English 15: Rhetoric and Composition
MWF 11:15-12:05 // 105 Wagner Building

Laura Michael Brown
Room 107, 224 S. Allen St.
Office Hours: M 2:30-4:00, R 2:30-4:00

Course Policies

Required Texts
Everything’s an Argument, 6th edition; Andrea A. Lunsford, John J. Ruszkiewicz
Penn Statements, Volume 33, Spring 2014

To pass this course you must complete all five major assignments, fulfill all journal assignments, and submit these writing assignments on time. You are expected to attend all class meetings and to participate in draft workshops, in-class exercises, and classroom discussions.

General Classroom Policies
Please come to class with your textbook in hand, having completed all assigned readings and any other homework. If I have assigned additional reading outside of our textbooks, please bring a copy of it with you to class (paper or electronic copy). You may use a laptop or tablet to read, take notes, or write during class, but please use this technology responsibly. That said, there may be periods in class when I ask you to put laptops away. Silence your phones and put them away. I reserve the right to do either of the following if I see you texting during class: count you absent or text on my phone instead of paying attention to you.

Your success and the success of this course depend on your active participation; therefore, your regular attendance is required. Excused absences are certainly appropriate, and of course you should communicate with me about your absences as much as possible. If you know you will be absent from class, please tell me ahead of time. Be aware, though, that University policy (Policies and Rules, 42-27) states that a student whose absences are excessive “may run the risk of receiving a lower grade or a failing grade,” regardless of his or her performance in the class. You run that risk if you exceed three unexcused absences. Excessive absences (7 missed classes) will result in an automatic failure of the course.

If you miss a class, it is your responsibility to get the assignments, class notes, and announcements from a classmate. I will not go over in-class material with someone who misses class—this includes in email correspondence. If you must miss class on a day when written work is due, make arrangements with me to submit that work or send it along with a classmate. If you are absent on a peer-review day, you must take your paper to Penn State Learning and review it with a tutor before I will accept a final draft. In-class work cannot be made up.

Plagiarism is the intentional act of using another person’s words or ideas as your own without attribution. It is a breach of academic integrity.  The departmental policy on plagiarism is available online at <>. If you have any questions about plagiarism and its consequences (or about any other aspect of academic integrity), please ask. Because plagiarism demonstrates contempt for ethical standards, your instructor, and your peers, if you are caught plagiarizing, you risk failing the course. You may also be referred to the Office of Judicial Affairs, and this may result in probation, suspension, or expulsion.

Statement on Nondiscrimination
The Pennsylvania State University is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to programs, facilities, admission and employment without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. It is the policy of the University to maintain an academic and work environment free of discrimination, including harassment. The Pennsylvania State University prohibits discrimination and harassment against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status. Discrimination or harassment against faculty, staff, or students will not be tolerated at The Pennsylvania State University.

Note: The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation in this course or have questions about physical access, please tell the instructor as soon as possible.

Classroom Etiquette
During this course we will discuss a wide range of topics, some of which may be sensitive or even alienating for you; I urge you to keep in mind that we all have different personal experiences, diverse beliefs, and opinions about such topics. We will learn a great deal through discussing various views and perspectives if we make a commitment to listening to each other and to honoring each other’s backgrounds, values, and feelings. We will treat one another with respect and dignity at all times.

Graded Work

Assignments and Grade Breakdown
Participation: 15%
Journals/Reading Responses: 10% / 10 responses, see schedule
Rhetorical Analysis: 15% / due September 19
Archival Analysis: 15% / due October 13
Annotated Bibliography: 10% / due November 3
Archival Proposal: 20% / due November 17
Literacy Narrative Audio Essay: 15% / due December 12


Excellent Exceptional Achievement A 4.0
A- 3.67
B+ 3.33
Good Extensive Achievement B 3.0
B- 2.67
C+ 2.33
Satisfactory Acceptable achievement C 2
Poor Minimal Achievement D 1
Failure Inadequate Achievement F 0

About Getting an A
You can earn a grade of B on the basis of behaviors (please see the Program in Writing and Rhetoric grading standards); but you can’t earn a higher grade except on the basis of quality of writing and thinking. For an A, you need to exhibit excellent writing in your essays. We will spend time throughout the course trying to define excellence. But since this is the syllabus and we have yet to embark on that journey, here are some of the most basic components of what I consider to be excellent, interesting, and dynamic writing:

  • Effort. Your papers need to show solid effort. This doesn’t mean that you have to suffer; it’s fine to have fun and experiment with an assignment. It just means that I need to see solid work.
  • Complexity. For every paper, you need to find some genuine question and follow it. That is, don’t just tell four obvious reasons why dishonesty is bad or why democracy is good. Root your paper in a felt question—problems that you must know the answer to—that doesn’t necessarily have an easy answer. (By the way, this is a skill crucial for success in college: finding a question that interests you even in a boring assignment.)
  • Thinking. Having found a complex issue, use your paper to do some figuring out. Turn some intellectual gears. Thus your paper needs to go somewhere by extending a line of thinking to its limits and saying something new.
  • Revision. Your revisions need to reshape, extend, complicate or substantially clarify your ideas. Make more than just corrections or quick fixes. Revisions don’t have to be better but they must be different—not just touched up but also changed in some genuine way.

