Course Syllabus

This syllabus is based on a template distributed by the director of the undergraduate writing programs. I have personalized it, but the core is shared by all sections of STW.

Instructor Contact Information:
[my last name], 724.830.1909, or St. Joseph 403

Office Hours:

  • MWF 11:15-noon
  • Th 1-2pm
  • Other times, by appointment.

Course Scheduling (Section 06):

MWF, 10:20, Admin 403

Course Description:

Students will develop critical thinking skills in writing, reading, and speaking through the context of multiple points of view about cultural identities.

Division/Program: Liberal Arts Core
Major Prefix: LA
Course Number/Level: 101
Number of Credits: 3

Major Course Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  1. develop critical thinking skills in writing, reading and speaking through the context of multiple points of view about cultural identities
  2. recognize and employ a process-oriented approach to writing
  3. demonstrate proficiency in persuasive communication
  4. produce college-level, researched writing
  5. evaluate their own progress in written and oral communication
Student Assessment:




Percentage of Final Grade

Essay 1 - Unit 1

Minimum 3 pages

Draft, peer reviewed in class

* (see below)

Revision of Essay 1

3-4 pages



Essay 2 - Unit 2

Minimum 3 pages

Draft, peer reviewed in class

* (see below)

Revision of Essay 2 

3-4 pages



Research Paper [1] (see below)

8-10 pages,

At least one revision.

All components count toward grade (see below for list). Research paper will be taught in multiple stages, with students gradually building skills in a step-by-step fashion. 


Oral presentation

7-10 minutes

Video recorded in class. (Details TBA.)


Writing Self-Assessment

In this essay, students make arguments about how their writing has improved, using course objectives, specific quoted examples from previous work, and analysis of those examples.

2-4 pages



*Essay drafts and informal writing, including in-class writing exercises.








[1] Research Skills:

  1. Practicing academic integrity
  2. Identifying a relevant topic
  3. Formulating a research question
  4. Finding, evaluating and incorporating appropriate sources (including scholarly publications)
  5. Writing a research thesis
  6. Proposing specific research
  7. Creating an annotated bibliography
  8. Prewriting, outlining and organizing
  9. Citing in a specific documentation style (Instructors have agreed that all sections will teach MLA style, and instructors may choose to add APA and other styles).
  10. Revising


Students are expected to attend every class. (See Seton Hill University Catalog.) 

Seton Hill University recognizes that extra-curricular activities of all sorts are important components of a liberal arts education, but your instructors expect you to take an active role in reducing the impact of your absences.

Students who miss class for any reason are still responsible for the material collected, covered, and/or assigned during that period. An excused absence does not automatically grant an extension or replace missing participation points. (Likewise, perfect attendance does not guarantee a perfect "Participation" score.)

What to Do When You Must Miss a Class

Contact me directly, after you have done the following:

  • Consult the online syllabus 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.
  • Follow the course schedule (an excused absence does not automatically come with an extension for any work collected or assigned).
Note: It may not be possible to arrange make-up assignments for some due dates or class activities.

I welcome the chance to help you get caught up. Before you contact me, make sure you know exactly what work has been affected; consult the course syllabus and a classmate's notes. After you've done that, we'll both be ready to discuss the next step.

If you are absent from class on a day when a major assignment is due, I reserve the right to assess, on top of the unexcused absence, a late penalty of one extra day. (I do this in order to encourage you to come to class, since we'll probably be starting a new unit and I don't want you to fall behind.)

Emergency Absences

Those who miss class due to an unplanned emergency should submit an "Absence Form," with proper documentation, as soon as possible.

For each class that you miss, download the word processor version of my "Absence Form" (available at and submit it to me (either via e-mail or as a printout).

After you initiate this contact, we will start working out whether or what kind of alternate assignments might be appropriate.

Scheduled Absences

Those who miss class due to a scheduled activity must plan to complete all make-up assignments before the missed class. This means that you must submit an acceptable "Absence Form" (see above), at least a week before the missed class. 

