Course Information

Photo of a typewriter Daniel McCullough

WRIT 100. Writing in Public

Fifty years ago, getting your writing into print could be tough. Now, anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection can publish their thoughts. But how do you get people to read what you've written? And what makes good public writing? How do you make your opinions about pop culture or politics or animal cruelty interesting and persuasive? How do you join the public conversation, instead of screaming into the internet void?

This class investigates public writing on topics as varied as Kim Kardashian, Black Lives Matter, millennials, and Internet trolls. We examine ways authors use evidence and analysis to build persuasive arguments and learn strategies for identifying and engaging with public audiences. We also produce public writing in response to the essays we read and learn the skills for setting up, maintaining and promoting blogs and websites.

Class Information

  • Fall 2018
  • MWF 1:30-2:30
  • CGL 114

Instructor Information

  • Sydney Bufkin
  • Leyburn Library M36
  • Office hours:
  • Thursdays, 9-11 AM
  • And by appointment

Course Objectives

This term you will

  • Read carefully and critically and respond to that reading systematically and analytically
  • Practice developing analytic claims and supporting those claims with specific, appropriate and properly cited evidence
  • Reflect on and hone your writing process, with particular attention to revision
  • Assess information and information technologies critically
  • Practice writing for online and public audiences
  • Develop the technical skills to reach online audiences

WRIT 100 learning outcomes

  • Write persuasive essays that contain a clear and debatable thesis, appropriately developed claims, and logical organization of argument.
  • Analyze supporting evidence fully and convincingly, integrating the writer’s ideas with those from appropriate primary or secondary sources.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of audience appropriate documentation conventions and mastery of sentence-level skills, including precision in grammar, mechanics, and style.
  • Reflect on and apply the stages of the writing process including pre-writing, drafting, reviewing, conferencing, editing, and revising to develop polished final products.

Required Texts

  • Frost, Corey, Karen Weingarten, Doug Babington, Don LePan and Maureen Okun, eds. The Broadview Guide to Writing: A Handbook for Students, 6th ed., Broadview, 2017.
  • Graff, Gerald and Cathy Birkenstein. They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 3rd ed., Norton, 2016.
  • Hurley, Kameron. The Geek Feminist Revolution, Tor Books, 2016.
  • Ward, Jesmyn, ed. The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, Scribner, 2016.


Pie chart depicting the relative values of each of the grading categories
Paper I 15 points
Paper II 15 points
Paper III 15 points
Paper IV 15 points
Group-led discussion 15 points
Blog posts 10 points
Participation 10 points
Short analysis 5 points

Grading Scale

93-100 points A
90-92 points A-
87-89 points B+
83-86 points B
80-82 points B-
77-79 points C+
73-76 points C
70-72 points C-
67-69 points D+
63-66 points D
60-62 points D-
0-59 points F


Major papers

You will write four major papers over the course of the term. Each paper will ask you to develop an analytic argument about the texts we read in the course and to support that argument with specific and concrete evidence drawn from those texts. Prior to submitting each paper for a grade, you will share a draft with your classmates for rigorous and thoughtful peer review. You will also have the opportunity to revise each of your major papers.

Group-led discussion

During the final unit of the course, you and several of your classmates will select texts for the class to read and discuss in one of our class meetings. In addition to choosing the texts for the day, you and your group will also present the class with discussion questions and facilitate the group in our discussion. You will also submit a written evaluation that reflects on the texts you selected and the success of the group discussion.

Blog posts

We'll talk a lot this term about writing as conversation. Public writing is all about finding relevant conversations between other writers and situating your own views within those conversations. Sometimes, those reponses take the form of formal essays like those you'll write at the end of each unit, but other times, your contributions to public conversations can be much less formal. The blog post assignment asks you to practice contributing to public conversations from a more casual perspective than in your essays.

Short analysis

Early in the term, you will write a short, focused analysis of a single section of one of the essays in The Geek Feminist Revolution. You will then expand on this analysis for your first major paper.


Your participation grade reflects your engagement in class discussion, your performance on in-class reading checks, and completion of all course reflections and take-home assignments.


In addition to analyzing examples of public writing, we will also be producing public writing. You will publish your writing on your website, which you will set up at the beginning of the term. We will go through the steps for setting up your website as a class, and you will be responsible for maintaining and promoting your site and your writing.

Course Policies


Because revision is an essential part of the writing process, you will have the opportunity to continue to revise each formal writing assignment throughout the term. Each revision should constitute a significant change from the previous draft; revisions that do not contain significant changes will not be accepted.


Much of the work of this class will be accomplished in discussion, which means your attendance and participation are essential. You may have one no-questions-asked absence during the term; after that, any absences must be explained and, in some cases, documented. Excessive absences will negatively affect your grade, and more than six absences (two full weeks of class) will result in a failing grade for the course.


Our course will make heavy use of technology as we read, write and analyze. If you have a laptop, you should bring it to class with you each day. If you do not have a laptop, consult with me and we will arrange to borrow one on the days when we will be conducting hands-on technology workshops.

When classroom activities call for laptop use, you should make every effort to remain focused on the task at hand. To help you stay focused, you should close all windows and tabs that do not contain material related to class: close out Facebook, shut down your messaging program and email and close down any shopping or news tabs. Keep your digital environment streamlined so that you can keep your attention focused.

When we are not actively using computers in class, I ask you to consider carefully your use of technology and whether it serves as a distraction from your participation and attention to your classmates. If using a laptop or tablet is a marked aid to your note-taking process, then you may do so, but I encourage you to put electronic devices away whenever possible. In addition, there should be no audio or visual recording of the class without my explicit permission and that of your classmates.


Washington and Lee defines plagiarism as “the use of another’s words or ideas without proper acknowledgment.” You are responsible for familiarizing yourself with what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. For assistance, see the resources available on the library website and in the Broadview Guide to Writing, and consult with me during my office hours.

Accommodations for students with disabilities

This course is intended for all W&L students, including those with mental, physical, or cognitive disabilities, illness, injuries, impairments, or any other condition that tends to negatively affect one’s equal access to education. I am committed to meeting the needs of all class participants, and you should feel free to consult with me about any specific needs you may have.

Washington and Lee University makes reasonable academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. All undergraduate accommodations must be approved through the Office of the Dean of the College. Students requesting accommodations for this course should present an official accommodation letter within the first two weeks of the (fall or winter) term and schedule a meeting outside of class time to discuss accommodations. It is the student’s responsibility to present this paperwork in a timely fashion and to follow up about accommodation arrangements. Accommodations for test-taking should be arranged with the professor at least a week before the date of the test or exam. For more information contact: Lauren Kozak, Assistant Director of Career Development and Title IX Coordinator, Elrod Commons 307, (540) 458-4055.

Basic needs

Any student who faces challenges securing their food or housing and believes this may affect their performance in the course is urged to take advantage of the resources available at the university, including the Office of Inclusion and Engagement, the resources for first-generation students, and the Student Affairs Angel Fund for emergencies. Furthermore, please notify me if you are comfortable doing so, as I may be able to provide resources or support.