Other Worlds syllabus

AWR201 Writing and Research

Other Worlds

 Course Description:

Unlike realistic fiction, which tells stories set in a world indistinguishable from our own, speculative fiction creates story worlds that are different from ours. Science fiction, fantasy, post-apocalyptic fiction, fairy tales, superhero movies: all have some element of magic or futuristic technology which sets their world apart from our own. Game of Thrones, Star Trek, The Avengers, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and Shakespeare’s The Tempest are speculative fictions; The Office, Law and Order, and the novels of Dickens, Tolstoy, and John Green are not.

So if speculative fictions are stories that belong to other worlds, what do they have to say about our own world? What can they teach us about science, politics, social relations, or individual psychology? That’s the question which drives this course. We’ll study a variety of speculative fictions, loosely organized into two categories: science fiction, which comments most directly on science, politics, and social life, and fairy tales, which comment most directly on individual psychology. You’ll choose a social, political, scientific, psychological, or literary issue to research, and write about how a particular work of speculative fiction speaks to this issue. The goal of the course is to improve your skills in critical reading, academic research, and argumentative and analytical writing.

Course Information:


Assignments & Grade Breakdown:

  • Research Proposal & Annotated Bibliography Part 1: 60
  • Annotated Bibliography Part 2: 40
  • Annotated Bibliography Part 3: 50
  • Literature Review: 150
  • Primary Source Analysis: 50
  • Final Paper: 250
  • Presentation: 100
  • Final Exam: 100
  • Discussion: 100
  • Peer Review: 50
  • Homework, quizzes, in-class activities: 40
  • Course Climate Survey completion: 10

Total: 1000 points

Course Texts:

  • Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 3rd edition
  • Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower
  • Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer, Volume I: The Escape
  • Course pack (available at UT bookstore)
  • Occasional other texts, to be made available as handouts in class or on Blackboard

A note on the course texts: This is a reading-intensive class, so be prepared for that! Especially in the first half of the semester, we’ll often have about an hour’s worth of assigned readings for each class period; plus, you’ll be reading on your own for your independent research project. After spring break, the reading load will lessen but the writing assignments will pick up. I’ve designed the course this way deliberately because academic research involves reading a lot at the start of a new project, so that you can familiarize yourself with a given field and develop an expertise in your research topic. Once you’ve put in the time reading, you’re qualified to make your own contribution to that field, and that’s where the writing comes in.

Grading Scale:

  • A         Outstanding  (940-1000)
  • AB       Excellent        (880-939)
  • B         Very Good     (840-879)
  • BC       Good               (780-839)
  • C         Average          (740-779)
  • CD      Below Avg.     (680-739)
  • D         Passing           (600-679)
  • F          Failure           (0-599)
  • NF       No Show        Failure to attend

I reserve the right to adjust the grading scale downward by up to 1% at the end of the semester, depending on factors such as class-wide grade distribution and individuals’ attendance, participation in class discussions, participation in optional essay revisions, and professionalism. Don’t worry—under no circumstances will I adjust the grading scale upward! Also, I will make the final call on whether to making adjustments or not—asking for a grade bump won’t help, but conscientious hard work might.

Course Goals and Outcomes:

AWR 201 should teach students

  • to approach research as a process
  • to understand the formatting and conventions of academic research writing
  • to find and annotate research sources
  • to organize and annotate a research bibliography
  • to effectively utilize source research in their writing
  • to present a research project orally

Upon completion of AWR 201 a student should

  • recognize and appropriately define a research topic
  • identify, locate, and evaluate appropriate academic sources
  • document sources in appropriate bibliographic style
  • formulate and synthesize an extended research project.
  • communicate research in multiple modes (written, oral, and multimedia).

AWR201 Essay Contest:

In each section of AWR 201 the top research essay will be submitted for an annual competition, which will be judged by an editorial committee from the Academic Writing program. In August, nominees for the UT Undergraduate Research Essay Competition from the previous academic year will be notified of the contest results and recognized by the College of Arts and Letters; in addition, their essays will be eligible for publication in the annual issue of Royal Road: a Journal of Undergraduate Research at the University of Tampa. Section nominees may be determined either by the course instructor or by the students within a section, but only section nominees will be eligible for the awards or for publication. In rare instances where more than one truly exceptional research essay is written within a single section, an instructor may nominate a second essay for submission.

