Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything

Course No. 2133
Professor Dorsey Armstrong, Ph.D.
Purdue University
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Course No. 2133
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What Will You Learn?

  • Study specific writing samples to learn what makes for effective writing.
  • Learn how to organize, present, support, and end an effective - and persuasive - thought.
  • Explore effective writing across different genres, including poetry, drama, and autobiography.
  • Learn how to implement ethos and pathos in powerful speeches and memorable resumes.
  • Revisit (or learn about) common errors in grammar and spelling so you can write more effectively.
  • Dive into the basics of using drafts, editing, and rewriting to create a polished final product.

Course Overview

For thousands of years, writing has been a powerful way for us to communicate with one another, to share our distinct thoughts and ideas through the power of words. Even in today's technologically saturated 21st century, we still express ourselves in writing almost every single day. And oftentimes, we write to argue our viewpoints, persuade others that we're right, and share our unique experiences and perspectives.

But all writing—whether it's a powerful essay, a persuasive letter, a detailed business report, or an autobiographical story—is at its most effective and memorable when it's built on the fundamental critical and analytical skills that transform your words from "good" writing to "great" writing. Regardless of your subject, your goal, or your occasion, these skills are the heart and soul of engaging and effective writing. They include the ability to

  • organize your thoughts into a coherent piece that never leaves your reader behind;
  • make a persuasive argument rooted in solid facts;
  • draw on the styles and characteristics of various literary genres;
  • make responsible use of research materials and outside resources; and
  • avoid common grammatical errors that could cost you your credibility.

You'll find the secrets to these and other concepts and methods for clear and strong writing in the 24 accessible and practical lectures of Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything. Delivered by Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University—whose work with students involves the art and craft of analytical and persuasive writing—this course immerses you in the elements of successful writing. With its engaging literary and everyday examples, inspirational prompts, and unforgettable insights, Analysis and Critique makes the perfect reference guide for both professional and casual writers.

Five Literary Genres, Endless Insights

One of the essential keys of effective writing: understanding literary genres and the ways their unique styles and characteristics can shape and inform your own voice. Professor Armstrong spends the first lectures of her course guiding you through the five major literary genres and the ways some of their most enduring examples can show you the path to stronger persuasive and critical writing.

  • Fiction: By learning how to actively read a range of short stories and novels by authors including Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, you'll strengthen your ability to understand how a writer creates his or her "voice," and how a writer conveys particular information to his or her audience.
  • Essay: Of all the literary genres, the essay is the richest resource for studying the characteristics of a powerfully written argument. You'll discover how essays such as Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and Henry David Thoreau's "Walden" demonstrate effective strategies for starting, organizing, supporting, and concluding your arguments.
  • Poetry: Somewhat surprisingly, poetry has much to offer nonpoetic writers looking to strengthen their craft—especially its command and flexibility. In examining the work of poets such as William Carlos Williams, John Donne, and e. e. cummings, you'll learn how to tap into the power of figurative language, careful word choices, and dramatic word ordering.
  • Drama: Speeches, conference papers, and other writing intended for oral presentation offer their own set of challenges to everyday writers. By using selected excerpts by William Shakespeare, history's greatest playwright, Professor Armstrong gives you invaluable tips for mastering the art of tone, timing, and delivery of writing meant to be spoken out loud.
  • Autobiography: Writing that draws on your life to achieve a goal or enhance your credibility isn't as daunting as it may seem. Detailed looks at excerpts from autobiographies by Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, and others offer helpful hints about how much personal information to include, how to take the most effective approach, and more.

Frequently, the lectures are enhanced with writing prompts and practice examples—such as rewriting a passage in five different styles or writing an idea from different narrative perspectives—designed to help you better understand how to use and apply the insights found in these five genres.

Explore the Fundamentals of Rhetoric

From there, Analysis and Critique turns to a series of lectures that focus on the art of rhetoric (the foundation of argumentation) and the ways it can help you adapt your writing to a variety of different situations. And make the most of them.

Rhetorical ideas are so deeply woven into the fabric of Western culture that it's easy to miss out on opportunities to maximize their benefits in your writing. Knowing this, Professor Armstrong not only explains them thoroughly but also shows you how to use them regularly and systematically to make your writing stronger and more persuasive. Some of the most applicable rhetorical concepts you explore in this part of the course include

  • deductive reasoning, a form of reasoning that moves from the knowledge you already have to the knowledge that has yet to be discovered and articulated;
  • commonplaces, which are well-known words and phrases that can easily communicate your theme or topic to your audience; and
  • pathos, which works to inspire emotion in your readers (particularly feelings of sympathy).

