones, laptops, etc., should be turned off and out of sight.


The University of Michigan defines plagiarism as “Submitting a piece of work (for example, an essay, research paper, work of art, assignment, laboratory report) which in part or in whole is not entirely the student’s own work without attributing those same portions to their correct source.” Plagiarism is when you knowingly (or unknowingly) submit someone else’s ideas or words as your own. Please review the “Memo to all students taking courses in the English Department” from the former Chair of Undergraduate Studies. You can find it at:     http://www.lsa.umich.edu/english/undergraduate/advising/plagNote.asp.

If you commit an act of academic dishonesty in this course either by plagiarizing someone’s work or by allowing your own work to be misused by another, you will fail the assignment and may fail the entire course. In addition, I will report the incident to both the English Department and the LS&A Assistant Dean of Student Affairs. Please note that if you submit work already completed for one course as original work for another course, you are violating university policies and will fail the assignment and possibly the course.

about Sweetland Center for Writing:

Located at 1310 North Quad, the Sweetland Center for Writing provides tutors who are available to provide writing feedback for your assignments or any other type of writing you create. You will not find the grammar police here. The Sweetland Center for Writing is a place for you to collaborate with tutors to progress in your writing. Check out the website or call (734) 764-0429 for more information.

for Students with Disabilities:

If you need an accommodation for a disability, please let me know. I can modify some aspects of the assignments, in-class activities, and teaching methods to facilitate your participation and progress. As soon as you make me aware of your needs, we can work with the Office for Students with Disabilities (SSD) to help us determine appropriate accommodations. I will treat as private and confidential any information that you provide.


If a class session or due date conflicts with your religious holidays, please notify me so that we can make alternative arrangements. In most cases, I will ask you to turn in your assignment ahead of your scheduled absence. In accordance with U-M policy on Religious/Academic conflicts, your absence will not affect your grade in the course.