Saunders Writing Center:

The Saunders Writing Center provides free tutoring to all students interested in improving their writing abilities. The Center Tutors will assist with all aspects of writing. For example, they help students to identify paper topics and generate ideas, plan and organize drafts, rewrite, and edit. The Center’s purpose is not to correct or proofread final drafts, but to aid in learning strategies that good writers use during the process. The Center, in Plant Hall 323, is available for assistance with any writing project for any class. Hours are posted. Students may make an appointment or simply drop by (ext. 6244).

Course Calendar:

Please note that all reading should be completed before class on the day they are listed. Make sure to bring all readings to class with you!

The course calendar is subject to change, but if I need to make adjustments, I will make every effort to let you know both in class and via email or Blackboard.



Research Pre-Test

Start reading Parable of the Sower


Diagnostic Essay (in class)

Keep reading Parable of the Sower

They Say, I Say preface and introduction

science fiction: climate change, biotechnology, politics


Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower pp. 1-85

They Say, I Say ch. 12


Butler, Parable of the Sower pp. 86-136


Butler, Parable of the Sower pp. 137-178

They Say, I Say ch. 15


Butler, Parable of the Sower pp. 179-244


Butler, Parable of the Sower pp. 245-278


Butler, Parable of the Sower pp. 279-329


Library visit

Start reading Amitav Ghosh piece for Wednesday!


Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement pp. 3-27 (course pack)

They Say, I Say ch. 14


Kyle D. Stedman, “Annoying Ways People Use Sources” (course pack)

They Say, I Say ch. 1-3


Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go pp. 1-60


Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go pp. 61-89



Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go pp. 90-111


Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go pp. 112-183


Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go pp. 184-217



Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go pp. 218-245


Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go pp. 246-288


Benjamin Kunkel, “Dystopia and the End of Politics” (first half; course pack)



Kunkel, “Dystopia and the End of Politics” (second half)







fairy tales: allegory, horror, the unconscious


Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette, Snowpiercer: The Escape


Snowpiercer continued

They Say, I Say ch. 4-5


Karen Russell, “St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves” (course pack)



David Mitchell, Slade House pp. 3-21 (course pack)


Mitchell, Slade House pp. 21-38


Freud, The Uncanny part 1 (course pack)


Freud, The Uncanny part 2


Freud, The Uncanny part 3



Peer review workshop (in class)

They Say, I Say ch. 6-7



Bring your laptop and your primary source so that you can draft this section of your final essay in class and submit it


Pan’s Labyrinth (watch in class)


Pan’s Labyrinth continued

semester wrap-up



Peer review workshop (in class)


NO CLASS (individual conferences)


NO CLASS (individual conferences)


NO CLASS (individual conferences)



Presentation prep

Final exam prep













FINAL EXAM: Section G6: Wednesday, 5/2, 1:30-3:30pm, in our regular classroom

Section I4: Thursday, 5/3, 3:45-5:45pm, in our regular classroom

You must plan to attend the final exam time designated for your class section! There are no make-ups or alternative time slots for final exams.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Questions About Writing Assignments

Q: How do I turn in my writing assignments?

A: Writing assignments should be saved as Word documents (.doc or .docx) and submitted via Blackboard. Assignments are due at 11:59pm on the day listed unless otherwise noted (e.g. on peer review workshop days, I’ll ask you to bring a printed copy of your rough draft to class).

If Blackboard is down when you want to submit your essay, Plan B is to email your essay to me as an attachment, and then upload it again to Blackboard when it’s running again.

If you don’t have Microsoft Word, you have free access to it as a UT student. Contact the IT Help Desk for guidance. You can also use Google Docs and save your completed assignment as a .doc file, but I won’t be able to help you with formatting on Google Docs since I use Word exclusively.

Q: When will my assignment be graded?

A: Typically, I grade all assignments within 7 days of their submission, except the final papers, which usually take two full weeks to grade. I comment on your essays in Blackboard, so once your grade is available, go back through the TurnItIn portal to view your comments! You should be able to see a general comment, marginal comments on the pages themselves, and a completed rubric to let you know how you did in each category. If you have trouble viewing your comments, please let me know.

