Because most of the writing you will do in your college courses involves responding to outside reading, this course will be focused primarily on your responses to essays written by others. Although some assignments will ask you to summarize the material you have read, this is only as an exercise in reading carefully and extracting the important points. The primary goal of the course is for you to learn to write about the material you have read, to formulate an argument about one or more of the essays, or to present your own argument using the material from other sources to substantiate what you say.
“Argument” in writing is a tricky word. It does not mean making sweeping statements or judgments against an author’s or authors’ positions, setting your opinions on an issue against theirs. What it does mean is thinking carefully about the material you read, including its complexities, discussing the terms of the authors’ own arguments and analyzing how those arguments are put together. It also means expressing your thoughts clearly and effectively, with an emphasis on communicating your own complicated ideas (and the ideas of the material you are discussing) fluently to your reader. Good writing is making difficult ideas easy to understand; poor writing is making them sound even more difficult.
Because the writing for this class is probably very different form writing you have done in the past, it will undoubtedly be rough going at first. The assignments and the formats might seem difficult, but remember that the goal is to help you learn to write effective college papers, a process that will probably require “re-training” in your approach to writing. “Retraining” also involves writing the same assignment more than once—to learn the value of careful revision—a process that may sometimes be frustrating but is also important. It is hard to learn a new way of writing. But it will be worth effort!
Reading will be from a collection of essays available for purchase at Professional Image. Assignments include several short expository essays and one final research paper.