July 2009 Archives

Feel free to post your questions here, or on any other page on the site.

Posting a comment here will automatically generate an e-mail, so you don't need to e-mail me to tell me that you left a comment.

If you'd like to talk in person, see the syllabus for my office hours, or make an appointment.
Key Concept:

direct quotation

A legitimate way of using someone else's exact words in your paper, so long as you put quotation marks around those exact words, and identify the source. (See paraphrase.)
Key Concept:


Using another author's ideas, but different words, is paraphrasing. If you paraphrase someone else's ideas, in academic writing you must still give credit to the original author, because you are using someone else's ideas.

(Whenever you are in doubt, cite your source, or ask your instructor for clarification. See direct quotation; plagiarism.)
Key Concept:


Revising an assignment means looking at it carefully and making significant changes to improve it. If there's something wrong with your car's engine, you can't solve the problem with a fresh coat of paint. Revision asks you to go beyond surface changes such as spelling and punctuation, and address big-picture issues such as focus, clarity, and audience. (See "Revision vs. Editing.")
There is a writing pre-test and a post-test, both of which will include objective grammar exercises as well as essay sections. Students will also complete frequent grammar exercises and will write weekly paragraph-length (approximately 200 words) essays that will focus on the same writing issues as their targeted grammar exercises. There are three short (2-3 pages) essays as well as a 2-3 page self-assessment paper at the end of the semester. All of the short essays will include prewriting activities and global revision. All assignments will be explained in class, usually with an accompanying online handout, and ample time will be given for questions and explanations.

Grading Criteria:
  • A = 93% or higher
  • A- = 90.0% - 92.9%
  • B+ = 87.0% - 89.9%
  • B = 83.0% - 86.9%
  • B- = 80.0% - 82.9%
  • C+ = 77.0% - 79.9%
  • C = 73.0% - 76.9%
  • C- = 70.0% - 72.9%
  • D+ = 67.0% - 69.9%
  • D = 63.0% - 66.9%
  • D- = 60.0% - 62.9%
  • F = 59.9% or less

Percentage of Grade Value for Each Assignment Listed:
  • Pretest 5% (Full credit for on time completion)
  • Individual Learning Plan (ILP) 15%
  • Post-test 5%
  • Grammar Exercises (average) 10%
  • Paragraphs 20%
  • Short Essays 20%
  • Attendance and participation 15%
  • Final self-assessment paper 10%
Plagiarism is an academic or professional misrepresentation, in which a writer takes credit for someone else's ideas.

Avoid plagiarism by 
  • submitting your own original work
  • giving proper credit to other people whose words and/or ideas appear in your work
  • recognizing that direct quotation (with citation) and paraphrase (with citation) are both acceptable ways to use outside material.
Avoid the panic that makes cheating look so attractive by
  • starting early (plan 2-3 hours of homework for each hour of class)
  • keeping on track (with brainstorming, drafting, workshop, and revision assignments)
  • seeking out help (from the professor, Writing Center, tutors)

Disability Statement

If you have a disability that requires instructor consideration please contact the Director of Disability Services at 724-838-4295.  It is recommended that this be accomplished by the second week of class.  If you need accommodations for successful participation in class activities prior to your appointment at the Disability Services Office, you should offer information in writing that includes suggestions for assistance in participating in and completing class assignments.  It is not necessary to disclose the nature of your disability.

Plagiarism and Academic Misconduct

Seton Hill University expects that all its students will practice academic honesty and ethical conduct. The University regards plagiarism, cheating on examinations, falsification of papers, non-sanctioned collaboration, and misuse of library material, computer material, or any other material, published or unpublished, as violations of academic honesty. Violators of the code may expect disciplinary sanctions, which are discussed in the Seton Hill University Catalog, page 30, Code of Academic Conduct.
Any unreferenced use of the written or spoken material of another, or of previously submitted work of the student's own, constitutes plagiarism.
Paraphrasing the thoughts or written work of another without reference is also plagiarism. Helpful information is available at the following web site: Plagiarism: What It Is and How to Recognize and Avoid It. Any plagiarism on a draft will result in a zero as the final grade on that assignment. Any plagiarism or cheating on an informal essay, paragraph, or grammar exercise will also result in a zero.

