WRIT 1120-05: The Writing Process

WRIT 1120

Fall 2019 | half unit of credit
Tuesday and Thursday 3:00 – 4:15
Classroom:  Seton 507

Dr. Anna Smol  |  Office: Seton 510   |   Email:  anna.smol@msvu.ca  |  Twitter: @AnnaMSmol
Hours:  Drop in after class between 4:15 and 5:15 or make an appointment for another time in the week.

What is this course about?

This course is about reading, thinking, and writing – the kind of active reading, hard thinking, and precise, versatile writing that you should practice at the university level.  We’ll explore the process of responding to and analyzing others’ ideas, developing your own views, and expressing them clearly. We’ll learn how to give constructive feedback to others and how to use the feedback you get from me and from others to revise and improve your thinking and writing. We’ll practice making appropriate choices when writing for different audiences and we’ll learn to recognize the rhetorical choices made by other writers.  We’ll tackle difficult readings together in order to appreciate the richness that a longer, carefully thought-out text can present.

What books do I need?


  • Bartholomae, David, et al. Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. 11th edition, Bedford/St. Martins, 2014.
  • Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say / I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 4th edition, Norton, 2018.
  • A time management system of your choice, either print or digital, such as an agenda or calendar.


  • Hacker, Diana and Nancy Sommers. A Pocket Style Manual. 8th edition, Bedford St. Martin’s, 2018.

These books will be in the MSVU Bookstore in September.

How do I keep track of everything?

Use Moodle!  This course uses Moodle, an online course management system. This is the place where I communicate with you between classes, where I post assignments, make announcements, or revise the syllabus. You should check Moodle at least twice a week to make sure you know what to do for each class.  You should note, however, that I do not post lecture notes or grades on Moodle. This course is run mainly as a writing workshop with discussions. I expect you to keep track of and calculate your grades on your own

What am I expected to do in this class?

Course Aims

These course aims are sometimes called “learning objectives.” Learning is an open-ended process that can be unpredictable. While I am here to guide and help you in any way I can, you alone are responsible for your own learning. What you get out of this course depends on the effort you put into it. Here are the activities that I’m planning to offer you and what I think you can learn from them, but this list is not exhaustive. Surprise me, or yourself, by going beyond expectations!

Successful completion of this course should help you to:

  • learn to read, summarize, respond to, think with rich, thoughtful, dense essays.
  • develop the habits of a productive writer, including paying close attention to others’ words and to the process of developing your own writing in conversation with other texts and practicing the full range of the writing process, from invention to drafting to peer editing to revision.
  • learn to construct well-grounded arguments, to recognize the rhetorical power of academic and popular writing conventions, and to develop a sensitivity to the ethical significance of rhetorical decisions
  • understand how to work in collaboration with peers to analyze, discuss, and give constructive feedback

Requirements (please note: these are last year’s requirements and may change slightly for the Fall 2019 term)

  • Informal writing and participation: 20% of the final grade

In-class group and individual work, at-home exercises, and attendance are all part of this grade, worth 20% of your final mark. The quality of your contribution to class work is an important part of what will make the course work well, for you and for others. You should strive to come to class well prepared, knowing what writing is expected for that day, having done the readings, bringing your marked-up books to class, and participating in a courteous and professional manner in the work of the day.

  •  3 in-class tests:  15% of the final grade

These tests will have to be written in class time. If you have special accommodations for extra time, you will have to start the test with the rest of the class and finish after the class is over. The only exceptions will be those with a verifiable doctor’s (or other professional’s) note submitted before the start of the test. These tests will ask you to apply to the essays we’re reading what you’ve learned about rhetorical choices in the text They Say/ I Say.

  • Portfolio:  65% of the final grade

This is a gathering and presentation of your work to demonstrate your writing process and to allow you to reflect on your work from the beginning of term to the end. The portfolio is a composition in its own right, which you will have to organize and present either digitally or in print.

You’ll receive guidelines in class and in handouts explaining what is expected for each element of your Portfolio.

  • Portfolio letter and overall presentation and organization. 5%
  • Assignment 1 (Summary of Ruth Behar essay): Peer draft with feedback, and professor’s draft with feedback. 10%
  • Assignment 2 (Art Gallery review applying John Berger’s essay). Peer draft with feedback and professor’s draft with feedback. 15%
  • Assignment 3 (Synthetic essay on Susan Griffin, Berger, Behar). Peer draft with feedback and professor’s draft with feedback. 20%
  • Assignment 4: multimodal project. A re-working of your 3rd essay in another medium; for example, a blog, brochure, PowerPoint, poster, Twitter thread. 5%. This project will be on display in the class’s end-of-term celebration.
  • Reflections (approximately 500 words each) on each assignment. 10%.

What do I need to know to be successful?


