All VAST courses are writing-intensive which means they require a minimum of 20 pages (about 5,000 words) of writing, and revision of that writing in response to feedback from readers (including your classmates, the Writing Associate, and your professor). Below is a list of the writing assignments for our course.

  • Short, informal writing in class or for homework to focus your responses on the assigned texts and/or explore relevant issues as they arise.
  • Field notebook for recording observations of all things dog-related: dog behavior, dog-human interactions, dog-related current events, scientific discoveries about dogs, etc. 2 entries/week. Details about this assignment, along with notebook page templates and a sample entry are available on Moodle.
  • 4 blog posts (350-400 wds/post) revised from field notebook entries and uploaded to our course website. Each of you will be assigned specific weeks to post. You are welcome to post more than 4 times. Additional posts and comments on other posts will count toward your class participation grade.
  • Owner interview and podcast. Each of you will interview a member of the Lafayette community about his or her dog. Based on that interview, and drawing on our course reading, you will create a 5-minute podcast (an audio essay) highlighting something interesting or unusual about this dog-human relationship.
  • Research project. A semester-long investigation into a dog-related issue, question or problem and the ethical questions at stake. A list of suggested topics is posted on Moodle. This project will have several parts:
    • annotated bibliography of research in progress
    • a scientific poster about your research
    • a 20 pp research paper.

You will be meeting with the Writing Associate (WA) assigned to your section four times during the semester during weeks announced in advance (normally 7-10 days before an assignment is due). Your WA is not an editor or a proofreader, but a carefully trained reader of work in progress who will engage you in thoughtful discussion about your writing that leads to productive revision.

The WAs are obliged to inform your professors about any missed conferences. We will not read assignments that have not been discussed first with the WA. And unless you have received specific permission from your professor, late assignments will not be accepted. Of course if you are late with an assignment due to circumstances beyond your control– due to illness or family emergency, for example–contact your professor as soon as possible.

Proofread all written work, including blog posts, before you turn it in. You will find the list of 20 Most Common Errors in your St. Martin’s Handbook a helpful resource. If an assignment seems hastily or poorly prepared or otherwise not ready for feedback from readers, it will receive an NG (no grade) and be returned so that you can make the necessary revisions.