See also "Plagiarism (and Academic Integrity)."


  • Ruszkiewicz, John, Daniel E. Seward, and Maxine Hairston. SF Writer, 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson, 2008.
  • Passcode for My Comp Lab (available at campus bookstore)

Please acquire your own individual copies of each item, and bring both your textbook and your passcode to class with you each day.

Course work may also include completing online exercises, reading and commenting on peer drafts, and reading short sample essays as distributed by the instructor.

Online Submissions

This course expects you to use several online resources -- MyCompLab, the course website, and Turnitin.com. We will spend class time getting you comfortable with these environments. MyCompLab requires the purchase of a key, bundled with your LA100 textbook, available from the campus bookstore.

Please pay close attention to the assignment instructions. These submission guidelines may seem random, or even pointless, especially because every professor has a slightly different preference for how to submit work.

The course meets in a computer classroom. I expect that you will have access to electronic copies of your work at all times -- on a thumb drive, in your e-mail archives, or on the student network space. (You should be able to download copies of work that you've uploaded to Turnitin.com.)

In the 6 years that I have asked students to use Turnitin.com, I have never once seen a file get seriously corrupted in the uploading process.  Sometimes the spacing gets shifted around a little, but the document has always been legible.  E-mailing or printing a file is not a substitute for submitting an assignment to Turnitin.com, but if you have any concerns that your file did not upload properly, feel free to doublecheck by downloading a copy of the file you just uploaded.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your work has uploaded properly.

Late Papers

Any assignments turned in late (draft, informal writing, or revision) without prior permission from the instructor will have the final grade reduced by one third of a letter grade per day that the assignment is late, with weekends counting as two days.

Any time you have difficulty getting an assignment in in the proper format, you may "stop the late clock" by e-mailing me the assignment. The e-mail submission is not a substitute for submitting the work in the requested format.  I won't actually start grading it until the assignment is submitted in the manner I requested.

Getting Credit for Late Work

If you are asking that I waive a late penalty, e-mail me a copy of a completed Absence Form (http://jerz.setonhill.edu/teaching/Absence.doc), with a subject line that follows this pattern: "Smith LA100 Exercise 1-2 Absence Form".

Deadlines for the submission of turnitin.com assignments are typically 15 minutes before class starts. (This is to discourage you from being late for class because you were working on your homework, and it also permits me to scan the assignments briefly before class begins.) If your assignment is late by a few minutes, but you are still on time to class, your paper won't count as late.

Please note that late submissions always go to the bottom of my to-do list. If you are concerned about not getting a paper back soon enough to help you complete the next step in a multi-stage assignment, please make an appointment and I will go over it with you orally.

Peer review assignments must be on time in order to earn any points. (That's because I want to encourage you to give your feedback to your peers while they are still working on their revisions.)

Make-up/Extra Credit Assignments

I do not have a policy of inventing extra-credit assignments to enable you to pull your grade up in the last few weeks of the term. (However, in the event of an extended illness or similar documented emergency, I am willing to be flexible.)

Students are expected to contribute actively to a positive classroom environment, both in person and online.

Absences, late arrivals and early departures, inappropriate use of telephones or headphones, lack of preparation, and inattentiveness will affect your ability to contribute to a positive classroom environment. I presume all students have adequate class participation, and as students distinguish themselves one way or the other, adjust the grade accordingly.

If your final grade falls near a borderline, I will take your participation into account when I decide whether to round up or down.

Students are expected to attend every class, complete the required assignments before every session, bring the assigned texts and materials to class, and participate in class discussion. Serious and thoughtful participation is necessary for effective learning and for an excellent participation grade. One absence is permitted without penalty; each subsequent unexcused absence reduces the final grade by one third of a letter grade.

Absences may be excused, with prior negotiation initiated by the student with the instructor for school-required events that take place during the class time, including participation in intercollegiate sports, theater or music productions, conferences, or workshops. The sponsoring staff or faculty member must provide written verification of the event prior to the absence. If you are absent for other reasons, please bring supporting documents to the instructor, who will determine excused or unexcused absences.

