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- “Rhetoric refers to the study and uses of written, spoken and visual language. It investigates how language is used to organize and maintain social groups, construct meanings and identities, coordinate behavior, persuade, position, perform, produce change, mediate power, and create knowledge.” (Werry)
- “Argument is the essence of education…and central to democratic culture” (Lasch)
- “Universities are houses of argument.” (Norgaard)
- “I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don't even invite me.” Dave Barry


About RWS100: in this class you will interpret, analyze, evaluate and produce arguments and other forms of persuasive communication. Why? Because argument and persuasion are central to academic literacy, critical thinking, and civic life. 

You will practice writing and revising papers in which you address complex arguments effectively, use source materials responsibly and make sound decisions about audience, context, structure, and purpose. 

We will explore rhetorical “lenses” for interpreting and analyzing texts, and apply these lenses to a variety of target texts, as well as to your own writing. You will write often in this class, and receive feedback from your instructor and your peers. Because this is a small class, there will be plenty of opportunity for you to discuss, debate, and share. Students will regularly introduce and respond to course texts.


At the end of the semester you should feel that you have read some interesting arguments, participated in some lively conversations, explored some useful strategies for analyzing texts, and done some writing of your own of which you feel proud.



A Note about Pandemics, Protest, and Learning Online: this semester is unusual in many ways. We are going to be working together online, a new experience for most of us. There may be hiccups along the way, but I will do everything I can to support you. Please contact me if you have questions or need help. My virtual door is open. Please also be generous to your classmates. You and some of your fellow students may be facing extra challenges. Let’s try to be supportive and understanding.


We are also living through a very unusual constellation of events – a health crisis, a racial justice crisis, an economic crisis, and a climate crisis. Each would be historic on its own. These crises are challenging, but are also opening up important conversations, questions, and debates. We will discuss, analyze, and think through some of these issues. We will approach this in a spirit of exploration, inquiry, and openness. The answers are often unclear, and the debates are still unfolding; contestation and uncertainty are inevitable. But we can examine some of the arguments being made, evaluate some positions advanced, and consider ways of joining the conversation.


How the Class is Organized (and how to be Successful)

This class will be a mix of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. This means we will meet live on Zoom for about 60% of our classes, and the rest of the time you will work on papers, projects, homework, discussion board posts, peer review, and group work. The following is important:

  1. The first three weeks of class will be mostly synchronous. This will allow us to get to know one another. After this, we will move to roughly 50% synchronous, 50% asynchronous 

  2. You should do everything you can to attend all the synchronous classes! Key information will be shared in those classes. RWS100 is a small, seminar style class. It is not a lecture class; it is focused on discussion, interaction, collaboration, revision, group work, and practice. It is hard to know what to do for the asynchronous classes if you don’t attend the synchronous ones,

  3. I will always be on Zoom and available during our designated class times. So even when a class has been designated asynchronous, you can still drop into our class Zoom session and chat/ask questions. You can also meet me during office hours, or email me to set up a private meeting. 

  4. In the asynchronous classes, you will often be asked to interact with other students, either by replying to their discussion board comments, reviewing their writing, or working on a group project. Something is almost always due on the days we don’t meet live. So keep up. You have some flexibility with when you do the work, but it’s crucial you get into the habit of producing work consistently throughout the semester.

  5.  Email me if you have questions, or run into problems. Make use of office hours, and if those don’t fit your schedule, arrange an alternate time to meet and touch base. It’s important you stay connected to the class throughout the semester. Someone once said that 99% of success is showing up. That’s an exaggeration, but in an online learning environment, staying connected is crucial

  6. Here is how things will generally work online. We will meet on Zoom and discuss texts and assignments, and engage in group work. We will often use Google docs in those Zoom sessions, so it’s important you know how to use Google docs. You will hand in homework, short writing exercises, drafts and final papers in a Google drive folder I will set up for you. We will use the Discussion board on Canvas often, and you will regularly be asked to reply to the posts of your fellow students 


Texts and Materials:

1)      Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (4th edition). Norton, 2018. Ebook available through Canvas.

2)      Little Seagull Handbook. Ebook available through Canvas.

3)      Digital textbook, Reading, Writing, and Evaluating Argument. RWS Department. (Free)         


Textbook Costs: Please note that the two ebooks, They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, and Little Seagull Handbook, have been automatically ordered for you, at a combined price of $19.00, through the bookstore’s “Immediate Access” program. The “Immediate Access” program provides students with big discounts. Both texts will be free through the university’s add/drop date.  After the add/drop date, your SDSU student account will be automatically charged $19.00 for use of the materials for the remainder of the semester, unless you opt-out by 11:59 PM on the add/drop date. Please visit www.shopaztecs.com/immediateaccess for additional information about Immediate Access pricing, digital subscription duration, print add-ons, opting out, and other frequently asked questions.

Useful Resources

  1. SDSU Writing Center, http://writingcenter.sdsu.edu/. Appointments can be made online.

  2. The Excelsior Online Writing Lab site, https://owl.excelsior.edu/       

  3. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL):  https://owl.purdue.edu/



Essays: You will write three papers of five to eight pages in length for this course, as well as collaborate on a group presentation. These papers will typically require at least one rough draft, and conferencing (meeting) with me.  

Portfolio: You will compose a number of shorter pieces of writing, including homework, peer reviews, revision plans, reflections, and quizzes. These will be posted to Google folder or the discussion board.
Altogether, this is your “portfolio.” This work will help you draft key elements of the major papers. I will review this work over the course of the semester and meet with you to discuss it. The portfolio counts for 10% of the course grade.