The increased awareness of classical rhetoric you gain from these particular lectures will go a long way to helping you become a stronger writer by calling your attention to the basics of compelling analytical writing. You may never use terms like "commonplaces" and "pathos" in your actual writing—but understanding how they work will enhance the importance of what you write and the way you write it.

Get a Step-by-Step Guide to the Writing Process

What about the act of writing itself, which can often be daunting to the most seasoned writer? You can be drafting a work presentation, a cover letter for a job application, an editorial for your local newspaper, or a persuasive letter for a public official—in any case, knowing how to approach the act itself can reap many rewards.

The final section of Analysis and Critique is a fascinating, step-by-step guide through the writing process. With her keen eye for providing helpful strategies and using real-world examples, Professor Armstrong provides answers to frequently asked questions about each of writing's four major stages:

  • Researching: How do you determine what your research goals are? Where should you look for reliable sources of information? How do you narrow your research focus?
  • Writing a First Draft: How long does a productive brainstorming session last? Why is it OK to write a deliberately bad first draft? What are good ways to conquer writer's block?
  • Editing: How long should you wait before you start editing your writing? How can you tell when you've used too many quotations? What grammatical errors should you watch out for?
  • Rewriting: What makes a rewrite different from an edit? What specifics should you pay attention to in rewriting? How do you recast supporting points to better fit your argument?

Writing Made Effective—and Fun

As a university professor with years of experience, the instructor of a general education writing course at Purdue University, and a distinguished editor, Professor Armstrong spends nearly every day in the company of writing—both good and bad. She knows which techniques work and which do not. She knows the common pitfalls, concerns, and fears that most writers have. And she knows just how important effective writing skills are in expressing yourself successfully to others.

But even more important than her experience working with writers and her knowledge of the craft is the way Professor Armstrong makes writing feel like a fun process of self-discovery. Her lectures are always engaging, always accessible, and always filled with information and takeaways that you can use any time you need to write.

