Writing 140: Writing and Critical Reasoning
Instructor: Athena Perrakis, M.A. Office: SSM 203
(behind glass doors)
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Office Phone: 213/ 740-1980
Class section: 90485 Voice Mail (24 hours):
Classroom: VKC 204 XXX/XXX-XXXX
Class Time: MWF noon Office Hours: MW after class
Writing Center & by appt.
Phone: 213/ 740-3691
Required Texts and Supplies (or: what you need to buy immediately)
o Writing 140 Course Book, Fall 1999 and Spring 2000 edition (available
at the bookstore).
o Three ring notebook for storage of class handouts and assignment
o Two pocket folder for submission of assigned out of class essays.
About Writ 140
Writing 140 is a class designed to teach critical thinking and reading,
through the medium of intertextual argumentation. You will find that writing
is an integral part of every college student's education. Success in college
is largely dependent on your ability to write in a thoughtful, compelling,
and coherent manner. This course will teach you to understand writing as a
process, involving numerous recursive stages. Ultimately, you are required
to present an independent point of view-supported with sound reasoning and
evidence-phrased in the language of a scholarly community. Academic writing
targets a very specific audience, to which you may not have been introduced
as a high school student. To address this audience of scholars and
researchers, you must express innovative ideas using a strong and sophisticated
vocabulary. We will develop the requisite skills together this semester.
USC has renovated its general education curriculum since 1997 in order to
provide you with an optimum undergraduate experience. To that end, you are
enrolled in two linked courses: Sociology 150 and Writing 140. In my class,
we will draw upon the themes in Professor Bengtson's class to inspire our own
assignments and discussions. However, the two courses are distinct: I am
your writing instructor, not a TA for the Sociology class. I am solely
responsible for your grade in Writing 140, and the grading scale is devised
differently from that used by Professor Bengtson. Therefore, it is entirely
possible that you may earn a higher or lower grade in my course than you will
in Sociology 150. The course are linked by content alone. If you are
unclear about the grading standards used in the other class, please address
your questions and concerns to the TA or Professor.
Requirements (or: how to get out alive)
I will assign you five out of class essays, which must be 5-6 full pages in
length. You will have approximately two weeks to write each paper. You will
receive a detailed assignment sheet for each essay, indicating the readings
required, the question you must answer, tips for success, and all deadlines.
All drafts of essays you write (both rough and final) are to be typed.
Handwriting is obsolete. Font should be roughly the size of what you see on
this syllabus. Margins are 1" on all sides. Final drafts should be
submitted in a two-pocket folder, with your rough draft and prewriting on the
opposite side. You must submit a rough draft of each essay before the final
draft is due. This course focuses on the writing process; therefore, I will
not accept final drafts of essays I have never before seen or discussed with
you in conference or office hour(s). Papers with obscene fonts or margins
will suffer a half grade penalty. Please staple your essays.
Beyond the assigned essays, I also require that you complete a number of
homework assignments and prepare for reading quizzes on the material we cover
beyond the scope of Sociology 150. All homework is graded on a T-, T, T+
basis, to indicate your performance relative to others in class. Since 5% of
your final course grade represents homework, it is in your best interest to
complete everything on time. Note: I do not assign busy work. Every
assignment has a purpose, which is to better your understanding of academic
What could go wrong, and what I would do about it
I do not accept late papers unless you have legitimate medical documentation.
The following are not legitimate excuses for late work: computer failures or
hard drive crashes, printer malfunctions, exhaustion from other obligations,
personal problems that are not medically related, your own incompetence (i.e.
"I forgot the paper at home, in my car, at my parents' house in San
Francisco, in jail," etc), the incompetence of others (i.e. "My dog ate it,
my girlfriend tore it up, my mom took it to show her friends, the computer
lab personnel threw it away by accident") or any other timely misfortune. I
despise excuses. If you do not finish an assignment on time, be mature
enough to abandon excuses and deal with the consequences. Late papers are
not graded, and receive a grade of "F." The definition of "late" is any
paper I do not see during class time on a due date.
