(HRS 140)

Notes on Written Work



1. Please know that in the determination of your grades I will take improvement and effort into consideration.

2. Especially for formal writings, I strongly advise you to complete drafts of your work sufficiently early for friends (or member of the college’s Writing Center staff) to proofread them and suggest improvements.  I also invite you to present preliminary drafts of writing exercises to me for guidance.  (DO NOT BEGIN WRITING AN EXERCISE THE NIGHT OR MORNING BEFORE IT IS DUE!!)  Multiple drafting is perhaps the single most effective way to improve one's writing.  Even the best of writers (perhaps especially the best of writers!) can benefit from consultation with others.

3. No rewrites will be accepted, except in extraordinary circumstances. For the formal writing, however, you are encouraged to submit pre-writes --usually an introductory paragraph and a list of topic sentences for the remainder of the piece works best--or even simply to discuss your ideas with me verbally.

4. Pages that are not fastened together in some way are likely to get separated.  You are required to staple or paper-clip all submitted work.

5. You should always keep copies of work you submit.  Even professors occasionally lose things (gasp!).


6. In class conversations and in making sense of the readings during most of the term, I strongly encourage you to ask for and learn from others’ views and ideas about the texts we read, especially as we are doing the reading for each topic.  Also when composing assignments it is important for you to consult any relevant course readings; there are no closed-book assignments in this class.  At the same time, however, the overall structure and style of what you write must be your own, and must explicitly credit any outside sources you draw on. In particular, since you complete them on your own time, you may not cooperate with others in writing the take-home exams for each unit.

7. Most of you will already be familiar with CSUS's *********** Policy,which takes a strong stand on the issues of plagiarism and cheating; it is contained in both the College Catalog (13) and the Student Handbook (40-42)—both of which are available on-line if you have misplaced your copies. All students are expected to take the time to review this policy as part of undertaking the assignments for their classes.

8. For myself, I feel that cademic dishonesty hurts us all. It adds suspicion and resentment to academic competition, and it distorts the meaning of grades.  I am sympathetic to the many pressures that face today's college students, but am willing neither to condone nor to tolerate plagiarism or cheating as a solution to this pressure.  I will give you all the help that I can with this course, and would be happy to help you gain access to programs designed to help you, especially if you are unsure whom to contact. On the other hand, I will generally elect the most severe penalty for any act of plagiarism: failing the course.



9. Formal writing assignments should be written onto a word processor, either prior or posterior to composition.  Learning how to operate a computer and gaining facility with one or more word-processing programs, if you have not already done so, will be a small but exceedingly important facet of your education.  As spell-checking software is readily available on the college systems, please be aware that my tolerance for spelling errors is rather limited.  Of course, spell-checkers do not detect grammatical problems or indeed all spelling errors; accordingly, please proofread carefully.  (See the “Correction Policy," #19-23 below, for details on how failure to proofread may affect your grade.)

10. Do NOT put your name on any of your typed pages for the formal assignments; it should appear only on the self-assessment page at the end (see the "Self-Assessment" description, #26 below, for details). However do make sure that your written work includes what I call the essential “magic numbers:” (a) date, (b) course number, (c) numbers of your pages at the bottom of each, and (d) parenthetical page references (as noted above).  The first two of these allow me to track a particular paper should it stray into the wrong pile; the last two help me keep track of my comments and also verify your sources (see #12-13 below).  Also, for take-home exams you must distinguish clearly (by numbering or headings) different sections of your paper, corresponding to the distinctquestions posed in the guidelines.

11. You must give parenthetical page references not only for the various texts that are quoted directly, but also for any paraphrased descriptions you present. Use MLA in-text citation format: ([author’s last name]  [page no.])--e.g., (Mahony 28).  If you mention the name or author of the work in your sentence, your parenthetical citation should be a page number only.

12. A parenthetical citation should be just before the period or semicolon which concludes the relevant quote or paraphrase (unless you are citing a single-spaced, indented block quote, in which case it should follow after the period); in no case should the parentheses and their content be within citation marks, since they are not part of what you are quoting.

13. Regarding quotations: (a) use ellipses only to edit out unnecessary words and sentences that do not change the meaning of your source; (b) both in editing quotations and blending them with your own words, make sure to preserve the overall grammatical consistency of sentences; and (c) be certain to identify any unclear referents contained in a quotation, with commentary either before the quotation or enclosed in brackets within it.

14. Although writing bibliographies is a valuable and necessary skill for academic work, you will not make use of this skill in this class.  Since the writing exercises for this class are based entirely on class readings, you do not need to include a list of sources in standard bibliographic form.

15. Please consult one of the many grammar textbooks for additional guidance on these and other points to avoid redunction of your scores (see the “Correction Policy," #19-23 below)--especially if you think you will continue writing in English after college. (!)  I have personally used both Fowler, Aaron, and Brittenham’s The Little, Brown Handbook and Robert Perrin’sThe Beacon Handbook & Desk Reference and found them useful.



16. Since progress from one assignment to another depends on your receive feedback quickly, assignments must be turned in on time. All assignments should be turned in by 4 pm on the day they are due (which during the term will always be a Monday).

17. No papers will be accepted late without prior approval.  Please seek permission to submit work late as early as possible in advance of the due date.  Doing so will increase the probability that your request is favorably received.  Please understand that I reserve the right to refuse to accept late work.

