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BYU Course Objectives

  1. Employ informed and flexible processes for writing and speaking, including: creating and/or finding ideas about which to write; collecting evidence and data; planning and drafting; revising; editing; and designing or presenting a message so that it is successfully understood by a specified audience.
  2. Write coherent and unified texts, including effective introductions, clear thesis statements, supporting details, transitions, and strong conclusions.
  3. Use various methods of invention, organization, and style to adapt written and oral forms of communication to specific rhetorical situations.
  4. Utilize the library and electronic resources to locate relevant information, assess its reliability and usefulness, and effectively and ethically incorporate it into their own writing by following an appropriate style of documentation.
  5. Write in a correct, clear, and graceful prose style.
  6. Successfully complete a library mini-course taught for their major area and demonstrate the ability to use the library effectively.
  7. Successfully complete the library tour, tutorial, and tests (if not completed as part of the first-year writing requirement).
  8. Demonstrate the ability to create, number, and label tables and figures.
  9. Effectively evaluate and comment on the writing of others to facilitate revision.

Course Objectives

The specific objectives of the course are these:

  1. To consider through reading, writing, and discussion what it means to communicate in, for, or about the social sciences.
  2. To have you write and revise a series of papers that give you practice in understanding the context of a rhetorical situation, addressing specified audiences, writing for various purposes, and using various methods of invention, organization, and style, particularly those characteristic of the rhetoric of the social sciences.
  3. To introduce you to the basic elements of visual and oral communication and help you understand how to integrate these with written elements to enhance audience understanding.
  4. To help you develop your own processes for using written, visual, and oral communication so that you feel competent to size up new rhetorical situations and accomplish other communication tasks that you will face in other college courses and in your career.
  5. To help you develop skill in understanding and using the research methods of the social sciences so that you can read, evaluate, and eventually follow accepted and ethical procedures to create data about which you will write.
  6. To expand and refine your knowledge of how to use library and Internet resources and document borrowed information correctly.
  7. To improve your abilities to analyze effective and ineffective communication so that you will be a more effective consumer of written, oral, and visual communication.
  8. To help you develop a correct, clear, and graceful prose style that makes your writing clear, easy, and pleasurable to read.

Course Materials

Before you start this course, you should have purchased copies of the following books from the BYU Bookstore, Amazon, or another reputable retailer:

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This course consists of 19 lessons, one midcourse exam, and one final exam. You will turn in 11 written assignments, ranging from a short response paper to a long research paper. You will also submit one oral assignment (recorded as an electronic file). This oral assignment is required and cannot be omitted.

You will prepare for these assignments, which comprise most of the grade in the course, by going through the lessons and reading the text, Writing in the Social Sciences: A Rhetoric with Readings. The midterm and final exams will mostly test your knowledge of grammar and mechanics. All of the written assignments and the final exam will be graded by your instructor.

We recommend that you work through each lesson by reading first the introduction to each lesson, then the objectives. After that, you might want to read either the Discussion Material next or the reading assignment in Writing in the Social Sciences: A Rhetoric with Readings. They are meant to complement each other, so use them in the order that works best for you—but do read both!

After completing the reading, you should test your understanding by answering the Self Check questions. You will not do yourself any favors by giving nonsense answers to look at the correct answers.

After you have read the lesson and the textbook and completed the Self Check, you should do the style exercises assigned for each lesson. The exercises are meant to complement whatever writing assignment you have in that lesson. Check your answers to the exercises with the Style Packet Answer Key, which is the link right after this Syllabus.

Remember that you will be tested on the information in the Style packet on both the midterm and the final exam.

Formatting Your Written Work

You will submit written assignments electronically through your course. To make sure I can open and read your papers, please save them as a .DOC or .DOCX. Rich text format, .RTF, is also accepted if can't save it as a .DOC. file (please do NOT send .pdf's). Here’s how to do it:

  1. Type your paper in a word-processing program (such as Microsoft Word).
  2. When you save the file, click the Save as type: drop-down list.
  3. Select .doc, .docx, or .rtf.
  4. Use the course number, your first and last name, and the assignment name for the filename. For example, “ENGL315_JaneSmith_Resume.rtf.”
  5. Click Save.