Presentations: You will occasionally be asked to give a brief presentation in class, either individually or as part of a group. There will be a group presentation project at the end of the semester.

IF YOU ARE ABSENT you are still responsible for knowing what was covered in class, what the homework is, and when it is due (this is all listed on the schedule and homework pages). Please exchange phone numbers and/or emails with at least two of your classmates. In addition, check Canvas and the course wiki regularly.  If you miss class, contact a fellow student for information, or come see me during office hours. If you still have questions feel free to email me.




Assignment 1: Constructing an Account of an Argument



Assignment 2: Analyzing Strategies and Sources



Assignment 3: Analyzing and Evaluating Multiple Texts



Group Presentation


  12/08 & 12/10

Portfolio (Homework, peer review, revision plans, reflections, quizzes)



Discussion board posts and replies






























Below 60%




Essays:  All essays are due on the date specified. All essays should be in MLA format (double spaced, one inch margins, with your name, the date, and page numbers).
Late assignments will not be accepted. For documented extenuating circumstances, late work may be accepted up to one week following the printed deadline.

The Course wiki: Go to
https://rws100wiki.pbworks.com/. At the top right corner of the page click on the “Request Access” link. You will then receive an email inviting you to set up your account (your username will be your email address). Check the wiki regularly. You will sometimes need it to print materials to bring to class.

All work in this course must be original. Plagiarism will result in serious consequences ranging from grade reduction to failure in the class to expulsion from the college. For more information see the university's cheating and plagiarism policy.  SDSU’s library also has an excellent tutorial on how to avoid plagiarism.  

Since this is a discussion-based class, it is vital that you listen and speak respectfully to others at all times. I encourage you to express your opinions, of course – they will help inspire good discussions.

Problems: If you run into problems or emergencies, talk to me as soon as possible

Office Hours:
I encourage all students to attend office hours, but especially if you have any questions or concerns about reading, writing, the course or college in general.  


Tutoring and the Writing Center:  All writers benefit from feedback and discussion of their work. All writers, no matter how experienced, benefit from this. So make use of the experiences tutors and experts at the writing center. In fall the writing center will be online, and you can book sessions through their web bite. For more information see http://writingcenter.sdsu.edu/.

Disabled students: 
Every attempt will be made to offer reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities in this course.  Students with disabilities who may need accommodations in this class are encouraged to notify the instructor privately and to contact Student Disability Services (SDS) as soon as possible.  SDS staff are available in the Capulli Center in Suite 3101 or by phone at (619) 594-6473 (voice) or (619) 594-2929 (TTD/TTY). If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need accommodations for this class, it is your responsibility to contact Student Disability Services. To avoid any delay in the receipt of your accommodations, you should contact Student Disability Services as soon as possible. Please note that accommodations are not retroactive, and that accommodations based upon disability cannot be provided until you have presented your instructor with an accommodation letter from Student Disability Services. Your cooperation is appreciated.

There are many events and situations that put additional stress on being a student.  SDSU has an excellent center for Counseling & Psychological Services that is open to students Monday through Friday from 8am-4:30pm. To set up an initial consultation, call (619) 594-5220. For immediate or emergency help, you are welcome to use San Diego’s free 24-hour counseling access line at (800) 479-3339.  C&PS on campus also has a “Center for Well-Being” with multiple stations for relaxation if you are feeling stressed during the semester.  C&PS is located in the Capulli Center, Room 4401. 

Student-athletes have demanding, dynamic schedules. As an instructor, I am committed to helping you succeed in the course. To do so, regular and effective communication is needed. While exceptions will not be made for attendance, assignment deadlines, or exams, I’m happy to work with all student-athletes in conjunction with Student-Athlete Support Services (SASS) to help you excel in this course. For more information on SASS’ academic advising and tutoring services, please call (619) 594-4743.

Use of Student Work: I may occasionally share student writing in class. For example, it may be useful to show an example of a strong introduction, or discuss ways of revising a conclusion. Please let me know if you would prefer not to have your work shared (you can send me an email).

RWS 100 Student Learning Outcomes                                

The student learning outcomes for RWS 100 reflect the key goals described in SDSU’s General Education Program, and advance the program’s objective of helping students attain “essential skills that underlie all university education.”


Learning outcomes across the semester. By the end of RWS 100 students should be able to:

  • Analyze a variety of texts to demonstrate rhetorical knowledge of an argument’s project, claim, audience, genre, rhetorical appeals, rhetorical strategies (including evidence), and assumptions.
  • Evaluate arguments and their evidence through a process of critical inquiry.
  • Locate, evaluate, and incorporate material from sources into their writing projects.
  • Compose a variety of texts, employing flexible composing strategies and processes for invention, structure, drafting, reflection, collaboration, feedback, revision, and editing.
  • Apply conventions of academic writing, including genre choices, grammar, spelling, mechanics, and citation practices.


Assignment Types: the following four outcomes describe the four main writing projects or "assignment types" for the course.  Students will be able to: 

  1. Identify an author’s argument, claim, project, assumptions, and evidence.  Analyze and evaluate the extent to which evidence and reasoning support the argument.
  2. Identify the rhetorical strategies used to support an argument.  Analyze how those strategies contribute to the author’s appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos.  Evaluate the extent to which those appeals persuade the intended audience and discuss how those strategies are based on key assumptions the author makes about that audience.
  3. Construct an account of an author’s project and argument, focusing on its use of a significant source. Examine the original source material, and analyze how that argument makes use of it.   Consider what was included and what was excluded and why. 
  4. Use multiple texts to examine a significant public argument.  Identify the range of important concerns, assumptions, appeals, and evidence, evaluating the relative persuasiveness of these texts and drawing connections among them.



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