College Writing I 42.101.243R Fall 2009 Syllabus

Dr. Bridget Marshall


Class Meetings: Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30 – 10:45

Office Location: O’ Leary 415

Office Hours: Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:30 – 1:45 and by appointment

Office Phone: 978-934-4179


Required Text: Class Matters


This class operates on the idea that we are all writers.  Writing is a very necessary part of your education; it will help you get through school, and it will be immeasurably useful beyond school, in whatever profession you choose.  Keeping in mind the idea that you will have many kinds of writing to do throughout your academic career and beyond, here are some course goals:

1)    Practice a few of the basic forms of writing that you will use during your college career and beyond

2)    Compose essays using multiple drafts and collaboration with peers

3)    Analyze writing by others and propose thoughtful responses and useful feedback

4)    Assess and edit your own work so that it looks and sounds polished and professional

5)    Formulate ways to select and engage with a topic of interest

In this course, we will use writing as a way to develop, explore, and express your thinking on a subject.  Papers for this course will involve multiple drafts, typically including an Exploratory Draft, a Mid-Process Draft, and a Final Version.  You will be required to share your drafts and final essays with peers in the class.  These essays are an opportunity to express yourself and to think critically about a variety of topics. 


Instructional Resources and Disability Accommodations: The Centers for Learning and Academic Support Services provide many resources, including tutoring in writing:  In accordance with University policy and the ADA, I will provide accommodation for students with documented disabilities.  If you have a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services: McGauvran 363, phone: (978) 934-4338 as soon as possible. This documentation is confidential.


A note on classroom conduct:

In this class, and in all classes at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, students are expected to exhibit professional and respectful behavior that is conducive to a mutually beneficial learning environment in the classroom.  Examples of inappropriate behavior include: text messaging, listening to music, cell phone use (other than the campus alert system), late arrivals, early departures, use of laptops for other than class purposes, disrespectful comments or behavior, intentional disruptions, failure to follow faculty directives. Students in violation of these standards may be asked to leave class and/or be referred to the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.


Class Requirements: 

Š       Good classroom citizenship is required.  Good classroom citizenship goes beyond just “participation” in the sense of raising your hand a lot.  It includes sharing your thoughts and ACTIVELY LISTENING to the thoughts and comments of your peers.  Please be considerate of your classmates and make the classroom a space where everyone can speak their mind. As a courtesy to everyone in the room, please turn off your cell phones and other electronic distractions before class begins.  Texting, e-mailing, and taking phone calls during class is unacceptable behavior; please leave class if you must attend to an urgent matter.

Š       Attendance is required.  This is not a correspondence course.  You can fail the course for not attending class, even if you do all the writing.  You are given two “Freebies.”  For every class beyond those two that you miss, your final grade for the class will be lowered one grade step.  (I.e., if you have a “B” for the class, but have missed 4 classes, you will receive a “C+” for your final grade.)  Attendance also includes your conferences with me.  If you miss a conference without contacting me before you miss it, it counts as an absence.  You should also be prepared for your conference, bringing any assigned materials.

Š       Complete the five major assignments, including multiple drafts and other writings associated with them.  Assignments are due at the beginning of class.  A paper on e-mail or memory stick does not count; it must be in readable (hard-copy) form.  When you arrive in class, you should be ready to hand in a draft.

Š       Revision is required.  The multiple draft process does not mean that you write a bad essay and then fix your typos; always write your best.  Substantial revision is part of your grade.  I will look at your drafts to see that you have expanded and refined your writing through the process.  In order for me to see this, you must save every draft.  When you turn in a final essay, you should also include all drafts, notes, peer response, etc. associated with that essay. 

Š       You will be required to share your writing and respond to the writing of your peers.  We do this to stress the point that you are not just writing for a teacher or for a grade; we are writing for a community of writers.  We will read our work aloud to each other and read each other’s papers.  Become comfortable with sharing your writing; this is a necessary step in improving your writing and becoming part of the academic community.

Š       It is your responsibility to keep track of things.  By “things,” I mean drafts of essays that have a tendency to get lost in computers or dorm rooms, assignments from class days that you missed, and class work that hasn’t been submitted.  I keep track of everything that is turned in.  If you are unsure if you have any late or outstanding assignments, you can certainly ask me; however, I will not chase you down begging you to turn something in.

