LL 261 Essay Writing

Course Information

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."

-- Thomas Mann

Writing is so hard because it requires the clear communication of well thought-out ideas. Spelling and grammar are the easy part. This class will help you master the hard as well as the easy parts of writing.

In this course, students develop their ability to use writing to explore ideas as well as to communicate what they have learned in a variety of contexts. The principles and skills students learn are widely applicable and will improve their communication in business and personal settings as well as at school. This course focuses particular attention on writing to excel in SNL's writing-intensive curriculum. Students learn strategies for combining experience with analysis and reflection in essay writing, managing the writing process, and writing persuasively. Particular emphasis is given to the process of revision.  Completion of  Essay Writing is a prerequisite for LL 290 Research Writing and Advanced Composition.

4 credit hours. 

Students in the BA in Professional Studies (BAPS) programs who feel their writing is particularly strong and can provide examples should consider taking the BA in Professional Studies Writing Proficiency Exam to satisfy their Essay Writing requirement.

BAPS students who have fulfilled LL 261 through transfer coursework can still elect to take the Essay Writing course for college credit. You might choose this option if the thought of college writing makes you particularly nervous or if you struggled in previous writing courses.

Course Resources

  1. To buy your books, go to http://depaul-loop.bncollege.com


    1. You will be required to use a recent edition of Hacker and Sommers’s A Writer's Reference. Although most editions of this book are acceptable, students who do not have the 9th edition or the 8th edition with 2016 MLA Update will be required to use Purdue OWL (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/) to make sure they are using the most recent citation format.

    2. Graff, Gerald and Birkenstein, Cathy. They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 4th Edition. WW Norton, ISBN-13: 978-0393935844

    3. Additional readings available on e-reserve from the DePaul library, see links in your course, or Login to Ares Course Reserves and select Essay Writing.

    1. If English is not your native language and you struggle with English as a Second Language (ESL) issues like article and pronoun usage, you may want to also purchase for the ESL Supplement for A Writer's Reference, ISBN# 0312-45233-0, ($7.50).
    2. If you would like to read more about the craft of writing, the following are both readable and full of useful tips:
      • Goldberg, Natalie. Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2005.
      • Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1994.
      • King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Pocket Books, 2000.

    Learning Outcomes

    In this course, you will develop the following learning outcomes:

    LL 261: Can apply knowledge of composition and rhetoric for learning and communicating.

    1. Analyzes purpose, audience, context and conventions in comprehending and creating texts in various genres for different situations.

    2. Engages in composition as an iterative process and applies a variety of strategies to conceptualize, develop and revise compositions.

    3. Develops knowledge of linguistic structures, including grammar, syntax, and punctuation through practice in composing and revising.

    4. Self-assesses to leverage strengths and address challenges for ongoing improvement as a writer.

Students will demonstrate learning outcomes through drafting and revising papers, discussion board postings, peer revision, and other assignments.

Course Structure

This course consists of ten modules. The estimated time to complete each module is one week. Please note that this is a four-credit class offered over ten weeks. You should expect to spend 10 to 15 hours per week on this class.
To view the course schedule, click on the Schedule link on the left-hand navigation bar. This page contains the most recently updated listing of the topics and assignments due for each week.

The following table outlines the course:

Week,  Module # and Title



Week 1, Module 1: Introductions and the Writing Process

Module 1 Content


1.1 Introduction Discussions

1.2 Writing Process Discussion

1.3 Your Writing Strengths & Goals



Week 2, Module 2: Cause & Effect Analysis

Module 2 Content
David Zinczenko's "Don't Blame the Eater" in They Say/I Say

Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness" in They Say/I Say.

Anne Lamott's "Shitty First Drafts" (Note: This essay includes use of an adjective that some readers may find offensive. Please contact your instructor with any concerns.)