Please note that even if you have a legitimate reason for missing class, you are still responsible for the material covered during the missed class, including due dates and handouts.(Seton Hill University Catalog, p. 28-29, Excused Absences.) 

What to Do When You Must Miss a Class

Contact me directly, after you have done the following:

  • Consult this website to find out what is scheduled on the date(s) affected by your absence.
  • Consult a classmate for notes on what happened during class, for extra copies of any handouts, etc. After you have spoken with a classmate, I will be happy to answer any specific questions, by e-mail or in person.
  • Plan to submit work on the appropriate due-date (an excused absence does not automatically come with an extension), or if appropriate, request a specific extension.

Note: It may not be possible to arrange make-up assignments for some due dates or class activities.

Technology Issues

Just as students of the past learned to carry an extra inkhorn and spare lamp wicks, there are certain common-sense strategies that will help the 21st-century student do the required work.

  • Save local copies, or printouts, of required online readings (including the syllabus) so that you can do your work even if the internet is down.
  • Get in the habit of e-mailing drafts to yourself, so that you can retrieve them from your archives if your computer crashes or you lose your thumb drive.

Online Submissions
Unless the assignment instructions say otherwise, you should expect to submit all your graded assignments to Turnitin.com. I have never encountered a serious problem with files being truncated or corrupted by this service. When you upload a file to Turnitin.com, you will get a submission receipt that includes the full text of your submission. You can check this receipt to confirm that your paper uploaded properly. If you re-download your submission from Turnitin.com, you will see exactly what I will see.  If you see any signs that your file is corrupted, you should re-upload it, or try a different file format.

Note: Submitting via printout or e-mail attachment is not a substitute for submitting via Turnitin.com. 

If you encounter any difficulty uploading an assignment, you may, as a stopgap measure, give me a printout or send an e-mail attachment, with a brief explanation of the difficulty you encountered.

  • I will not actually assign any credit for your paper until after it has been submitted in the format I have requested (usually, uploading to a specific slot in Turnitin.com). 
  • When I finish grading a set of papers (usually about a week after the due date), I will report a zero for any assignment that is not in the online slot where I expect to find it.

The Importance of Revision

Revision is to the writer as practice is to the athlete, as rehearsals are to the performer, and as sunlight and water are to plants.  Even the students who were born with a quill in their hands are likely to be surprised by just how much a freshman writing course depends on revision.

You will see, when you start getting my feedback on the early assignments, that I won't circle every spelling or punctuation mistake. 

You might produce several perfectly "correct" sentences, with no grammatical or punctuation mistakes. When I evaluate your work, I may pass over those sentences without making any marks on them. I might even say something good about your vocabulary, punctuation, or phrasing.

Nevertheless, even a passage with no grammar or punctuation mistakes might do nothing to advance your main idea; such words are deadwood, which need to be pruned to make room for more useful, more effective, more valuable passages that do a better job helping your audience to understand your point.  

In order to get the full benefit of each stage of the writing process, students should expect to respect assignment deadlines, submitting full drafts (proper assigned length, good faith effort, on time and in the proper format), and making significant, major revisions that go far beyond correcting typos and grammar mistakes.

Be aware that "revision" means global changes to an assignment based on guidance from an instructor who will only mark your paper selectively.  After I read your draft and call your attention to a few passages that could use some work in this or that particular area, the revision process will require you to find, on your own, other passages in your draft that would benefit from the same kind of attention.

Your objectives for this course are to

  • Create individualized writing learning plans based on the results of diagnostic tests and in consultation with instructor.
  • Practice grammar skills (those applicable to the individual student) through frequent electronic and written exercises, with feedback and explanation, both in and out of class.
  • Practice the grammar skills learned in exercises by focusing on these issues in the composition, revision, and editing phases of the writing process.
  • Develop sustainable main ideas for paragraphs and short essays.
  • Compose grammatically correct (free of both syntax issues and surface errors) sentences in paragraph-length writing assignments.
  • Practice writing process skills such as prewriting, free writing, brainstorming, listing, outlining, mapping, zero drafting, drafting, revising, proofreading, and copyediting
  • Plan, write, and revise several types of short essays.