Evaluation and Grading:  Grading writing is my least favorite aspect of the course, however, grades are necessary, not only to the University, but also in many cases in order to motivate students. I record every check, every zero, and every grade, and calculate your final course grade based on the following: 

Breakdown of Final Grade:

Classroom Citizenship: 15%

Various Short Writings:  10%

Essay 1:  10%

Essay 2:  15%

Essay 3:  15%

Essay 4: 15%

Essay 5: 20%



Final grade ranges:

A: 94 – 100

A-: 90 – 93

B+: 87 – 89

B: 83 – 86

B-: 80 – 82

C+: 77 – 79

C: 73 - 76

C-: 70 - 72

D: 61 – 69

F: 60 & below

Š       You will receive “checks” or “zeroes” for First/Exploratory Drafts and Mid-process Drafts, as well as for peer responses and other in-class or take-home work.  Occasionally, I record a “check plus” for a particularly outstanding effort on a draft or small assignment.  If you don’t have a draft on the day it is due, or your draft seems seriously lacking in effort, you will receive a zero for the assignment.

Š       For the Final Version of each essay, I will complete an evaluation sheet that will detail the strengths and weaknesses of your paper on a grid.  I will record a grade (or number) for each of the five essays, but as you can see, those five grades are NOT the only indication of your final grade; completing drafts, class work, and peer work is also included in the tabulation of your final grade.  Please keep in mind that every draft counts; your final grade for the course will include all checks, zeroes, and number grades.  

Š       Please keep in mind the attendance policy (already detailed in the “Requirements” section above).  Absenteeism is the leading cause of poor grades in College Writing.  Your final grade is reduced by a grade step (i.e., an A goes to an A-, an A- becomes a B+) for every absence beyond two (2).  Extensive, excessive, or habitual lateness can also be considered an absence.

Š       If you miss class, you should send your assignment to class with a peer or leave it in my mailbox.  When you return to class, you are responsible for having the assignment due on that day, as well as any work you missed on previous days.  Consult the syllabus, contact a friend in the class, or send me an e-mail in order to find out what will be due on the day you return to class.  If you know in advance that you are going to miss class, please let me know as soon as possible.

Š       If you have a concern about an individual essay grade or a question about your standing in the class, I am quite happy to talk with you.  This type of conversation is best suited to an individual conference.  You can see me at your regular conference, drop by my office hours, or schedule an appointment at another time.

Š       A final word regarding final grades:  I hope that all my students will strive to do their best work in this course, but this much is nonnegotiable: you are not eligible for a passing grade of D unless you have attended at least 11 of 14 weeks worth of classes, and completed 90% of the assignments.  The majority of students who fail this course do so because they fail to come to class.

Semester Schedule

Below you will find a preliminary outline for the semester. If you miss a class, you are still responsible for what was due on the day(s) you missed and on the day you return, so ALWAYS consult the syllabus (or a classmate, or me) if you have missed or will miss a class.


Reading and Writing DUE IN CLASS on the day listed

Thursday 3 September

In-class writing sample, introductions, etc.

Tuesday 8 September

Read: Syllabus, handouts, Class Matters “Shadowy Lines,” 1 – 26.

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Thursday 10 September

Read: Your one-page summary and revise/fix it

Write: Exploratory draft for Essay #1 (Jobs)

Tuesday 15 September

Read: Class Matters “Encounters with Class” 234 - 243

Write: Mid-process draft of Essay #1

Thursday 17 September

Read: Class Matters “The College Dropout Boom”  87 – 104.

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Tuesday 22 September

Read: Comments on your draft; review readings so far

Write: Final version of Essay #1

Thursday 24 September

Read: Class Matters “No Way Back to the Middle” 105 -110.

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Tuesday 29 September

Read: “Fifteen Years on the Bottom Rung” 111 -134.

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Thursday 1 October

Read: Class Matters “Life at the Top” 27 – 50.

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Tuesday 6 October

Read: Class Matters “When the Joneses Wear Jeans” 134 – 145.

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Thursday 8 October

Read: Review your one-pagers and chapters read so far

Write: Mid-process draft of Essay #2

Tuesday 13 October

Read: “In Fiction, a Long History…” 192 – 201

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Thursday 15 October

Read: Review your one-pagers and chapters read so far

Write: Final Version of Essay #2

Tuesday 20 October

Read: Review “In Fiction” and your chosen pop culture text

Write: Exploratory Draft of Essay #3

Thursday 22 October

Class Cancelled for Individual Conferences:

Bring: Your Most-Developed Draft of Essay #3

Tuesday 27 October

Class Cancelled for Individual Conferences:

Bring: Your Most-Developed Draft of Essay #3

Thursday 29 October

Read: Class Matters “A Marriage of Unequals” 51 -52

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Bring: Your Most-Developed Draft of Essay #3