So tap into the power of effective writing with Analysis and Critique, and learn what it's like to have a masterful and supportive instructor standing right by your side as you learn the ways to write about practically anything.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    How to Write about Anything
    What makes a particular piece of writing "good"? As you explore Professor Armstrong's roadmap for the course, examine how a range of writing samples—including an essay by Virginia Woolf, poetry by Homer, and even a short note from a teenage girl to her mother—demonstrate essential aspects of effective writing. x
  • 2
    How to Be an Effective Reader
    Active, insightful reading skills are essential to any writer's success. View the craft of writing from the reader's perspective and train yourself to recognize nuanced moments and ideas in literary texts, including Moby-Dick and Le Morte Darthur, as well as the subtleties hidden within a practical set of driving directions. x
  • 3
    How Literature Can Help
    Investigate the dominant characteristics and conventions of five major genres of literature: prose, poetry, drama, essay, and autobiography. Then discover how, when used properly and with restraint, the distinct approaches of these genres can offer you a strong foundation and helpful inspiration for all sorts of writing projects. x
  • 4
    Shaping Your Voice
    Focus now on prose—the most common form of writing people engage with. Why is a writer's voice such an important part of his or her work? How can you create a distinctive voice? What can authors like Hemingway, James, and Salinger teach you about the varieties of narrative styles? x
  • 5
    Knowing Your Reader
    A common danger for a writer is not respecting your audience. Learn how to avoid this pitfall by deducing the intended audience for Edgar Allan Poe's "The Black Cat" and Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," and by closely reading student essays that miss, misjudge, or offend their intended readers. x
  • 6
    The Art of the Essay—How to Start
    Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" are two of the most famous argumentative essays in the Western literary tradition. Using their opening passages, examine why it's so important that your opening argument be specific, be substantive, and pass what Professor Armstrong calls the "What?/So What?" test. x
  • 7
    How to Organize an Argument
    Continue unpacking "A Modest Proposal" and "Civil Disobedience" (along with Paine's "Common Sense")—this time to learn how to write an organized and effective argument. Once you've mastered this skill, you'll be able to more effectively guide your readers, as well as avoid structural flaws that may distort your goals. x
  • 8
    Supporting Your Argument
    To write persuasively, you have to effectively explain your supporting evidence. Three skills you focus on in this lecture: explaining how a piece of evidence works in your favor; providing a direct connection between your evidence and your conclusion; and acknowledging the arguments of others to strengthen your own. x
  • 9
    Finishing Strong
    Enhance the way you finish essays with three key strategies. A "negative consequences" conclusion underscores the negative things that can happen if readers fail to support your argument. A "no viable alternatives" strategy suggests that alternatives to your proposal aren't likely to work. And the "positive consequences" strategy emphasizes new possibilities. x
  • 10
    The Uses of Poetry
    How can poetry help you write better, even when you're not writing poems? Here, Professor Armstrong uses poems to show that how you arrange your words can have as much of an impact as what they say. Also, delve deeper into the importance of tone and poetic devices like metaphors and similes. x
  • 11
    Poetic Diction and Syntax
    Continue your exploration of poetry and the ways it can enliven and strengthen writing. With the aid of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lewis Carroll, and e. e. cummings, grasp how specific words (with their literal and associated meanings) can make your writing more engaging—especially when they are used in an unconventional order. x
  • 12
    Drama—Writing Out Loud
    With Shakespeare's help, discover how to tap into drama's potential to transform you into a stronger, more confident "out loud" writer. Approaching your writing as something to be read out loud can, unlike other literary genres, clue you in to awkward turns of phrase, extremely long sentences, and other potential writing pitfalls. x
  • 13
    What You Can Learn from Autobiography
    Analyze excerpts from Benjamin Franklin's autobiography for strategies to use when you are called to write about yourself. These include confining personal information to the areas of your interests, abilities, and achievements; striking a balance between self-promotion and association with others; and presenting your failures as a part of your personal development. x
  • 14
    Writing and Leadership
    Autobiographies are rich sources of knowledge for understanding how leadership styles and skills are developed and honed. Explore the crucial link between autobiographical writing and leadership with the aid of both Franklin and Frederick Douglass. Also, look closely at the potential benefits of using selective emotional expression in your autobiographical writing. x
  • 15
    The Rules of Rhetoric
    In the first of three lectures on using classical rhetoric to fashion your identity as a writer, investigate four widely used rhetorical concepts. These include commonplaces (pieces of truth wrapped in easily recognizable language), stasis (the general agreement between opposing parties about the terms of the argument), and deductive reasoning. x
  • 16
    Invention and Arrangement
    Turn to two broader areas of classical rhetoric: invention and arrangement. Invention refers to the process by which you generate your arguments. Arrangement refers to the way your argument is organized. Both, as you'll learn, center on seizing opportunities to write the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. x
  • 17
    Ethos and Pathos
    Finish building your rhetorical tool kit by looking at ethos (the perception readers have of your reliability) and pathos (the feelings of emotion you inspire in your readers). Using literary and everyday examples, Professor Armstrong demonstrates how the best persuasive writing—whether it's a speech or a job application—strikes a balance between the two. x
  • 18
    Finding What You Need
    One practical concern of writing is research. Where do you begin? How do you build an effective research schedule? What are some clues that online sources are reliable? And at what point should you stop researching and start writing? Learn the answers to these and other questions in this lecture. x
  • 19
    Using What You Find
    Now that you've learned how to find information, figure out the best ways to use it. Some of the tips and techniques you explore here include how to take effective notes, how to build your research on the work of others, and even what to do when you uncover scholarship that counters your argument. x
  • 20
    Getting Started—Writing First Drafts
    You've got your topic. You've done the research. Now it's time for your first draft. Do you write for a time limit? Do you just throw out all your ideas onto the page and return later? Do you get a writing partner? Find out which of these and other methods work for you. x
  • 21
    Editing—Finding What's Wrong
    Editing what you've written is just as important, if not more so, than actually writing it. In fact, this stage of the writing process can make the difference between a piece of writing that's just okay and one that's great. Here, consider two major approaches to editing: the line-by-line approach and the holistic approach. x
  • 22
    Rewriting—Fixing What's Wrong
    Learn how rewriting can dramatically reshape and strengthen your work as Professor Armstrong takes you on a paragraph-by-paragraph revision of a short essay. Then, finish the lecture with vital tips to keep in mind when rewriting your work, such as clearly stating your thesis and always spelling out points. x
  • 23
    Avoiding Common Errors in Grammar and Usage
    Subject-pronoun disagreement. Misused apostrophes and commas. Dangling modifiers. Commonly misspelled words. Finally learn how to avoid these and other frequently made errors in grammar and usage. Any successful writing should be attentive to these errors—no matter what you're writing or whom you're writing to. x
  • 24
    The Power of Words
    In this inspirational final lecture, sample three particularly fine and engaging examples of writing—Thoreau's Walden, Shakespeare's sonnet number 130, and an obituary in The Economist—that bring home some of the many invaluable lessons, strategies, ideas, and advice you've learned and which ones you can use any time you write. x

