Composition Syllabus

Required Texts:
QA Compact, Lynn Troyka & Doug Hesse. Prentice Hall, 2006.
Prentice Hall Guide For College Writers, Stephen Reid. Prentice Hall, 2005.

Course Objectives:

This course “develops satisfactory proficiency in basic skills of composition and reading comprehension. Students must demonstrate their ability to produce a portfolio of literate, reasonably logical, and perceptive short themes. Grades given are A, B, C, or X (conditional incomplete – to be satisfied by repeating the course).” By the end of the course, you should demonstrate college-level reading, thinking, and writing proficiency by producing a three-essay portfolio that satisfies college-level writing criteria. Some essays will be based on assigned readings. You will brainstorm, outline, draft, edit, write, and revise a number of essays. Some will be written out-of-class and some in-class. To demonstrate proficiency, you must:

  • organize ideas that are appropriate to assigned length, purpose, and audience,
  • support generalizations using appropriate and logical modes of writing and thinking,
  • use English language grammar and diction appropriately,
  • paraphrase and quote sources correctly,
  • and demonstrate reading comprehension and critical thinking skills in your essays.

General Outcomes:

This course contributes to the purpose of Georgetown College by helping students develop skills in critical reading and thinking, analytical reasoning, and effective communication.
Academic Honesty:

I expect you to be familiar with and to comply with the college's Honor System. If I discover that you have plagiarized, I will report your name to the Honor Council, and you will fail this course. There are no exceptions to the policy. For more information aboutGeorgetown’s Honor Code, check this website: honorsystem.htm. To commit plagiarism means to present the ideas and/or words of someone else as one’s own. The someone else could be your roommate, your pal, William Shakespeare, some guy on the web, etc. You com­mit plagiarism if you use anyone else’s ideas as your own without credit. You commit plagiarism if you use (without proper attribution):

  • any part of another person’s book, article, essay, speech, or ideas.
  • any part of an article in a magazine, journal, newspaper; any part of a book, encyclo­pedia, CD-ROM, online database, online magazine or newspaper, webpage, blog, etc.
  • any idea from another person or writer, even if you finally express that idea in your own words.


During the semester you will write and revise eight essays. The essays will vary in length, but usually the range is 2-5 pages. A typing format for the final versions of these essays will be shown in class. You may rewrite one essay for a higher grade if you choose. Occasionally, if a paper is deficient in a number of ways, you’ll be given a “RW” grade. That means you must rewrite the paper for a grade, and this would not count against your opportunity to rewrite another paper on your own later. It is crucial that you keep all of your drafts for all of your essays as that will be useful to us as we put the final portfolio together. All essays have due dates. Essays must be turned in to me in person ahead of or on the due date, or you’ll receive a zero.


There is no attendance policy. Students who attend and take part do well in class, and those that don’t, usually don’t. Not being an active and helpful class member will certainly negatively impact your class grade (see below).

Portfolio Requirement:

In addition to earning a passing grade for the work you do for me, you must also satisfy the English Department’s “portfolio” requirement. You will receive an X for this class if you do not earn a C average on the work you do for me, or if you do not complete a passing portfolio. Generally, about 1/3 of all first time 111 students receive an X.
The portfolio must contain:

  • 1 passing essay that has been written in class
  • 1 passing essay that is in response to a reading assignment
  • 1 passing essay that has gone through multiple drafts

All of our out of class essays are multiple draft essays, so you’ll have a number to choose from. We do at least 2 essays that are response papers, and most in-class essays also result from a text or prompt. Because the in-class essay is often the toughest for many writers, you will have several opportunities to write a passing version of that type. (Some of these don’t count for your final score, but may be necessities for completion of your portfolio.)

If at semester-end your portfolio does not contain three passing essays of the types noted above, you’ll receive an ‘X’ for this class. That is not the same as an F. It stands for "conditional incomplete." It means that you must repeat the course next semester. While you will not receive credit for the course until your complete it with an A, B or C grade, your GPA will not be adversely affected by the X.

Grading & Grading Standards:

In addition to completing a passing and “X-free” portfolio, you must earn enough points on your assignments to earn a passing grade. You do this through the successful completion of our 8 essays. Let me show you a grid that explains that part of things:

E1: 6

E2: 6
E3: 6
E4: 6
E5: 6
E6: 6
E7: 6
E8: 6
Class: 12

You can see that all essays are worth 6 points. There is a subjective “class” grade that you earn based on your participation and performance in class. As you earn points along the way, you have the following levels to shoot for. I give you this so you can keep track of your own status during the semester. Additionally, you must complete a three-essay portfolio (described above) by semester-end in order to pass. Portfolio essays must be 3 points or higher. I will drop the lowest essay score from the semester, and just count the highest 7 grades.

Letter Grade

Points Needed
(out of 54)
A: 43-54
B: 36-42
C: 27-35
X: 0-26 or X Portfolio

Essay Grades:

6: This is an extraordinary piece of writing. It forwards an indisputable thesis that is supported throughout the essay. It is structurally sound, with clear, convincing, and apt transi­tions between paragraphs. The essay has “movement” or “flow” toward its stated purpose, and is appropriate in language and style for its audience. The writing is clear and con­trolled, and the language is often sharp, effective, and interesting. The essay is origi­nal, forceful, and compelling. It is wholly free of spelling, typographic, and/or other grammatical errors. It is polished, clean, and a pleasure to read.

5: This is also a superior piece of writing, something like an “A” paper. It clearly and adequately forwards a thesis that is almost completely supported throughout the essay. The language is sharp. The paper is clear, focused, and free of spelling, typographic, and/or grammatical errors. It is separated from a higher scoring essay by the relative dearth of originality and/or style.

