Core 100: First-Year Seminar

Master Syllabus (Revised 6/14)

Catalog Description

An introduction to college-level academic study with emphasis on critical reading and discussion.  Topics will vary, but each seminar will focus on questions and issues relevant to the liberal arts.  The course will emphasize the development of students’ reading and thinking skills through close textual analysis of a range of works.  The seminar also seeks to enhance students’ ability to synthesize a variety of textual materials in order to express ideas, formulate positions, and construct oral and written arguments. 


The ability to read with understanding and critical judgment cannot be underestimated.  Academic success, professional competence, cultural literacy, and intellectual development depend fundamentally on flexible reading skills that can be applied to a wide range of texts.  Reading with “understanding” involves several important processes: comprehending and contextualizing information; identifying meaningful patterns and conventions; identifying key ideas, claims, and assumptions; synthesizing an author’s ideas with the reader’s experiences and knowledge; and developing a comprehensive and well-informed interpretation.  Reading with “critical judgment” is a similarly complex task that includes reading with a sense of objectivity, asking questions about what a text literally says and what it implies, evaluating an author’s reasoning, and assessing the degree to which a writer has achieved his or her purpose.  This seminar provides students with opportunities to develop these skills.   


Successful completion of this course will enable the student to

  1. identify the tone, purpose, audience, and main idea of a text
  2. determine the meaning of a text through close textual analysis
  3. annotate, outline, summarize, and evaluate a text
  4. determine the uses and validity of different kinds of evidence
  5. find and evaluate sources from a variety of mediums (books, journals, magazines, newspapers, the Internet, and so on)
  6. synthesize materials from several sources to express ideas, formulate positions, and construct arguments in spoken and written forms


This course aims to help students

  1. understand the crucial role that critical reading plays in academic work
  2. approach reading as a process in which critical understanding occurs gradually over time with rereading and as new information is acquired
  3. recognize the ways in which reading can foster intellectual, moral, and spiritual enrichment and contribute to a satisfying and purposeful life
  4. better understand the role of language in everyday life (business, politics, humanities, sciences, etc.) and how it is used to explain, inform, influence, persuade, express, and entertain 
  5. take pleasure in the process of making and defending interpretations
  6. appreciate the importance of looking at and discussing an issue from a variety of perspectives and disciplines
  7. develop the skills and habits of good scholarship—critical reading, logical thinking, effective oral and written argumentation, and academic integrity
  8. recognize the personal significance and social relevance of intellectual questioning and liberal arts learning


Each professor will choose the texts for his or her section of the Seminar.  Professors should choose texts that represent a variety of genres, which might include, for example, fiction, historical narratives, reports, philosophy, newspaper and magazine articles and editorials, arguments, expository essays, Web pages, letters, journals, autobiographies, reviews, case studies, and so on.  Since the course is intended to help students become better readers, professors are encouraged to select texts that range in length and complexity and to include at least one book, preferably more. 

Strategies for Assessment

Professors may use any number of strategies to assess their students’ progress through the course, including exercises, quizzes, tests, presentations, annotated bibliographies, short papers, and so on.  However, students in all sections must complete at least one research-based assignment, preferably a  brief documented essay  (roughly  5-8 pp) written according to APA, MLA or Chicago guidelines.

Possible Topics

Professors interested in teaching a section of First-Year Seminar must submit a course description and tentative list of readings to the FYS Project Team. In choosing a topic and texts, professors should keep in mind that students in the seminar will not be expected to become experts in the chosen topic.  Rather, students in the seminar will be asked to explore a topic through the study of various texts and to demonstrate a mastery of critical reading skills. Professors should remember, too, that while nearly any topic might be appropriate for the seminar, the approach to the topic should reflect the liberal arts tradition.