Guidelines for English 161

Academic Writing II: Writing for Research and Inquiry

English 161's Focus on Inquiry: The typified academic research paper has become a reified genre, which means that it has been turned into a thing. Its value as a way to explore a compelling question has been calcified and the academic research paper now has a market value as a petition to the teacher for a grade. The FYWP aims to return academic research to a “use-based” activity in which students learn how to investigate consequential issues that concern both the public and academics. We invite students to participate in academic inquiry as they explore a particular case designed by the instructor. Students complete four to five projects aimed at establishing the use value of intellectual strategies such as summary, synthesis, analysis, research proposals, and documented research papers.

In English 161, students conduct independent research related to a specific course topic. Students should see themselves as entering an intellectual conversation on the topic and positioning themselves within that conversation. Discussion focuses on meaning-making in intellectual communities, including academic disciplines. During the first half of the semester, students develop a strong general background in the topic of inquiry by learning to read academic texts, discussing and writing about critical issues, and coming to understand how the topic is discussed in academic and other communities. During the second half of the semester, the class functions as a research community to support each student's independent inquiry, which culminates in a 10-page, fully documented research paper.

Part I: Meaning-Making in Intellectual Communities

Understanding the Context: The topic of inquiry for the course is explored so that students will be able to identify a specific problem or issue for further research.

•  The reading assignments help students learn about how various disciplines and intellectual communities approach an issue or topic.
•  The reading assignments provide sufficient breadth and depth on the topic so that students can gain some background knowledge of the topic of inquiry.
•  Different genres and methods are explored that illustrate a variety of disciplinary and public perspectives.

Reading Assignments: Academic and other professional texts are read as a means of critical inquiry.

•  Students are shown how a text functions in an intellectual community.
•  Students are shown how the work of the intellectual community shapes the genre. Attention is paid to the methods that characterize this piece of scholarship, as well as to the authors and their perspectives.
•  Students are shown how to identify the argument that the text makes. This includes identifying the evidence and warrants that are used and why these are or are not appropriate.

Intellectual Tools: The proper tools are provided to support critical inquiry.

•  Summary: How do I transmit information? How do I use paragraphing and quoting?
•  Analysis: What can I learn by examining the text methodically? How can I make sense of the argument given? What position will I take?
•  Synthesis: What patterns can I find among several texts? How can I put these texts in conversation with each other, showing how they support one another or refute one another on the level of ideas?
•  Argument: What claims does the author make? How does s/he support them with evidence? What claims can I make about a specific subject matter?

Research Skills: Skills to help students conduct independent research during the second half of the semester.

•  Library Research: using the library's electronic databases and resources; using a key source to identify other sources
•  Evaluating Sources: determining the appropriateness, validity, and reliability of a source; evaluating sources found on the Internet
•  Primary Research: identifying, gathering, and interpreting sources
•  Documenting Sources: documenting and citing sources using MLA style
•  Taking Notes: summarizing, analyzing, and synthesizing ideas to aid in taking concise, yet helpful notes

Usage, Style, and the Writing Process: Three writing projects are assigned in the first half of the semester: the Summary, Analysis, and Synthesis papers. Attention is paid to the act of writing and to the steps of drafting finished pieces. At least one preliminary draft that receives comments from the instructor and peers is submitted prior to the final, graded version.

•  Usage: The grammar handbook is used to write clear, correct, and effective prose.
•  Style: Attention is paid to stylistic choices that help shape sentences that push an argument forward.
•  Writing Process: The writing process first used in English 160 is used to plan, draft, and revise papers in this new research-oriented context.

Part II: The Classroom as a Research Community

Proposing Research: In articulating a claim that will lead to an independent research project, each student is required to write a research proposal that sets a plan for his or her research papers, with a short annotated bibliography that shows the initial research the student has done.

•  Proposing a Project: The student is required to write a convincing proposal for research that can be conducted in the second half of the semester.
•  Identifying Personal and Academic Connections: The proposal should articulate why this project is meaningful to the student, accounting for what consequences might it have, and identifying how this project fits with other academic approaches to this topic or issue.
•  Classroom Community: The student learns to evaluate others' proposals and evaluate feedback on his or her own proposal.
•  Annotated Bibliography: The student compiles an adequate list of sources in the earliest stages of research, and articulates how they will be of use in the project.

Identifying Resources:

•  Seeking Out Resources: At least one informational session at the UIC Library is scheduled during class time to explore the resources for the project.
•  Using a Variety of Sources: A combination of academic and professional sources in a variety of different media (books, newspaper articles, journal essays, blogs, documentary films, interviews, etc.) is used.

Engaging with Sources: Students account for the research process as they're engaged in it, paying attention to the usefulness of the various kinds of sources and the challenges they may face.

•  Taking Notes: Notes are taken in a way that illuminates material appropriate to the inquiry.
•  Journal or Blog Entries: Students may keep a research journal or blog on the class Blackboard site that allows them to periodically reflect on how the material they're reading contributes to their projects, and on any difficulties they may be facing during the research and writing process.
•  Progress Reports: Regular progress reports may be assigned, in which the student explains how s/he is proceeding, and what difficulties s/he may be having with the research.

Working Groups: The resources of the classroom are used to support students' inquiries, and to foster a community environment as everyone is working on his or her own projects in the second half of the semester.

•  Sharing Sources and Resources: Students may work with others to find sources.
•  Peer-Reviewed Drafts: Students review each others' drafts at least once during the drafting of the research paper, such as a draft of the first four pages of the research paper.
•  In-Class Presentations: At the end of the semester, students may be required to share with the class what they have learned while conducting their research in a brief presentation.