Q: What is TurnItIn and what’s that number it produces each time I submit an essay?

A: TurnItIn is a software that scans your essays for plagiarism. You can view your own TurnItIn originality report, a report that examines what percentage of your essay is similar to or identical with other texts in the database, if you submit your essay early enough. These can be helpful to look at as you work on your paraphrasing skills. Don’t expect to get a 0% similarity index on the report—quotations and citations are usually flagged. If you have long sentences or phrases that are highlighted and linked up to your source, that’s a good indication that you haven’t done a good enough job paraphrasing them, and you should consider rewriting those sentences and/or using a direct quote instead.

Q: What is plagiarism, and how do I make sure I’m not doing it?

A: Here’s what one of the old UT catalogues has to say about plagiarism; it’s one of the most helpful and detailed explanations I’ve seen:

Plagiarism occurs when a person represents someone else’s words, ideas, phrases, sentences or data as one’s own work. When submitting work that includes someone else’s words, ideas, syntax, data or organizational patterns, the source of that information must be acknowledged through complete, accurate and specific references. All verbatim statements must be appropriately acknowledged. To avoid a charge of plagiarism, a person should be sure to include an acknowledgment of indebtedness and reference to these sources directly in the text clearly associated with the material being cited and in a bibliography or “works cited” page (this does not apply to a “works consulted” list where the source might not have been incorporated into the student’s text). Plagiarism can be said to have occurred without any affirmative showing that a student’s use of another’s work was intentional.

Examples of plagiarism include but are not limited to:

  1. Acquiring a term paper or other assignment and submitting it as your own work.
  2. Submitting a computer program, computer graphic, database, etc., as original work that duplicates, in whole or in part, without citation, the work of another.
  3. Quoting, paraphrasing or even borrowing the syntax of another’s words without acknowledging the source.
  4. Incorporating facts, statistics or other illustrative material taken from a source, without acknowledging the source, unless the information is common knowledge.
  5. Using another’s ideas, opinions or theories even if they have been completely paraphrased in one’s own words without acknowledging the source.
  6. Listing a source in a bibliography or “works cited” page without specifically citing the material within the text that was extracted from the source.

Chances are, avoiding plagiarism has been fairly easy for you in past writing classes, but it does get harder when you are juggling 10+ sources in a single paper and you have to keep them all straight. So don’t be hesitant to ask for help if you need it!

Q: How do I cite my sources properly, and what citation format should I use?

A: In this class, we use MLA formatting for all writing assignments. If you have the Prentice Hall Reference Guide, you have an MLA handbook; if not, use the Purdue OWL: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/ .

For in-text citations, either name the author in your sentence (“Jane Smith argues that…”) or include their last name in a parenthetical citation (Smith). If the source has page numbers, you must also include a page number in your parenthetical citation, like this:

Jane Smith argues that science fiction did not really exist until the twentieth century (23).

Some critics believe that “science fiction” as a literary category did not exist until the 1900s (Smith 23).

For Works Cited entries, you need to figure what kind of source you have—a book? A scholarly journal article? A chapter in an edited collection? A magazine article? A film? A website?—and follow the Purdue OWL guidelines for formatting a citation for that type of source.

PLEASE DO NOT RELY ON CITATION ENGINES LIKE EASYBIB FOR THIS CLASS. You are the one being graded on whether your citation formatting is correct or not, so you need to check your citation formatting yourself to make sure it’s correct.

Q: Oh no, I’ve done poorly on one of the writing assignments and now I’m worried about my grade! What should I do?

A: I allow students to revise graded assignments under the following conditions:

  1. You submit your rewritten assignment within 1 week of receiving the original grade
  2. You include a brief cover letter explaining the revisions you’ve made
  3. You must do more than simply edit for grammatical errors; you must do substantial revisions
  4. I will average the original grade and the grade on the rewrite to arrive at your final grade for the assignment.

Q: I really want to become a better writer this semester! What advice would you give me?

A: Great question! Take advantage of the resources available to you here at UT. Visit the Saunders Writing Center; ask the librarians for help with research; attend my office hours to talk about essay ideas. When you read assigned texts for this class and other classes, pay attention to their styles and structures. Read like a writer. Ask your other professors if they have tips for writing, and remember that writing is a little bit different in every discipline.