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 122-page course synopsis
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  • Suggested readings
  • Exercises

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Your professor

Dorsey Armstrong

About Your Professor

Dorsey Armstrong, Ph.D.
Purdue University
Dr. Dorsey Armstrong is Associate Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University, where she has taught since 2002. The holder of an A.B. in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from Duke University, she also taught at Centenary College of Louisiana and at California State University, Long Beach. Her research interests include medieval women writers,...
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Reviews

Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write about Anything is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 80.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exactly what I wanted. I was looking for a course to follow up Writing Great Sentences leaning more toward essay writing. Analysis and Critique is perfect. It is concise and direct each section building on the last, to the point. Great instructor.
Date published: 2017-06-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointing: not a course for aspiring writers. If you want a course that will help you become an effective writer, this isn't it. Take a look at Brooks Landon's course on Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writers Craft. It is excellent. So why I buy this course? Marketing. Yes, the marketing profile is persuasive, but deceptive. At a glance, the outline presents the areas one would expect a course for aspiring writers would cover. The earlier lectures present high-level samples of topical analysis and critique by classic writers like Jonathan Swift and Thomas Paine. These samples could serve the instructor well if she followed up by deconstructing them to show aspiring writers how the authors solved the challenge they were addressing: how to structure their message, line-by-line, to present their stories. She starts down the path of this type of analysis but stops. Instead, she relies on sweeping, universal statements — a practice she specifically denounces and tells customers not to do — to make her points. The audience for this course, it seems, is high school level students, perhaps those spanning grade levels 9-10. If I’m correct in this respect, this is troublesome, because this course may exemplify why so many young people today cannot write fluently. It’s clear the author tried to structure this course to address the interests of the broadest audience. For that, she gets a 5-star rating for effort. But the outcome is a work product that doesn’t achieve the course objective.
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from More about analysis, not enough about writing I was disappointed by this course. It was not what I thought it would be. I found it to be more about dissecting other's writing, and not enough about becoming better at your own writing.
Date published: 2017-05-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good material, but Professor Armstrong Armstrong could benefit from speech coach help to ameliorate her "valley girl" delivery.
Date published: 2017-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Precise thought! I like the old school learning, things that have been forgotten instilled back in the mind.
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent help for a first-time writer in polishin This course was a great help in giving me good ideas for polishing the first dsraft of my first novel!
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very engaging and educational Professor Armstrong is a very engaging and knowledgeable instructor. Lessons were informative and to-the-point. I came away with some great ways to improve my writing, and was able to implement some of the ideas right after listening.
Date published: 2017-03-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good course This was a good course. I rated it with four stars, which may be a bit generous, but three stars seems a bit harsh. My writing is primarily nonfiction, so aside from a few points, I considered the information interesting rather than useful. While I will mark that I would recommend this program to a friend, it would come with a caveat: what type of writing do they wish to do/use it for.
Date published: 2017-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from GREAT FOR COLLEGE-BOUND KIDS i've purchased your writing courses before - one for my son on sentence structure, etc. - excellent - this one is for my good friend's college-bound daughter - she's a fairly decent writer but needs help with engaging her audience, transitional sentences, grammatical points, etc. i added a Tiffany pen to complete the gift, and she was thrilled.
Date published: 2016-06-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not for Authors I got this with the working theory that it would help me edit my book before publication. I have finished writing a restaurant marketing and management book, which is generally in the non-fiction genre. I wrote about 500 pages, so a course such as this, one would think, would help along those lines. This course does not help you either analyze or critique your own work, as the title suggests. She basically rambles on about English literature, the best prose of all time, Shakespeare, the writing of Edgar Allan Poe, and her favorite parts about all these great works and why they are effective. That is fine, but it does not help me edit my own work at all. It would not help me if my work was fiction, either. It is just opinion after opinion about what makes works great literature. I wish there was a course that actually helped you edit your work. So I guess if you want to learn about the great works of literature throughout the ages this is fine, but don't get this if you think it will help you edit your own essays or books. I will send it back soon to get something else...anything else that can actually add some knowledge to my life that will actually help me in some way.
