Forming/Thinking/Writing: The Composing Imagination (first edition) (click for access)

GSU Guide to First-year Writing, 6th edition (click for bookstore)


At least one paper notebook (law or steno recommended), pen or pencil

Access to computer for word processing and website construction

GSU email (check every day)

***”Any student who has difficulty affording groceries or accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or who lacks a safe and stable place to live, and believes this may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact the Dean of Students for support. There may be many resources available to you through GSU that you don’t know about. Furthermore, please notify your instructor if you are comfortable doing so. This will enable her to provide any resources that she may possess or help facilitate connections to resources.”
Course Catalogue Description

Prerequisite: grade of C or higher in English 1101. This course is designed to develop writing skills beyond the levels of proficiency required by English 1101. It stresses critical reading and writing and incorporates several research methods; readings will be drawn from a wide variety of texts. A passing grade is C.

Learning Outcomes

In addition to practicing the skills acquired in English 1101, by the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. analyze, evaluate, document, and draw inferences from various sources
  2. identify, select, and analyze appropriate research methods, research questions, and evidence for a specific rhetorical situation
  3. practice argumentative strategies and genres in order to engage various audiences
  4. integrate others’ ideas with their own
  5. use grammatical, stylistic, and mechanical formats and conventions appropriate to rhetorical situations and audience constraints
  6. produce well-reasoned, argumentative writing demonstrating rhetorical engagement
  7. reflect on what contributed to their writing process and evaluate their own work


Five projects offer opportunity for practice and guidance. All five must be completed to minimum expectations in order to pass the class:

  1. The Notebook
  2. The Definition Essay
  3. The Digital Notebook
  4. The AMQ Research Project
  5. The Final Assessment



Your grade for each individual project will be determined in conference dialogue with me. If you come to all classes, engage in discussion, and complete projects to minimum standards, you will get at least a “B” in the course, no matter what. Together—guided by the standards documented below, in individual project descriptions, and in class conversations—we will discuss what specific grade most appropriately reflects the quality and quantity of the work you bring to the conference. If we have any trouble coming to consensus as to what the grade should be, a third party (composition instructor or administrator) will be invited by me as a neutral arbiter.

Final grades will be determined by me alone, after careful consideration of the individual project grades, attendance and participation, and your final assessment of your own coursework. Probably naturally, if you’ve kept up with coursework, this reflection will put into practice writing as a means of making meaning as you consider your experience of the course as a whole and assign your work a final grade. The best reflections will identify specific passages of writing, reading, or other meaning-making practice that happened throughout the semester, and think about these passages/moments in detail, in support of the final grade you assign yourself.

To get a grade higher than “B,” your work must account for greater-than-minimum engagement with the meanings in the world (B+), and demonstrate an awareness of how you make meanings through writing and how you might do so differently, more effectively (A-/A).

Project rubrics:

The Notebook:


  • 25 substantial entries
  • entries demonstrate an interaction with the ideas discussed in class and offered in the readings.

More than minimum:

  • At least 10 more entries
  • entries apply interaction with ideas discussed in class and offered in the readings to experiences outside of this class (home, work, other courses, other readings).


The Definition Essay:


  • 4-5 pages of organized writing that clearly and sensibly thinks through an extended definition of a term or phrase.

More than minimum:

  • 4-5 pages of organized writing that clearly and sensibly thinks through an extended definition of a term or phrase
  • The writing is iterated with clarity and cogency (or working towards it).
  • A portfolio of work (scraps of paper, sketches, drafts of paragraphs, sentences, recorded conversations, notebook entries, paper drafts, etc.) that documents the thinking leading to the paper.
  • This paper, and/or the accompanying portfolio material, also documents an evolution in your understanding of a definition, or challenges implicitly accepted understandings of a definition, in interesting and compelling ways.


The Digital Notebook:


  • established website (made intentionally public or private)
  • a blog that includes 6 entries and  an “About Me” page
  • the ideas unfolding in the blog posts interact with the meanings experienced at, and concerning, the AMQ (AIDS Memorial Quilt).

More than Minimum:

  • employs a greater use of the blog (more blog entries)
  • and demonstrates the blog as a meaning-making space through the use of themes, metadata, organizational structures, multimedia, and other affordances of the blog space
  • a physitech notebook that considers specific moments in your experience working with the blog as a meaning-making space.


Digital/Notebook: The AIDS Memorial Quilt Research Project


  • (Digital) Substantial web page or group of posts/pages (minimum 750-1000 words; MLA or APA formatted)  
  • the writing offers an interesting, cohesive interpretation of your researched experience of one of the quilt blocks or panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt (AMQ).
  • (Physical) 5+ page paper (MLA or APA formatted) offering an interesting, cohesive interpretation of your researched experience of one of the quilt blocks or panels of the AMQ.

More than Minimum:

  • either digital or physical project as per above (minimum)
  • and a portfolio of work (scraps of paper, sketches, drafts of paragraphs, sentences, recorded conversations, notebook entries, paper drafts, etc.) documenting the thinking that contributes to that work
  • the portfolio of work might also document an evolution in your understanding of certain meanings, or challenge generally accepted understandings in interesting and compelling ways
  • if digital, this work demonstrates a consciously crafted use of the blog (and/or more, substantial blog entries) through the use of themes, metadata, organizational structures, multimedia, and other affordances of the blog space.
  • if physical, the work demonstrates an awareness of the paper/word processed material space and the “academic paper” genre as a multimodal, meaning-making space.


