English 1a Research Paper

English 1A: Reading and Composition, Sections 6351 & 6405 (4 units - Spring 2014)


(6351): MW 9:30-11:35

(6405): MW 11:45-1:50


(6351): ADM 208

(6405): HUM 308

Instructor: Sean M. Donnell


Phone: (310) 660-3593 x3187

Office Hours: MW 9:00-9:30am

                    MW 2:00-2:30pm

                    TTH 4:30-6:00pm


Course Description

This course is designed to strengthen the students’ ability to read with understanding and discernment, to discuss assigned readings intelligently, and to write clearly. Emphasis will be on writing essays in which each paragraph relates to a controlling idea, has an introduction and a conclusion, and contains primary and secondary support. College-level reading material will be assigned to provide the stimulus for class discussion and writing assignments, including a required research paper. 

Course Objectives

  1. Recognize and revise sentence-level grammar and usage errors.

  2. Read and apply critical-thinking skills to numerous published articles and to college-level, book-length works for the purpose of writing and discussion.

  3. Apply appropriate strategies in the writing process including prewriting, composing, revising, and editing techniques.

  4. Compose multi-paragraph, thesis-driven essays with logical and appropriate supporting ideas, and with unity and coherence.

  5. Demonstrate ability to locate and utilize a variety of academic databases, peer-reviewed journals, and scholarly websites.

  6. Utilize MLA guidelines to format essays, cite sources in the texts of essays, and compile Works Cited lists.


Expected Student Learning Outcome

SLO #1 Complete a research-based essay that has been written out of class and undergone revision. It should demonstrate the student’s ability to thoughtfully support a single thesis using analysis and synthesis. Citations must be in MLA format and include a Works Cited page. The final draft should be organized and technically correct in terms of paragraph composition, sentence structure, grammar, spelling, and word use.

SLO #2 Integrate multiple sources, including a book-length work and a variety of academic databases, peer-reviewed journals, and scholarly websites. Citations must be in MLA format and include a Works Cited page.

SLO #3 Demonstrate logical paragraph composition and sentence structure. The essay should have correct grammar, spelling, and word use.


Course Materials

Bachmann & Barth.  Between Worlds: A Reader, Rhetoric, and Handbook.  7th Ed. Boston: Pearson, 2012.

Madden, David.  A Pocketful of Prose: Vintage Short Fiction.  Vol. 1.  Boston: Thomson, 2006.

---.  A Pocketful of Prose: Vintage Short Fiction.  Vol. 2.  Boston: Thomson, 2006.


Course Requirements/Grading

Three Writing Projects, each worth TWO letter grades

One Research Project, worth THREE letter grades

One Take-Home Midterm Socratic Project, worth ONE letter grade

One In-Class Midterm Socratic, worth one letter grade

One Take-Home Final Socratic Project, worth ONE letter grade

One In-Class Final Socratic, worth ONE letter grade

Participation, worth one letter grade

All outlines, drafts and papers are due on the date assigned on the syllabus.  

Midterm and Final exams must be taken on the day that they are given, for classroom participation is an integral part of these examinations.  If you know that you are going to be absent on the date of an exam, schedule an appointment to take the test ahead of time.  Makeup exams, while permitted, shall be marked down one letter grade per class that they are late—no exceptions.

Quizzes shall be administered at the beginning of classes.  All quizzes must be taken in class and on the time and date that they are assigned.  I do not publish the dates when you will be quizzed.  As a result, it is imperative that you keep current on class readings because you will never know when I will bust out a pop quiz on you.  Quizzes shall comprise the majority of your final participation grade for the class.  There are no make up quizzes—no exceptions.  

Essays handed in late shall be marked down one letter grade per class that they are late—no exceptions.  If you know that you are going to miss class when an essay is due, make sure that you hand it in early. 

Late outlines and / or drafts shall not be accepted.  On the day that an outline or a draft is due, you will need to be present in class, with a printed copy of your outline or draft, ready to work in peer-editing groups.  I shall initial each outline and draft that is brought to class on the due date.  When you turn in your final draft of an assignment, you will staple behind it the initialed outline and draft for the corresponding assignment.  Any assignment turned in without the corresponding outline and draft stapled behind the final draft shall be marked down one letter grade per missing assignment.  For example, if you turn in your final draft of Essay #1, but you fail to turn in the initialed copies of your outline and rough draft (even if you did them but unfortunately misplaced them), the best grade you can hope for on this assignment is a C.  If you turn it in one day late, the best grade you can hope for is a D.  Bottom line: it is vitally important to be in class on the days when outlines and drafts are to be turned in.  Moreover, it is critical that you do not lose your initialed copies of these documents, for you must turn them in with your final draft of your Essay assignments.  

