Northeastern University Fall 2018

ENGW1111 First Year Writing (Honors)

Section 57

Tues/Fri 8:00-9:40 AM, Ryder Hall 243 

Instructor: Sarah Payne

Office: 401 Nightingale Hall

Office Hours: Tues/Fri 10:00-11:30 AM


Introduction: Decoding the Archive

During this course, we will focus primarily on technology and museums/archives as systems of knowledge production. In other words, technology such as search engines, computer code, and digital media inform how we see the world, as do museum displays, library archives, and public monuments. Yet most of us take these forms of knowledge production for granted, assuming that technology and archives neutrally display the facts. Throughout this semester, we will challenge that assumption and instead work on “decoding” the rhetorical choices that inform technology and archives. Rather than view technology and archives as unbiased, neutral, or apolitical, we will instead examine the rhetorical choices that inform both. Who makes the decisions in designing technology or museums? How do they come to those decisions? Who are they making the decisions for? And what effect do these decisions have on users or visitors?
We will read a range of texts during the course, including academic articles and personal essays, as well as view films, videos, and digital projects. Students will complete two rhetorical analysis papers in which they will analyze and construct an argument about a museum exhibit and a form of technology. Students will learn to “read” such physical and digital objects much like they read literary texts. The final project will combine archives and technology; students will create their own digital exhibits around a topic of their choice and analyze their own rhetorical choices in designing their exhibits.


 Course Materials

 There is no required textbook for the class. All readings and class materials will be posted on the class website, so it’s essential that you have access to the site. Using the website does not require previous WordPress experience. I will provide multiple trainings for using the site, particularly for the exhibit-building unit, and will also supply documentation and resources. I try to keep class as paperless as I can, so please bring a laptop or tablet to class if possible.


Learning Goals

1. Students write both to learn and to communicate what they learn.
2. Students negotiate their own writing goals and audience expectations regarding conventions of genre, medium, and situation.
3. Students formulate and articulate a stance through and in their writing.
4. Students revise their writing using responses from others, including peers, consultants, and teachers.
5. Students generate and pursue lines of inquiry and search, collect, and select sources appropriate to their writing projects.
6. Students effectively use and appropriately cite sources in their writing.
7. Students explore and represent their experiences, perspectives, and ideas in conversation with others.
8. Students use multiple forms of evidence to support their claims, ideas, and arguments.
9. Students practice critical reading strategies.
10. Students provide revision-based response to their peers.
11. Students reflect on their writing processes and self-assess as writers.



 Rhetorical Analysis #1 (15%)
For the first assignment, students will visit a museum exhibit or public monument/memorial of their choice in Boston. They will then analyze the object’s rhetorical techniques, focusing on what is/is not displayed, how it is displayed, for whom it is displayed, and the effects of these choices on the viewer. Students will construct an original argument and use supporting evidence.


Rhetorical Analysis #2 (20%)
The second assignment asks students to build on the skills they practiced in the first assignment. Students will choose a form of technology and analyze its rhetorical techniques, including whom the technology is designed for, by whom it was designed, and how the design affects the user. Students will construct an original argument, use supporting evidence, and also integrate secondary sources.


Digital Exhibit (30%)
For the final project, students will curate their own digital exhibits using materials from the Digital Public Library of America and Northeastern’s Digital Repository Service. Exhibits will construct a narrative or argument around the student’s chosen topic. Students will also submit a written component in which they discuss the rhetorical choices they made in their exhibits.


 Blog Posts (15%)
Blogs should be posted to the class website by class time (8 AM) every Tuesday unless otherwise noted. These will be informal responses of 400-500 words that address various questions intended to make you think both critically and creatively about topics discussed in class and our readings. There will be five posts due over the course of the term.


Peer Review (10%)
Because feedback is important to writers, and because reading and providing response to other writers can help us improve our own writing, failure to participate in a peer review session will result in a final peer review grade not higher than a “C” and two missed peer review sessions will result in an “F” for peer review.


 Participation (10%)
I will assess participation based on attendance and engagement during in-class discussions and group activities.
Grading Scale
 A   94 and up
A-  90-93
B+ 87-89
B   83-86
B-  80-82
C+ 77-79
C   73-76
C-  70-72
You will not receive credit for the class if you get a C- or below.


Course Policies

 Classroom Etiquette
 Students are expected to behave with respect in the classroom, both to each other and to the instructor. Inappropriate language or tone of voice, interruptions, dominating class discussion, and other behaviors that might impede the creation of a safe and comfortable learning environment will not be tolerated.
Laptops, cell phones, and tablets should be used for educational purposes only. Failure to abide by this will result in a deduction from your participation grade.


Late and Missed Assignments
 I will deduct a letter grade for each day an assignment is late. I will not accept assignments that are more than 2 days (as in days of the week not days of class) late. Electronic submissions should be in a viewable format. I prefer Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or Pages so I can grade and comment electronically. If you’re unable to submit in one of these formats for some reason, please submit a printed copy. Please do not submit PDFs. All assignments are due at the beginning of class unless otherwise stated.


Assignment Formatting
I prefer MLA format for all major assignments. However, if you’re more comfortable using another format (i.e. Chicago, APA, etc.), just let me know and be consistent with your formatting throughout. I can provide resources to assist with proper formatting.


Academic Integrity
Northeastern University is committed to the principles of intellectual honesty and integrity: the NU Academic Honesty and Integrity Policy is found at
The Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution web site ( provides extensive information on student conduct, the disciplinary process, and the range of available sanctions. All members of the Northeastern community are expected to maintain complete honesty in all academic work, presenting only that which is their own work in tests and assignments. In English classes, this definition of plagiarism applies not only to borrowing whole documents, but also to borrowing parts of another’s work without proper acknowledgment and proper paraphrasing or quotation. We will discuss effective and responsible use of sources throughout the semester.
Collection of Student Work for Program Assessment
I may be asked to submit one or more samples of your writing to the Writing Program Assessment Committee for the purpose of program assessment. Some of you, therefore, will have your work randomly selected and used for this purpose. Looking at student writing from a programmatic perspective helps us improve our program. Student writing collected for this purpose is never circulated outside the Writing Program for any reason. While we cannot guarantee that all identifying information will be removed from all materials read by Writing Program evaluators. We report only aggregate data to those outside the program; you will not be identified in these reports. If you have any questions or concerns about our program assessment, please contact the Writing Program Director, Professor Mya Poe, at


Minimum Grade Requirement
A student must receive a grade of C or better in order to pass all required writing courses in the Department of English (C is required for Graduation). Any student earning a C- or lower will need to repeat the course in order to fulfill the writing requirement. The instructor makes the final decision with respect to any grade between A-C. Any portfolio receiving lower than a C must be reviewed and signed off on by a committee of 3-6 Writing Program instructors.


Writing Program policy requires regular attendance at class meetings. Students are allowed three unexcused absences in classes that meet for three days a week; they are allowed two unexcused absences in classes that meet for two days. Significant and/or frequent tardiness may be counted as unexcused absences at the instructor's discretion. Students also have the right to a limited number of excused absences due to a religious observance, illness, death in the family, required participation in athletic events, or other serious and unavoidable life circumstances. Students are responsible for notifying instructors when they must miss class for any reason. Instructors are responsible for determining whether a student will be excused from the class. Instructors are reminded that University Health and Counseling Services will not issue documentation of students’ illnesses or injuries.  Because writing classes are conducted workshop-style and focus on revision, a student who misses too many class meetings or falls too far behind in making up work, even with a legitimate excuse, is not earning credit for the same course as the rest of the class. In that case, the instructor may suggest, but not require, that the student to withdraw from rather than fail the course.