ACMB01H1S LEC03 Critical Reading, Thinking, and Writing for ACM Programs

By April 28, 2019Academic Papers




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Critical Reading, Thinking, and Writing for ACM Programs


Course Description

Academic study in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media is distinguished by critical, historical and practice-based approaches to text, image, and sound. ACMB01 focuses on critical reading, thinking, and writing, while introducing students to humanistic inquiry through lectures, readings, discussions, and attendance at campus performances and gallery exhibits.

ACMB01 is a writing intensive course that offers students regular constructive feedback on their work.

Weekly 2-hour seminars are organized through instructive and thematic assigned readings, class discussion, written responses to readings (both journalistic and formal), and class and small group workshops for written assignments Student writing is the focus in each class, with each session organized around a key element of academic writing in the humanities. The themes and topics explored in writing instruction (via textbooks and supplementary articles) also incorporate a wide variety of perspectives and issues common in humanities scholarship: from ethics to governance to post-colonial critique.

Active Reading, Thinking, and Writing

If one were to sum up the academic endeavour, it might be done through this particular construction: Reading, Thinking, and Writing. After all, what is it that we do, if not reading (broadly-defined – reading texts, reading works of art, reading people, etc.), thinking (critique, analysis, argumentation, construction and/or support), and writing (the result of the previous two steps)? As such, ACMB01 strives to introduce students to this methodology not as something extraneous to learning, or a mere display of learning, but as a central and constitutive element of the process of learning itself. In the academic context, reading without thinking and writing is often static; thinking without reading and writing is often untethered; writing without reading and thinking is often pedestrian. It is the union of all three that makes for solid scholarship, defensible research, and persuasive argumentation. Learning the fundamentals of this process benefits students far beyond the walls of the classroom, giving them a firm foundation on which to build their continuing studies, a sound methodology for nuanced, effective, and critical thinking, and the skills necessary to engage others and the world as active and informed citizens.

Course Texts and Online Resources

The required textbooks for ACMB01 are:

Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing. 3rd ed., W. W. Norton & Co., 2014.

Henderson, Eric. Writing by Choice. 3nd ed., Oxford University Press, 2015.

These are available in the UTSC campus bookstore. If you purchase texts elsewhere, ensure you obtain the correct edition.

Additional readings will be uploaded as PDFs on the course website through Blackboard, including the script for the play 10 Out of 12, which is required for the final essay.

Academic Writing as Conversation

“…to give writing the most important thing of all – namely, a point – a writer needs to indicate clearly not only what his or her thesis is, but also what larger conversation that thesis is responding to.”[1]

Academic writing is about so much more than merely displaying an understanding of the subject matter at hand. Ideally, academic writing allows students and scholars to take part in a grand conversation, sometimes spanning millennia, as well as cultures, languages, contexts, and perspectives. In the humanities, these grand conversations are frequently fraught with tension, critique, and discontinuity, but they are also marked by a pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and humanistic inquiry. In some ways, we are still responding to questions that preoccupied the ancients (e.g., What is truth? What is morality? What does democracy look like?); we carry on these conversations throughout our ever-shifting contexts, with increasing nuance, through numerous (sometimes conflicting) worldviews, and with an eye always turned to the quintessential question that unites humanities scholarship: What does it mean to be human? It is our hope that ACMB01 will allow students to move beyond the idea of academic writing as a loathsome chore, and to invite them to understand this practice as a wondrous, creative, and captivating exchange, in which participation is a privilege, rather than an imposition.

Supporting Campus Resources

The Writing Centre

The University of Toronto has a variety of sources of help for essay writing. If you have any concerns about the construction of your essay, you are encouraged to attend clinics and/or drop-in sessions the UTSC Writing Centre. You can make a meeting to see a writing advisor or you can utilize their drop-in hours. You can go to them at any stage in your writing process – whether you have a full draft or are just in the process of trying to figure out a thesis, or if you are somewhere in between, you are welcome to go in for advising. See their website for more information:

The English Language Development Centre (ELDC)

The ELDC at UTSC offers constructive and comprehensive assistance to non-native English speakers through the Academic English Health Check (AEHC), Reading and Writing Excellence (RWE) program, Communication Café, and Reading Express.   Attend a Fast-Track Your Academic Writing Skills Development (the Fast-Track session are held at multiple times throughout the first two weeks of term) to get into the RWE program where you get personalized support. RWE has proven to be very effective for many students in addressing their academic reading and writing needs. Additional information about the ELDC and its programs, as well as information regarding other on-campus writing resources, will be available on Blackboard under “Writing Resources”.