Tuesday 3 November

Write: Final Version of Essay #3



Thursday 5 November

Read: TBA

Write: Exploratory Draft of Essay #4

Tuesday 10 November

Read: TBA

Write: Mid-Process Draft of Essay #4

Thursday 12 November

Read: Re-read your own essays from class so far

Writing: One-page assessment of your own essays from class so far, thinking about how to add RESEARCH into your essay

Tuesday 17 November

Read: Re-read your own essays from class so far

Write: Plan for research topic(s) for Essay #5


Thursday 19 November

Read: TBA

Write: Final Version of Essay #4

Tuesday 24 November

Class Cancelled for online assignment: Research status report via e-mail

Read: “The Five-Bedroom, Six-Figure Rootless Life” AND “Angela Whitiker’s Climb” 146 – 165 AND 202 – 233

Write: One-page comparison of the women in the two chapters

Thursday 26 November


Tuesday 1 December

Read: Class Matters “Up from the Holler: Living in Two Worlds” 63 - 72

Write: One page summary & response to the reading

Bring TWO CLEAN COPIES of Essay #5 Draft to class to exchange with peers

Thursday 3 December

Class Cancelled for Conferences

Bring your Research and Mid-process draft of Essay #5

Tuesday 8 December

Class Cancelled for Conferences

Bring your Research and Mid-Process draft of Essay #5

Thursday 10 December

Read: Your peers’ papers and your own research

Write: Two letters (one to each peer author)

Bring: Your most developed Draft of Essay #5 (includes research!)

Thursday 17 December

Final Portfolio due: Final Revised essay, another piece of your best writing, and a 2-page cover letter about your writing process and progress

About Academic Honesty

Here is some information on academic dishonesty from the University’s official policy:

Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University.  Sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to:

Cheating - use, or attempted use, of trickery, artifice, deception, breach of confidence, fraud, or misrepresentation of one's academic work.

Fabrication - falsification or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise.

Plagiarism - representing the words or ideas of another as one's own work in any academic exercise.

Facilitating dishonesty - helping or attempting to help another commit an act of academic dishonesty, including substituting for another in an examination, misrepresenting oneself, or allowing others to represent as their own one's papers, reports, or academic works.


Unintentional plagiarism is still plagiarism.  You must cite all sources that you use, including online sources.  Also, remember that “using” a source includes DIRECTLY QUOTING, PARAPHRASING, AND USING IDEAS from any source.  There is nothing wrong with “getting help” from other writers, just be sure to acknowledge it by using quotation marks or author/page citation appropriately.  Please take the time to give proper credit to the work of other authors.  It is a matter of respect – for yourself, for other authors, for your classmates, and for me.


I know that it is easy to find information and indeed whole papers on the internet.  You should know that it is also easy for me to find these sources.  If I suspect you’ve done this, I will take the time to find the source, and it is very likely that you will be caught.  Please don’t waste your time or mine by plagiarizing a paper.  If you’re having difficulty with a writing assignment, please talk to me before the day it is due.


The bottom line on plagiarism is, if you are caught plagiarizing on a paper for my course, you will receive an “F” for the entire course.  I’m quite serious about enforcing this plagiarism policy, and quite unsympathetic to any excuses for plagiarism.  It would be unwise to test me on this point. 

Some advice for College Writing specifically, and your first year at UML generally

Š       Come to class prepared.  Bring your book, paper, and writing implements every day.  Bring a draft – a printed, readable copy – on days when writing is due.

Š       Because there is writing due most days, you need to work hard to keep up with it.  Sometimes student schedules lead one to take some time off with the expectation of getting back to it later.  This is a very bad idea for this course especially, since the multiple drafts, in-class peer response, and comments from me will happen on a pretty tight timeline.  Falling a little bit behind in this class usually leads to falling WAY behind, and often, to very bad grades.  I urge you now – at the beginning of the semester – to set aside regular (ideally, daily) time to read and write for this course.  Developing good study habits now will serve you well as we get to the busiest time of the semester, when you have longer papers due for me, not to mention the lab reports, exams, and other obligations to all of your courses.

Š       Save everything you write for this class.  When I collect a paper, I expect you to turn in all drafts, short assignments, and peer response work associated with this essay.  Practice good organization and save everything.

Š       Back up your computer files by saving to a disk, burning a CD, saving to the University network, or another safe and secure source.  You can even e-mail papers to yourself.  Whatever you do, keep your backups up to date.  Computers break, get stolen, get locked in cars and dorm rooms, and are otherwise unreliable.  You are responsible for backing up your system.  Please do it.

