Academic Writing

Last updated 1 November 2019. This page is always the most up-to-date version of the syllabus. For course policies specific to UMD, please refer to the .pdf version hosted on ELMS.


Welcome to English 101 at the University of Maryland. The purpose of this course is two-fold. First, it prepares you for the scholarly writing you will pursue in your work here at UMD, whether in humanities, social sciences, or science and technology fields. In this regard, the course trains you in research, argumentation, and effective expression. And second, it introduces you to a kind of writing and thinking that will enable you to communicate effectively both inside and beyond a university setting.

To achieve these ends, this course is grounded in inquiry and rhetoric. We inquire into questions about issues and ideas, and in doing so develop vital research skills. And we use rhetorical skills to construct knowledge and arguments built on the foundations of that research. In other words, through inquiry and rhetoric, we practice engaging in existing scholarly conversations. In English 101, you will hone the skills of clarifying issues, asking questions, leveraging rhetorical strategies, entering into scholarly conversations, researching topics, using evidence, and engaging in peer review.


Our course outcomes, shared with all ENGL101 sections, are:


You are not required to purchase any materials for this course. I will regularly distribute readings through the ELMS platform. You must bring the readings to class on the day they are assigned. When we discuss readings together, it’s of paramount importance that you have the readings accessible to reference.

You are welcome to refer to the readings on a laptop or tablet or to print them out. My laptop policy is that you are welcome to use a laptop in class. Note that relying solely on mobile devices may make some in-class activities such as peer review challenging. If you don’t have a laptop available, I recommend checking one out from McKeldin Library.

Many of our readings will be drawn from the University of Maryland Academic Writing Program’s textbook Fearless Writing: Rhetoric, Inquiry, Argument. You are welcome to purchase this textbook should you choose, but you are not required to.


ENGL101 is organized around a seven-part assignment sequence. The breakdown of your final grade is:

You can find an in-depth description of each assignment here. What follows is a brief précis on each assignment to give you a picture of your progression through the semester.

A Note on Deadlines and Submission Protocols

Assignments are due at 11:59 PM the listed days. I’ll reduce the grade one full letter grade each day that it’s turned in late (A becomes an B; B- becomes a C-; and so forth). I won’t accept assignments turned in more than a week late. If you have an extenuating circumstance that’s making it difficult for you to reach a deadline, please write me, ideally well in advance, so we can discuss alternatives. The reason for such stringent deadlines is that there are a lot of assignments in this class, and each one builds upon those previous. We all need to stick to this schedule to make sure that I can give you feedback in a timely fashion and that you have the time to complete each assignment.

You should submit assignments through ELMS in a .docx file format. I will not accept: Apple Pages files, PDFs, or links to Google Docs. I’m stringent about file formats because I use track changes to give you comments, and Microsoft Word doesn’t play nice with all other formats and programs. I will give you substantial comments on all of your assignments. In order to see these comments, you will have to open up the .docx file I return to you in Microsoft Word. If you don’t see my comments, please open my returned file in Word before writing me with questions. Microsoft Word is available for free to all UMD students through the Terpware platform.


The litmus test for participation is simple: do you come to class prepared and engaged? And when you contribute to the class in any medium, be it speech or text, do you do so in the spirit of collegiality, respect, and mutual betterment?

Note that “class participation” doesn’t mean always raising your hand at opportune moments. Indeed, dominating a class conversation can be the precise opposite of effective and respectful participation. As such, I take a wide view of “participation” to include the thoughtfulness of your contributions to the class as a whole. This includes your collegiality in online discussions, peer review, and office hours.

You are allowed six unexcused absences over the course of this semester. This is an incredibly generous departmental policy for ENGL101 classes that comes with a fairly harsh penalty: for each additional unexcused absence before six, your final grade will be lowered by one full letter grade. Note also that you cannot make up in-class work you missed due to unexcused absences, which may affect your grade on other assignments.


The course begins with a 300-word summary of a provided text. Summary is an element of critical reading, which is in turn the cornerstone of academic writing. With this assignment, you take the first step in practicing many skills crucial to successful writing, including concision and quotation.

Rhetorical Analysis

For this assignment, you will analyze a persuasive text by taking into consideration rhetorical appeals, the rhetorical situation, intended audience, exigence, style, and organization. Your goal is to make an argument about the effectiveness of the text for its given audience. Like the summary, you will select your text from a provided bank of texts. 1200 to 1500 words.