Submitting Your Portfolio Assignments

It’s very important that you submit all of the assignments for a portfolio at the same time. Here’s how to submit your completed portfolio assignments:

  1. Click the corresponding Portfolio Submission link in your course and click Open.
  2. Attach all of the relevant assignments by clicking the Choose File button, then locating the file you wish to submit.
  3. To attach additional files, click Add Attachment and use the Choose File button to locate and upload the next file. Make sure you attach every file you need to include in the portfolio assignment.
  4. When you are finished, click Submit.
  5. You will be asked if you are sure you want to submit this assignment. Click Yes.
  6. You will receive a message that tells you that you have successfully submitted your assignment. Click OK.

Remember: Do not submit any assignment until you have completed all of the assignments for the portfolio!

Lesson One: Response Paper – 1 percent

You will write a 250-word response paper on the chapter you read in Writing in the Social Sciences: A Rhetoric with Readings for this lesson. In this response, you may analyze or criticize the ideas in the reading; extend or elaborate on an idea you found in the reading; connect it to other knowledge you have; or otherwise relate your observations and reactions. This response need not be polished writing, but it should be coherent and thoughtful. Your response might grow out of your answers to the Self Check questions and is worth 1% of your final grade. In addition, you will write 100-200 words about yourself to help your instructor get to know you.

Lesson Two: Journal Article Analysis – 5 percent

You will locate a recent, brief article from a respected journal in your major discipline. The article must have been peer-reviewed and published in either a print or online (electronic) journal in your field. You will then write a rhetorical analysis of the article not less than one or more than two pages in length. This is worth 5% of your final grade.

Lesson Four: Correspondence Portfolio (letter, resume, memo) – 12 percent

You will submit the following:

  1. a memo
  2. a letter of application or a letter of intent
  3. the resume assigned in lesson 3

This portfolio submission is worth 12% of your final grade. Please paste all three portfolio items into a single .DOC or .DOCX file and submit as one document.

Lesson Five: Preliminary Bibliography – 4 percent

You will complete the step-by-step research guide found on your course CD using information you locate via the Library Services Portal. You will also prepare a bibliography of at least 10 sources on the topic you think you will write your research paper about. At least 2 of the sources should come from a careful search of the World Wide Web using a search engine or subject directory. At least 5 of the other sources should come from a search of BYU library resources that you have located via the Library Services Portal link. This assignment is worth 4% of your final grade. All sources should be from scholarly, peer-reviewed journals.

Lesson Six: Book Review – 8 percent

After receiving clearance in an email from your instructor to proceed, you will write a book review of about 3-4 pages, double-spaced. This assignment will probably require more time than some of the other assignments in the course because you will need to take time to read a book before you write the paper. This assignment is worth 8% of your final grade.

Lesson Seven: Research Paper Prospectus – 10 percent

You will write a research paper prospectus that should accomplish the following:

  1. state the questions your paper will answer or the claim you will argue for;
  2. justify the worth of your project;
  3. explain how you will carry it out;
  4. outline what the eventual paper will include;
  5. identify the resources you will use to accomplish the task by including a review of literature and a preliminary bibliography.

This assignment is worth 10% of your final grade.

Lesson Eight: Creating and Adapting Visuals – 2 percent

Using information provided in the assignment instructions you will create tables, bar graphs, and a circle graph. This assignment is worth 2% of your final grade.

Lesson Nine: Research Paper – 20 percent

This assignment requires you to demonstrate that you can synthesize the information and points of view of a number of different authors, subordinating their voices and arguments to your own, and using them to support your unique thesis in a coherent, well-organized, stylistically effective paper of 10-12 pages (more if you desire). It also requires you to demonstrate that you understand and can use the conventions of academic research writing: attributing, quoting, paraphrasing, summarizing, and documenting; and using ellipses, brackets, outlines, headings, tables, figures, captions, and appendices where appropriate. This is worth 20% of your final grade.

