English 110: Critical Reading and Writing

English 110: Critical Reading and Writing—Communication and Argumentation in the Digital World

Dr. Allison Tharp
Email: atharp@udel.edu
Office: 051 Memorial Hall
Office Hours: Thursday 1-3; Friday 12:15-1:15; and by appointment

Required Texts and Materials:

  1. They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, 3rd edition; Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein (ISBN: 9780393935844)
  2. The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, 2nd edition; Michael Harvey (ISBN: 9781603848985)
  3. Something to take notes in class: notebook, binder, writing utensils, laptop, or tablet.
  4. Access to the internet—most homework will be done online.
  5. Access to a printer and the funds to print things out.
  6. Any version of Microsoft Word
    1. Free for students here (!!!!!)

Recommended Texts:

  1. Elements of Style; William Strunk, Jr. Free access
    1. I suggest saving this to your favorites; we will read excerpts in this course
  2. Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace; Joseph M. Williams
    1. We will be reading excerpts from this as well, which I will provide in PDF format.
  3. College Hacks for Freshmen; Miranda Larsen
    1. This is free on Amazon Kindle for a limited time. I can also “loan” the book to you via my Amazon account, so let me know if you want me to do that. I HIGHLY recommend you read this—it’s short, funny, and one of the most informative and helpful e-books out there about the ins and outs of college life.


This is in caps, underlined, and bolded for a reason: if you do not have Amazon Prime for students, GET IT! It will save you so much money on literally everything (including your textbooks!). And it includes free two-day shipping.

  1. Amazon prime for students
  2. They Say / I Say on Amazon
  3. The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing on Amazon

 Services and Resources:

I highly suggest (and in some cases require) that you utilize these resources: all are free!

  1. UD’s Writing Center (required at least once this semester)
    1. The Writing Center in 016 Memorial and 017 Morris Library provides free one-on-one instruction to students who have writing assignments in this or any course. You may make an appointment by visiting the website or by calling (302) 831-1168.
  2. UD’s Academic Calendar
  3. UD’s ADA Office
    1. Students with Disabilities: We want all students to have the best possible chance to succeed in English 110. If you believe you may need an accommodation based on a disability, you should contact the Office of Disability Support Services (DSS) as soon as possible. DSS is located at 240 Academy Street, Alison Hall, Suite 130.  Phone: 302-831-4643. Fax: 302-831-3261. Website: udel.edu/DSS. Email: dssoffice@udel.edu.
  4. UD’s Allies Support Program
  5. UD’s Center for Counseling and Student Development
  6. UD’s Sexual Misconduct Site
    1. Sexual Misconduct: If, at any time during this course, I happen to be made aware that a student may have been the victim of sexual misconduct (including sexual harassment, sexual violence, domestic/dating violence, or stalking), I am obligated by federal law to inform the university’s Title IX Coordinator. The university needs to know information about such incidents to offer resources and to ensure a safe campus environment. The Title IX Coordinator will decide if the incident should be examined further. If such a situation is disclosed to me in class, in a paper assignment, or in office hours, I promise to protect your privacy—I will not disclose the incident to anyone but the Title IX Coordinator. For more information on Sexual Misconduct policies, where to get help, and reporting information please refer to the website linked above. At UD, we provide 24-hour crisis assistance and victim advocacy and counseling. Contact 302-831-2226, Student Health Services, to get in touch with a sexual offense support advocate.
  7. UD’s Health Center
  8. UD’s Police
  9. My office hours (required at least once this semester)
  10. MOST IMPORTANT RESOURCE: Me. I want all of you to pass this course. I want you to do well, I want you to invest in your grade, I want you to improve in some way, and I want this to be a comfortable and fun learning environment. BUT, there are lots of you and one of me. This means that if you need something, you must come to me. I am always available during office hours, to meet during other times, and via email. Having open communication with me is the best move you can make to successfully pass this course.