Questions About Course Policies

Q: What happens if I turn in a writing assignment late?

A: I accept late work up to one week (7 days) past the due date. After that, assignments will no longer be accepted. Late work will be penalized at a 10% deduction per day until the day it is turned in. So, for example, an essay that is two days late can earn a maximum of 80% of the point value of the assignment.

Since emergencies sometimes happen, I allow each student one late pass per semester. The late pass is a one-time-only deal, and it gives you up to four (4) extra days on any one writing assignment final draft. It can’t be used on first drafts or on the presentation, only on a final draft. To use your late pass, simply email me and tell me you wish to use it.

Note that sometimes students who turn in a minor assignment late opt to take the penalty and save their late pass for an assignment that is worth more points, like the final paper. It’s up to you, but choose carefully!

Q: What happens if I am absent?

A: I allow each student to miss up to three classes for any reason without penalty; after that, they will start to impact your grade. Each time that you are absent (after the first three), you will receive a zero for your discussion grade on that day. You’ll also miss important announcements, reminders, discussions, and in-class work, so if you are absent, make sure to check with a classmate to find out what you missed.

Save your absences for when you really need them! Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation where you’ve already used your three freebie absences before spring break, and then you get sick in April and have to miss a week of class, to the detriment of your grade.

Occasionally, students will have chronic illnesses which require them to miss more than 3 classes over the course of a semester, and on those rare occasions I’m happy to work individually with those students on make-up assignments if they stay in contact with me, maintain good standing in the class, and provide documentation from their doctor for each of their absences. In some cases, if the absences are too extensive, a medical withdrawal is advisable.

Q: Do we have a final exam?

A: Yes, and you must attend the exam during the time slot set for us by the university (see the bottom of the course calendar to find out what day and time our exam is). DON’T BOOK YOUR PLANE TICKET UNTIL YOU CHECK YOUR FINAL EXAM SCHEDULE! Unfortunately, there are no make-ups or alternative time slots for final exams except in the most extreme circumstances.

Q: What’s the best way to contact you if I have concerns about my work in this class?

A: If we need to have a conversation, dropping by office hours is best (see my office hours schedule on p. 2 of the syllabus). If it’s just a quick question or you need to set up a meeting outside of office hours with me, email me at chovanec@ut.edu. I typically respond to emails within 24 hours, and often earlier. Please check the syllabus before you email me a question, though!

Questions about Class Etiquette and Discussion Participation

Q: Can I use my laptop, tablet, or phone in class?

A: Sometimes electronic devices are useful in class, e.g. if we are practicing using the library databases to find sources, or if I have asked you to do a short in-class writing exercise and you want to type it. So it’s fine to bring your laptop, tablet, or phone to class (provided it’s on silent mode). However, when we are having a class discussion, you should put your electronic devices away so that you can be fully present and engaged with your classmates. If the rest of us are having a discussion about the assigned reading, and you are ignoring us in favor of your laptop or phone, I may ask you to put it away or give you a zero for discussion that day.

Q: What are the expectations for our conduct in this class?

A: The classroom should be a welcoming environment for us to learn, write, and test out new ideas. To keep it that way, please make sure to listen and speak courteously to me and your peers; to refrain from any racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise abusive language; and to avoid disruptive behaviors such as answering phone calls, speaking when others are speaking, or using laptops and phones for non-class-related purposes. Please feel free to speak to me privately if you have any concerns about the classroom environment or ideas to make it better.

Q: How is our discussion participation graded?

A: If you show up to class on time, stay until the end of the period, avoid disruptive or rude behaviors, and don’t speak up at all during the conversation, you get a C (75%) for discussion that day. If you’re late, you leave early, you’re disruptive, or you get distracted by your phone or laptop, that grade will go down; if you’re actively listening to me and your classmates and raising your hand to ask questions and make meaningful contributions to the discussion, that grade will go up. I post discussion grades every three weeks on Blackboard, so you can check in and see how you’re doing and make adjustments to your participation as necessary.

If you want to improve your discussion participation but you aren’t sure what to say, or you feel anxious about speaking in class, come speak with me privately and we can come up with some strategies to help you get more comfortable speaking up!

University Notices and Policies:


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.