Academic English Health Check (AEHC)

It is important for students to have a realistic, objective understanding of their own academic writing strengths and weaknesses. As such, all ACMB01 students are required to take the Academic English Health Check (AEHC), offered at the beginning of each term by the English Language Development Centre (ELDC) at UTSC. Native and non-native English speakers will benefit from an evaluation of their specifically academic fluency. Learning to speak and write in an academic context often feels like learning a new language, even for native speakers – no one speaks academic English as their mother-tongue, and all writers require feedback from time to time in order to further advance their skills.

The Health Check is a 30 minute evaluation, for which students must sign up through the UTSC Intranet. Their score is strictly confidential – it is not shared with CIs and will not affect their mark in the course; CIs will only receive confirmation that the AEHC has been completed. This is intended to be a clear and objective evaluation that is also free of risk, so that students are able to honestly reflect on their own needs as academic writers.

Please note, the AEHC is available for a limited time during the first weeks of each term. The deadline for taking the AEHC is Wednesday, January 25, 2018. 

Note: Students who do not take the AEHC are subject to up to 2% deduction from their final mark in the course.

Reading and Writing Excellence (RWE)

ELDC’s Reading and Writing Excellence program (RWE) is open to all students, and priority is given where need is greatest. The RWE program, developed in 2005, provides members with personalized support in sharpening active reading, critical thinking and responsive writing skills. This is achieved through 3 critical components: Reading articles, expressing thoughts, and meeting with a writing tutor (who will offer commentary on student work, allowing for consistent and frequent feedback both within and outside the classroom). Students are asked to participate for one hour a day over 8 weeks, with the objective of learning to become an observant reader, expanding vocabulary, and to articulating thoughts through writing. The daily hour consists of 40 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of writing (through e-mail). Students can read and write about any material, and is particularly effective when linked up with course readings and journal entries.

Students who display consistent effort with writing, following RWE techniques over the 8-week period, will receive a Certificate of Achievement upon completion of the RWE program. As well, we have incentivized this program for ACMB01. Students who participate will be awarded up to a 2% bonus on their final score for the course. Partial credit is also possible – total points for RWE participation and performance will be determined by Dr. Elaine Khoo, ELDC Coordinator and reported to the Instructor at the end of the term.

Library Resources

Prior to the research paper due at the end of the term, ACMB01 introduces students to proper research methods, library resources, and research librarians through a library research session. This session is coordinated and facilitated by the humanities librarian at UTSC, who provides students with information on how to discern proper academic sources, how to identify and locate peer reviewed sources, and how to use keyword and topic searches to locate relevant materials. These sessions are composed with direct reference to the research essay assignment, and offer several options for potential bibliographic resources for students in compiling literature review prior to the final essay. As well, the librarian will assemble a research website for ACMB01 students, which is tailored to the particular assignment in question. Students are encouraged to make continued use of this resource, as well as to consult with research librarians in assembling their sources.

Additional Writing Resources

“How Not to Plagiarize”:

Information Regarding Academic Integrity:

Style and Methods of Citation: Please use only MLA 8 citation and formatting. Note that “formatting” refers to details like the size of a paper’s margins, location and content for page numbers, content and style of the first page of the essay, etc., and is not limited to citation style alone. Full information on MLA 8 citation and formatting, including a sample MLA 8 paper, can be found here:   

Marking Rubric and Essay Commentary: A marking rubric will be used in evaluating your essays. A copy of this rubric is available on Blackboard (“Writing Resources”), and you are strongly encouraged to read through it prior to composing your essay, in order to better understand the expectations for essays in ACMB01. As well, upon receiving your marked essay, it is crucial that you carefully read through the comments provided on the rubric and in the text and margins of the essay itself. Development of formative feedback for every student’s work is a significant part of the instructor’s work in this course. This feedback is unique to each paper, and responds to the individual strengths and weaknesses of each student’s work. Responding to critique and engagement is a key part of developing strong academic reading, thinking, and writing skills, so it is imperative that you devote time to considering these responses before composing the next essay. Finally, the grading criteria for the University of Toronto is available on page 8 of this syllabus, so that you may see the institutional definitions of various letter marks and percentages.