 Course Description:

English 110 is about helping you to become a more astute reader, writer, and thinker—a person who uses writing to learn and to communicate with others. We will work together to use writing to work through difficult ideas and issues and to create essays that communicate your ideas and arguments clearly and effectively. It isn’t all about writing, though. You will also learn to read and approach topics with an open but discerning mind, and you will be challenged to sharpen your critical thinking and analysis. We’ll avoid taking things at face value; instead, we’ll question things to come to a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the world around us. These skills are integral, not just in the college classroom, but in the larger world as well. Verbal and written communication skills, researching skills, and critical thinking skills are hot commodities on the job market—things you will develop throughout this course.

Because many students find writing daunting, we will write in stages, allowing time and space for your ideas and your writing to develop. These stages will involve extensive revision and criticism from your peers and me—activities integral to growing as a writer and as a reader. We will also spend much time in and out of the classroom discussing both macro and micro levels of English Composition—from the rhetorical situation to the importance of editing our work—to avoid things like this: images

and this:


(real signs, btw).

While all English 110 courses share the same course goals, this particular section asks you to consider a specific topic: how has our communication and argumentation been shaped by the digital world? This is, of course, a large topic, but each of our assignments works toward helping us come to some conclusions and answers to this question. We will explore our own communication habits, the communication habits of others (the dreaded comment section!!), and protest and social movements that have a large digital presence (think #BlackLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter). Through our class discussions, readings, writing, and revision, our aim will be to leave this course with a fuller understanding of what it means to communicate in a world largely revolving around a digital sphere.

For the first part of the semester, we will explore critical reading, writing, and the rhetorical situation. You will engage in blog posting and collaborating/discussing with your peers, and you will write one formal assignment: a critical response revolving around comment sections on websites. This assignment and the blog posts will acquaint you with skills that will be needed for the second half of the semester—curating a writing voice, responding to outside sources and ideas, understanding the rhetorical situation, and incorporating evidence to back up your claims. The second part of the semester revolves around a large, multimodal research project. Multimodal means that it will incorporate writing, for sure, but also other modes of communication—like images, videos, links, audio, etc. This project involves many stages, beginning with a proposal, including an annotated bibliography, and culminating in the final research project which will be posted to our course blog.

A word of warning: Because our study revolves around digital communication, we will likely encounter ideas that we find offensive. We’ll be delving into multiple venues online, from social media to blog posts and blog comments (you know the adage…don’t read the comment section; however, we will be reading the comment section). I’m sure you’ve all encountered a moment online where you’ve felt uncomfortable or threatened. Know that with the nature of the material we will be encountering, this could very well happen this semester. As such, always protect yourself by not providing personal or revealing information online, and if you are ever too uncomfortable with a lesson or an assignment, come to me and we will make an alternate plan together.

Learning Objectives:


  1. Read texts critically, attempting to understand purpose, audience, argumentative and rhetorical techniques, and tone.
  2. Understand the larger context around a text and how that context works to shape the text.
  3. Learn to synthesize ideas from a variety of texts in order to further your own writing skills.
  4. Learn to respond to other texts with a critical and productive aim.


  1. See that writing is a form of social interaction.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to write in a variety of genres, such as personal narrative, summary, critical response, critical analysis, and argument.
  3. Make claims and support them with appropriate evidence.
  4. Find and analyze sources, synthesizing ideas for your own writing.
  5. Engage in a writing process that includes idea discovery, narrowing a topic, structural and organizational development, revision, and editing.

Rhetorical Knowledge:

  1. Write and read with an understanding of the rhetorical situation: purpose, audience, writer, and context.
  2. Understand the needs of various audiences and adapt your writing for those audiences.
  3. Write in an appropriate way for your rhetorical situation and purpose—consider voice, tone, and level of formality appropriate for the situation.


  1. Become aware of stylistic conventions appropriate for a rhetorical situation.
  2. Learn proper citation format.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the conventions of Standard English grammar, punctuation, spelling, and usage.