Inquiry Essay

This assignment initiates your semester-long exploration of an issue. You will identify a research topic that connects in some way to your academic, personal, or civic interests. You will investigate your topic and learn the issues and debates within it. The purpose of the inquiry is not to take a position on a topic (“I think that the answer to problem A is B.”), but rather to map out the conversation about an issue as it currently exists (“Scholars think X, Y, and Z about problem A.”). 1200 to 1500 words.

Annotated Bibliography

The annotated bibliography supports your work on the Inquiry Essay. You will identify five sources on which you will draw in the Inquiry Essay, cite them in MLA format, and summarize and evaluate their arguments in a short caption of approximately 150 words.

Digital Forum

The digital forum assignment achieves three ends. First, you shift gears in your medium, from writing academic prose to creating a website intended for a more popular audience. Second, you extend the work of your Inquiry Essay by identifying new conversations within your chosen issue. And third, you collect five new primary sources that will support your work on the Position Paper. Approximately 1800 words in total.

Position Paper

This paper is the culmination of the inquiry and exploration you have conducted throughout the semester. You will compose a 2000 to 2500 word essay that takes an argumentative position on your issue. In doing so, you will refute competing positions and organize your ideas effectively and efficiently. You will also draw on five more sources; including the sources from your previous assignments, this brings your total to fifteen.

Revision and Reflection

Finally, this assignment gets you thinking about your identity as a writer, your writing process, and the feedback you’ve received. You will select either your Inquiry Essay or Rhetorical Analysis and substantively revise it, taking into consideration what you’ve learned over the semester. Your goal in this revision is to rethink important aspects of the assignment, not just add more words to it. You will also write a short reflective memo that identifies the aims of your revisions, how you’ve reached those goals, and your rationale for specific choices. The memo is approximately 1000 words long; the revision will vary on a case-by-case basis.


NB: Readings with FW are from Fearless Writing and will be preceded by “fw-” in ELMS. Rubrics and example assignments will be in the “rubrics and example assignments” folder.

Week 1: Introduction to the course

M 26 Aug

W 28 Aug

F 30 Aug

Week 2: Summary

M 2 Sept

No class on account of Labor Day.

W 4 Sept

F 6 Sept

NB On Draft Workshops: Each assignment will have one or two days of draft workshopping. During these days, you will peer review each others’ work. Attending these workshop days is a vital part of the writing process; as such, missing a draft workshop will reduce your grade on that assignment a full letter grade.

Week 3: Rhetorical Analysis I

M 9 Sept

W 11 Sept

F 13 Sept

Week 4: Rhetorical Analysis II

M 16 Sept

W 18 Sept

F 20 Sept

No class on account of Jeffrey is traveling.

Week 5: Conference Days

M 23 Sept

W 25 Sept

No scheduled class.

F 27 Sept

No scheduled class.

NB: The university has mandated that all classes after noon are cancelled on account of a football game. We will endeavor to schedule conferences earlier in the week so as to limit our time on campus on Friday, 27 Sept.

Week 6: Inquiry I (Annotated Bibliography)

M 30 Sept

W 2 Oct

F 4 Oct

Week 7: Inquiry II

M 7 Oct

W 9 Oct

F 11 Oct

No class on account of Jeffrey is traveling (to a conference at UMD, so not even anywhere fun).

Week 8: Inquiry III

M 14 Oct

W 16 Oct

F 18 Oct

Week 9: Digital Forum I

M 21 Oct

W 23 Oct

F 25 Oct

Week 10: Digital Forum II

M 28 Oct

W 30 Oct

F 1 Nov

Week 11: Position Paper I (Argumentation)

M 4 Nov

W 6 Nov

F 8 Nov

Week 12: Position Paper II (Structure)

M 11 Nov

W 13 Nov

F 15 Nov

Week 13: Position Paper III (Workshopping)

M 18 Nov

W 20 Nov

F 22 Nov

Week 14: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Break

Week 15: Revision

M 2 Dec

W 4 Dec

F 6 Dec

Week 16: And Reflection

M 9 Dec


As it currently exists, this syllabus is substantially drawn from UMD’s standard ENGL101 syllabus, and so I thank Jessica Enoch and her team in the Academic Writing Program there for making a bedraggled graduate student’s job all that much easier. I also thank Tim Bruno, John Macintosh, and Justin Thompson for their suggestions, additions, and overall advice for tackling the genre of “intro to composition.”

revision history for this page