Date published: 2016-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Although this course covered many topics and writings familiar from high school and college, it was refreshing in both senses of the word. And, Professor Armstrong is quite engaging. In fact, while I have no particular interest in Arthurian legend, I am considering purchasing her course on that subject. This course will not magically turn a person into a full-fledged writer as some of the naysayers seem to want. Rather, it gently nudges the writing instincts. As for Professor Armstrong's presentation, I found the negative comments condescending as opposed to her presentation, which was clear and on point.
Date published: 2016-03-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Delivery Matters! Prof needs some training The content in this course is good. I would recommend it for someone in the early stages of working to build a career in writing. The greatest challenge for me was listening to the presenter. I found it challenging. I've spent my career in the communications and I know that "Delivery Matters." I noticed in reviews for other courses, there are occasional comments about the weaknesses of the presenters. Having worked with academics and scientists in my role as communications professional, I know presentation can be a work in progress. I would only suggest spending a little more time working the professors and presenters on delivery that engages and inspires audiences. I'm sure some will disagree but in this day & age...how you communicate is as important as what you communicate. My favorite saying these days -- It's not what you say, it's people hear that matters!"
Date published: 2015-10-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Nice course for beginers I am working in the writing field for 5 years, have bought this course to improve my writing skills, but from the whole course i didn't know 5-8% of the information. I work as a freelancer at essay writing service http://www.bestessaywritersuk.com/ and hoped that there will be some useful information. But for people who has decided to make writing their job it is very good course, worth of buying.
Date published: 2015-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Analysis and Critique: How to Engage and Write . . Not only am I a published writer, but I am also a teacher of writing and of the law, both at the undergrad and grad levels. I provide this information not to toot a horn, but to state that I hope I am as effective a teacher as Dr. Armstrong. I have taken many writing courses and hold a Master's Degree in Professional Writing, so the discipline of writing and teaching writing is not a new thing for me. But, this course was new, and as good or better than any of its type I have thus far seen. I could go on for a while, but I will tell you that I cannot recall the number of times I have blanched, choked, sputtered, and where possible, corrected users of "ironically" when they mean "coincidentally." Finding that this is a sore spot with Dr. Armstrong solidified the very favorable impression I have of her course. This one is worth more than the price. Neil
Date published: 2015-04-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent - delivers more than it promises I loved this course. I have spent my life reading technical books and never quite had the time nor inclination to read novels or the classics. This course opened my eyes and brought me straight up-to-date with an understanding of literature. I now read with real insight. Highly recommend this course. The professor is top notch.
Date published: 2015-03-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent introduction to writing This is a very engaging introduction to writing. However, each lecture could be a course in itself. I do find I am reading more critically but not ready to write.
Date published: 2015-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Guide I was very impressed with Professor Dorsey Armstrong's command of language and writing as well as her engaging style of teaching. This course helped me refine my writing skills for the better!
Date published: 2015-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Drastic Improvement For My Son! I purchased this course hoping to help my home schooled son improve his writing ability. All i can say is that this course has more than delivered! I would highly recommend this course to anyone who desires to improve their writing skills.
Date published: 2015-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from As good as it gets Of all my Great Courses (20 or so) this one has benefited me the most. I have technical degrees and a lot of experience with business and technical writing including 3 books and many papers. I thought I wrote well. This course produced the greatest improvement in my writing since 3rd Grade! It broadened how I approach a topic and improved my sense of how to reach the intended audience. I have gifted this course and used it to help employees with writing issues. Dorsey Armstrong is superb with her insight and presentation. We all need to communicate, and we do our most enduring communication through writing. This course is a wonderful opportunity to improve each of ours. I recommend it highly.
Date published: 2015-01-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Learn how to write at home I have been writing for years but never studied it. This introduces me to a new way of thinking about writing which I appreciate. I am elderly so have to think about the material very hard and watch it and read it a few times, but in the end, I get there. I am only on lesson 3, so I hope the professor does more than just stand and talk ... perhaps use the chalkboard or displays.
