Introduction to Research & Communication
Introduction to Research & Communication gives students the option to focus on some of the more technical aspects of writing before moving on to literature-heavy courses. We will experiment with many different essay structures throughout the year, and students will be given the opportunity to select the topics of their larger projects, giving this course cross-curricular appeal. This challenging course is comparable to an undergraduate-level composition course in scope and structure, with students completing weekly writing assignments, engaging with complex nonfiction texts, and embarking upon sophisticated research techniques. We will take the time to examine our own writing processes and will work through common hurdles such as perfectionism, writer’s block, and writing in a variety of different scenarios (e.g., informal journaling, timed writing, collaborative writing). Students will also experiment with different styles of presentations, from informal speeches to highly technical poster presentations. These skills will be immediately applicable in future English classes and will aid students in the research and writing portions of their STEM classes.
Unit 1: The Descriptive Essay
The first unit in this course focuses on the elements of the descriptive essay. At the beginning of the unit, students will be introduced to the components of the rhetorical situation, which they will use not only to analyze model texts, but also to inform their own writing. They will also spend some time investigating their own writing processes and integrating advice from well-known writing manuals. Throughout the unit, students will read, analyze, and deliver short presentations on model texts that utilize descriptive elements. As a class, students will discuss these model texts and emulate the techniques that they deem to be most important. The major assignment for the unit will be a large-scale descriptive essay, which will be broken down into manageable benchmarks. Students will be supported through the writing process via class discussions, peer workshops, and extensive feedback from the instructor. Special attention will be paid to word choice, syntax, and voice, as these elements will be integrated into all future units of study. The unit will culminate with student presentations on their descriptive essay.
Unit 2: The Expository Essay
The second unit introduces students to academic research techniques via the expository essay. Students will select a topic that they are passionate about and will spend the majority of the eight week unit conducting research and developing an effective expository essay. As with the descriptive essay, the writing process will be broken down into manageable benchmarks, with students receiving support via scaffolded assignments, peer workshops, and teacher feedback. Students will learn sophisticated online research techniques that go beyond Google searches and will learn to employ research management software to aid in their organization. They will produce an annotated bibliography and will spend time collaboratively analyzing their sources, focusing on validity and bias. Since students might select complicated or technical topics for their essay, time will be devoted to simplifying explanations, understanding the needs of the reader, and organizing information in the most effective way possible. Students will employ both outlines and reverse outlines as the prepare their essays, and all of their work will undergo extensive peer review. As with the first unit, students will present on model texts and will emulate the writing techniques that are the most appealing to them. The unit will end with a formal expository speech.
Unit 3: The Compare & Contrast Essay
The first unit of the spring semester builds upon the skills gained during the previous unit. Students will be invited to use the same topic they employed for the expository essay, this time comparing it and contrasting it to a related topic. Students will continue to work on their research skills, sophisticating their ability to evaluate sources and draw useful evidence. Since students will be comparing and contrasting ideas, special attention will be given to transitional words and phrases. Students will be encouraged to experiment with word choices to create variety and avoid listing. As with the Expository Essay, students will need to focus on organization, this time creating organizational patterns that highlight the similarities and differences between their two chosen topics. Students will also learn how to create effective diagrams and infographics, as these items are often used in academic publications. As with the previous units, students will present on model texts and will emulate the writing techniques that are the most appealing to them. The unit will end with a poster session, where the students will have to present their findings in a concise way, utilizing graphics and effectively visual organization.
Unit 4: Journalism and Creative Nonfiction
The final unit of the semester lets students explore the fascinating and varied worlds of journalism and Creative Nonfiction. Students will take all of the skills they have been building all year and will combine them with an emphasis on voice and storytelling. Students will be exposed to qualitative research techniques, including interviews and surveys. They will learn how to ask good questions, how to listen for key information, and how to use quotes effectively and in context. They will also study the ethics or journalism and will continue to learn how to spot bias in the media. They will take on the role of journalists in this unit and will work on creating writer bios, compelling headlines, and informative blurbs. Students will also experiment with writing for audiences on the Internet, and they will spend some time analyzing Internet parlance and adapting their writing for a variety of online media. As with the previous units, students will present on model texts and will emulate the writing techniques that are the most appealing to them. The unit will end with a picture heavy presentation of their Creative Nonfiction piece. This presentation will serve as their final for the spring semester.