UTSC Programming

One of the core convictions of ACMB01 is the need to support campus programming and events – both academic and recreational – through experiential and research-based opportunities. In this course, we strive to connect students to as many campus resources as possible, in order to expose them to the wealth of opportunities open to them, to help advance their research and interests, and to help facilitate a rich and varied university experience.

Doris McCarthy Gallery (DMG)

The DMG is the on-campus art gallery, located in Bladen Wing, across from the campus bookstore. Each term, the DMG hosts multiple exhibits, and gallery staff members generously extend their services to ACMB01 students by offering a facilitated tour of the exhibit on display. The visit will take place near the middle of the term, and will be held for one hour of class time, so that each class can visit as a group. The exhibit on display will determine the precise date of the visit, both in terms of the run of the display and the attempt to connect gallery materials to course themes. The final research essay assignment will be constructed around this visit.

Theatre and Performance Studies (TAPS)

During the Spring term, students attend the annual production put on by the Theatre and Performance Studies department at UTSC. Students will engage a textual version of the play, receive information and a statement of intention or purpose from the director of the play, discuss the play in class, and then attend the production. As with the DMG visit, a writing assignment will be created to allow students the opportunity to reflect on their experiences.

Writing Assignments and Methods of Evaluation

Syllabus Quiz (10% of term mark)

The first evaluative measure of the term is designed to determine your ability to read carefully and with intention. As such, by the end of the second week in the term, students will take a quiz on this syllabus. The quiz will be available online, through Blackboard.

Précis (10% of term mark)

Directed toward the Argumentative Essay assignment, students will construct a précis representing the main points of a work that will be addressed in that later essay. The work in question can be an essay that they will argue with (supportive) or against (critical), and composing a summary of this work will help ensure that students understand the key issues being addressed in a journal article, book, or chapter of their choosing. This will also help students refine their skills in summarizing and paraphrasing, with particular focus on comprehension, prioritization, and concision.

Argument Essay (15% of term mark)

Connecting skills developed in the sections on Academic Reading, Academic Analysis, and Academic Persuasion, students should engage a course reading and related researched materials via critical academic argumentation. This essay will be based on the “Earthlings” exhibit at UTSC’s Doris McCarthy Gallery (a guided tour will take place during class on January 11). An assignment guide will be provided, though students are encouraged to pursue a theme that sparks their interest, positively or negatively. That is, the essay itself can be critical or supportive (or both) – the point is to use critical thinking, academic analysis, and methods of academic persuasion to attempt to convince the reader of the validity of their position. Recommended length for this assignment is 4-6 pages.

Literature Review (10% of term mark)

The Literature Review is intended to be an exploratory assignment, allowing students to identify a general area of interest and to investigate the kinds of sources available with regard to that area of interest, with an eye to the Research Essay at the end of the term. Students do not need to have an established thesis at this point; rather, they need to develop a working understanding of the research that exists (and that doesn’t exist) with regard to their interests before composing the Research Essay. The Library Research Session will help students determine which sources to include in their Literature Review, and this selection and review of materials will form the research foundation for the final essay. As the Research Essay will be based upon the TAPS production of the play 10 Out of 12, a variety of research topics will be open to students, with prompts and suggested questions provided in the assignment guide.

While the length of the assignment should be dictated by the number of appropriate resources each student finds, a minimum of 8-14 sources, spread across 3-4 pages, and grouped around various aspects or themes related to their chosen topic, is recommended.

Research Essay (20% of term mark)

A standard research assignment, based on the topic chosen for the literature review, and connected to the in-class prompt (again, this will connect to the TAPS production). Students will build on their literature review and library research session to compile an evaluative researched essay on some aspect of the issue or issues under review. Recommended length is 5-7 pages.

***All Written Assignments MUST be submitted on Blackboard and MUST be in either PDF or .doc/.docx format***

Assignments submitted in .pages format will not be marked.

Journal (20% of term mark)

The journal is a term-long project, and should consist of all exercises, assignments, handouts, reflections, in-class projects, notes and other materials – in short, it should be a record of everything students do in ACMB01. The list of textbook assignments for the journal can be found on Blackboard, with all other assignment guides and submission links. It can be compiled physically (hard copy) or electronically.