Correct use of language is one of the criteria included in the evaluation of all written assignments. In order to demonstrate appropriate professional behaviour, you are also expected to make an effort to use language correctly in all non-graded written materials that you submit, including emails to me and discussion posts to the class.

Plagiarism and cheating:

As members of a global scholarly community, we are all expected to abide by certain standards of academic integrity; therefore, university regulations on plagiarism and cheating and other academic offenses will be strictly enforced. These regulations including applicable procedures and penalties are detailed in the University Calendar, are posted on department notice boards, and on the msvu.ca webpage. You are held responsible for informing yourself about the definition and the penalties outlined in the Calendar. In addition, I will explain to you in class what constitutes plagiarism and cheating, but if you have any doubts at all, you are required to consult with me before handing in any assignment.

Students with disabilities:

If you have a disability and require academic accommodations, you must register with Accessibility Services <msvu.ca/accessibilityservices> as early as possible in order to receive accommodations.

Religious observance:

Requests for accommodation of specific religious or spiritual observance must be presented in writing to me within the first two weeks of class.


Learning can certainly occur outside the classroom, but it is also prompted by what goes on inside the classroom. To gain fully from this course as we build knowledge and skills, you have to be engaged in the process. Everyone’s full participation contributes to a vibrant experience for all in the class. To make this the best experience for all concerned, you are expected to attend all classes, which is why the University Calendar states: “Regular attendance is expected of students at all classes….” Of course, things happen that might prevent you from coming to class; if so, you are expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner and to notify me if you cannot attend. That way, I can advise you on the best way for you to keep up with what is going on, and I can better track who is still working on the course materials.


According to the University Calendar, you should expect to spend on average 2 hours of preparation time outside of class for every one hour in class. What other commitments do you have during the week? Select an appropriate course load that will allow you to be successful!

Cell phones, laptops, and other technologies:

This course requires the mindful use of technologies. The basic principle we follow is that the technology that we use has to help us in our work and not distract us. For that reason, all phones and other devices must be adjusted so that they will not make any noise during class time. No recording equipment is allowed in class, as it violates the privacy of other students involved in class discussions.


I work hard to write detailed feedback on essays. If you want to benefit from this feedback, however, you obviously have to read my comments. If you do not pick up an assignment at least 24 hours before the next one is due, you are in effect telling me that you do not care to work with my feedback. In that case, I will save some time by not writing detailed comments on your essay.

Time Management (aka Deadlines Policy):

Effective time management is one of the keys to success in university (and in other walks of life). To help you develop this skill, I ask that you work with a time management system of your own selection, such as a weekly agenda in either electronic or hard copy format. I usually divide assignments into smaller chunks to help you make steady progress towards a goal. As a further incentive, I deduct points for late essays – my deductions are not overly punitive, and I exempt people from late penalties if they have a valid excuse for being late which they have discussed with me beforehand if at all possible. After all, things happen in life that we sometimes can’t control. But if you are requesting special consideration due to conflicts with deadlines or exams, make sure that
you do so in advance of the deadline.

If you are late with an assignment and you don’t have a strong reason that was discussed with me beforehand, your essay will have one grade level deducted for every 24-hour period beyond the deadline. Weekends will count the same as weekdays.

Talk to me!

I will be pleased to discuss with you any concerns or ideas about the course work and to go over rough drafts of assignments or to review graded work, either during my posted office hours on a drop-in basis or at other specific times by previous appointment. I will also answer questions by email, but I cannot guarantee immediate and 24-hour service – you should note that it may take up to two days to receive an answer by email (although I am usually able to respond faster than that).

How is this relevant to my future? (Experiential Learning)

Experiential (or hands-on) learning takes place in all of our English and Writing courses, as you not only learn to analyze and write about texts as a professional literary critic, writer, or editor would but also engage in activities that are directly relevant to other types of work undertaken by English and Writing graduates in their later careers:
critical analysis of text

    • developing and writing a concise, coherent, and persuasive argument
    • working collaboratively
    • providing constructive criticism to peers on their ideas and writing

Additional in-class and extra-curricular hands-on learning opportunities are also available to students in the English and Writing programs. See our Experiential Learning page for some of your options.

Need help?

If you are struggling with course work for any reason, please come talk to me as soon as possible. I can suggest ways to help you or refer you to other FREE resources, such as the following:

  • The English / History Writing Workshop. Look for signs and listen for announcements of this free workshop run by upper-level students who can help you with your essay writing.
  • The Writing Resource Centre. You can sign up for free individual sessions. The Centre is located in the Library, Room 205.
  • Check out the many additional Student Services available to you here:
    These include counselling services for any personal or health problems; study skills sessions; career counselling; academic advising; student loan information; and more.

What do I need to read and write for each class?

A detailed syllabus will be handed out in class and posted on Moodle.

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