Appraisal: A Final Reflection


  • A multi-paragraph essay (paper, blog, or email) composed in class that assigns a reasonable/reasoned grade to the student’s work for the semester.
  • The reasoning draws on the course syllabus and grading contract, as well as the students work during the semester.

More than Minimum:

  • A multi-paragraph essay (paper, blog, or email) composed in class that assigns a reasonable/reasoned grade to the student’s work for the semester.
  • Students draw on the specifics of their portfolio of work (scraps of paper, sketches, drafts of paragraphs, sentences, recorded conversations, notebook entries, paper drafts, web posts/pages, etc.) to support the grade they offer as an accurate reflection of their engagement this semester.
  • The response is well organized and particularly insightful, communicating an understanding of meaning-making via writing that happens everywhere, always, not just in this class.

For English Majors

The English department at GSU requires an exit portfolio of all students graduating with a degree in English. Ideally, students should work on this every semester, selecting 1-2 papers from each course and revising them, with direction from faculty members. The portfolio includes revised work and a reflective essay about what you’ve learned. Each concentration (literature, creative writing, rhetoric/composition, and secondary education) within the major may have specific items to place in the portfolio, so be sure to check booklet located next to door of the front office of the English Department. Senior Portfolio due dates are published in the booklets or you may contact an advisor or Dr. Dobranski, Director of Undergraduate Studies. See the English office for additional information.

Accommodations for Students With Disabilities

Georgia State University complies with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought. According to the ADA (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=110_cong_bills&docid=f:s3406enr.txt.pdf): ‘‘SEC. 3. DEFINITION OF DISABILITY. ‘‘As used in this Act: ‘‘(1) DISABILITY.—The term ‘disability’ means, with respect to an individual— ‘‘(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual…major life activities include, but are not limited to, caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working. ‘‘(B) MAJOR BODILY FUNCTIONS.—For purposes of paragraph (1), a major life activity also includes the operation of a major bodily function, including but not limited to, functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.


Attendance is mandatory. Absences will result in lower grades on projects, and thus lower overall grades, exceptions granted for documented and discussed required absences. In this course, students are expected to adhere to the Georgia State University student code of conduct. This includes the university attendance policy. Excused absences are limited to university-sponsored events where you are representing GSU in an official capacity, religious holidays, and legal obligations such as jury duty or military service days. Students are allowed 4 absences during the semester no questions asked, no penalty. In the event of extended (over 4) illness or family emergency, I will consider requests for individual exemption from the general attendance policy on a case by case basis.

Academic Honesty/Plagiarism

The Department of English expects all students to adhere to the university’s Code of Student Conduct, especially as it pertains to plagiarism, cheating, multiple submissions, and academic honesty. Please refer to the Policy on Academic Honesty (Section 409 of the Faculty Handbook). Penalty for violation of this policy will result in a zero for the assignment, possible failure of the course, and, in some cases, suspension or expulsion. Georgia State University defines plagiarism as . . . “ . . . any paraphrasing or summarizing of the works of another person without acknowledgment, including the submitting of another student’s work as one’s own . . . [It] frequently involves a failure to acknowledge in the text . . . the quotation of paragraphs, sentences, or even phrases written by someone else.” At GSU, “the student is responsible for understanding the legitimate use of sources . . . and the consequences of violating this responsibility.” (For the university’s policies, see in the student catalog, “Academic Honesty,”http://www2.gsu.edu/~catalogs/2010-2011/undergraduate/1300/1380_academic_honesty.htm)

Language Conventions

This course presumes that you have a basic knowledge of Standard American English, including but not limited to variations in sentence structure, subject-verb agreement, pronoun-antecedent agreement, parallel structure, dangling modifiers, grammatical expletives, possessives and plurals, punctuation, capitalization, word choice, and various other grammatical and mechanical problems. If you are someone for whom the knowledge and practice of standard American English are a struggle, this course gives you time to improve. You have resources available at GSU to help you improve your knowledge. In the Writing Studio (http://www.writingstudio.gsu.edu/) you can work one-on-one, in private, with a tutor to improve. Writing Studio tutors can also help you to help you refine already strong competence, moving from good to excellent. The Purdue OWL (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/) has resources to assist you with identifying and correcting common grammar, punctuation, and usage errors, and to help you with formatting citations and bibliographies.

Receiving a Grade of Incomplete

In order to receive an incomplete, a student must inform the instructor, either in person or in writing, of his/her inability (non-academic reasons) to complete the requirements of the course. Incompletes will be assigned at the instructor’s discretion and the terms for removal of the “I” are dictated by the instructor. A grade of incomplete will only be considered for students who are a) passing the course with a C or better, b) present a legitimate, non-academic reason to the instructor, and c) have only one major assignment left to finish. Note: Only under the most immediate and severe circumstances will I consider giving an Incomplete for this course. If such circumstances occur I will need a detailed, specific plan for when, how, where, and with whom the student will complete the work.

Student Evaluation of Instructor

Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing the course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.