Advanced Composition    

Spring 2017

Distance Learning
CRN 10848
Dept. Of English
Prof. Joyce Johnston

Office Hours Thursdays 10:30-noon
A455 Robinson Hall
Skype: joyce.johnston48

This section of English 302 uses Blackboard and PBWiki as course software.  Access Blackboard at http://mymasonportal.gmu.edu.  After logging in using your MasonLive user ID and password, click on the Courses tab at the upper right of the screen.  Then click on the course name to access the Blackboard course folder. Both the Course Schedule and the Course Policies can also be accessed on the professor's website, available at http://mason.gmu.edu/~jjohnsto


Methods of Instruction

Honor Code;



In the university catalog, the focus of English 302 is described as follows: 
"Intensive practice in writing and analyzing expository forms such as essay, article, proposal, and technical or scientific reports with emphasis on research related to student’s major field." This course is designed to build on the general writing skills and techniques you have acquired in 101 and other university courses, and to prepare you for completing advanced level writing, analysis and research tailored to your major discipline and possible future workplace.  We will, therefore, practice the various genres of writing you are likely to encounter.

Throughout the semester, you will also learn to recognize the way(s) that knowledge is constructed in business-related disciplines, adapt your writing to common purposes and audience needs, conduct and synthesize research, use computer technologies as part of your research and writing process, and produce writing that employs the organizational techniques and genres typical in each discipline.  

Building on the strong basis in textual analysis gained from your 200-level English courses, this section will emphasize types of writing that will serve the more than 3,550 undergraduate students in the School of Business pursuing majors in such fields as ACCOUNTING, HEALTH SYSTEMS MANAGEMENT, MANAGEMENT and FINANCE. Students should endeavor to develop a flexible, literate writing style appropriate to a mature mind both in and out of these areas. Development of an individual, yet field-appropriate vocabulary and tone are primary, as is development of audience awareness. Familiarity with research techniques and sources--whether cyber, human or paper--is also essential.

Since English 302 is an upper-division course, please familiarize yourself with the English Department's description of and requirements for the course to be sure that you meet the criteria.


The section is organized around the concept of branding within a business environment. The semester's work follows an arc starting with your brand as an individual, then looks at the brand created by your major within academia, next investigates the image represented by membership in one or more professional associations, culminating in a final research project matching your desired personal brand with the one already created by your optimal  future employer. Finally, you have the opportunity to improve your profession's brand by improving its code of ethics.

The course also uses a business-sector tool--the SWOT analysis--to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities in each of the steps in that progression.



All students
who enter English 302 must meed the following requirements:
Students majoring in Computer Science or Engineeering must take English 302N. Students in the School of Management are very strongly recommended to take English 302B.


Full instructions for submitting a portfolio and taking an essay exam to attempt to waive English 302 may be found on the Waiver of English 302 page. 
Any student who does not waive the course MUST take it in order to graduate, since it is one of the Foundation Requirements in Written Communication.

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George Mason University's Mason Core is designed to complement work in a student's chosen area of study.  These classes serve as a means of discovery for students, providing a foundation for learning, connecting to potential new areas of interest and building tools for success in whatever field a student pursues. Learning outcomes are guided by the qualities every student should develop as they move toward graduating with a George Mason degree.  Through a combination of courses, the Mason Core program helps students become:

Critical and Creative Scholars
Students who have a love of and capacity for learning.  Their understanding of fundamental principles in a variety of disciplines and their mastery of quantative and communication tools enables them to think creatively and productively. They are inquisitive, open-minded, capable, informed, and able to integrate diverse bodies of knowledge adn perspectives.

Self-Reflective Learners

Students who develop the capacity to think well.  They can identify and articulate individual beliefs, strengths and weaknesses, critically reflect on these beliefs and integrate this understanding into their daily living.

Students who are tolerant and understanding. They can conceptualize and communicate about problems of local, national and global significance, using research and evaluative perspectives to contribute to the common good.

Thinkers and Problem-Solvers

Students who are able to discover and understand natural, physical and social phenomena; who can articulate their application to real world challenges; and who approach problem-soving from various vantage points.  They can demonstrative capabiity for inquiry, reason and imagination and see connnections in historical, literary and artistic fields.


This section of English 302 is participating in GMU’s “Students as Scholars” program. Across campus, students now have increased opportunities to work with faculty on original scholarship, research, and creative activities, through their individual departments and the OSCAR office.

