Course Mechanics

Summary: Explains course activities, policies, and recommendations.


Learning activities

Like all tutorials, this class meets twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday from 8:00 to 9:50 a.m. Since many of the things to be learned in this class can come from listening to and talking with other students, this Tutorial will be highly interactive. Typical class meetings will combine short lectures with small-group activities and large-group discussions.  Reflecting the dual focus of the course on content and skills, most classes will include an activity to develop writing or other skills along with discussion of course content. Sometimes I will cancel class to meet with you individually and talk about your plans and progress.

Grading policy

Graded activities will include the following:

There will be no midterm or final examiniation.

I do not believe in "grading on a curve"; I would be very pleased if you all earned A's in this course. Particular activities are discussed in more detail below. 


Participation is extremely important in this class. I expect everyone to contribute to our class discussions, and so you will need to prepare carefully for each class session, not only doing the reading but really thinking about it. I also expect you to really listen to your classmates, and good listening takes patience, a sense of humor, and mutual respect.

Because participation is so important, you will be evaluated on your participation. Students who are present, on time, prepared, and who make positive contributions to discussion or other classwork can expect to earn 90 points (an A-) for their participation grade. I will reward students whose participation is especially helpful to the class with a higher score. Students who fail to participate regularly or who participate in counterproductive ways (e.g., by dominating the conversation or making inappropriate comments) can expect to earn a lower score.

One unexcused absence (your "oops" day) will have no effect on your participation score. Students who miss two classes will receive a 10 point penalty. Students who miss three classes will receive a 15 point penalty. Students who miss four or five classes will receive a 25 point penalty. Students who miss 6 classes or more will receive a 50 point penalty.

To have your absence count as excused, you must either (a) ensure that I receive documentation of the circumstances of your absence from Health Services or Student Affairs, or (b) contact me to make suitable arrangements at least a week in advance.

Because I care about you, if you do miss class unexpectedly, I would appreciate a quick call or email as soon as you are able. Don't be surprised if I call or email you to make sure you are OK.

When you do miss class, it is your responsibility to talk to a classmate about what you missed and then to see me to discuss any further questions or concerns.

Short assignments

Short assignments will be less formal than the major writing and research assignments, not necessarily revised, and graded on a scale of plus/check/minus.

Academic honesty exercises

One requirement of every Tutorial is completion of a set of exercises that take you through the steps of formal academic citation and referencing, so that you cal demonstrate your understanding and appreciation of how to cite sources properly in written work. Although the essential principles of proper citation are identical across the academic disciplines, the details of citation style may vary widely from discipline to discipline. In this Tutorial, you will be required to complete these academic honesty exercises three times, using three different citation styles drawn from three broad areas of inquiry: the humanities, the sciences, and the social sciences. This apparent redundancy should help you gain the flexibility you will need as you encounter a variety of of citation styles in your liberal arts courses. Grading for this assignment will be based on the precision and finesse with which you carry out the assignment and conform to the rules of the various citation styles.

Formal writing assignments

In this class, you will write four academic papers: a personal statement describing your vision of a liberal education, two short essays presenting your reflections on assigned readings, and a final essay in which you reflect on your learning over the semester.

Throughout this course, we will emphasize writing, and our focus will be on framing an academic paper and revising written work more effectively. You will get practice in effective techniques of revision by holding mini "workshops" on revision during almost every class period, in which you will work with other students to assimilate lessons from two short but excellent books on writing and apply these lessons to your own and to others' writing.

The first three assignments will specify a due date for submitting an initial draft and another date for submitting a more polished second draft. At the end of the semester, you will have the opportunity to turn in a third, yet more polished draft of each essay, reflecting all of the lessons you have learned about writing. Each draft will be graded, but only the final draft's grade will count towards your grade in the course.

The two essays on course readings with be worth 15 percent each, and the other two essays will be worth 10 percent each.

Anatomy of a research paper

Research at the college level is often more challenging and more rewarding than the kinds of research you have done to date. As you advance through college, you will be asked to write increasingly lengthy and sophisticated research reports and papers. This assignments will introduce you to the skills necessary for conducting academic research at the college level.

This semester-long assignment will walk you through nearly all of the steps of the research process: everything but writing the final paper. You will 

We will work on this assignment throughout the term, beginning wih a short presentation by our librarian, Gail Bonath, on the first day of class, all the way through to our last class meetings in December. At the end of the semester, you will make a final presentation of your findings to the class, with Ms. Bonath in the audience. Your final prsentation will be about 10 minutes in length and should be designed to capture your classmates' attention and articulate the most interesting things that you have learned in your research. Your grade for the project will be based in part on the evaluations of your presentation by your classmates, Ms. Bonath, and me, as well as on my evaluation of your written materials.

We will discuss various aspects of this assignment in more depth as the semester progresses.

Course Policies

Contacting me

I expect to stay in touch with tutees throughout the term.  Please come by during my office hours to talk about advising issues, discuss course content, get extra assistance, get feedback on an assignment, or talk about how the course is going.  My office hours will be posted weekly outside my office (Science 3809); if you wish, you may sign up for one or two 15-minute slots. You may also email me ( to schedule an appointment outside of office hours; please include 3-4 possible meeting times so that I can pick one that works for me.

If you would like to have a conversation in a more informal setting, please consider inviting me to a meal; I also invite you to join me on my walk. I also read plans, though I intend to limit my time spent doing so.

As a rule, email is the most reliable way to get in touch with me.  However, please allow 24 hours for my response. You may also call me in my office (x4306) for more urgent matters.

Academic honesty

In this course, as in every course you take, you must abide by the College's rules on honesty in academic work, outlined in the student handbook, which require each student to "acknowlege any expressions, ideas, or observations that are not his or her own." We will take time in class to review these rules carefully, and if you are ever unsure of your obligations about acknowledging sources, please talk with me about it.

In addition to acknowledging published sources, academic protocol demands that you include a written note of thanks to all the people who help you in producing academic work. Specifically, every formal paper for this class must include a note acknowledging any assistance you received in producing the paper, including any advice you got from the instructor, Writing Lab staff, or other students. 

If an assignment is to be turned in as a group, you need not indicate who produced what part of the assignment unless I say otherwise.


Because I have found that students who turn in work late tend to dig themselves into deeper and deeper holes and because many of our in-class exercises will require the work due that day, I impose fairly severe penalties for late work. All unexecused late work receives an immediate penalty of 20%. For every day late beyond the first day, I impose another penalty of 10%. In case you can't tell, this means that you should always get your work in on time! 

If health or significant personal issues interfere with your ability to complete work on time, you should do your best to notify me in advance and arrange an approved extension.

Absolute deadline: All work must be turned in by Friday, December 19 at 5 p.m.


If you have specific physical, psychiatric, or learning disabilities and require accomodations, let me know early in the semester so that we can work together to meet your learning needs. You will also need to provide documentation of your disability to Joyce Stern in the Academic Advising Office, located on the third floor of the Rosenfield Center (x3702). 

Janet Davis (

Created July 22, 2008
Last revised August  22, 2008
With thanks to Kent McClelland, Sam Rebelsky