Note: the remaining 15% of the term mark will be allocated for in-class participation. Note that attendance is not the same thing as participation.

Late Assignment Policy

Late assignments with a documented excuse will be accepted with no penalty, up to 10 days following the due date (unless other arrangements are made). Late work without documentation will be subject to the following penalty: -10% + 1 point per day of lateness. So, if a paper is 5 days late, the penalty would be 10 points (10% of 100 possible points) + 5 points (one point for each day of lateness) = a total deduction of 15 points out of 100. In this example, the highest possible score on the assignment would be 85/100.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is essential to the pursuit of learning and scholarship in a university and to ensuring that a degree from the University of Toronto is a strong signal of each student’s individual academic achievement. As a result, the University treats cases of cheating, plagiarism, and academic dishonesty very seriously. As such, we maintain a zero-tolerance policy in cases of cheating, plagiarism, and academic dishonesty. All violations of the standards of academic integrity will be reported to the necessary university officials. Potential offences include, but are not limited to:

In papers and assignments: Using someone else’s ideas or words (via direct quotes, paraphrases, and summarizations) without appropriate acknowledgement. Submitting your own work in more than one course without the permission of the Instructor. Making up sources or facts. Obtaining or providing unauthorized assistance on any assignment, including copying and/or modifying the work of your peers.

On tests and exams: Using or possessing unauthorized aids. Looking at someone else’s answers during an exam or test. Misrepresenting your identity.

In academic work: Falsifying institutional documents or grades. Falsifying or altering any documentation required by the University, including (but not limited to) doctor’s notes.

Accessible Learning

Students requiring accommodations due to a disability, health-related issue, or unique learning style are welcome in this course. Both your Instructor and the University of Toronto are committed to accessibility. I have worked extensively with “AccessAbility” Services at UTSC, and am committed to helping all students achieve their academic goals. All enquiries will remain strictly confidential. If you require accommodations, or have any accessibility concerns about the course, the classroom, or course materials, please let me know as soon as possible and contact Accessibility Services in room S302, or at:





University of Toronto Grading Criteria

(See Grading Rubric for specific assignment requirements)


Letter Grade

Point Value







Strong evidence of original thinking; good organization; capacity to analyze and synthesize; superior grasp of subject matter with sound critical evaluations; evidence of extensive knowledge base.















Evidence of grasp of subject matter, some evidence of critical capacity and analytic ability; reasonable understanding of relevant issues; evidence of familiarity with literature















Student who is profiting from the university experience; understanding of the subject matter and ability to develop solutions to simple problems in the material.















Some evidence of familiarity with the subject matter and some evidence that critical and analytic skills have been developed















Little evidence of even superficial understanding of subject matter; weakness in critical and analytic skills; limited or irrelevant use of literature.





ACMB01 – Dates at a glance (Spring 2018):


Location (if applicable)


Doris McCarthy Gallery visit

Doris McCarthy Gallery (during class)

January 11

Syllabus Quiz


By January 19

Précis Assignment


February 2

Writing Centre clinic

In class

February 8

Academic Integrity Matters workshop (2)


February 12, 12:00-1:00pm

TAPS ticket sales (10 Out of 12 performance)

In class (tickets can also be purchased online or at the box office)

February 15

Argument Essay Assignment


February 16

TAPS open rehearsal (1)*

Leigha Lee Browne Theatre

February 27

TAPS open rehearsal (2)*

Leigha Lee Browne Theatre

March 1

Library research session

AC286A (during class)

March 1

TAPS presentation

In class

March 8

Literature Review Assignment


March 9

10 Out of 12 performance dates (TAPS)

Leigha Lee Browne Theatre

March 15-17 and 22-24 (8pm start time)

Term Journal Assignment


April 5

Research Essay Assignment


April 6


*Open rehearsals of 10 Out of 12 provide opportunities for ACMB01 students to get a “sneak peek” of the play they will address in the final research essay. Students should attend one open rehearsal, for a minimum of one hour (though you are welcome to stay longer). To minimize distractions, you should plan to arrive on the hour, as follows: 4:00pm, 5:00pm, 7:00pm, 8:00pm (note that the actors are on break from 6:00-7:00pm); the full open rehearsal time is 4:00pm-9:30pm. Students may have opportunities to ask questions of the director and actors during this period, making it an incredibly valuable experience as you gather ideas for the final essay.