4: This is a good piece of writing, something like a “B” paper. It’s very solid work, but lacks some of the innovation and sharpness of higher scored papers. Good thesis, mostly supported throughout the essay. Transitions are here, but are not compelling or not vital. There are very minor spelling, typographic, and/or grammatical errors. It typically contains certain shortcomings, notably routine errors, occasional monotony in expression, lack of originality, ambiguity in purpose, or some lack of precision and economy in use of words.

3: This essay is an average piece of writing, acceptable college work. It meets the re­quirements of the assignment, but does not go beyond the assignment in any way. There is likely a thesis, but it is either far too broad or narrow, or merely not sup­ported throughout the essay. There are likely transitional flaws. Language is likely okay, but flawed with awkwardness and/or imprecision. Most likely there are spell­ing, typographic, and/or grammatical errors, but not so much as to hinder a normal reader from getting the point of the essay. There is nothing outstanding, compelling, original, or thought provoking in the essay. It lacks originality, significant purpose, or point of view.

2: This essay is a below average piece of writing. It falls below acceptable college stan­dards. It may partially address the assignment, but it surely lacks any expected insight as to the goal of the essay. Frequently, its writer has not understood the assignment and therefore does not address or respond to a definite purpose. It may express a thesis, but it is likely inappropriately sized for the assignment. Paragraphs exist on their own without adequate movement. The language of the essay is flawed. Sen­tences are poorly constructed and spelling, typographic and/or grammatical errors appear frequently. It likely contains some of these flaws: monotonous sentence patterns, imprecise use of words, rambling organization, and repetition of ideas. It is crucial to visit the WritingCenter and seek extra assistance if you have an essay with this score on it.

1: This grade is only given to an unacceptable piece of writing. It has a rich variety of flaws. It may have no thesis or support. There are flaws of organization and development. It likely includes an unacceptable number of spelling, typographic, and/or grammatical errors. The essay shows no real understanding of the assign­ment. An essay that receives a failing grade does not automatically mean a failing grade in the course.

Class Grade: This is a subjective grade based on participation and performance. If you come to class every day, and are a regular member of our conversations, workshops, etc., and if you demonstrate through your revision process and conference attendance that the betterment of your writing is your main goal, then you have a very likely shot at getting a top score for this grade. But ANY let down in those areas mentioned above will drop you to a lower score. Generally, folks do well on the class grade. You don't have to talk ALL the time, but you should be a positive and active force all semester. I will attempt to make clear in class if you are NOT meeting my expectations through the mid-term “early warning report.”

11-12: A superior student, someone who has unfailingly aided the development of fellow writers, and who has been a consistently and dazzling force in our class all semester long.

9-10: Someone who has been a reliable and constant positive force in class and who has never missed a class, conference, workshop, etc.
7-8: A reliable and constant positive force who may have missed a class, conference, workshop, etc.
5-6: A mostly positive force in class, but sometimes unprepared to fully engage us.
3-4: Someone who has not contributed enough to be a positive force, either through poor attendance, poor participation, or poor preparedness.
0-2: Someone who has been a negative force in the class.

Schedule: (tentative & subject to change)

Essays are denoted with their possible portfolio designations: MD (multiple draft), RR (reading response), and/or IC (in-class.)

8.30 Syllabus distribution. Class introduction. Diagnostic essay assignment. Magazine ad.

9.1 Discuss Chapter 2 of Reid (17-33). Bring a recent magazine ad. Assign E1 (MD or RR).

9.6 Rough draft of E1 due in class. E1 Workshop.

9.8 E1 due in class. Discuss Chapter 3 of Reid (52-60, 81-88). Assign E2 (MD).

9.13 Observed data due in class for E2.

9.15 Rough draft of E2 due in class. E2 Workshop.

9.20 No class. You’ll meet with me individually in my office for E2 conferences.

9.22 No class. You’ll meet with me individually in my office for E2 conferences.

9.27 Discuss Chapter 5 of Reid (158-178). Assign E3 (IC or RR).

9.29 E3 takes place in class. Bring looseleaf paper, multiple pens, and a dictionary.

10.4 Discuss Chapter 8 of Reid (362-370, 388-393, & 396-405). Assign E4 (MD).

10.6 Topic & Criteria Workshop.

10.11 Rough draft of E4 due in class. E4 Workshop

10.13 No class. You’ll meet with me individually in my office for E4 conferences.

10.18 No class. You’ll meet with me individually in my office for E4 conferences.

10.20 E5 (IC or RR) takes place in class. Bring looseleaf paper, multiple pens, and a dictionary.

10.25 E4 due in class. Discuss Chapter 7 of Reid (304-314, & 356-358). Assign E6 (MD).

10.27 Topic day for E6. Bring at least two possible topics and be prepared to pitch them to us.

11.1 Rough draft of E6 due in class. E6 Workshop.

11.3 TBA

11.8 E6 due in class. Outside readings provided.

11.10 Discuss Chapter 11 of Reid (554-563). Assign E7 (MD or RR).

11.15 Bring to class the lyrics to at least one song. (You can bring a CD, too.)

11.17 Rought draft of E7 due in class. E7 Workshop.

11.22 No class. Optional conferences as scheduled.

11.24 No class. Thanksgiving Holiday.

11.29 E7 due in class. E8 readings distributed in class.

12.1 Portfolio Day. Bring all past essays and all drafts.

12.6 E8 (IC or RR) takes place in class. Bring looseleaf paper, multiple pens, and a dictionary.

12.8 Final Exam.