Lesson Sixteen: IRB Proposal – 8 percent

You will write an IRB proposal, which is basically a request for permission to go forward with the research you have planned. Your proposal will not actually be submitted to the BYU Institutional Review Board (unless you want it to be), but it will be read and graded by your instructor as a way of determining how well you can plan research using a primary method of investigation and how well you understand the constraints involved in conducting research with human participants. This assignment is worth 8% of your final grade.

Lesson Seventeen: Research Paper Peer Critique – 5 percent

Imagine that your instructor is the editor of a new interdisciplinary journal, Social Studies, and that you are a member of the editorial board. This journal’s goal is to publish good papers on everything from anthropology to sociology. But because the editor is not an expert in all these fields and cannot read all the manuscripts that are sent for publication, members of the board are asked to read them and recommend changes in the manuscripts to help them meet the journal’s high standards for research and writing. You have been asked to read and review the manuscript by Maggie Harris (it is included at the end of lesson 17). You are to write a 3-4 page review of the manuscript, outlining its strengths and weaknesses and recommending changes that the author might make before resubmitting it for final consideration. Write your critique in the form of a memo addressed to Maggie Harris, with a copy to the instructor who will read and grade your critique. This assignment is worth 5% of your final grade.

Lesson Nineteen: Position Paper/Opinion Piece and Oral Presentation – 10 percent

You will write a position paper/opinion piece, 3-4 pages long, based upon the research you have done for your formal research paper. This portion of the assignment is worth 4% of your final grade. Create and record an 8-10 minute oral presentation for submission. The oral presentation is not the same as the opinion piece. Carefully craft these two different mediums for the different audiences. This portion of the assignment is worth 6% of your final grade. The oral presentation is NOT optional. It is a requirement to receive credit for this course.

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Midcourse Exam

The midcourse exam has 70 questions, each worth one point. All of the questions are multiple-choice. Some of the questions are a bit harder than the others, and you will need to read carefully in order to choose the correct answer. More information is provided in the “How to Prepare for the Midcourse Exam” section of the course. The midcourse exam is worth 7% of your final grade.

My Responses to Your Submitted Assignments

For most of your submissions, I will make extensive comments right on your document and return it to you. Make certain that when you look at the Instructor’s copy of your assignment that you can actually see my comments (if I have no comments, then I won’t return an Instructor’s copy of the assignment). Some programs, including MAC may not show my comments. If you cannot see my comments, you may need to display them on a different computer.

Final Exam

The final exam has 26 questions, each worth a varying amount of points. Altogether, the exam is worth 8% of your final grade. All of the questions except the last one are short answer, and the exam will be graded by your instructor. In order to do well on the exam, you will need to prepare carefully by reviewing the following parts of the Style booklet: Pronoun Reference, Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement, Constructing Effective Sentences, and Constructing Effective Paragraphs.

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Lesson Assignment Percent Weight
1 response paper 1%
2 rhetorical analysis 5%
4 correspondence portfolio (letter, resume, memo) 12%
5 research guide and preliminary bibliography 4%
6 book review 8%
7 research paper prospectus 10%
8 creating and adapting visuals 2%
9 research paper 20%
16 IRB proposal 8%
17 research paper peer critique 5%
19 position paper/opinion piece (written adaptation of the oral presentation) and oral presentation 10%
Exam Midcourse exam 7%
Exam Final exam 8%
Total 100%

Grading Scale

A 100-94
A- 93-90
B+ 89-87
B 86-83
B- 82-80
C+ 79-77
C 76-73
C- 72-70
D+ 69-67
D 66-63
D- 62-60
E 59-0

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Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


8 written assignments no resubmissions, the portfolio submissions may be resubmitted once for a fee EXCEPT the IRB Proposal Portfolio Submission.

Resubmit an assignment for a fee.


2 proctored computer-graded exams, may retake each once for a fee, must pass the final exam to earn credit for the course.

Retake an exam for a fee.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514