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Orientation: Getting Started

English 127
Research Writing


Welcome to English 127: Research Writing for the Social Sciences. 

This is the second in the required sequence of composition courses for the AA degree at GRC.  ENGL 127 is one of three courses that fulfills the requirement.  ENGL 126 is Research Writing for the Humanities and ENGL 128 is Research Writing for Science, Engineering and Business.  All three courses focus on writing and research, as well as understanding, incorporating, interpreting, and evaluating other people's writing; formulating research questions and conducting research; and producing well-organized essays that allow you to present the results and interpretation of your research and related issues. 

Taking an online course can be both exciting as well as frightening. Taking an online writing course may appear to complicate matters even further, but there are in fact many positive aspects. Since virtually all of the communication in this course is in written form, you will certainly do a lot of writing! We will work towards building a vibrant "writing community" through our interaction with the textbooks and assignments, but most of all with each other.

ASSIGNMENTS
 
Major Units (Essays) Points
- Background Essay (4-5 pages) 200
- Literature Review (5-6 pages) 240
- Final Research Article (12-15 pages) 285
Discussion Forum Postings (Informal Assignments) 125
Peer Reviews 100
Course & Self-Assessment (Reflective Essay) 50

The majority of the course consists of various informal and formal assignments to allow you to produce your three formal essays on a social science topic of your own choice (with instructor approval).  You will write all three papers on the same topic, though the way you narrow it will evolve during the quarter.  Review the Research Topics page for further discussion; this page also includes a list of "Prohibited Topics."  The three papers are all related to one another:  The Background Essay and the Literature Review both build towards the Final Research Article; in fact, you will include revised versions of these two earlier essays in your final paper, which is why you should not panic about the 12-15 page length requirement for the FRA. 

We will also have assignments based on readings from our two required textbooks:  Rereading America (anthology of readings) and The Craft of Research (reference book on academic argumentation and the research process). 

You will post informal assignments to the online discussion forum, covering concepts and skills such as summary, quotation, APA documentation style (American Psychological Association), research questions, research methods, evidence and support, audience, etc., along with specific preparatory writing for each of the major essays.  See the Assignments webpage for further explanation and details.

"ADVANCED" WRITING

Because this is an "advanced" writing course, it presumes that you have already had instruction and practice in the basics of college-level composition.  Therefore, this course will not teach you grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development.  This does not mean that you are not allowed to make mistakes in grammar and punctuation or that your sentences and paragraphs must be perfectly developed from the outset.  Rather, it is up to you to take responsibility for this level of your writing by proofreading your work carefully; consulting your writing handbook when you have a question or when a mistake has been marked on one of your assignments; visiting the GRC Writing Center (RLC 173, may not be open during summer quarters) to work with a trained writing tutor; or asking specific questions in an email to me if you remain confused. 

Although I will presume that you may have had some instruction and practice in other college-composition areas relevant to ENGL 127 as well, this course will provide further instruction in the skills, concepts, formats, and tools related to the following:  the writing process; reading and evaluating academic articles; critical thinking; the elements of academic argument; essay organization; topic selection and narrowing; a consideration of audience and purpose; incorporating quotations and citing sources; producing a bibliography; and library and internet research; among other areas. 

This quarter I want you to "try on" the identity of "researcher," in addition to the identity of "writer."  Explore the responsibilities, the rewards, the challenges, the privileges, the hard work, and the pleasures of each of these identities. 

ACADEMIC DISCIPLINES: WHAT ARE THE SOCIAL SCIENCES?

Given that you have chosen ENGL 127 (Research Writing for the Social Sciences), it is helpful to consider how ENGL 127 may be distinguished from ENGL 126 (Writing for the Humanities) and ENGL 128 (Research Writing for Science, Engineering and Business). Consider the range of academic "disciplines" (subject areas) covered by each of these broad groupings (note that ENGL 128 groups together an unusually large set of disciplines):

 
Humanities (ENGL 126) Social Sciences
(ENGL 127)
Inter-disciplinary* Science & Engineering
(ENGL 128)
Business
(ENGL 128)
Professional Programs*
 Literature

Rhetoric & Composition

Speech & Communication

Philosophy

Classics

Foreign Languages

Journalism

Fine Arts (Performance / History & Criticism)
- Music
- Dance
- Visual Arts (painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, etc.)
-Theater

Media & Film

Linguistics

Sociology

Political Science

Psychology

History* (also Humanities)

Anthropology

Geography

Economics

Criminal Justice

Sociolinguistics

Archaeology

Ethnic Studies

Women's Studies

Gender & Sexuality Studies

Cultural Studies

Environmental Studies

Justice Studies

History of Consciousness

*These fields draw upon the questions and methodologies of several disciplines within both the humanities and social sciences.

(Math)

Physics

Chemistry

Biology

Astronomy

Anatomy & Physiology

Zoology

Geology

Electrical E.