Major things to know/do in order to pass this class:

 Assignments: Complete each official assignment and upload it to Canvas by the time specified on the due date. If you are having trouble completing an assignment, email me or visit me during my office hours at least two days in advance of the assignment deadline. Meet all the requirements detailed on the rubric for each assignment. If you are unsatisfied with the grade you receive on a major assignment, you have the opportunity to meet with me to create a revision plan.

**All formal written papers should be typed, double-spaced, using 12-font, Times New Roman. All essays should have a title and use documentation when appropriate, following MLA format. There is a template on our LMS, so there should be no issues with formatting.**

Assignment 1: Critical Response—The Comment Section (15 points/ 15%): In this paper, you will read “Comment Sections are Poison: Handle with Care or Remove Them” by Tauriq Moosa, and you will critically respond to the article by using the comment section on an article or blog as evidence.

Assignment 2: Multimodal Argumentative Research Paper (25 points/ 25%): For this paper, you will choose a case study to research and analyze, and you will create a thesis-driven argument about the case study and how it reflects the nature of communication and/or organization in the digital age. The assignment asks you to consider the rhetorical situation and root your argument in primary documents and secondary research—both scholarly and popular. The final draft will be posted on our communal course blog, so design and formatting are as important as writing!

Assignment 3: Reflection Letter (15 points/ 15%): This final letter, from you to me, asks you to reflect on your work over the past 15 weeks and discuss the learning outcomes you feel you have reached through your study and practice.

Revision: Substantially and strategically revise all drafts, taking into consideration feedback from me, your peers, and writing center tutors. This is the chance to put into practice all you’re learning this semester, so I need to see evidence of growth. Revision does not just mean copyediting. It means, literally, to see again.

Attendance: Attend class regularly and show up on time. Accumulate no more than six absences over the course of the semester. Four tardies will amount to one absence. I will only excuse school-sanctioned absences. We will have instructor-student conferences in lieu of class throughout the semester; if you miss these, you will accrue two absences. If you do have to miss class, let me know and find a course buddy early on in order to get missed information (you have always missed something if you miss class).

Emergency or Prolonged Absence

English 110 aims to teach you not only skills of writing but habits of mind and work—to show you how writers go about the actual work of drafting, revising, and refining their essays. Thus, you need to attend class regularly—ready to learn, participate, and write. However, we also realize that life can sometimes conspire against perfect attendance. Indeed, the UD Faculty Handbook recognizes several categories of excused absences—including religious holidays, participation in athletic events or other activities representing the university, serious illnesses or deaths in the family, serious personal illnesses, and short-term military service. If you need to miss a class for one of these reasons, you must obtain the documentation described in the Handbook in order for your absence to be excused. Even then, you are still responsible for any work due that day.

There is also a second category of absences, usually involving minor illnesses like colds and flus, which require, in the words of the Faculty Handbook, “reasonable communication” between you and your teacher. If at all possible, you should inform me beforehand if you cannot attend a class. Whether your absence is reasonable or not depends entirely on my judgment. Finally, there is a third category of unexcused absences. Avoid these. Unexcused absences will affect your participation grade.

Low-Stakes Writing (20 points/ 20%): Complete all low-stakes writing assignments, which will be assigned leading up to each major assignment either as in-class free writing or homework. Keep these organized in a folder, binder, or on your computer so that you can utilize them as you put together a final draft.

Sketches and Drafts: these low-stakes writing assignments will be assigned leading up to each major project, and they will help you to “build” your paper.

Collaborative Writing: You will be asked to upload sketches and drafts to our Canvas site multiple times during the semester—and you will be expected to provide feedback to your peers and receive feedback from them as well.

Blogging: Our course blog (link on Canvas) is designed to give you a space to digitally collaborate with your peers outside of the classroom. I’ll periodically ask you to post drafts or sketches, responses to readings, topic generation ideas, and self-reflections. You will find these prompts on your course schedule. You’ll also need to comment on your peers’ posts, which will allow for a collaborative space, especially when it comes to writing. This blog is available for all three of my 110 courses, so you will receive even more feedback than you will in the classroom.