If there is insufficient time for us to agree upon an acceptable suggestion for making up missed work, or if an approved make-up assignment is late or unsatisfactory, then I may record the absence as unexcused.


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

Late arrivals and early departures, disruptive or inattentive behavior, and lack of preparation will impact your participation grade.

Those who participate above and beyond the call of duty will receive a bonus.

Submitting Work

This course expects you to use several online resources -- the course website, and perhaps once in a while GriffinGate.

Please pay close attention to the assignment instructions. Some of the details may seem random, or even pointless, especially because every professor has a slightly different preference for how to submit work. I'll spend class time going over my expectations as clearly as I can. (If you're confused about something, please ask, and I'll do what I can to help.)

Using Turnitin,com

Most of our assignments will be submitted through, which has some very useful tools for letting me give detailed feedback on your papers, as well as letting you review your peers' work. 

After you upload your paper to, you will see a confirmation screen.  If you see the full text of your paper on that screen, you can be confident that the system has already received and echoed back the full content of your paper.  The formatting and the spacing may be a little off, but will have access to the full, original file that you uploaded, so I can download it and view it in a word processor if necessary.

By clicking the confirmation screen, you are confirming that the text is displaying the full text of your paper.  In the 6 years that I have asked students to use, I have sometimes seen the spacing get shifted around a little, but I have never seen a document get corrupted or truncated. 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.

E-mailing or printing a file is not a substitute for submitting an assignment to

Late Penalties

If you have a problem submitting your work in the proper format, you may stop the late clock by e-mailing your word-processor file as an attachment. (But I won't actually evaluate it until you submit it to me in the requested format.)

Getting Credit for Late Work

If you submit your work before I've finished marking the stack of on-time submissions, I'll probably return your grade along with everyone else's. The system will accurately time-stamp your late paper, but I may need an e-mail reminder that your grade needs updating.

I am willing to make exceptions in the event of extenuating circumstances, such as illness or mandatory participation in school activities. In the absence of an approved exception:

  • By default, late assignments automatically lose one letter grade per day.
  • By default, I will not accept any work that is more than a week late. (You may still have to submit, for zero credit, sequenced assignments such as a paper proposal or draft, before I will accept later assignments in that sequence. I will always be willing to meet with you during my office hours to help you catch up, but I cannot promise immediate turn-around if you submit a late assignment.)

All Late Work

If you are asking that I waive the late penalty, make sure that I get a copy of your completed Absence Form by sending it to me with an e-mail that has a subject line following this pattern: "Smith LA101 Ex 1 Absence Form".

Unless I grant you an extension in advance, all other assignments are penalized one letter grade for each day they are late, regardless of whether classes are in session.

Special Cases

Online participation and reflection papers. These time-sensitive assignments (which are due for every assigned reading) earn no credit if they are late. (You should still complete any items that you missed, in order to get full credit for your class participation portfolio.)

Important Statements from SHU

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.

Statement on Placement in this Course

Writing is essential--to communicate, to study, to thrive in SHU's writing-intensive classes, and to create a successful future. Therefore, it is especially important that SHU students receive the writing instruction and assistance they need during the first year. To ensure the best possible course placement, instructors will ask students to self-evaluate their readiness for STW during the drop-add period. At the same time, instructors will monitor student progress for STW-level writing skills. If either the instructor or the student believes that more writing assistance is needed, the student will be placed in Basic Composition, and will complete Basic Composition prior to STW. This placement is subject to review by the Writing Coordinator and/or an ad-hoc committee of writing instructors. Students are not permitted to take Basic Composition and STW concurrently.


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. 

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 on an informal essay will also result in a zero.

Recent Comments

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Calvin Mason on Oral Presentations: i would like to present on thi
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Dennis G. Jerz on Revision Workshop: Okay, I've added your name to
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Jon Bogert on Oral Presentations: I'd like to reserve this date
Sullivan Bard on Oral Presentations: Dr. Jerz, I would like to have
Dennis G. Jerz on Paper 3 Online Peer Review: You're right -- h
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