English 302-SAS Student Learning Outcomes: For primarily text-based research that prepares students to make original contributions: students will

CORE: Articulate and refine a question, problem, or challenge.

        ETHICAL: Identify relevant ethical issues and follow ethical principles

        DISCOVERY: Distinguish between personal beliefs and evidence.

        METHOD: Choose an appropriate research method for scholarly inquiry.

        METHOD: Gather and evaluate evidence appropriate to the inquiry.

        METHOD:  Appropriately analyze scholarly evidence.

        CONTEXT: Explain how knowledge is situated and shared in relevant scholarly contexts.

        COMMUNICATION: Communicate knowledge from an original scholarly or creative project.

Assignments in English 302 will help prepare you to be contributors to knowledge in your field, not just memorizers of facts: you will

        understand how knowledge is created and transmitted in a field/discipline

        understand key methods and conventions of scholarly research in your field/discipline

        articulate and refine your own question for scholarly inquiry

        situate your investigation in an ongoing context/conversation in your field

        and design a final project that adds new perspectives and/or data to the conversation


Students who successfully complete English 302 will be able to adapt their reading and writing to meet the expectations of their academic and future workplace.  They will be able to demonstrate the ability to

Advanced Writing Goals: Students who successfully complete ENGH 302 will demonstrate that they have continued to develop their research and writing strategies to an advanced level. They will be able to:

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All course readings will be done online, using uploaded articles, links provided in the syllabus, and material e-mailed to the class by the instructor. Please note that online readings are no less required than paper texts are in other classes.

A research handbook is highly advisable, as students will be expected to use their appropriate professional format flawlessly by the end of the semester.  For the School of Business, the format is APA, so the handbook is the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Assocation (6th edition.) This is available at the GMU Bookstore, or any commercial bookseller, including Amazon.  Be sure to acquire the current (6th) edition, as previous versions have significantly different formatting.

Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference (7th ed.) is an optional but extremely valuable resource for questions of grammar, usage and research documentation.  It contains a section on APA formatting, so could be substituted for a research handbook. There is also an alternate version titled A Writer's Reference with Resources for Multilingual Writers and ESL (7th ed.)


Since this class is a distance learning section, it is BYOD (bring your own device.) Students must use their own personal electronic devices to participate in class activities.  Smart phones are generally NOT adequate to this purpose due to the difficulty of extended writing on such small screen sizes.

Check email regularly, preferably daily. Any student not regularly using his or her GMU email account must set that account to forward to the student's preferred email address.  Failure to do so will mean that the student will not receive any class notices, warnings of missing assignments or individua contact from the instructor, all of which are sent to the class list maintained by the Registrar's Office.

If using a PC, use either Chrome or Mozilla Firefox as your browser. Blackboard, our course Learning Management System, does not play well with Explorer. If using a Mac, use Safari and Mac OS10.5 or higher.

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Students are responsible for verifying their enrollment in this class. Deadlines are included in the Course Schedule for this class as well as the GMU Schedule of Classes.

For Spring 2017, the Last Day to Add or to Drop without tuition penalty is Monday, Jan. 30, 2017.

The absolutely Last Day to Drop is Friday, Feb. 24, 2017.  After the last day to drop a class, withdrawal requires the approval of the Dean and is only allowed for nonacademic reasons. 

Undergraduate students may choose to exercise a selective withdrawal option, which may be used no more than three times in a student's undergraduate career at George Mason and must be completed within the selective withdrawal period. For Spring 2017, the period lasts from Feb. 27-Mar. 31.  See the GMU Schedule of Classes for selective withdrawal procedures.


In accordance with English Department policy, each student will submit a minimum of 3500 words in the course of the semeter, which will serve as the basis for the course grade. Any student with a documented disability which could impact the completion of this requirement must notify the instructor at the beginning of the semester, using a Faculty Contact Sheet.  Students needing documentation must contact the Office of Disability Services, located in SUB 1, Room 4205, phone number (703) 993-2474.  Documentation is required to obtain course adaptations to ensure that students recieve appropriate support and assistance for success in the class.


Extra credit is not awarded in this class.


All assignments should be submitted to Blackboard on time.

Late work may be delayed in being graded and returned; delay is usually one week but may be more. Please keep this in mind, especially near the end of the semester.

Students should retain all graded files until the final course grade appears on their transcripts at the end of the semester.

IMPORTANT: Both the Research Paper and the visual presentation project on situational leadership have non-negotiable due dates due to the necessity of submitting final grades in time for graduation. They cannot be submitted late.


