ENGL 199 A: Interdisciplinary Writing/natural Science

Meeting Time: 
MW 1:00pm - 2:20pm
BLD 392
Oliver J. Fraser

Syllabus Description:

Your instructor is Oliver Fraser (or "Dr O"). You can send me a message using Canvas' Inbox feature, or come visit me during my office hours (in PAB C324).

Introduction and Link Objectives

Welcome to English 199 - Interdisciplinary Writing/Natural Sciences, a 5-credit hour writing course that is linked with your astronomy course. The two classes are designed to complement each other, and the assignments, discussions, and exercises we do in this class will center on topics you will learn about in the other course. However, please bear in mind that each class is designed and graded independently of the other, and the real link between your astronomy course and this English class will be you. Here in English 199 we will focus on your writing and your ability to create and express an argument through writing on astronomical topics.

Student-teacher conferences are a key feature of our program, during which we will discuss the effectiveness of your writing (how well it answers the assignment's prompt) and devise a plan for revision. We will cancel our usual classes during conference periods to give me time to meet each of you, and give you time for your work. 


The class is centered around three papers: two short essays (3-4 pages), and one longer research paper (6-8 pages). For each paper that you write you should expect to submit multiple drafts for review, and you will be required to revise your work multiple times before submitting a last revision. The final version of your Research Paper serves as the final exam for this class.

In addition we will have many small writing assignments which will vary widely in their substance, and will typically be designed to help you work through the writing prompts or to reinforce specific composition skills. All of these writing assignments are graded credit/no credit.

I do not accept late work, give make-up assignments, or provide extra credit opportunities because I want to keep you in the flow of the class, working closely with me and your peers on the current assignment.


The English Department keeps an extensive list of on- and off-campus resources intended to help IWP students with their writing:


In general though, I think there are three types of resources you should consider.

  1. Consider scheduling a tutoring session or workshop at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC). They are "available for individual one-to-one tutoring sessions at any stage of your writing process, from the moment you receive an assignment to your final editing. OWRC also offers a variety of workshops, including introductions to American academic culture." They explain how their tutoring works in this short video. If you need drop-in tutoring, there's the CLUE Writing Center: "a free late-night, multidisciplinary study center open to all UW students."
  2. For a good writing reference, I took the English Department's recommendation and keep A Pocket Style Manual (Diana Hacker) next to my computer. Get a spiral-bound edition from the U-bookstore and you can quickly look up 90% of what you need to know. Less complete, but very handy, is the UW Library's Citations and Writing page.
  3. If you're stuck on some research question you can Ask an ipl2 Librarian. If your question is answerable, they will respond with the answer and references within three days.

Plagiarism and Academic Honesty

I find the descriptions of academic misconduct in the statement of Student Academic Responsibility clear and instructive. The situations described range from simple unfamiliarity with the UW's academic standards, to outright fraud.

  • Most cases of plagiarism involve missing or insufficient citations, or borrowing phrasing without proper attribution. My expectation is that you will cite other's ideas, and avoid using the same words and phrases as someone else. If your paper has plagiarized material, we will address this issue in your conference. Final revisions with these issues are marked down by 0.5.
  • When it appears that you are fully aware of your dishonesty, and when the plagiarized material is pervasive, then I must withhold your grade and report the suspected fraudulent activity to the dean's office.

Grading Policy

At this point in your academic career, I expect that you will know how to:

  • find and correct words that are used incorrectly,
  • capitalize proper nouns,
  • edit out words that you are not familiar with,
  • find and correct sentence-level mistakes, such as missing words and unclear phrases,
  • select and use an established citation style.

In addition, you must demonstrate sufficient grasp of the subject matter so that you can write clearly and correctly.

Papers that have met this minimum standard will be scored based on their structure, motivation of content (both the overall argument and paragraph to paragraph), consistent tone, correct citations, factual accuracy, and verb choice (i.e. actual physics, not new-age Animism) as follows:

  • 4.0 above and beyond requirements, ready for publishing.
  • 3.7 really pretty solid.
  • 3.2 answers the prompt adequately, but textbookish, very dry and just the facts.
  • 2.5-2.9 too short, or full of errors, or not cohesive.

Your final score is a percentage, that I will translate to the 0.0-4.0 scale used for reporting grades to the College. I expect that students will spend sufficient time and effort working with their papers to produce high quality work, which means I typically transform the highest percentages in the class to a 4.0, and the median percentages to a grade point near 3.5. The lowest score to receive credit is 60%. For more insight on interpreting these grades, I suggest these good discussions from the UW's guidelines on grading:



Catalog Description: 
Expository writing based on material presented in a specific natural science lecture course. Assignments include drafts of papers to be submitted in the specified course, and other pieces of analytical prose. Concurrent registration in the specified course required.
GE Requirements: 
English Composition (C)
Writing (W)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
February 19, 2016 - 12:00pm