This course fulfills the Communication, Self-Awareness, and Reflection element of the Liberal Arts Core. Keep all drafts of your papers from all your classes. You will need to include a selection of papers in your graduation portfolio -- a required component of each major.

Course Philosophy and Pedagogical Design
(Why we think this way of teaching you will help you learn.)

Composition is a multi-stage process rather than a single-sitting activity. The principle of writing as a process will unite all course activities. This course is designed to help students identify their own writing strengths and weaknesses and to build a plan for writing improvement based on those findings. Students will take an early diagnostic test, which, along with guidance from the instructor, will allow them to identify areas needing work. Grammar exercises and writing assignments will be tailored to each student, offering practice where needed. The course will also use a sequential building method, asking students to analyze their own writing on a sentence-by-sentence level, then on the paragraph level, and finally, in the context of the short essay. The instructor will assign some writing topics; other assignments will allow for student choice in subject matter. A post-test will offer assessment information for instructor and student alike, and a final self-assessment essay will give students the opportunity to reflect on writing progress and to identify writing goals and challenges for the future.

From the Common LA100 Syllabus:

Basic Composition teaches students writing skills necessary for college success, including grammar and composition. Students will practice sentence construction (in the context of short writing assignments), paragraph construction, and the organization of ideas. Students will build on these basic skills by planning, writing, and revising short essays and experiencing writing as a multi-step process. The course also teaches several types of, purposes of, and audiences for general essays.
While individual instructors personalize their own sections of Basic Comp, the structure of the course and the important details of the syllabus are shared in common with all sections. (My colleague, Dr. Laura Patterson, who directs the undergraduate writing program, graciously provides all freshman writing teachers with a model syllabus, from which I have borrowed.)

Dennis G. Jerz (jerz.setonhill.edu)
403 St. Joseph, Box 461

E-mail: My last name, at the setonhill.edu domain.

I check my e-mail throughout the day, and usually once more at around 11pm. I am always happy to help with quick answers.

For routine e-mails, feel free to use txt spk if u want; I'll toss off a reply as soon as I can.  ;)

For more serious e-mails (maybe you're asking for an appointment, or a make-up assignment, or you're asking me to do some serious thinking), the quality of your writing should reflect the sincerity of your request.

I do get anywhere from 50-100 messages a day. To help me respond more efficiently to your e-mails:
  • Please make sure your real name and the course number (LA100) appears in the message. (If you use your SHU account, the system will show me your real name; but chances are I won't recognize "suprkewlkid14@hotmail.com".)
  • Please take a few seconds to write a meaningful e-mail subject line.
    • yes.gif Subject: "LA100: I'm stuck... how should I deal with writer's block?"
    • yes.gif Subject: "Can you help me pick a paper topic in LA100?"
      In both of the above examples, I know in advance whether I can handle your question in a few seconds, or whether I'll need to plan time in my day so that I can concentrate on writing a detailed response.
    • no.gif Subject: "A question about class."
      What class? I teach several each term. What kind of question? Can you summarize it briefly, right in the subject line? (I don't mind txt spk for informal messages.)
    • no.gif  Subject: [Blank]
      A blank subject line doesn't give me any reason to bump your message ahead of the rest.
  • If you're asking me to comment on something you wrote, copy-paste your text right into the e-mail -- that's much faster than sending it as an attachment.

Office Phone
: 724-830-1909 (but you will usually get a faster response if you e-mail)

Office Hours
: Fall, 2009 (in St. Joseph 403)
  • Tue 1:30-2:30
  • Thu 1:30-2:30
  • Fri 10:30-11:30
  • and also by appointment.

Occasionally I step out of my office briefly to run errands during my scheduled office hours. If my light is still on, or there's a note on my door, I'm probably not far away.

Office Visits:

  • I usually leave my office door open. If you should happen to drop by outside of my office hours, and my door is closed, please come back later or send me an e-mail.
  • If I'm with someone when you arrive during my office hour or for a scheduled appointment, go ahead and knock so I know you are waiting.
T R   11:10 AM  -  12:25 PM 	M334
See daily course outline.
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          
    01 2 03 4 5
6 7 08 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
        01 2 3
4 5 06 7 08 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
1 2 03 4 05 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30          
    01 2 03 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31