A Writer's Reference, Sections C1 and C2

2.1 Reading Cause & Effect Analyses

2.2 Invention Discussion

2.3 Cause & Effect Analysis, Draft 1

2.4 Peer Feedback Discussion

Week 3, Module 3: Division Analysis

Module 3 Content

Dana Stevens "Iron-Hearted Chef" 

A Writer's Reference, Sections A1 and A4

3.1 Division Essay Thesis Statement Discussion

3.2 Division Essay, Draft 1

3.3 Peer Feedback Discussion

Week 4, Module 4: Rhetorical Analysis

Module 4 Content

They Say/I Say, Introduction and Chapters 1 & 2
View videos

Read “The Reverse Outline”

4.1 Summarizing

4.2 Rhetorical Analysis Essay First Draft

4.3 Peer Feedback Discussion

Week 5, Module 5: Revising

Module 5 Content

Stephen King's "And Furthermore, Part I: Door Shut, Door Open"

They Say/I Say, Chapters 7 and 8
"Using Descriptive Detail"


A Writer's Reference, Sections C2c, C3 and C5 

5.1 First Revising Discussion

5.2 Cause & Effect or Division Essay, Draft 2

5.3 Peer Revision Discussion

Midpoint Check-in Survery


Week 6, Module 6: Problem-Solution Essay

Module 6 Content

Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"

They Say/I Say, Chapter 6

A Writer's Reference, MLA and APA Sections

6.1 "Letter From Birmingham Jail" Discussion

6.2 Problem-Solution Essay First Draft

6.3 Plagiarism Test

6.4 Problem-Solution Essay, draft 1

6.5 Peer Feedback Discussion

Week 7, Module 7: Crafting a Final Draft

Module 7 Content

They Say/I Say: Chapters 9 and 10

A Writer's Reference, Section G and portions of sections W and S

View Video 

DePaul Writing Center

7.1 Second Revising

7.2 Cause & Effect or Division Essay Final Draft 

Week 8, Module 8: Revising to Strengthen Your Argument

Module 8 Content

A Writer's Reference, Section W 

They Say/I Say, Chapter 9 


8.1 Third Revising Discussion 
8.2 Rhetorical Analysis or Problem-Solution Essay, Draft 2
8.3 Peer Feedback Discussion

Week 9, Module 9: Revising Wording & Punctuation

Module 9 Content

A Writer's Reference, Sections W and P
View Videos

9.1 Fourth Revising Discussion

9.2 Punctuation Puzzler Primer Video Discussion 

Week 10, Module 10: Conclusion: Demonstrating & Reflecting Upon Your Learning

Module 10 Content


10.1 Rhetorical Analysis or Problem-Solution Essay, final draft 

10.2 Gallery of Great Writing Discussion 

10.3 Letter to Your Future Self


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Distribution of Assessment

  • Final Cause & Effect Essay or Division Essay* = 30%
  • Final Rhetorical Analysis or Problem-Solution Essay* = 30%
  • Discussions Early Drafts, & Other Assignments (lowest 3 grades will be dropped) = 40%

*Students must complete and submit all first and second drafts of essays to get credit for final drafts.*

SCPS Grading Policy for Lifelong Learning Courses

In certain SCPS courses in the Lifelong Learning Area of the BA curriculum, instructors regularly use the pass/fail grading system. However, SCPS also offers students the opportunity in several of these courses to select a "Grading" option where grades A through C- represent passing performance. The faculty member and the individual student together decide which system will best promote the student's learning in that particular course. With no exceptions, a student must obtain permission from the instructor to use the grade option by the beginning of the third week of the quarter. After the third week of the quarter the assessment style agreed upon, whether pass/fail or grading, cannot be changed. The instructor is required to provide the student with the specific assessment criteria by which a grade will be determined prior to the student officially selecting this option. Grading criteria shall appear in the syllabus along with pass/fail assessment criteria.

Lifelong learning courses that already employ a grading system such as Quantitative Reasoning and Collaborative Learning will continue to use this system. The Lifelong learning courses Learning Assessment Seminar, Foundations, and Summit Seminar will continue to employ the pass/fail system exclusively. This policy applies to the other lifelong learning competencies and courses including Essay Writing, Critical Thinking, Research Methods, and Externship . The pass/fail policy and procedure of the university found in the student handbook should be followed where a student wishes to seek this option for a graded course.