Collaboration (5%): Attend all peer reviews throughout the semester, and provide substantial and constructive feedback to your peers. Likewise, consider all feedback you receive from your peers as you work to complete a paper. Come to each peer review with the assigned written material. If you miss a peer review, you will have to set up a meeting with me to make up the peer review. Actively participate in all group activities assigned throughout the semester.

Participation (15%): Come to class with the text, evidence that you have read the text (annotations in the book or notes in a notebook), and any assigned homework completed. Actively participate in class by discussing the reading/assignment with the class as a whole, asking questions to nuance your understanding of a reading/assignment, and fully participating in any and all group activities. Do not fall asleep during a discussion; instead, look alert and listen carefully. Often, the ideas that come up in class discussions and group discussions can give you ideas for a major paper assignment.

Classroom Conduct: I want our classroom to be relaxed, fun, respectful, and safe. As such, I ask that you put your cell phones on silent and put them away. No texting, calling, surfing the web, listening to music, or hunting for Pokemon. (If I notice that you are using technology in an inappropriate way, I will not (further) distract the class by pointing it out, but I will take points off for participation.) We have 50 minutes together, and we need to make the best use of that time, so while you are in class, focus on this class. If you need to leave to use the restroom, do so quietly so as not to disturb your peers. Follow all classroom policies. Most importantly, though, maintain respect for yourself, your peers, and me. Do not engage in hateful discussion about anyone’s religion, gender, sexual preference, race, age, physical attributes, or mental/emotional capacity (if you do so, you will be counted absent asked to leave).

Communication: Find a “class buddy” early in the course. Get that person’s contact information so that if you happen to miss a day of class, you will still be on top of the material. Stay in contact with me if you are running in to problems in the course, your other courses, or life in general. If you have to miss a class, let me know why. If something is preventing you from completing work on time, tell me. I am your biggest resource here. I WANT you to pass. But this can only happen if you keep me in the loop.

Academic Honesty: Attribute language, ideas, images, information and original material to the source. Avoid plagiarism by (a) taking careful notes to help you distinguish between your own ideas and language and those you have borrowed from sources, (b) attempting to cite all sources correctly even in first drafts, (c) looking up citation conventions and citing all sources correctly in all final drafts, and (d) never attempting to disguise another’s work as your own, never purchasing essays online, and never engaging in any other act of academic dishonesty. New ideas only come about because we are all constantly borrowing ideas and sharing our work with others; be generous about attributing and citing those whose work has influenced your own. The University of Delaware protects the rights of all students by insisting that individual students act with integrity. Accordingly, the University severely penalizes plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.

Course Evaluation: You are expected to complete the online student evaluation for this course. This survey will be available for you to complete during the last two weeks of the semester via http://www.udel.edu/udsis-students/courseevaluations.html. Apart from being an expectation of the course, your evaluation provides valuable information to the program and to the Department.

What You Can Expect from Me:

Because a classroom is communal and I want you to pass, you can expect the following from me:

  1. I will respond to all emails (if they are professional) within 24 hours of receiving them (with the exception of holidays).
  2. I will provide extensive, substantial feedback on all major and minor writing assignments.
  3. I will meet with you outside of my office hours if you cannot meet during that time due to scheduling conflicts.
  4. I will treat you with respect.
  5. I will facilitate a respectful, safe, and collaborative learning environment in the classroom.
  6. I will return all major assignments within a week of receiving them (with the exception of holidays).
  7. I will answer any and all questions pertaining to assignments, readings, or class policies.

Grade Breakdown and Grading Scale:

(keep track of your grades here)

Assignment 1: 15 points                                                                                               __________

Assignment 2: 25 points                                                                                              __________

Assignment 3: 15 points                                                                                              __________

Low Stakes Writing: 20 points                                                                                  __________

Participation: 15 points                                                                                               __________

Collaboration: 5 points                                                                                                __________

TOTAL POINTS AVAILABLE: 100                                                                               __________

Grading Scale:

A: 100-90
B: 89-80
C: 79-70
D: 69-60
F: 59-0