Assignments shall be graded A through F for turned in work.  Assignments NOT turned in shall count as a ZERO; consequently, any assignment not handed in will be averaged into your grade as an F weighted TWICE AS MUCH as the value of the original assignment.  For example, if you turn in Essay #1 and receive an F on it, that will count as ONE F in your final grade calculation.  However, if you do not turn in Essay #1, then that assignment shall be recorded as TWO Fs in your final grade calculation.  Simply put, it is better to turn in something and receive an F on it than it is to turn in noting.  At least an F means that you did SOMETHING.  As a result, your received a grade that is less than 60% of an A on the assignment.  If you turned in NOTHING, then you received a grade that is 0% of an A on the assignment.  Consequently, a ZERO assignment counts as TWO Fs rather than just one for this assignment.  



Consistent and faithful attendance and participation in this class is a must.  Regular exams and frequent quizzes on readings shall be administered to ensure consistent in-class participation.  I will try to vary class activities so that everyone will be able to actively participate.  It is crucial that you read all assignments by the dates given to you so that you will be able to participate fully.  We may not always be able to cover everything assigned for reading in our class discussions, but you will still be responsible for all of them.  At the beginning of every class, you will be given approximately fifteen (15) minutes to complete a journal assignment on the current reading due for that day of class.  Journal assignments cannot be made up.


Sharing Writing

By now, many of you have possibly taken composition classes in which you have shared your writing with peer group members and/or the entire class.  However, some of you may have reservations about sharing your writing with others.  I strongly believe, and I think you will find, that a key to developing your writing skills is interaction with your peers.  As editors of each other’s work, you will learn to critique and improve the texts of others, thus internalizing skills necessary for strengthening your own writing effectiveness.  From time to time, I may choose to read one of your papers aloud to class, or—better still—to have you read your paper aloud to the class.  This is not meant to embarrass you; rather, I choose papers that demonstrate the landmarks of good college-level writing.  I will ask permission before I read from a paper, and you will not be penalized for choosing not to have your paper read.


Special Needs

If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations please let me know. You may speak to me after class, during my office hours, or by phone or email. Your privacy will be protected. You are also encouraged to contact the Special Resource Center on campus (310-660-3295) to discuss what accommodations and services are available.



In order for you to maximize your understanding and appreciation of English 1A, you must attend class faithfully.  According the El Camino College Catalog, an instructor has recourse to drop a student after four (4) hours of instruction for a four (4) unit class.  Keeping this in mind, a total of two (2) absences—excused or otherwise—are allowable without penalty; however, exceeding this limit may result in your being dropped from the course.  This is meant as an incentive to keep you coming to class.  Do not expect me—under any circumstances—to automatically drop you just because you quit coming to class.  That is not the intent of this rule.  If you wish to drop this course, you must be responsible for it yourself.  I will not be responsible for dropping you from this course.  If you have not withdrawn from class before the final drop deadline requiring the Dean’s signature for withdrawal from this course, you will receive a grade for this course—no exceptions.  Whether you come to class every day is your business; however, you should remain aware that there are consequences to your actions.


Academic Dishonesty

Cheating on exams or quizzes is considered academic dishonesty, and it is unacceptable.  The use of someone else’s words or ideas without acknowledging the source is plagiarism, another form of academic dishonesty; it is likewise unacceptable.  Because you will be working with many readings in your writing assignments, you must be careful to cite other people’s words and ideas that you incorporate—by way of quotation, paraphrase, and summary—into your essays.  If you fail to do this, it is plagiarism.  If you plagiarize on one of your assignments, you will receive an "F" grade on that assignment.  If you plagiarize on your Research Project, you will receive an "F" grade for the course.  If I find you committing Academic Dishonesty (e.g., cheating on a test, turning in someone else's work, or plagiarizing), I will immediately report you to the Director of Student Development, and I will ask for the harshest sanction possible, which may include: a notation of Academic Dishonesty on your transcripts, removal from my class, or even expulsion from the college.  I have zero tolerance for cheating and plagiarism.  


Cellular Phones

In an era of increasingly prevalent mobile technology, cellular phones and other electronic devices (laptop computers, PDAs, IPODs, MP3 players, etc.) have become an interruptive nuisance in the classroom.  As such, these devices are not allowed to be turned on or used on in our classroom unless you have cleared it with me first.  Here are some examples of inappropriate electronic activity (this list is not exhaustive): your cell phone rings or vibrates in class; you answer your cell phone or leave to make a call on it; you are text messaging in class; or you listen to your IPOD or MP3 player in class.  The first time your electronic device interrupts the class, I will give you a verbal warning.  Upon the second interruption, I will remove you from the class for the day, give you a written reprimand, and report you the Director of Student Development for the appropriate disciplinary procedures.  Upon the third interruption, I will suspend you from class for two class periods (including the current one), and I will file another report with the Director of Student Development.  Any subsequent interruptions, and I will seek your immediate and permanent removal from my class.  Depending on other Code of Conduct violations, this may further result in your expulsion from the college.  Please reference the El Camino College Student Code of Conduct and Discipline for further information.  The bottom line is that I am attempting to create an atmosphere in the classroom that is conducive to learning.  If you cannot discipline yourself, I will do it for you.  


