21G.222 | Fall 2002 | Undergraduate

Expository Writing for Bilingual Students


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Overview

Syllabus (PDF)

Course Description

The purpose of this course is to develop your writing skills so that you can feel confident writing the essays, term papers, reports, and exams you will have to produce during your career here at MIT. We will read and analyze samples of expository writing, do some work on vocabulary development, and concentrate on developing your ability to write clear, accurate, sophisticated prose. We will also deal with the grammar and mechanical problems you may have trouble with.

Required Materials

  1. Richek, Margaret Ann. World of Words: Vocabulary for College Students. 5th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. (Do not use an earlier edition.)
  2. Hacker, Diana. Rules for Writers. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000.
  3. Course Packet
  4. One non-fiction book from those I ordered (see list at end).
  5. One heavy folder with an interior pocket– your portfolio. Keep all written work (vocabulary and writing assignments) in this portfolio. I will review it each time I grade a paper, to gauge your progress.

Paper and Revisions

There will be four major papers:

  • Personal essay: 10%
  • Critical review of a non-fiction book: 10%
  • Position paper: 20%
  • Explanation of a term: 10%

Papers will vary in length, but you can expect to write at least 20 pages during the course of the semester, including revisions of your work. You will revise at least one of your papers, but you may choose to revise all of them–or I may direct you to. If you receive a B- or lower on a paper, I will require a revision.


Your grade will be based on

  • Essays: 50%
  • Completion of homework: 25%
  • Participation in class: 25%

Oral Component

This is a communications intensive course. As such, we will also work on developing your oral skills as well as your written skills. There will be:

  • Student-led, whole-class discussions of the reading assignments
  • Student presentation of key vocabulary
  • Small-group discussions

I expect you to participate actively–25% of your grade rests on this.

Grades on Papers

You will revise all major assignments except the last. Your final grade for the paper will be a combination of the grade for the initial version and the grade for the revised version, with the revised version weighted more heavily.

Late Papers

If you need an extension on a paper, ask me. I am reasonable. Do not disappear. Do not hide out. Papers that come in late without prior arrangement with me will be marked down.

How to Get an A

Come to all classes. (More than 3 absences will affect your grade.)
Participate actively.
Do all the assignments before you come to class.
Do your reading and written homework.
Write and rewrite your papers.
Seek my help in office hours and/or use the Writing Center.
Write papers worthy of an A.

The Writing Center

I strongly recommend that you use the Writing Center. Qualified staff are there to help you–but you must make an appointment to see them. Plan ahead on this–the Center books up fast. They will give you up to one hour of one-to-one help with your assignments. Invariably, those who use the Writing Center learn more and get better grades on their papers. The instructor, who has taught 21G.222, will be on staff there this semester–ask for him if you can.


The phrases and sentences that we construct are our property. Using those of another person without citing the source, or copying sentences from another paper, web site, article or book violates copyright laws and is a very serious offense in this culture. Do not do this. I will speak more about this as the course goes on, but to avoid inadvertent plagiarism,

  • Do not have a native speaker “check” your paper.
  • Do not have another international student “check” your paper.
  • Do not go to the web to find book reviews already written about your book to “get ideas.”
  • Download and keep all sources you use for your position paper.

MIT’s academic honesty policy can be found at the following link: http://policies-procedures.mit.edu/academic-misconduct-and-dishonesty/

To Pass the Course and Receive CI Credit

If you are an entering freshman (class of 2006) or a sophomore, you will need to receive a C to pass the course and receive CI credit.

If you are a junior or a senior, the old rules apply–you need to receive a grade of B- or better to receive Phase I writing credit for the course.

List of books: (To choose from for your non-fiction book review)

McBride, James. The Color of Water. Reissue edition. New York: Riverhead Books, 1997.

Watson, James. The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA. Edited by Gunther S. Stent. New York: W. W. Norton, 1981.

Krakauer, John. Into the Wild. New York: Anchor, 1997.

Sobel, Dava. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. Reprint edition. New York: Penguin, 1996.

Slater, Lauren. Welcome to My Country: Journeys into the World of a Therapist and Her Patients. New York: Anchor, 1997.

Sacks, Oliver. Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood. New York: Vintage Books, 2002.

These were ordered.

Other books: (I recommend but did not order)

Philbrick, Nathaniel. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Reissue edition. New York: Penguin, 2001.

Groopman, Jerome E. Second Opinions: Stories of Intuition and Choice in the Changing World of Medicine. New York: Penguin, 2001.

Please be on time to class.
Turn off your cell phones before entering class unless there is a dire emergency.
No e-mail submissions, please.

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2002