Course Timeline


Week 1 (Jan 11): Intro to Academic Reading, Thinking, and Writing


        Academic writing as conversation, exchange, continuous construction and de-construction of knowledge

        Awareness of audience/reader

        Citation/documentation as maintaining the conversation of academic discourse


        Doris McCarthy Gallery visit (attendance for this is mandatory, as it will relate to your precis and first essay assignment.)

Week 2 (Jan 18): The Fundamentals of Academic Reading, Writing, and Thinking


        Essay fundamentals

        Reader-focused writing

        General conventions of academic writing and the reasons behind them

        The role of critical reading, thinking, and writing in the humanities


        Writing By Choice (WBC) 1-23

        Boyle, Shary. “Earthlings.” Earthlings, edited by Esker Foundation, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Galerie de l’UQAM and Nanaimo Art Gallery, 2016.

        Igloliorte, Heather. “Inuit Ceramics and Other Outliers: Creation and Collaboration in the North and South.” Earthlings, edited by Esker Foundation, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Galerie de l’UQAM and Nanaimo Art Gallery, 2016.

        Thompson, Shauna. “Cooked Earth and Cosmic Kin.” Earthlings, edited by Esker Foundation, Doris McCarthy Gallery, Galerie de l’UQAM and Nanaimo Art Gallery, 2016.



        Syllabus Quiz (Complete by: Jan 19, 2018, 11:59pm)

Week 3 (Jan 25): Academic Reading and Writing as Conversations


        What “they” say, what you say

        Understanding meaning and context


        They Say, I Say (TSIS) 1-52

        Roland Barthes, “Death of the Author” in Image- Music- Text (London: Fontana Press, 1977) 143-148

Week 4 (Feb 1): The Writing Process


        Making choices

        Stages of writing

        Rhetoric and modes of discourse


        WBC 24-49


         Précis (Due Date: Feb 2, 2018, 11:59pm)

Week 5 (Feb 8): Critical Reading, Critical Thinking: Responding to what “they” say


        Inserting a naysayer

        Crafting a thesis with a “so what?”

        Distinguishing what you say from what “they” say


        TSIS 53-102


        Writing Centre clinic (in-class)

Week 6 (Feb 15): The Essentials of Academic Writing


        Analysis and structure

        Introductions and Conclusions

        Organizing analysis

        Paragraph patterns

        Peer review


        WBC 50-98, 387-389


        Argument/Persuasive Essay (Due Date: Feb 16, 2018, 11:59pm)


~Reading Week (Feb 22) – No Class~

Week 7 (March 1): Connecting the Parts


        Main point and sub-points


        Intro to revision


        TSIS 103-160

        Washburn, Anne. 10 Out of 12. Samuel French, 2016.


        Library Research Session (to be confirmed)

Week 8 (March 8): Responding to Texts


        Kinds of texts

        Audience and purpose

        Summaries and analyses


        WBC 99-112

        Grennen, Alex and Anne Kauffman. “Strange Times.” Theater, vol. 39, no. 1, 2009, pp.40-43.

        Essin, Christin. Review of 10 Out of 12, by Anne Washburn. Theatre Journal, vol. 68, no. 1, 2016, pp. 117-119.


        Literature Review (Due Date: March 9, 2018, 11:59pm)

Week 9 (March 15): From Literature Review to Research Essay


        Reading for conversation

        Analysis and synthesis


        TSIS 161-183


Week 10 (March 22): Argumentation


        Purpose of argument

        Tone, voice, style

        Arguable claims

        Strategies for argument


        WBC 113-146

Week 11 (March 29): Writing a Research Essay


        Understanding the research essay

        Primary v. Secondary sources

        Planning the research process

        Analysis and Synthesis


        WBC 185-237

Week 12 (April 5): Peer Review; Sustaining Critical Engagement, Maintaining Conversation


        Constructing reading circles (networking peer review)

        Beyond proofreading: Techniques for formative feedback

        Review and feedback as conversation

        Clarity and depth of prose


        WBC 272-306


        Journal (Due Date: April 5, 2018 [in class, or online by 11:59pm])

        Research Essay (Due Date: April 6, 2018, 11:59pm)





Please keep the following in mind at all times:

I want you to do well in this course!   J

[1] Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say/I Say: the Moves that Matter in Academic Writing (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2014), 20.

Originally posted 2018-05-11 11:59:05.



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