Computer E.

Mechanical E.

Chemical E.

Aeronautic E.

Civil E.

Petroleum E.

Business Administration

Marketing

Advertising

Finance

Accounting

Public Relations

Management

International Relations

Information Systems

Medicine

Law

Social Work

Urban Planning

Public Affairs

Public Health

Education

Architecture

Library Science

*These are either separate schools at a university or professional programs that require a B.A.

This extensive grid represents how (most of) human knowledge has been arranged and classified.  We call the various subject areas "disciplines" because key traditions, concepts, texts, thinkers, assumptions, methods, questions, and interpretive (theoretical) frameworks have developed for each of them over the decades (or centuries, in some cases).  A student pursuing an undergraduate (B.A. or B.S.) or graduate (M.A., M.S., or Ph.D.) or professional (M.D., J.D., MSW, MBA, MPA, etc.) degree in any of these disciplines would be expected to gain familiarity with the basic texts, key thinkers, main theories and interpretations, seminal studies, etc. in the field.  See Social Science Disciplines for a further discussion.

Social Sciences vs./and Humanities:  While there is considerable overlap between the humanities and social sciences since both areas are concerned with the rigorous exploration and development of knowledge about human beings and society, there are some notable differences in terms of objects of study, emphasis, methods, and assumptions.  Social science seeks to gather and interpret new data according to academically sound research methods.  While we will discuss questions of objectivity and bias in greater detail later in the quarter, it is safe to say that the majority of social scientists strive for "objectivity," that is, that others should be able to reproduce or observe the same data if they follow the same research methods, and that interpretations should be based on commonly accepted evaluations of evidence, assumptions and theoretical frameworks.  Scholarly writing in the social sciences demands clarity, logical classification, a narrowing of focus, and interpretations based on observable evidence rather than opinion or feeling. 

The humanities, on the other hand, do not just say that "anything goes" or that any interpretation is as good as another, but they are more skeptical about the claims of objectivity and are more interested in the range of possible interpretations.  Moreover, the humanities often will examine already existing cultural texts and artifacts (e.g., literature, philosophy, popular culture, the arts) in order to see what we can learn about human beings, their identities and emotions, their relationships to the world, nature, the divine, themselves, each other, etc.  Scholarly writing in the humanities revels in complexity, originality, unexpected connections and echoes, defying common sense, and multiple meanings.  While humanities scholars also see themselves trafficking in "truth" through the careful reading or experience of texts and artifacts, reflection, and suddenly bestowed insights (epiphanies), they do not expect that other scholars, thinkers or students would come up with the same interpretations by remaining objective or following the scientific method. 

I should note here that there is a significant minority of social scientists who are critical of the claims of objectivity since they argue that knowledge production is always impacted by those who are seeking to produce it, which they do not necessarily regard as a bad thing.  Rather than trying to come up with conclusions or frameworks that make claims of scientific truth (i.e., truth that is not dependent on the observer or investigator), these social scientists seek to produce "situated knowledges," that is, systems of information and understanding that are produced out of particular contexts by particular parties (individuals or communities) for particular purposes.  I will leave it to you to decide which forms or modes of knowledge you regard as most valuable, whether personally or publicly, as well as how we should see the balance between the humanities and social sciences.  Obviously, this course is asking you to focus on critical reading, research methods, and writing in the social sciences, but it is useful to be aware of the tensions and overlap between the social sciences and the humanities that I have described. 

COURSE PROCEDURES

Course Website:  I have tried to make the organization of this course website fairly simple and straightforward.  On the left bar of every page, you will find navigation buttons that will take you to the key areas of the website:  Schedule, Canvas Forum, Syllabus, Questions (a course map with links to the major assignment and other course handouts), etc.  Browse through the website to get an idea of the course content, but don't allow yourself to feel too overwhelmed by the amount of material; it'll make much more sense if you read it as we go along!  However, make sure you read the Syllabus page thoroughly since that page represents our contract and sets out the course policies.

The most important page on this website is the Schedule page.  Here, you will get an overview of the major assignments and due dates for the entire quarter.  From this page, you will also be able to go to the schedule page for each individual week.  The link for each week's schedule will become live towards the end of the previous week; for example the Week 2 schedule will become live towards the end of Week 1 (around Wednesday or Thursday). 

Turning in Assignments:  All assignments will be posted to CANVAS.  Informal  responses (such as partial drafts or reading responses) will be posted to Discussion forums.  Major assignments, including final drafts of the three major papers, will be uploaded via the link for that particular assignment.  See the Format Instructions page for more detail about sending attachments and formatting your formal essays. 

Feedback and Grades:  You will receive individualized feedback and letter grades on the final drafts of your Background Essay and Literature Review.  Make sure you click on your assignment file to see my marginal comments in addition to my final comment.  You will also receive a letter grade for your Peer Reviews and for your final Course & Self Assessment.  See the Forum page for an explanation of how you accumulate points for your informal writing assignments, reading responses, exploratory or preparatory writing, and drafts.  Again, remember that you get full credit simply for doing the forum assignments on time (and as long as they are complete).  I read through the class's forum postings, but I do not comment on each individual posting. 

