Writing the Researched Essay
Instructor: Holly Van Houten
Learning to evaluate outside sources and incorporate them into an essay is an essential skill for
students to develop. A quote or idea that isn’t cited properly can turn a well thought out essay
into plagiarism. In this course, students will learn how to choose reputable sources and annotate
those sources. They will learn the difference between summary, paraphrase and direct quotation
and when each is appropriate in a formal academic essay. Students will put together formal
works cited pages and learn to use in-text citations according to MLA guidelines. When
students learn to cite their sources properly, they are also learning what is information and what
is analysis. This skill teaches them to provide their own insights, and their papers start to shift
from Informational Essays into Persuasive Essays.
As part of our work in this class, students will also review the basics of argumentative writing, as
we move step by step through the process of creating a strong essay. We’ll hone and sharpen
thesis statements, write focused and controlling topic sentences, support arguments with solid
and reliable evidence, strengthen transitions, develop detail and improve style. Students will
gain valuable experience planning, drafting and revising their essays as they learn how to
incorporate outside voices into their writing.
Because revision is such an essential part of the writing process, we will devote class time to our
roundtable writing and revision workshops. The workshop structure of this course will provide
students with an audience to make their writing more meaningful. They’ll receive feedback from
each other, as well as from me in class and learn revision techniques to help improve their
writing skills. Students share their writing in class so that they can learn about the reactions their
writing elicits from others and receive helpful feedback to aid with the revision process. These
workshops not only allow students an important opportunity to receive revision suggestions but
allow them to be immersed in the writing of their peers as well. This requires each student to
sharpen his or her own analytical skills as they consider how others may improve their essays.
Over the course of the 10-week quarter, each student will complete three full researched essays
and critique many more in class – a process that will improve their writing by leaps and bounds.
Students will definitely do a lot of writing in this course but writing only improves with regular
practice! There will be weekly homework assignments, in addition to our in- classwork, to
provide students with lots of opportunities to hone their skills.
Unlike many online courses, this class will allow students to participate in a classroom
environment. They will meet and get to know their peers, contribute to class discussions,
participate in roundtable revision workshops, and group projects. This peer process is a huge
part of the success of this model! As students interact and see the revision process for other
papers, they start to grasp how their own papers can improve. This class will meet online each
week for two hours through Zoom - an online video meeting platform (free for students). The
Zoom video platform will allow us to meet like a regular classroom for lecture and discussion
purposes as we immerse ourselves in the college essay writing process. The class will also
utilize Google Classroom for assignments, discussion forums, and work-sharing both during
class sessions and outside of class.
Students will receive instruction from Holly Van Houten, who has decades of experience
preparing young writers with the skills they need to succeed. In addition to teaching Literature
and Writing at The HuckleBerry Center for Creative Learning, in Valencia, California since
2009, Holly taught in the USC Freshman Writing Department for 10 years, while completing her
Ph.D. coursework in English and American Literature. Holly has also taught in the English
departments at Pepperdine University, California State University, Northridge, and California
State University, Long Beach. She has helped young scholars become confident writers for over
30 years and has successfully prepared students of all abilities for college-level writing.