WRIT 1120-03: Writing Theory & Practice

Fall 2017 | half unit of credit
Mondays and Wednesdays 1:00 – 2:45
Classroom:  Seton 502

Dr. Anna Smol  |  Office: Seton 510   |   Email:  anna.smol@msvu.ca  |  Twitter: @AnnaMSmol
Hours:  Drop in between 2:45 – 3:30 or make an appointment for another time in the week.

What is this course about?

First of all, this course is about the practice of writing, especially writing for university. I will lecture a bit and we’ll have some discussions, but most of our class will be conducted as a writing workshop in which you will be able to work on current assignments. You will learn how to give good feedback to other writers and you will get feedback from me and others in order to revise your work. You’ll practice different kinds of writing, how to come up with ideas, how to organize them, and how to construct a coherent and clear argument or analysis. You’ll learn some of the basics of library research and how to evaluate and synthesize information.

But in order to improve as a writer, you’ll also need to know something about theories of writing. This course is also about rhetoric — about knowing how to make appropriate choices when writing for specific audiences and about being able to recognize the rhetorical choices made by other writers. See “Learning Outcomes” below for more information….

What books do I need?

  • Everyone’s An Author. Second Edition. Andrea Lunsford et al. (in the MSVU Bookstore)
  • A Pocket Style Manual.  2016 MLA Update Edition.  Diana Hacker and Nancy Sommers.
  • Selected supplementary readings online posted on Moodle
  • a time management system of your choice, either print or digital, such as a calendar or agenda

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.

What am I expected to do in this class?

You will be expected to:

—  practice writing through the full writing process, from planning to final proofreading, in various types of assignments while learning some rhetorical concepts
You will demonstrate how well you have accomplished these tasks and what you have learned by collecting your drafts, revisions, and exercises in a Portfolio, worth 50% of your final grade. You will be given a detailed checklist of the required contents of the portfolio, but in general the final portfolio should include the following assignments. All assignments will be discussed in class beforehand and will be explained in handouts given in class and posted on Moodle.

    • Rhetorical analysis: draft 1 (peer group), draft 2 (professor’s draft), revision: 10%
    • In-class narrative, revision: 5%
    • Annotated bibliography: draft 1 (peer group), draft 2 (professor’s draft), revision 5%
    • Research essay: draft 1 (peer group), draft 2 (professor’s draft), revision: 10%
    • Multimodal presentation: 5%
    • 3 quizzes: 10%
    • reflections/ responses 5%

— work in collaboration with peers to analyze, discuss, and give feedback on others’ writing and come prepared with your own drafts to work on during class time when required
Attendance, in-class group work, and at-home exercises are all part of your Participation grade, worth 20% of your final grade. 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, and participating in a courteous and professional manner in the work of the day.

— demonstrate what you have learned in the course and view the course content in a new light by writing a final exam.
The final exam will be worth 30% of your final grade. The best way to prepare for the exam is to attend all the classes, complete all the assignments to the best of your ability, and take responsibility for improving your grade based on given feedback.

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 a general rule.


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.

What will I learn?  (Learning Outcomes)

If you take your responsibilities as a student in this course seriously, you will learn about
–writing as a rhetorical activity, including the ability:

    • to analyze texts rhetorically
    • to adapt writing to the unique constraints of a given situation
    • to understand that decisions about genre, format, grammar, and style are made in response to a rhetorical situation
    • to understand that research, evidence, and argument are rhetorically constructed and mobilized
    • to use handbooks and reference guides rhetorically
    • to understand that rhetorical decisions have ethical significance

— writing as a process, including an understanding of:

  • the fact that writing cannot be reduced to any one product or method
  • theories and strategies of invention, arrangement, style, revision, and editing
  • active engagement in the peer review process
  • the writing process as the primary means by which important conversations are carried out in academic, popular, and interpersonal writing, including formal and informal peer review

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.