Writing, Thinking, Analysis, Interpretation

Course description:

This course is part of an intensive and mandatory introductory seminar for first-year students. The methodological framework of the seminar is broad. It is aimed at introducing you to writing various types of texts you will need to write during your undergraduate studies as well as teaching you how to engage through analysis and interpretation texts written by others. Throughout the course, you will learn both the principles of traditional rhetoric, the structure of academic argument, and new writing models designed to develop one’s creativity. The goal is to help you acquire and begin to develop the writing and thinking skills essential in both professional and everyday life. We will do this using extensive in-class written assignments as a way of “fixing” and developing our thinking on particular topics.

Classes will take the form of both independent work, work in small groups (2-4 people) under the instructor’s guidance, and classroom discussion (seminars), lectures, workshops introducing you to the skills of academic production, and inter-seminar debates intended to hone and develop your argumentative and critical thinking skills in a fun, safe environment. Each lesson offers a wide range of written assignments that will be performed in the classroom. This means that your active participation is essential to the course. In addition, you will receive and we will discuss information on: how to prepare writing an essay, the basics of argumentation, and working with sources, as well as one-day workshops on creating PowerPoint presentations (what is essential information to include, what is less relevant), how to conduct online research and use citation tools, and making a successful oral presentation. In the classroom, oral and written work are based on texts selected from the course reader by the instructor. These texts belong to different genres and types (philosophical essays, scientific articles, prose, poetry, criticism, images, etc.). You must come to class having carefully read the text listed for that day. Most of the texts are devoted to the central theme of this year’s first-year seminar: Freedom. Classes are held twice daily, Monday-Friday.

The aim of this course:

To teach and develop academic writing, thinking, and interpretation skills necessary for successful university studies.

Course goals:

Student Character Development

  • Every student talks
  • Writing freely with less fear – “thinking on the page”
  • Articulate ideas
  • Respect for co-learners
  • Respect and mutual production rather than power motivating both students and teachers
  • Reading and discussion beginning competency
  • Beginning to learn to question assumptions
  • Understanding academic integrity

Student Technical Development

  • Note taking for reading and in class
  • Introduction to close reading
  • Analytical tools and habits
  • Beginning to identify theoretical positions in assumptions
  • Proper citation habits – quotations, summaries, and paraphrasing
  • Compose and write an argument
  • Essay form and structure
  • Oral and PowerPoint presentations

Professors and fellows teaching this course will be working with techniques from the
Johns Hopkins Expository Writing Program modulated by additional material particular to the need to develop our students’ basic academic skills.