ONLINE COURSE CHECKLIST


Are you able to spend the required time on this course?
  The recommended time students can expect to spend outside of class in a traditional 5-credit course is between 10-15 hours a week, which is in addition to the 5 hours spent in class.  This course will certainly require a minimum of 15 hours a week, and sometimes more in weeks when major research or writing assignments are due.  While you do not have to log in at a particular time of day, this is not a class where you can do everything early or even in one day for a week's assignments.  You should plan to visit the course website at least three times a week in order to print out the weekly schedule and relevant assignment guidelines, to review course materials and announcements, to post informal assignments to the Discussion Forum, and to respond to your classmates.  *If you are taking the course in the summer, our schedule will, of course, be somewhat accelerated as we are fitting in 11 weeks of material into 8 weeks, so be prepared to spend more time each week.


Are you self-motivated and reasonably well-organized with fairly good time-management skills?
  The course will provide you some structure and guidance, but you will largely be spending time on your own, reading the textbooks and website materials, doing research on the web and in databases, writing essays and informal assignments, and responding to one another.  Can you keep track of various printouts, research materials and information, preparatory notes, computer files and folders, etc.?  Can you stay on track without the built-in pressure that attending class provides? 


Do you have some confidence in your writing and communication skills?
 This course is designed to help you improve your writing and communication skills and to expand your understanding of the research process, so it's okay if you're not 100% confident in them.  At the same time, if you did very poorly in your previous writing course (whether online or in the traditional classroom) or you are very anxious about communicating in writing, whether with the instructor of your fellow classmates, the online environment may not provide you the support you need.  Be honest with yourself since this course is challenging and will require a considerable amount of regular writing and communication. 


How is your reading comprehension?
 There are a variety of learning styles, including visual, auditory, and hands-on, among other styles.  This class will require you to learn primarily through reading and writing.  Not only will you read extensively from our textbooks and from other sources during your research process, but you will also have to read a significant amount of material on our website:  explanations, assignment guidelines, etc. Print out course material rather than only reading it on the screen!


Will you seek clarification and additional resources when necessary?
  Since there is limited face-to-face contact with the instructor or between students (save the optional "live" meetings), you must be willing to initiate communication when you are confused about something.  Are you willing to send an email, call on the phone, come to office hours, or even arrange a meeting if you are confused or need further explanation?  You should frequently consult your writer's handbook (A Writer's Reference or some other handbook) and online resources for questions or problems relating to grammar, punctuation and formatting.  Make use of the trained writing tutors in GRC's Writing Center, located on campus in RLC 173.


Are you moderately computer literate?
 You do not have to be a computer whiz to function effectively in an online class (I am not going to ask you to design webpages or power point presentations, etc.).  At the same time, you should know how to use email, send and receive files as email attachments, and use a word processor (e.g., Microsoft Word).  There are a few additional functions the class will use, such as browsing the web, searching online databases or articles, and posting to a discussion forum, but you can learn these during the quarter as you move through the course. 


Do you have adequate computer hardware and software as well as internet access?
Taking an online course means that it is your obligation to have access to a functioning computer and the internet, just as it is your obligation to have access to transportation if you are going to attend a traditional class on campus.  If you don't have a computer or regular internet access at home, you may have regular access through your workplace, family member, friend, library or internet cafe.  Do you have backup alternatives if you run into problems with your primary means of computer or internet access? 


Are you familiar with basic netiquette and academic protocols?
  This course website, the discussion forum, and email communication comprise a virtual classroom, which means that the basic protocols and standards of academic communication, interaction and behavior apply.  Therefore, always be respectful and considerate in communicating with the instructor and with each other.  Be conscious of when the informal style of popular online communication may be inappropriate in this setting:  abbreviations like "u" for "you"; all caps or all lower-case; haphazard or absent punctuation; etc.  Do not use vulgarity or obscenity in your forum postings.  Err on the side of greater formality when communicating with the instructor (address me as Dr. Bahl or Professor Bahl).


Are you familiar with basic campus policies, especially relating to scholastic dishonesty (plagiarism, cheating, etc.) and registration?
  We'll cover plagiarism in greater detail elsewhere on this website.  Be aware of the deadlines to withdraw from the course for partial refunds and to withdraw in order to avoid getting a 0.0 on your transcript.  See the Schedule page to find the deadline to withdraw or to petition to change to pass/non-credit (you may send a message to EnrollmentServices@greenriver.edu with your request to withdraw or change status). Also note that if you do not turn in first and final drafts of any one of the three major assignments for this course (Background Essay, Literature Review, and Final Research Article), you will receive a 0.0 for the course.