Be aware that writing is a time-intensive activity.  It is thus very difficult to make up any significant amount of lost time. Anyone who must unavoidably miss class activities is advised to notify the instructor promptly to avoid falling behind.  In an online class like this one, course work and deadlines go on as scheduled, regardless of weather-related closings, unless there is a network outage or Blackboard crash.

Since group work is conducted online, it is crucial that each person contribute meaningfully to the group to which s/he is assigned, especially  in a business writing section, since the business world is so highly collaborative. Therefore, participation in the class environment is an important part of the semester grade, especially for the civility blog, the wiki project and the peer reviews of research papers.  It is not possible to earn an "A" in this class without timely, meaningful group contributions.

Active presence in online conversations is essential.  This implies brain awareness, without other distractions, as well as the basic courtesies of formal social gatherings. A student who is seriously unprepared for class or group work--having no draft ready for group mates to critique, for example, will lose class participation points for that activity.  Any serious breach of good online conduct may cause the loss of all participation points.


The instructions for each assignment include the correct title for the file(s) submitted.

Assignments MUST be submitted in Word (.doc or .docx) format. The ONLY exception to this is screen shots of quizzes, which may be submitted as JPEG or PDF files.  No other file types will be scored. If using a Mac or  a Word equivalent like Open Office or Libre Office, it is the student'sresponsibility to ensure that his/her submissions can be read in Word 2013.


Any questions or correspondence should be directed to the instructor's GMU email address: jjohnsto@gmu.edu. All GMU-related correspondence is handled through that address and ONLY that address. When contacting the instructor about a message sent to the class list, students should be sure to reply to the instructor's email address rather than to the entire list.  This places communications within the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

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It is University policy that in all Mason Core English classes (English 100, 101, 201 and 302), students must achieve a grade of C (73) or higher to receive credit for the course. Students with averages of C- or lower will receive an NC (No Credit) for the course.

It is also university policy that all students in English 302 must successfully complete a major research assignment in order to earn credit for the course.  In our case, this is the Research Paper. 

It is also the policy of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences that once final grades have been recorded, instructors should not accept any additional work from a student to change a grade.

In addition, the University requires that students submit a minimum of 3500 words in course of the semester, upon which the course grade is based.


Each assignment, as well as the final course grade, is based upon a total of 100 points. Grading ranges are:

A+  =  98-100.  A = 93-97.  A- =  90-92.  B+ =  88-89.  B =  83-87.  B- =  80-82.  C+ = 78-79.  C = 73-77.  C- = 70-72.  D+ = 68-69.  D = 63-67.  D- = 60-62.  Any grade below D- receives no credit for the assignment.


Essays are graded using the following general criteria:


Assignments are individually graded on a scale of 0-100, as described in the previous section.  They are then assigned percentage values (sometimes known as weights) to calculate the final semester grade.  Calculations are handled by Blackboard' grade book function.

In ascending order, weights/percentage values for course assignments are:

Quiz on Course Policies
1, 3, 6
Class Civility Blog and Survey
3, 6
What is Your Academic Discipline? Worksheet
5, 7
Quiz on APA Format
1, 5, 6
Peer Review of Research Paper
1, 2, 3, 4, 7
Memo on Choosing a Professional Assocation
3, 4, 6, 7
Plagiarism Test
1, 3, 5, 7
Personal Branding Analysis
2, 3
Visual Presentation: Becoming an Effective Situational Leader
5, 6
Disciplinary Resources Wiki and Assessing Your Wiki Group's Functioning 15%
2, 3, 6
Research Paper on Professional Branding
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

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There are four MAJOR WRITING ASSIGNMENTS for this course, each in a different format. Each assignment has an instructions containing goals, skills developed by the assignment, procedures to complete the assignment, and grading criteria. There are also help files supplementing each assignment, designed to provide support in locating materials and/or developing needed critical analysis and research skills.

  1. The Disciplinary Resources Wiki--prepares for research in a specific field of study by constructing a simple database--a wiki--that identifies some basic resources, scholars, organizations, questions, issues and writing conventions
  2. Memo on Choosing a Professional Association--compares three professional associations that offer valuable opportunities for networking, hiring, reading materials, conferences/training, outside contacs and benefits to an aspiring professional
  3. Visual Presentation on Becoming an Effective Situational Leader--synthesis project combining skills from the three other majr assignments. Analyzes attributes needed in students' business careers at the management level.
  4. The Research Paper--reviews current professional, scholarly and media knowledge about a proposed corporate or government employer. Identifies contact points between the corporate brand and the student's personal brand and values. Successful submission of a complete paper by the due date is required to earn credit for this course.  At a minimum, a complete paper must contain an title page, abstract page, body with internal citations for sources and a references page.


