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Brennecke, Patricia, 21F.228 Advanced Workshop in Writing for Social Sciences and Architecture (ELS), Spring 2007. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 10 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Advanced Workshop in Writing for Social Sciences and Architecture (ELS)

Spring 2007

Three sentences with grammatical corrections in red.
Three examples of correction symbols. In the first sentence, word order (WO) is wrong. The second sentence is an example of wrong punctuation (WP). Finally, the last sentence illustrates incorrect subject-verb (S-V) agreement. (Image courtesy of MIT OCW, based on content by Patricia Brennecke.)

Course Highlights

This course features extensive lecture notes as well as student papers in readings.

Course Description

This workshop is designed to help you write clearly, accurately and effectively in both an academic and a professional environment. In class, we analyze various forms of writing and address problems common to advanced speakers of English. We will often read one another's work.


Required Texts

  •  Raimes, Anne. Pocket Keys for Writers. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. ISBN: 0618445463.
  • Course Packet for 21F.227/228 - available in lecture notes.
  • A paper portfolio in which to keep all the work you hand in for a grade.
  • Handouts from class.

Recommended Texts

For students needing additional work in reviewing English grammar:

  • Azar, Betty Schrampfer. Understanding and Using English Grammar: Chartbook: A Reference Guide. 3rd ed. New York, NY: Pearson Publishing Group. ISBN: 0139587039.
  • An English/English dictionary of your choice.
  • A dictionary of synonyms or a thesaurus.

Criteria for HASS CI Subjects

Communication intensive subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences should require at least 20 pages of writing divided among 3-5 assignments. Of these 3-5 assignments, at least one should be revised and resubmitted. HASS CI subjects should further offer students substantial opportunity for oral expression, through presentations, student-led discussions, or class participation. In order to guarantee sufficient attention to student writing and substantial opportunity for oral expression, the maximum number of students per section in a HASS CI subject is 18.

Course Description

This workshop is designed to help you write clearly, accurately and effectively in both an academic and a professional environment. In class, we analyze various forms of writing and address problems common to advanced speakers of English. We will often read one another's work. I will sometimes use your sentences as examples to work on, because I believe revising your own writing is an effective teaching tool. I will not identify you as the writer. If this is a problem for you - that is, you do NOT want your work used in class - please let me know privately or via email.


I expect you to attend every workshop. More than 3 absences will affect your grade. If you feel you cannot make this commitment, then you should probably reconsider taking the class.

If you must miss a workshop, please inform me ahead of time on email and be sure to contact another member of the class so that you come to the next class prepared.


Attendance in class, preparation and participation count for 35% of your grade. Those who do not prepare, contribute to discussions, complete assignments on time and attend class regularly can expect their final grade to suffer.


Your grade will be based on:

Attendance and participation 20%
Preparation (homework) 15%

Five shorter written assignments:

Extended definition for a general audience (2 pp.)

Resume and cover letter responding to a particular ad (2+ pp.)

Response paper (quote, paraphrase, summarize, comment) (2-3 pp.)

Proposal Memo with Bibliography /References (3 pp.)

Abstract and Introduction to final paper (3 pp.)


Final paper (and brief presentation):

Approximately 15 pp. plus Works Cited/References page. This can be a stand-alone research paper, or it can be a portion of your thesis. You may work on a paper in connection with another class IF I receive email from the instructor that this is acceptable to him/her.


No late papers or homework, please. If there is a dire emergency, speak to me personally so we can work something out. Please don't just disappear or simply fail to turn something in. Always talk to me and ask for an extension.


Editing work: We will do in-class editing. Depending on the class size, I may put you in permanent editing groups. Then it will be your responsibility to get your paper to the members of your editing group in advance, so that they can read through it and have their comments ready before coming to class. We will decide on this together.

The Writing Center

Take advantage of the MIT Writing Center, where qualified staff will work with you one-to-one on both papers and oral presentations . The Center is free to MIT students. You must make an appointment ahead of time, however, so schedule your appointments in advance. I strongly advise you to take advantage of this option—it's free, and it's a wonderful service.


