Guidelines and requirements


As a content-driven writing course, this seminar uses the knowledge generated from readings and class discussions, as well as students’ own experiences, as the raw material for the crafting of clear, arguable and persuasive writing. Both the reading and writing components of this class are substantial so be sure to look over the all the materials here to make sure this is for you! A copy the current syllabus can be downloaded here.


♦ Patricia O’Connor, Words Fail Me: What everyone who writes should know about writing, available at OU bookstore and on Amazon.

♦ Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climateavailable on Amazon.

♦ Course pack, Living Dangerously,  available at Crimson and Cream print shop in Student Union.


There are four writing assignments in this class: a personal blog, two 1500 word essays, and a limited research paper. With the exception of the blog, each assignment involves significant drafting and revision, including a conference with me. Students must successfully complete ALL stages of each assignment to pass the course.

Blog Journal. Students create and maintain their own blog over the course of the semester. Each week, students are responsible for publishing a 100–200 word post, typically in response to a prompt or question provided on the course website. Posts can be submitted anytime up to the Friday of a given week.  At the end of the semester, students will compose a “portfolio” of their blog for a final grade.

Analytical Essays. Students will draft and revise two 1500 word essays (approximately 5 pages double spaced) on topics related to course readings and discussions.  More “traditional” than either the blog or collaborative research project, these essays focus on developing the fundamental skills of expository writing, the kind that most college classes require.

Research Paper. Students pursue in greater detail one theme or issue that interests them regarding the risks of climate change. Learning how to navigate library databases, organize research, and assesss sources are important aspects of this essay.


Each writing assignment (the student blog excepted) consists of three stages: the submission of a full draft, an individual conference with me, and the submission of a revised essay. While drafts are not graded, they are expected to be complete and polished, not to be confused with a “rough” draft. Any incomplete or late draft not cleared with me will be returned without feedback, a letter grade deduction will be taken from your final essay and you will forfeit your conference. Revised essays are due one week after conference. Timely completion of both draft and revised papers for each cycle is required to pass the course.


This course will also accustom you to having your work read by other students. We will hold regular writing workshops and peer reviews that will require you to prepare comments, offer advice and listen carefully to the comments and advice of others. On workshop and peer review days, be sure to bring the necessary materials (a laptop or two clean copies of writing, depending on the workshop). Unprepared students will receive an absence for that day.


Attendance: The Expository Writing Program policy grants students 3 absences (excused or unexcused). After that, each absence counts as a deduction of 1/3 of a letter grade from your final grade for the course. A sixth absence will drop the final grade a full letter grade. So come to class!

Participation/Preparation: Classroom discussion is essential and you are expected to actively participate. The quality of participation is, of course, entirely dependent on doing the work for that class. Participation is worth 15% of your final grade.


The calculation of final grades is based upon the following breakdown:

Blog                             15%

Essay 1                        20%

Essay 2                        20%

Essay 3                       30%

Participation                15%



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