Learning Strategies and Learning Resources

Course Grading Policies, Practices and Assessment Criteria

In order to successfully complete this pass/fail course, students must:

  1. Submit all drafts in a timely manner (4 first drafts, 2 second drafts, and 2 final drafts)
  2. Receive passing grades on the two final drafts as per the class rubric.
  3. Participate meaningfully on the discussion board and in peer revision;
  4. Meet the criteria for the Essay Writing learning outcomes as listed above

While early drafts are opportunities to grope around and experiment and will not be as polished or well-developed as final drafts, they should represent your best effort to and should not be stream of consciousness, a collection of notes, or a half-done essay. Every draft should be spell checked before you turn it in. Final drafts will be evaluated with a writing rubric.

A Special Note on Plagiarism for Writing for Essay Writing Students:

In college, knowing why, when, and how to cite sources is vital. By using sources appropriately, you participate in the scholarly community as you relate your ideas and experiences to those of others. When citations are lacking or incorrect, you weaken your paper by failing to clearly make those connections. You also leave yourself open to charges of plagiarism, which can have serious academic consequences.

Part of the work of this class is to make sure that you understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, so be sure to ask if you have any questions about it. We will discuss how to cite sources and avoid plagiarism in the course.

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Online Discussion

Discussion Boards

Discussion Boards are a forum for discussion and sharing information among students. Your instructor may create one or more discussion boards related to the topics you are studying each week.

At the beginning of the quarter, your instructor will set up two discussion boards. These discussions will help you and your classmates get off to an immediate start on the course, by providing conversational spaces for necessary, ongoing social and administrative activities. These discussions are:

  • Introductions
  • Course Q&A

The Q&A discussion is where the management and administrative tasks of the course are conducted, and where you can ask "process" questions and receive answers. You will also find the schedule of specific dates for your course in this discussion.

Your instructor will add additional discussion boards as you move through the modules.

Assessment Criteria & Guidelines for Online Discussion Participation

The discussion boards will be used for sharing ideas and drafts; learning about and trying out new writing strategies; reviewing grammar, sentence structure and composition rules; and giving and receiving peer feedback. Much of your learning in this class will happen as a result of your participation in the discussion boards. Failure to participate actively in the discussion boards is akin to absence from a face-to-face class and can be grounds for failure of the course.

A good discussion board post is like a short essay. It has a point that is supported with well-developed evidence. It is clearly organized and cites references to other sources. A comment upon someone else's post should not just be a simple agreement or disagreement. Your comment should say what specifically you agree or disagree with and why. You should give your own evidence for why you are in agreement, not just repeat what the previous poster has already said.

As with every writing task, remember your audience and purpose when crafting your discussion board posts. The tone and content should be appropriate to context of a learning community. Here is a summary of advice from SNL instructors on crafting successful discussion board posts:

The best posts are specific, responsive to other posters, polite, analytical, and supported by evidence from classroom discussions and/or the texts in question. Weaker posts are too general, unoriginal, rude, simplistic, off-topic, and supported with emotion rather than fact. Instructors focus on the need for reflection—as opposed to simple agreement/disagreement with previous posters—and the need for interactivity. Consider composing posts offline to avoid emotional outbursts or poorly thought-out posts and read your fellow posters' comments carefully and make sure to gear your responses to the topic.


College and University Policies

This course includes and adheres to the college and university policies described in the links below:

Academic Integrity Policy (UGRAD)

Academic Integrity Policy (GRAD)

Incomplete Policy

Course Withdrawal Timelines and Grade/Fee Consequences

Accommodations Based on the Impact of a Disability

Protection of Human Research Participants

APA citation format (GRAD)

Additional Course Resources

University Center for Writing-based Learning

SNL Writing Guide

Dean of Students Office


Changes to Syllabus

This syllabus is subject to change as necessary. If a change occurs, it will be clearly communicated to students.


This course was designed and produced by faculty and staff at School of Continual and Professional Studies.

© 2017 School of Continual and Professional Studies, DePaul University. All Rights Reserved by SCPS.