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COURSE NAME: "Advanced Composition"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2023

INSTRUCTOR: Aidan Fadden
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 3:00 PM 4:15 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Placement via JCU English Composition Placement Exam or completion of either EN 103 or EN 105 with a grade of C or above
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This course prepares students to read, think, and write critically. Students will develop their ability to read critically and analyze primary and secondary sources, hone their composition skills through in and out of class essays, and will complete the course by writing and revising a fully-documented and well-reasoned research paper, complemented by an annotated bibliography and literature review. EN110 focuses on the argumentative form, encouraging students to position their work within current critical discourses. The course develops the following skills: source selection and interrogation, identification and contextualization of themes, thesis development and defense, digital literacies, use of library resources, and careful citation in MLA style. Students must receive a grade of C or above in this course to fulfill the University’s English Composition requirement and to be eligible to take courses in English literature.

Elements covered include thesis development, critical reading, organizing and outlining, paraphrasing and summarizing, and citation and documentation standards. Techniques of academic research and the use of the library and other research facilities are discussed and students must demonstrate these abilities when writing essays and the research paper. In addition to regular in- and out-of-class reading and writing assignments, students are required to write a fully documented research paper of at least 2000 words.

Students must receive a grade of C or above in this course to fulfill the University’s English Composition requirement and be eligible to take courses in English literature.


Students will be able to write well-organized argumentative essays and to do basic academic research.

 Although it is difficult to provide a checklist for ‘good writing’, EN 110 students will work on four main aspects of their writing:

 1. The evaluation of content includes the clarity and interest of the central idea (thesis), the strength and appropriateness of the support, and the depth of the student’s insight into the topic. Students should seek to back-up their arguments with appropriate, interesting and thought-provoking material.

 2. The focus on organization is the construction of the paper in terms of paragraphs. This includes paragraph unity and development, logical progression of ideas, and the effectiveness of the introduction and conclusion. Students should seek to achieve fluidity and readability in their writing.

 3. The style is communicted through tone and word choice, as well as varied sentence structures and vocabulary to maintain interest. Clarity of diction and syntax is essential. The tone should be consistent and appropriate.

 4. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and correct application of appropriate conventions are all fundamental in order to guarantee readability.


3-4 graded 'at-home' essays; 1 or 2 graded in-class writing tasksAt-home essays will be standard length essays of between 5 and 7 paragraphs. The Literature Review will be one of these essays and will carry equal weight with the other essays. Graded in-class writing tasks will be shorter because of time restrictions but will carry equal weight.50
An academic research paper A researched and fully-documented paper of around 2000 words, including the following: 1. a proposal; 2. an annotated working bibliography; 3. a first draft; 4. A final draft submitted electronically and printed. All these stages in the production of the paper must be completed.30
homework and class participationStudents will be graded on their overall effort and participation during the course. This will include being present in class to discuss assigned readings or to present findings to the class. This will include general understanding of key issues from readings and at home assignments.10
Final ExamDetails of this will be announced nearer the exam date.10

AOutstanding Grade A/A-: This is outstanding writing which reflects a perceptive and thoughtful response to the assignment. It is well organized with excellent development of ideas and reflects the writer's command of appropriate rhetorical strategies. When sources are used, they are correctly cited and smoothly integrated into the text. The prose is vigorous and fresh, and the writer is clearly in control of the standard conventions of English prose. There are no errors in the mechanics of writing.
BVery Good Grade B/B-: This is very good writing that fulfills the assignment and shows evidence of clear, mature thought and good planning. It is well organized with good supporting details. The student has introduced elements of novelty and has clearly done some valid research and indicated sources. The writing is fluent, and there are only minor, sporadic errors in the mechanics of writing which do not detract from the overall essay.
CSatisfactory Grade C/C-: This is satisfactory writing that fulfills the assignment and is adequately developed. It reflects the source materials and class discussion At C level, the writing is clear and coherent with relatively few errors in usage and mechanics, but the writer fails to demonstrate any particular strength that would mark this writing above average. At C- level, mechanics and usage are frequently not under control, and/or the student has not really engaged with the topic.
DBelow Average Grade D/D-: This is below-average writing which fulfills the assignment but exhibits major problems in writing. There may be difficulty with the presentation of ideas (e.g., lack or total absence of a clear thesis, weak organization, poor development of ideas, or incoherence), or it may reflect poor control of the conventions of standard English prose (e.g., poor use of idiom, inappropriate diction, poor spelling) or be marred by enough errors in the mechanics of writing to seriously distract the reader.
FUnsatisfactory Grade F: This is writing that relates to the topic but fails to fulfill the assignment either because of poor organization and lack of clarity or because the writing reflects a lack of control over the basic conventions of standard English usage. There may be frequent sentence boundary problems, poor use of idiom, inappropriate diction (words used incorrectly), agreement errors, or basic verb tense problems.