Code of Conduct

We shall adhere to the following rules in order to maintain a positive and productive classroom environment:

Remember that English 1A papers must be argumentative, not merely informative. Review “Research Paper Topics and Instructions.”

Your document should be in MLA format. Include the following numbered sections:

  1. The topic you have chosen;
  2. Your working (tentative) thesis statement (what you hope to be able to prove);
  3. A summary of at least one major argument that you will develop in your paper, a potential counterargument, and your rebuttal of the counterargument (see examples); and
  4. At least three original research questions.

A topic is simply the general issue (subject) that you are thinking about conducting your research on. Topics can start be fairly broad at the start of the research process and start to narrow as you begin your actual research. While fairy tales provide the overall umbrella topic for our course, the research paper itself does not have to be about fairy tales or folklore. Review “Research Paper Topics and Instructions.” You need to choose a topic that will allow you to make an argument about something. That will provide your thesis and what you will defend in your paper. A research paper needs to do more than simply relate information; it has to advance an assertion and defend it.

Remember that a thesis statement is

  1. an assertion, not a question; 
  2. one sentence long
  3. argumentative (debatable)—it argues a position; this means that you are asserting an idea that reasonable people can either agree or disagree with (it is not simply a statement of fact or a “factoid”);
  4. concrete and specific—it will lead to a discussion of actions and possible solutions (what you want your readers to do); it should at least suggest what form your proposed solution would take (suggesting changes in laws or regulations, for example). See UMC, Part Four: Writing Logical and Effective Argument Papers: "Basic Paper Guidelines," pp. 77-85.

Your thesis should do more than express “wishful thinking” about what individuals, businesses, industries, professions, or segments of the government “should” do. Look at what consumer advocates, for example, advocate in the way of specific solutions. 

An argument is something debatable that you offer evidence in support of. A counterargument presents an opposing claim to the one that you assert. You must be able to offer a rebuttal to a counterargument in order to bolster your claims.

Here are some examples on the topic of euthanasia (which is not a topic that we will address in this class):

Sample argument for voluntary euthanasia (allowing a person to choose to end his or her own life in some circumstances, such as suffering a debilitating and incurable fatal disease):

People should not be forced to go through terrible suffering when they develop illnesses that are both extremely painful, incurable, and which will result in death no matter what the treatment. <-- With this, the writer is making an argument in favor of something.

Sample counterargument:

“Where there is life there is hope”; a cure may be found in the future for conditions that now seem hopeless.<-- With this, the writer is imagining what someone else might say to argue against the preceding argument.

Sample rebuttal to the imagined counterargument:

Even if researchers suddenly discovered a possible cure, there must be years of experimentation on animal subjects and then “blind” studies on human subjects before these potential cures can legally be made available to the general public. A person who is given an estimate of six months or less to live with an untreatable brain tumor, for example, knows that a cure literally cannot be made available in time even if there is a scientific breakthrough. <-- With this, the writer goes another step further and offers a rebuttal to what the imagined opponent argued.

A research question responds to the inquiry, “What do I want to know about my topic?” It is an organizing element for the topic under study. For example, if the topic is mental illness and homelessness (not a topic that we will be addressing), the first research question might be, “How many homeless people are suffering from a mental illness?” Other questions could include the following: “How many homeless people who are mentally ill are dangerous to themselves or others?” and “What are the laws regarding treating mentally ill people who may not wish to receive drug therapy?”

You don’t have to answer your research question in this assignment; that is what you will be able to do with your later research. Empire State College has a useful webpage on “Developing a Research Question.”I will use the following checklist to evaluate the assignment:

I will use the following checklist to evaluate the assignment:




On time?



In MLA format?



Adequate development?






Thesis is one sentence?



Thesis is an assertion, not a question?

Thesis is debatable?

Thesis is specific enough to set up a discussion of actions and possible solutions?

At least one major argument?



Potential counterargument?



Rebuttal to counterargument?



Three research questions?



Thorough and thoughtful response?




As you think about topics that you would like to research and write about, keep in mind that your paper must offer evidence to support a debatable thesis. 

Here is a great resource for research--this is especially valuable for people who cannot attend the library research workshops: Online Advancement of Student Information Skills (OASIS)

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