Core 110F: Effective Writing

Joe Kraus

Fall Semester, 2001


Introduction to the Course:

This is a class about writing. Writing, as we will talk about, is a lot of different things.  I expect that each of you knows a great deal about it already; you’ve each reached an advanced level of study and have clearly done a lot of it in the classes you’ve taken before this one.  In this class, we will build off of what you already know.  If you think you know something about writing already, be prepared to use it again.

My favorite definition for the sort of writing we will do in this class, expository writing, is “capturing the rhythm of your every day thoughts in written words.”  By that, I mean that the writing we do will call on you to look to your own experiences, daydreams, and expressions as the material and substance of your work.  The writing we will do requires you to reflect on things you’ve done, people you’ve known, and problems you’ve encountered.  I take it for granted that you all already “know” everything you need to know to write the papers of this class.  The kind of writing we will do is a skill you already have; we’re simply going to polish it.

While we will spend a great deal of time talking about writing, I can tell you in advance that I will ask two general questions of everything you write.  First, I will look at the way you write your paragraphs.  If they are not coherent or have other problems, I will try to suggest ways for you to strengthen them.  Second, I will look at the way you sustain a thesis throughout your paper.  I see these two questions as related; a coherent thesis makes it easier to write coherent paragraphs, and coherent paragraphs reinforce your overall thesis.

When you write with a clear thesis with well-developed paragraphs, you will do well in this class.

You should know immediately that this class calls for a great deal of work.  I am asking you to write a total of seven essays (with two to three drafts of each) as well as to write ten shorter sketches, none of which should take you more than half an hour to complete, and two full-page responses to your classmates’ work.  You will have a major writing assignment each of our 17 weeks, and you should expect to be planning one paper at about the same time as you are wrapping up another.

For each of the essays you will write, I will ask you to write a first draft.  By “first draft,” I mean I expect you to write the best paper you can write on your own.  I expect you to have written, re-read, corrected, and proofread each of your first drafts before you bring it into class.  During class, we will generally have a workshop that should give you enough insight to revise your first draft into a second draft which I will then collect and grade.  For the six essays, I will ask you for at least one additional draft.

At the end of the semester, I will collect a writing portfolio from each of you.  In it, I expect to find new drafts of five of your essays, a complete set of journal entries, and some of the in-class writing that we will do in the course of the semester.

Methods of Instruction:

We will spend most of our class time in discussion.  I expect you will have done the assigned reading, writing, and any other homework.  I will usually have a series of points that I want to make on a particular day, but I want to make sure that you have the opportunity to direct our discussion on the basis of the ideas that you bring to class yourself.

On occasion, I will lecture, but we will be such a small class that even such lectures will be informal.  I look forward to each of you helping to redirect our conversations.

Instructional Materials:

We do not have a textbook for this class.  I ask only that you buy the coursepack on sale at the bookstore. 

If you and I agree that you need some additional work on your grammar or sentence mechanics, I may suggest additional texts that I think can be helpful.

Attendance Policy:

We have roughly 40 classes scheduled for this semester.  I expect you to attend each of those classes.  I recognize that some of you may not feel well sometimes and that you may have other emergencies that cause you to miss class.  Your absence affects everyone in the class, however, not just you, so I expect you to recognize your obligation to us.  If you miss even a single class in the first four weeks, I will discuss with you whether you have the time and flexibility to be part of our class this semester.  If you miss three or more classes in the first four weeks or five or more in the first seven, I will encourage you to withdraw.  In my experience, students who miss even so apparently small a number of classes have difficulty completing our overall work.

Barring extraordinary circumstances, you will fail this class if you miss more than 7 classes in the course of the semester.  (Missing 8 classes would mean missing more than 20 percent of our class meetings.) 

If you miss more than 3 classes, I may reduce your final grade by a full letter.

Simply attending class is insufficient.  I expect you to be prepared as well.  I reserve the right to mark you as absent if you attend class without having prepared the necessary homework or having forgotten some of your essential books or notes.

I expect you to notify me any time you miss class. I am glad to hear from you by e-mail (, phone, or in person.

I do not distinguish between excused and unexcused absences.  I assume that you have a valid reason any time that you miss class.  It is strictly your choice whether you want to share that reason with me.

Methods of Evaluating Student Progress:

I will determine final grades through the following breakdown:



            Rem. Person............15%





In-class Rogerian...........................5%

Workshop responses....................10%


I remind you, however, that it is possible fail the class for excessive absences even if you otherwise complete the written work.

Links to More Course Information:

Course Schedule

Journal Assignments:

    Page One

    Page Two

    Page Three

    Page Four 

    Page Five

Narrative Assignment

Remembering a Person


Evaluative Assignment


Argumentative Assignment