Because the course is based on a series of workshops and in-class activities, attendance and class contribution are essential. Three or more absences may result in a student failing the course. Late arrivals are disruptive and show a lack of respect for the instructor and for other students; therefore, two late entrances count as one absence

All students must turn in essays and homework punctually. When a student is absent, he or she is responsible for finding out what was covered during the lesson and what homework was given. Papers or homework due on the day of absence should be turned in both electronically and (if possibile) in hard copy via another student. Late papers will be marked down by half a grade  (from A to A-, for example) for every day late. After one week,an assignment wiill no longer be accepted. Assignments are considered on time only if submitted at (or before) the beginning of class on the due date. Scheduled in-class essays may not be made up unless arrangements are made with the professor before the day of absence in the event of a student having a valid reason. Students may also be required to submit via ‘Turnitin’.

Computers, cell phones, and all electronic devices must be turned off and put away during class. Eating during class is not permitted.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


n.b the schedule is subject to change

At least two library visits will also be scheduled during the course

In-class essays may be scheduled as and when deemed necessary and 2 - 4 appointments with The Writing Center are recommended. 


Lesson 1

Introduction to the course and requirements; goals and expectations

Prepare for quiz on syllabus. Read the online syllabus carefully.


Reading task for homework


Lesson 2

Introduction to argument; focus on grammar/revision element of the course. 

An introduction to arguments and argumentative writing.

Writing and research task – a basic argumentative topic to get started

Reading assignment



Lesson 3

Does truth exist? Sophism and winning arguments.

Truth-seeking and persuasion;

Topic: Contemporary Controversial Issues - generating opinions and looking for facts


Lesson 4

Looking at sources and debating to find different views

An introduction to definitional approaches to argument ( a first sub-type of classical argument)

Lesson 5

Reading and inquiry

How to explore issues and generate ideas

Ethos, pathos, logos, Kairos

Writing task


 Lesson 6


A continuing discussion of a contemporary discussion: e.g. immigration, travellers and Roma people, prejudice and discrimination

Using sources and looking more closely at bias in sources, especially news media and popular sources.

Reading and/or Video assignment


Lesson 7

Moving your audience; Dialectic thinking and 'doubting and believing' strategies for opening up an issue

An exploratory essay as a way of examining the issue

Reading assignment



Lesson 8

Issue questions and classic argument structure

Genuine and pseudo arguments

Reading assignment: sexual/gender ethics


Lesson 9

Considering your audience

Moving your audience

How to look at both sides of the issue as strategies for rebutting and conceding


Lesson 10

Preaching to the converted v. Persuading a neutral audience 

Human rights issue such as the treatment of travellers and outsiders

Challenging your own ingrained opinions and 'the comfort zone'


Lesson 11

Introduction to the research paper (RP). What is it? 

Finding something to write about

Generating ideas and maintaining interest.

Presenting a first research idea and a proposal


Lesson 12

Thinking about formulating a research question

Finding sources that will help you understand the issue and back up your ideas

Why academic sources are important as well as popular sources.

Keeping a working bibliography - a curated list of source material

The Modern Languages Association (MLA) - the importance of using standard layout and presentation for papers with citations

How to cite and why it is important; using the MLA website; some citation exercises; the high importance of avoiding plagiarism


Lesson 13

Structure of a research paper.

Model papers and examples - 'dos and don'ts'

Starting to work on a first draft.

Research topic. Presenting ideas and discussion of viability.

Narrowing the focus on the topic.


Lesson 14

Finding sources and presenting them. The Annotated Working Bibliography as an important step in the production of your RP

Video and explanation

Model examples

Practice of writing annotations with summary, evaluation, and reflection.


Lesson 15

Feedback on working bibliographies

MLA citation exercises part two: paraphrasing, summarizing, and integrating direct quotes (revision and further work)

Research for paper

Introduction to the Literature Review (LR) as a kind of essay that is another step on the way to producing the RP


 Lesson 16

Writing for very resistant audiences

Finding common ground and compromise - Rogerian approaches

Rhetorical analysis: assessing effectiveness of an essay that attempts to do this

Continuing work on the LR. Models, videos, and discussion.


Lesson 17

Overview of different types of claims: definitional, causal, evaluation, ethical etc.

Applying different types of claims to your RP topic

Stop and check on progress of the RP


Lesson 18

Workshop on in text citation conventions and  works cited page in MLA format

Stop and check on LR

Lesson 19

Definitional arguments; class discussion on another contemporary concern that affects us directly

The environment - consumer choices and 'wicked' problems

Resemblance Arguments - using history and precedent to persuade


Lesson 20

Causal arguments - why things happen and hypothesising about possible outcomes of proposals

Writing Arguments/Other materials


Lesson 21

tba - deciding on a deadline for the first draft of the RP 


Stop and check on RP - in class workshop


Lesson 22

Workshopping research paper

 Checking layout, MLA style, use of citations


Lesson 23

Evaluation and ethical arguments; last minute questions/difficulties with research paper/ revision in class; student errors of citation format and corrections together


Lesson 24

Proposal arguments 

Does my paper have to propose a solution?

Lesson 25

Discussion of feedback on RP first draft 

Revision objectives

Troubleshooting of errors 


Lesson 26

In class workshop on RP

Lesson 27

Preparation for final exam

Lesson 28

Course evaluation; general revision for final exam