Four SHORT WRITINGS will establish appropriate online behavior norms, used for critical reading, writing and reflection on research material:

  1. a class blog in which students compare appropriate with potentially challenging topics for online interaction, followed by a survey to establish a class code of conduct for a business environment
  2. a worksheet designed to introduce and reinforce the concept of an academic discipline
  3. peer review of classmates' research paper drafts
  4. a personal blog reflecting on writing progress and issues in each of the four major assignments, which also supports the university's Students as Scholars/QEP objectives


Three QUIZZES, taken online, will cover concerns in business research and writing.

  1. The first will cover parallel structure used in lists, resumes and bullet point formats like Prezi or PowerPoint.
  2. The second will test proficiency with formatting research papers, internal citations and references in APA style, as required by the School of Business.
  3. The third will review plagiairism and intellectual propertyIt is a prerequisite for acceptance of the research paper, which in turn is required in order to pass the class.  
After the due dates for the quizzes, students will be expected to use these elements accurately and appropriately, with grade penalties if this goal is not achieved.  Otherwise, grammar will be taught in this class only occasionally, on an as-needed basis. Please consult the instructor if a particular grammar question arises.

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George Mason University has an Honor Code, which requires all members of this community to maintain the highest standards of academic honesty and integrity.  Cheating, plagiarism, lying and stealing are all prohibited.   Instructors in the Composition Program support the George Mason Honor Code, which requires them to report any suspected instances of plagiarism to the Honor Council. All judgments about plagiarism are made after careful review by the Honor Council, which may issue penalties ranging from grade-deductions to course failure to expulsion from GMU.


 In academic writing, integrity of results falls under acute scrutiny from fellow professionals. All students are therefore expected to scrupulously observe all GMU policies as well as individual instructors' guidelines, plus respect the intellectual property of others. Please read and observe the English Department's Statement on Plagiarism below.

Plagiarism means using the exact words, opinions, or factual information from another source without giving that source credit. Writers give credit through the use of accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books, articles, and websites is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting.

Student writers are often confused as to what should be cited. Some think that only direct quotations need to be credited. While direct quotations do need citations, so do paraphrases and summaries of opinions or factual information formerly unknown to the writers or which the writers did not discover themselves. Exceptions to this include factual information which can be obtained from a variety of sources, the writers' own insights or findings from their own field research, (what has been called common knowledge). What constitutes common knowledge can sometimes be precarious; what is common knowledge for one audience may be so for another. In such situations, it is helpful to keep the reader in mind and to think of citations as being "reader friendly." In other words, writers provide a citation for any piece of information that they think their readers might want to investigate further. Not only is this attitude considerate of readers, it will almost certainly ensure that writers will not be guilty of plagiarism.  Consult the George Mason Honor Code for more information.


This class will include direct instruction in strategies for handling sources as part of our curriculum.  However, students in composition classes must also take responsibility for understanding and practicing the basic principles listed below.

To avoid plagiarism, meet the expectations of a US academic audience, give their readers a chance to investigate the issue further, and make credible arguments, writers MUST, at a minimum,

While different disciplines may have slightly different citation styles, and different instructors may emphasize different levels of citation for different assignments, writers should always begin with these conservative practices unless they are expressly told otherwise. Writers who follow these steps carefully will almost certainly avoid plagiarism. If writers ever have questions about a citation practice, they should ask their instructor!


George Mason University is committed to providing equal opportunity and an educational and work environment free from any discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation or age.  GMU adheres to all applicable state and federal equal opportunity/affirmative action statutes and regulations.

George Mason University is also committed to a campus that is free of sexual misconduct and incidents of interpersonal violence.  If you experience or witness such an incident, contact the Title IX Coordinator's Office at (703) 993-8730 for available options and resources. Students seeking additional counselling or advice should contact Counseling and Psychological Services at (703) 993-2380.  In an emergency, call Crisis Link at (703) 527-4077 or go to Online Crisis Chat.  You may also call the campus police at (703)-993-2810.

The University Catalog is the central resource for university policies affecting all students, faculty and staff conduct in university academic affairs.  Other policies are available at http://universitypolicy.gmu.edu/.  All members of the university community are responsible for knowing and following established policies.

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