Excellent writing begins when you take chances, make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes.

I will calculate your participation grade based on the following: 1) the nature and amount of your contributions to in-class discussions, 2) the completion of in-class writing assignments and activities, 3) the thorough completion of peer reviews and participation in draft workshops, and 4) the completion of any additional homework assignments.

The Writing Process
You will write brief proposal memos for your major assignments (specific questions will be posted on my course website). We will work with these proposals in class to help you focus your thoughts and narrow down a topic; in most cases, I will collect and respond to these proposals as well. They should be typed and printed.

Rough drafts will be due in class on the day of our peer review workshops. Your drafts need to meet at least the minimum page requirement and should represent your complete argument from start to finish. I shouldn’t see any notes like “my conclusion will go here when I write it” in these drafts.

Please keep all proposal and peer review materials, as you will turn those in when I collect hard copies of your final drafts in class on the final due date. I also ask that you upload an electronic copy to the appropriate drop box on ANGEL.

Due Dates
All proposals, drafts, papers, and revisions must be handed in on time; failure to turn in a proposal on time or appearing at a draft workshop without a draft will affect your final grade on the project. I will not accept your work unless all prior work has been completed for that assignment (meaning that I will not accept a draft without a proposal or a final without a peer-reviewed draft). If you fail to submit a proposal or rough draft on time, your final grade for that assignment will be marked down a half letter grade.

Late submissions of final drafts will also be marked down a half letter grade for each day they are late. After five days, the highest grade any late submission will receive is a C. After seven days, you will automatically receive an F for any missing assignment.

I will not accept late journal/reading responses. Those assignments are designed to prepare you for class activities, therefore they must be completed ahead of time.

I will not make any exceptions to these policies without prior approval.If you are dealing with a situation that will affect your ability to turn in your work on time, please let me know as soon as possible. I will make exceptions and grant extensions when the situation necessitates that kind of action, but you must make these arrangements with me in advance.

Choosing a format is a rhetorical decision. So keep in mind that your work should typically be typed in a recognizable 12-pt font, printed in dark ink, and double-spaced, with one-inch margins. Place your name, my name, the course, and the date in the upper left corner of the first page. Don’t forget to title your work. Number all of the pages, except page 1. Fasten the pages with a paper clip or a staple. Place the paper in a folder, and also include proposal memos, earlier drafts, and peer review materials in the folder. I will provide additional instructions for turning in your audio project.

Graded Essays
When I return graded essays to you, I ask that you wait 24 hours to contact me about the essay. Please use those 24 hours to look through your essay and read my comments carefully. Once you’ve done that and 24 hours have passed, I will be happy to meet with you to offer further comments or answer questions. Please keep all graded essays until the end of the semester.

Intellectual Property
A student shall retain all rights to work created as part of instruction.

Penn Statements Submissions
The editors of Penn Statements encourage students to submit essays for possible publication each spring. Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis and can be sent electronically to Please include the title of the essay, the assignment it satisfied (very important!) and a release statement, along these lines:  “I, <name>, give permission to Penn Statements to publish my essay, “<essay>.”

Where to Go for Help

Please email me with questions, but send emails directly to me at Do not email me through ANGEL. I will do my best to respond to emails within 24 hours. If you have a piece of writing that you would like to work on, please schedule an office conference with me. I will not read and respond to drafts over email.

Office Conferences
Meeting with me for a conference can be a valuable extension of our time in class. I am happy to speak with you at any point during the writing process to help you better understand the assignment, brainstorm ideas, outline an argument, or review pieces of a draft. Please prepare ahead of time for these meetings, and keep in mind that it is not my job to proofread or edit entire essays. Come with a set of questions or ideas that you are ready to discuss, an outline that you would like to review, or segments of a draft that you would like to work on.

My Office
Because of renovations to the English Department’s usual building, my office is located downtown at 224 S. Allen St. To find the building, walk down the right side of Allen Street with campus at your back. Cross Beaver Ave. and continue down Allen St. You will pass an alley and the First National Bank drive-up ATM. 224 S. Allen St. is the brick building directly next to the bank’s driveway. If you get to The Sign Factory or Cozy Thai, you have gone too far. Walk in the front door and up the small flight of stairs. Walk through the first room of desks and through the large room of cubicles, toward the hallway at the back of the building. Room 107 will be on your right, immediately after the bathrooms. If you find yourself in a small kitchen, you’re in the right place! My desk is at the back of the room.

Penn State Learning
Do consider taking your ideas and any written work to Penn State Learning for writing support (220 Boucke, 863-3240), where trained peer tutors will consult with writers about any piece of writing at any stage of the writing process, from rough idea to final draft. For more information about the writing center, visit