Writing 140: Writing and Critical Reasoning

Instructor: Athena Perrakis, M.A.          Office: SSM 203 
                                              (behind glass doors)
E-mail: aperrakis@aol.com                  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 
	sheets.
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.

The link
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 
writing conventions.

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.


Class schedule
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 
your essays.

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 
positive behavior.

Grades
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%                    
Portfolio: 30%

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 
	considered plagiarism.
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 
	the university.
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.

Portfolio
There will be two portfolios in this class: one at midterm and one as your 
final.

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 
clarification.

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 
the classroom.

Writing 340
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!