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Choosing Readings for Your Classes

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The PWR program does not require that instructor's adopt a particular course text or set of readings; instructors can select their own as useful to their pedagogy and relevant to their course theme. However, the focus should remain on the sequence of writing and research assignments. Students should spend most of their time on writing tasks (e.g. drafting, composing, collaborating, revising); discussion and analysis of readings should be secondary and should emphasize helping a student read a text rhetorically and as a writer -- not to become a content specialist. There is no expectation that lecturers will assign students readings about rhetoric per se; the topic of the readings is up to the lecturer's discretion, but should align with the principles outlined below.

Reading is Part of the Writing Process

It is essential for student researchers to develop their ability to identify, locate, understand, summarize, analyze, and synthesize complex arguments. In PWR, this kind of work with texts in understood as part of the process of research-based writing, and not as an end in itself.  Part of our goal as a program is to help students read deeply, meaningfully, and rhetorically.  For further information on ways to encourage student's active reading practices, see Annotating Digital Sources

Writing Tasks Drive the Course Schedule

Because students work with readings as a way of advancing as writers, the course is organized around challenges in writing and not challenges in reading. The course schedule should emphasize a sequence of writing assignments and not a sequence of readings. Textbooks, online readings, readers, or rhetorics should not be central to the course. 

No More Than 75 to 100 Pages of Assigned Reading Per Quarter

PWR students do a large amount of reading on their own as part of their research projects.  Assigned readings should be limited to approximately 75 to 100 pages of theme-based reading per quarter (in addition to the sources students are using on their own for their projects). 

Note: in  remote learning environment, try to incorporate some "readings" or texts that do not require additional screen time, such listening to a podcast.

Required Readings Illuminate Writing

Assigned readings should play a dual role: they should help build students' rhetorical knowledge as well as illuminate the theme of the course. By treating course texts rhetorically – that is, understanding them as purposeful communication deploying a range of strategies based on judgments about context, audience, timing, credibility, and other factors – PWR courses present reading as a problem-solving tool for writers and rhetors. 

Be Mindful of Copyright Restrictions

Instructors should be careful to avoid violating copyright restrictions when sharing readings with their students; it is essential that we model ethical research and sharing practices for our students.

Most instructors provide readings through Canvas, our Course Management system (CMS). The Canvas sites are available only to the students in the class.  Best practices for using the CMS in this way include:

  • When uploading PDFs, be sure to choose the “copyright” warning
  • Whenever possible, link to the material through our library or provide a link to where the resource is available on the internet

A very few instructors make course readers through the bookstore; this is strongly discouraged because of the financial burden it places on the students.  Talk to the Associate Director for alternatives to a bookstore-published course reader.

PWR instructors should upload all class materials to Canvas, Stanford Box, or a designated class website and use it to distribute digital copies of materials to students whenever possible.  In addition, whenever possible, link to material on the internet rather than downloading and distributing pdfs; while use of such materials usually is covered under fair use, it is safer to link if you can.  In general, providing students with digital materials not only makes those texts accessible to students from any location, but also minimizes textbook costs for student. 

See also:

Stanford's annual copyright reminder

Be Mindful of Accessibility

Not all course readings are accessible to student-learners who may need reading accommodations or who simply want to modify the ways that they read a text. Particularly if you are scanning reading from books, the scanned pages typically get registered as images on computers, which means that students can't modify text easily or take notes.

Whenever you include a PDF reading assignment into your course, make sure that it's a scannable document (otherwise known as OCR-compatible). You can tell if a PDF is scannable if you can highlight text in the document or can find words or phrases in the document. If your PDF is not scannable, visit Stanford's SCRIBE Project, operated out of the Office of Accessible Education, and convert your files into OCR-compatible documents for free.

See some of PWR Lecturers' go-to readings related to rhetoric, writing, speaking, and research.