Š       Contact me by e-mail if you have questions, are missing class, or need help on an assignment.  When you e-mail me, be sure to identify yourself by name and course.  Consider using the University’s e-mail system for your school-related correspondence.  At the very least, you may want to reconsider using something like “” as your e-mail address for your academic life.

Š       Students who will miss three or more days of class due to illness, family situations, funerals, or other emergencies, should contact the Dean of Students’ Office for a Notified Absence form.  You can bring this form to me (and your other professors), or have the Dean’s Office contact your professors directly.  This documentation does not automatically excuse the absence, but lets me (and your other professors) know what is going on so that you don’t have to repeat what might be a difficult explanation to several different people.

Š       If you are having difficulty managing the stress of life on campus or off, I encourage you to reach out for help.  Talk to your professors if you are struggling in your classes.  If you are experiencing a crisis in your personal life, visit the University’s counseling center: their services are completely free and totally confidential.  Use of counseling services is not noted anywhere on a student’s university record. The Counseling Center is available 8:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M., Monday through Friday.  You can contact them by phone at 978-934-4331.  Emergency after-hours services are available on-call through University Police at 978-934-2398.

College Writing Grading Standards

(borrowed and adapted from

The A paper (Superior)

The Superior paper is written far above the minimum standards I have outlined for the assignment.  It includes all the positive qualities of the B paper listed below.  In addition, it displays originality, imagination, vitality, and a personal voice for the author.  But the principal characteristic of the "A" paper is its rich content and analysis.  The quality, quantity, clarity, and density of the information delivered is such that the reader feels significantly taught by the author, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph.  The "A" paper is also marked by stylistic finesse: the title and the opening are engaging; the transitions are artful and related to the argument of the paper, not mere window dressing; the phrasing is tight, fresh, and specific; the tone enhances the purpose of the paper.  Finally, the "A" paper shows a subtlety of logic that often escapes the more straightforward "B" paper; it makes strong claims while anticipating nuance, special circumstances, and irony.  The "A" paper, because of its careful organization and development, imparts a feeling of wholeness, clarity, and strength of argument.

The B paper (Good)

It is significantly more than competent.  Besides being almost free of mechanical errors, the "B" paper delivers substantial information--that is, substantial in both quantity and in relevance.  Its specific points are logically ordered, well-developed, and unified around a clear organizing principle that is apparent early in the paper. It has positive value that goes beyond the avoidance of error, but it lacks one or more qualities that would bring it close to perfection.  It may develop an idea fully and accurately but lack elements of originality.  It may have all the qualities of an A paper except naturalness of organization, or it may be marred by improper form, inappropriate style, or occasional obscurity.  Stylistically, the opening paragraph draws the reader; the closing paragraph is both conclusive and thematically related to the opening.  The transitions between paragraphs are, for the most part, smooth, the sentence structures varied.  The diction is more concise and precise than that of the "C" paper.  In general, a "B" paper offers substantial information with few distractions.  The B paper, then, is a complete paper in fulfilling the assignment, but lacks something in organization, clarity, richness of detail, quantity of information, or cleanness of style.

The C paper (Adequate):

It is generally competent but lacks intellectual rigor; it meets the assignment, has few mechanical errors and is reasonably well-organized and developed.  The actual information it delivers, however, seems thin and commonplace.  One reason for that impression is that the ideas are typically cast in the form of vague generalities--generalities in presentation of theory, experimental findings, or even application examples.  The paper may not be developed fully, its logic may be unconvincing or its organization, paragraphs, or sentences weak.  Stylistically, the "C" paper has other shortcomings: a weak opening paragraph, a perfunctory conclusion, strained transitions, choppy and monotonous sentence patterns, and diction marred by repetition, redundancy, and imprecision.  Occasionally, a paper may rate an A or B in content and receive a C because of errors of form.  Just as often, a paper may be relatively correct in form, but its content may be uninspired or thin, thus warranting a grade no higher than C.

The D paper (Unsatisfactory):

This paper is largely faulty, often because of errors of form or mechanics, but it does not warrant complete disregard.  It may contain little or no content, it may simply restate arbitrarily selected material from the sources, or it may lack coherent organization.  It does, however, have some saving graces: a spark of originality, an important argument buried in incoherent syntax, some mastery of sentence skills, or a relative grasp of organization.

The F paper (Not acceptable):

Its treatment of the subject is superficial; its theme lacks discernible organization; its prose is garbled or lacking in clarity or style.  Mechanical errors are frequent.  In short, the ideas, organization, and style fall far short of acceptable college writing.