18. Turning in a late paper without prior approval will reduce your overall score by half a grade for each day late.  In addition, submitting a paper late will usually result in some delay in my returning that particular paper to you.  Finally, bear in mind that papers turned in later could end up in the wrong pile of papers; so make sure to confirm with me that I have received and placed them correctly.



19. When I read an assignment, I circle without comment any and all mechanical errors that I pick up: punctuation, spelling, usage, notation, etc.   Two or more circles linked by one or more arrows (and sometimes question mark(s)) indicate an error in coordinating different sentence elements (e.g., verb agreement, paired commas around a restrictive clause, etc.).  Depending on however many errors I pick up, you fall into one of three categories listed below (#20-22).

20. If you turn in an assignment with less than one error per page (and in some cases I may allow a few more, if the errors are benign or the font is small) I will place your final score on the last page of the assignment and circle it to confirm that it is your final score. In this case there's nothing you need to do; I advise you, though, to look at the errors you made and figure out how to avoid them next time--especially if you had close to one error per page.

21.If you turn in an assignment that contains more than one error per page, I will place your final score (found on the last page of the assignmen) in brackets; I then indicate a certain number of points substracted, and circle the reduced score that is recorded in my grade book.  If you wish to obtain the original score indicated in brackets, you must correct, in ink on your original copy, the errors which I have circled; and turn these corrections in within one week of the day the assignment was turned back to you. Please do not submit more extensive revisions as these will not affect your score, and be sure to avoid reprinting a fresh copy.  Don't hesitate to ask me if you have any question(s) about what I have circled. If you submit the corrections within one week and I assess that they are properly done, your assignment will receive full credit for the number of points indicated by the score in brackets.

22. If you turn in an assignment with a painfully large number of errors--generally more than three per page--I cross out your original score, subtract the appropriate number of points, and then circle the final score. In this case there is no opportunity to make corrections; as in #20 there's nothing for you to do. I do of course advise you to take action to remove errors on your next assignment.

23. IMPORTANT: This policy expires after the second unit of the course.  For assignments submitted during the third unit, your score will simply decrease if you turn in an assignment with more than one error per page.  Therefore please get in the habit of proofreading before that point, in order to allow for maximum credit.


24. In order both to improve your writing of the three reflection exercises (one for each unit plus the final) & analytical exercises (for those choosing the theory-oriented appraoch) and to assist me in responding effectively and efficiently to them, you must include a cover sheet (see #25) and a self-assessment(see #26) for each these formal writings--to be completed after you have finished the final draft. Submitting a formal writing exercise without both a cover sheet and a self-assessment will delay the grading and return of your assignment. Please do not forget!

25. For the cover sheet, attach a typed sheet (or sheets if you need more than one page) to the front of your reflection exercise, presenting the following: (a) the title of your reflection exercise (but NOT your name); (b) the primary claim, theme, or question on which your reflection focuses; and (c) a list of your key sentences (one from each paragraph worded exactly as they are in the final draft) in order. That is, starting with the first paragraph following the introduction, type (or cut and paste) in order the sentence most closely expressing the main point from each paragraph of what you have written. If there are eight paragraphs after the introduction, there should be a list of eight such sentences. In selecting key sentences from your paragraphs, make sure that each follows logically from the one listed before it.

26. For the self-assessment, use either the back of the last page or a separate sheet of paper stapled at the back of it, write a self-assessment both of (a) your writing process (how did this essay go for you, where did you struggle or get stuck, what went well and what didn’t) and(b) the product (what do you think are the essay’s strengths and weaknesses? what further revisions would you have made if you had had time?). I will read this after I read and evaluate the assignment but before I write my final comments to you; it will assist me in offering you the most useful feedback I can. Make sure to include your name on this page, as it will not be indicated anywhere else on the paper!

27. In reading your work I will often underline, sideline, or place checkmarks next to words, sentences, or points that strike me as significant or important.  Sometimes these are for my own reference in rereading, and are devoid of any written comment.  Usually, though, I will write a short phrase that describes what I see you doing—e.g., “important point,” “effective transition,” “astute observation”—sometimes linking my comments with arrows to the particular words, phrases, or sentences that inspired them.  These are not simply filler, but attempts to credit you for the notable successes of your writing efforts.

28. In providing more critical feedback, I most often make some comment in the form of “need to consider...,” “need to clarify...,” etc.—often abbreviating “need to” as “NT.”  These comments do not indicate that you need to revise the paper (see #3 above); but rather that you should apply the advice given on the current paper to subsequent ones.  As spelled out in the guidelines for the formal reflections and the readings notes, all writing exercises are similar in nature, in order to allow you to apply lessons learned from one assignment to the next.  Make sure, then, to keep all your work, and to review my comments on previous assignment(s) before turning in your next attempt.

29. Concluding comments, written below your own self-assessment (for reflection exercises), summarize the key points of praise and critique; use these as an overall guide to the comments written on individual pages, and consult them in working on the next reflection or set of reading notes.


[Occasional statements throughout this document are derived, with permission, from a similar document written by my colleague Peter Fosl, Associate Professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Transylvania University. Much of the wording of my Academic Honesty statement is drawn—definitely with permission!--from Patricia Keith-Spiegel, “Syllabi Statements Regarding Academic Dishonesty: Rationale and Suggestions,” distributed by Ball State University’s Center for the Teaching of Integrity.

Overview & Objectives

Attendance Policy

Required Texts

Schedule of Topics & Readings

Writing Exercises & Reading Notes

Notes on Written Work (TOP)