Be aware that Writing 140 is unique in its scheduling format. I frequently
cancel classes in order to conference or meet with you individually for 15 or
20 minutes, depending on the assignment. These conferences are beneficial to
your progress as a writer, and reinforce the writing process, since you must
complete a typed draft for us to review together (Note: because conferences
for one class take me 6 hours to complete, they cannot be "made up." Please
make arrangements to attend conferences, or have someone submit your draft
for you on conference days). I generally schedule conferences on the day
before our canceled session, at the beginning of class, and offer a range of
times so that our meeting fits conveniently within your busy schedule. If
for some reason you cannot attend our conference, make every effort to notify
me early, so that I can make alternative arrangements, or perhaps offer
someone else an additional conference time. Also, please note: I do not
correct every mistake during conference time. I generally try to do "damage
control," or address those areas of concern that may cause your paper not to
pass. Surface errors may go intentionally undetected, so that I can devote
time to more serious matters. If I mark errors on your final draft that went
undetected on your conference draft, it is not because I did not "see" them;
instead, you are required to learn how to correct your own mistakes.
Moreover, it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to mark every error in 15 minutes. To
grade your final draft often takes me 3 times that long!
Attendance and Participation (or: showing up and getting involved)
The university offers you three "free" absences from this class before I am
allowed to lower your grade. Therefore, more than three absences of any kind
(excused or unexcused) will negatively affect your final course grade.
Tardiness is obnoxious. I would rather that you miss class altogether than
come in late. Please avoid tardies; two will count as one full absence. You
are considered tardy if you come to class between 12:05 and 12:15. If you
come in after 12:15 you are considered absent. Absences on due dates of
papers count twice, as do absences from conferences when we work on drafts of
To be courteous, you should always notify your instructors of absences or
potential tardies before class begins, so that we can anticipate your arrival
and save handouts for you. If you know that you will miss class on a
particular day, leave a voice mail message (see number on page 1) before
class. I will only accept late homework (not papers, homework) from people
who notify me of their absence ahead of time.
As for participation, you should know that all instructors are human beings,
and tend to react more positively to students who speak up in class and take
charge of their own educational experiences. I conduct class in a very
informal and friendly manner for one reason: so that you will feel
comfortable speaking your mind and sharing your ideas. 5% of your final
grade is based on attendance; the other 5% is based on participation, which
encompasses all of the following: how you interact with me and your peers in
class, whether you complete your work on time, whether you notify me in
advance of potential absences or inability to attend scheduled conferences or
office hours, and the level of courtesy you display to those around you.
Remember that your attitude and level of participation count nearly as much
as one final paper in my grade calculations. I generously reward consistently
The rumors you have heard are true: Writing 140 is a difficult class. But
success is not impossible, and you are likely to learn more from this course
than any other you take during your freshman or sophomore year. I take a
rigorous approach to teaching, learning, and grading: if you want an "A" you
will have to earn it, according to the rubric for Writing 140 papers as
listed in your course book. The Writing Program requires us to grade product
and teach process. That is, when in class I will emphasize the steps
necessary to complete an academically sound piece of writing. However, the
amount of effort you put into a paper is insignificant when it comes to
grading: some students work 20 hours for a "C" while others work 10 hours for
an "A." My best advice is to digest the rubric, and do your best to meet the
lofty standards we hold you to. To compensate for a challenging grade
system, I do weight your grades, so that the final calculation of your
semester grade looks like this:
Assignment 1 (or lowest grade): 5%
Attendance & Participation: 10%
Assignments 2-4 (or mid-range grades): 30%, or 10% each
Homework & Quizzes: 10%
Assignment 5 (or highest grade): 15%
Plagiarism: what is it and how can you avoid it?
Plagiarism is the submission of any material under your own name that you did
not create by yourself. I am a master at the art of detecting plagiarized
material. I have opted to suspend two students from USC who plagiarized in
my classes. Do not be the third. Any paper that "smells" plagiarized to me
will be the subject of a private discussion between the accused, the Writing
Program director, and myself. Such a paper will be assigned an "F"
immediately, and the student in question will then be forwarded along to the
Office of Student Conduct.
The general rules are as follows:
o You must give credit in your paper for anything idea that is not your
own-whether you directly quote or paraphrase the material-unless it can
be considered common knowledge: e.g. it is generally accepted that USC
students and alumni are called the Trojan Family. While you did not decide
to refer to them as such, the concept of the Trojan Family is not a new idea.
