Writing 50: Computers and Research
Michael Petracca

Office: Girvetz 1307

Course Description:

Microcomputers can accommodate a variety of styles and methods of presenting information. This Writing 50 course will combine traditional, text-based writing with computer-aided research presentation, the latter using World Wide Web pages as tools for developing ideas and supporting materials in a non-linear way. Each student will choose a topic area of interest and present research on that topic, using two different formats: an expository essay and a series of Web pages.

At the end of the course, each student will write a final exam comparing the two research methods, discussing the advantages and drawbacks of each. Through comparing these two very different styles of writing, you'll learn to appreciate the strengths and limitations of traditional academic discourse, and you'll therefore become better equipped to write in a range of styles and formats. You may also become more computer-literate in the process, which can't hurt as we approach the twenty-first century and the so-called "age of information."

Focus, Structure and Overview:

This course is designed to provide you with expository writing and research skills that will enable you to develop and present research in across a range of academic disciplines. You will increase your competence in identifying and critically evaluating information and in accessing the most relevant sources from the vast amounts of data available through the library, the internet, personal interviews and surveys,and any other measurement instruments you care to design. You will also refine argumentative writing skills, particularly in relation to effectively incorporating research into your writing while maintaining a clear stance and distinct academic voice.

Information skills--finding information, reading it, analyzing it, interpreting it, applying it, and communicating it--are the foundation for successfully understanding and participating in the information age. On our classroom days, we'll go over specific techniques for finding and evaluating researched information, and we will address issues of audience, persuasive purpose, argument: rhetorical concepts which will help you to keep your thesis in focus, to have conscious control over your tone, and to construct your research papers logically and/or persuasively. Also, each student will be responsible for making an oral presentation to the course, discussing successes and obstacles in researching her/his chosen topic.

Our weekly time in the Microcomputer Lab will be spent working on your multimedia projects: World Wide Web pages, using a very friendly Web authoring program called PageMill ... or using actual HTML code, if you're inclined to take on a programming challenge.


Your final grade for the course will break down approximately as follows:

30% major research project: an essay of approximately fifteen pages, drawing upon a range of journals, interviews, personal experience, and books, and using MLA or APA documentation style;

30% journals - completed thoroughly and on time;

30% class participation (including enthusiastic participation during in-class sessions and oral presentations, regular attendance at the Microcomputer lab, and a passing multimedia project at the end of the quarter);

10% final exam.

Course Schedule

Beginning with the fourth week of class, at least three pages of new writing on your major research project are due every week, and late drafts reduce your participation grade by some indefinable but significant quantity. Reading assignments are due each class session, as assigned below. Class attendance is mandatory, following guidelines set down by the Writing Program. After two absences, your grade begins to decline by one-half grade per class session missed.
  Revised 9/5/01 M.P.