Do not copy work from the Web, do not submit papers you have already submitted for other classes*, do not give your papers to native speakers to edit. I will talk more about the seriousness of plagiarism as we move along, but for now please be advised that any writing you submit must be completely your own. There are severe sanctions for students who plagiarize—including loss of degree and/or termination from the Institute.

*you may work on a paper you are currently writing for another class, however—(a chapter of your thesis, for example)

Personal Requests

  • Avoid eating in class. It's distracting for everyone. Try to eat before you get here.
  • Turn off your cell phones, please.
  • Use laptops only for related work, please. It's distracting to have students using laptops while class is in session.
  • Assignments due in class are to be typed and printed out on paper according to the guidelines in the course packet.

The Language Learning and Resource Center

I occasionally put videos in the LLARC that may be of interest. It is also a wonderful resource for working on issues of grammar, punctuation, etc. Or, if you are really feeling homesick, you can check out movies in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, or Chinese and watch them there—sorry, no other languages. Just the ones taught at MIT.


This section contains documents that could not be made accessible to screen reader software. A "#" symbol is used to denote such documents.

This section features a list of activities and daily topics for the course.

Instructions for the writing assignments and presentation can be found in assignments.


Overview of course; what and why of assignments

Academic and Professional Writing: audience and purpose.

Writing task in class.

Homework: Read student definitions


Defining a term for a general audience Word choice/tone.

Adjective clauses and punctuation


In-class work on definition

Homework: Write Extended Definition


Punctuation workshop

Homework: Read about resumes and cover letters (please see the "Resumes and Cover Letters" section in lecture notes).

Extended Definition (2 pages) due in class (bring 3 copies) - Peer Review

Resumes and cover letters: cultural differences

Strategies for cover letters

Homework: Pick up Career Development Workbook  in the Career Center. Find a job description/internship position for which you can apply online or in print - bring 2 copies to class.


Workshop: Issues from Definition Papers

Homework: Read/Critique student resume and cover letter samples

Copies of Job Description/Internship Position due in class (2 copies)

Discuss student samples in class

Workshop on resumes and cover letters


Clarity: using active voice, verbs

Conciseness: eliminating excess

Resume and Cover Letter due in
class (3 copies) - Peer Review

Overview of Research Paper

Place/purpose of literature review

Avoiding Plagiarism

Paraphrase and Summary - work in class.

Citing sources - styles. Decide which style you wish to use.

Homework: Read "The Upside of Gentrification."


Discuss "The Upside of Gentrification" in groups.

Verbs of reporting, agreeing, disagreeing.

Reaction sentences.

Quoting vs. paraphrasing.

Homework: Write Summary and Critique Paper


Introduction to Proposals.

Homework: Read about proposals (please see the "Writing a Proposal" section in lecture notes)

Summary and Response Paper due in class (3 copies) - Peer Review

Proposal Memos: form and content

3-move strategy

Discuss Student Proposals

Homework: Write Proposal Memo with References page.

12 Workshop: Issues from Summary/Response Papers. Proposal Memos due in class (3 copies) - Peer Review/Edit
13 Abstracts and Introductions: 3-move strategy again  

Workshop: Issues from Proposals.

Homework: Read about abstracts and introductions (please see "Abstracts and Introductions" section in lecture notes).


Discuss Student abstracts and introductions.

Citing sources: interior citations, notes, references page.

16 Discussion Abstracts and Introductions due in class (3 copies)

Constructing an Outline

Homework: Read about articles (see articles in the "Clarity, Grammar, Punctuation" section in lecture notes)

18 Articles workshop (a, an) Outlines due in class (3 copies)
19 Discussion (cont.) Portion of final paper due in class (3 copies)

Focused work on drafts of final paper in class.

Workshop on issues from drafts.

21-25 Individual conferences with students.  

Course evaluations.


27 Presentations (cont.) Final Paper and completed portfolio due in class   Tell A Friend