Therefore, you would not need to document a source if you referred to
the Trojan Family in an essay.
o A fact or idea is considered to be common knowledge if you can find it
in more than three texts, books, films, etc. unless they are all quoting
the same reference.
o A paper bought or lifted from the Internet is plagiarized. I
frequently check out such sites for fun. Don't try it.
o A paper you have used for another class anywhere is not eligible for
submission here. Using a paper twice, even with minor revisions, is
o Be very careful when you accept assistance from a tutor or friend.
If the person who reviews your work alters the material in any way, you
have both committed an act of plagiarism, and can both be "excused" from
o Documenting bogus sources on your works cited page is an act of
plagiarism, as is the failure to create a list of the sources you used.
I have spent numerous hours tracking down plagiarized material from
various books, internet sources, and movies. Any time the tone of your writing
shifts (and I read a lot of your writing, so I would notice) I reserve the
right to ask you about the contents and require you to prove authenticity
with a rough draft or other prewriting material. So, it is wise to keep
track of everything you write. A paper that comes to me in final form
without a draft or any prewriting is highly suspect.
There will be two portfolios in this class: one at midterm and one as your
Your midterm portfolio is Assignment 2. You will submit two copies, as
usual, one of which I will grade; the other will be given to another
Writing 140 instructor who will read and grade your essay, as well. Not only
will you receive extra feedback as a result of this process, but you will be
assured that my grades are fair and justified. Note: the return of
Assignment 2 is delayed because of the time required to grade your
paper, meet, discuss the grade, and give adequate written comments.
The final portfolio is your chance to show off how much you learned
this semester. During weeks 14-15, you will choose to of the five essays
you have submitted, and revise them substantially. The two papers, along with
the in-class impromptu essay, comprise your portfolio, which will again be
graded by both myself and another Writing 140 instructor on Saturday, April
29th. The final grade on your portfolio represents 30% of your final course
grade. As the time approaches, I will provide more detailed information and
The Lecture Series: Bellah, Bond & Bok
All Writing 140 students are now required to attend the lecture series, which
meets on three Tuesday evenings this semester. Attendance is mandatory at
all lectures. For our class, Robert Bellah will provide the most substantive
talk, as his speech will address many of the issues you will read and
consider this semester, particularly during the course of Assignment 1.
Take this opportunity to reap the benefits of attending a large, wealthy,
private college that can afford to lure big name speakers for your enrichment
and amusement. I went to a public university, and while I was not required
to attend any extracurricular lectures, I also did not have such
opportunities at my immediate disposal. Enjoy. Seats are assigned, just so
you know in advance.
The Writing Center: 3rd floor Taper Hall
You also have access to yet another resource that USC offers its privileged
students: a writing center with trained writers who will help you with papers
for my class at no cost! You should call ahead to schedule an appointment
with a consultant. The number you need is printed at the top of this
syllabus. I worked in the center for one year in 1996-97 and can assure you
that only intelligent, trained folks are hired to review essays. Make sure
you bring a copy of the assignment sheet for the assignment you are working
on, and a list of the areas you would like to address during the half hour
meeting. No one there will do a pure "editing" job; like me, they are
willing only to assist you with the writing process. Never ask a consultant
what kind of grade he/she would assign the paper, or how to get a better
grade. The consultants report back to me on the content of any sessions you
attend. I keep a written record of everyone who visits the center, and how
often you go, just so that I can assess your willingness to seek help outside
As someone who is friends with many 340 instructors, and wishes to teach 340
herself at some point, I am driven to make sure you are prepared for upper
division writing when you leave my class. To that end, my standards are high
and my tolerance for excuses or poor performance is low. You are a student
at a Research I university: the best in the nation, in other words. My own
teaching philosophy is that if I impose rigorous standards on students, they
will rise to the occasion, and ultimately surpass my own expectations, as
well as their own. I will give you 110% of my time, energy, and attention
this semester. In return, I ask for respect, effort, and a willingness to
extend yourself beyond what you "think" you can do, or need to do, in order
to succeed. If you are consistently hardworking and diligent, you will do
more than earn a grade in this class: you will become a more critical
thinker, a stronger person, and a more competent student. I wish you a
successful semester. Welcome!