Date published: 2015-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A friendly, general introduction to writing As is obvious from the very title, this course is very general. It will introduce you to the art of writing (and reading), and present to you the basics. What I liked: * All types/genres of writing discussed. * The relationship between writing, reading and different types of writing explained and cleared. * Easy and extremely interesting to follow. * Various books discussed, and great examples. * Teaches in great depth how to write essays. * Lecturer shows us how she, as a university professor, grades her students. Consider before watching * The course has a particular focus on writing essays (arguments). * The course organizes some important ideas, many of which you are probably already aware of. * Little thinking is required to follow this course (the lecturer does the thinking for you). * Quotes comprise significant portions of the transcripts of every lecture. If you plan on watching it, do consider having access to the course guidebook, since it's frequently mentioned in the lecture. Obviously, i LOVED the course: that's why I gave it 5 stars! The lecturer was professional and provided a well-organized and enjoyable course. You might not gain a lot of knowledge about a specific genre of writing, but I highly recommend this course to everybody: whether you're beginning to write, or have been writing for years, you will enjoy this course. The other courses I've recommended are simply courses that are more specific about their subject. If you know about the genre of writing you're interested in learning about, TTC offers many specific Great Courses.
Date published: 2014-10-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good but could improve I am a new author and was looking to improve my writing style. This course makes some good points and I was excited about it but I am sorry to say lost my attention in some of the lectures. I have run into this before when very very simple material, at times, is drawn out, over intellectualized and put on a pedestal in a such a way that looses the audience, they simply disconnect. Most people connect best with pragmatic, direct to the point style of teaching. After all life happens outside of a university classroom and that is what majority of people understand and also want to read about, if you have lost their attention you have failed in bringing them into your world and point of view. On the upside I did learn certain skills I did not have before which was good but this is a course that requires your full attention so you can condense what is being said. Have to give a mixed review here.
Date published: 2014-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is one of the best courses from the TC I speak to a wide range of audience from doctors, scientists, business people, and lay population. I found essentially lecture useful. I find myself before giving a talk reviewing about 1/3. The instructor actually teaches rather than lectures, uncommon for the teaching company.
Date published: 2014-06-08
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Save Your Money This course was extremely boring and I agree that the professor had a bit of a condescending tone. I also found this to be below my education level-the lectures on topics I covered in 9th grade. I was looking for a course to motivate me to write more and maybe use some interaction with prompts but this made 30 minutes seem like 3 hours.
Date published: 2014-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Dorsey and this great course... Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Perdue University has a great gift. By this I mean she not only teaches by the spoken word of the lecture’s lesson, but by exemplification at a higher level of intelligence and the unspoken word to teach what she says. In this course you will not only learn by her casual and unassuming nature, but also by her example about the written, spoken and unspoken word of presentation to those you might want to influence … when opportunity knocks. So don’t even think of getting just the transcript or audio version of this course! In a mid course chapter, for purpose of demonstration, she reads Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. I’ve read it often before, and heard it reiterated even more often, including notes from a diary from one of my great, great, grand uncles who fought there on these very days, and afterwards hearing his President Lincoln speak it. But never before have my eyes shed tears than when I heard it recited by Professor Dorsey. She has so impressed me with her teaching style and presentation, that I am now enthused to embark upon taking any of her other lectures, even though they might not have been before on the top of my interest list. John Doyle
Date published: 2014-04-28
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Save Your Money Painful. Prof Armstrong lacks the ability to connect with the common individual. She is extremely condescending. I had a hard time listening to all the lectures, but I paid the $50 so I felt obligated. Do yourself a favor and purchase "The Art of Reading" or "Writing Creative Nonfiction." Those two classes are well worth the money and 10 times more enjoyable than "Analysis and Critique." Also, read the review by "QuiteRational." He is spot on.
Date published: 2014-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This course is excellent Because today's world offers almost literally everyone the ability to write about anything, what with blogs and self-publishing being so widespread and easily available, it only makes sense to pair the ease of this with the ease of attaining proper writing skills. This course allows all of us, not just the advanced scholars, the ability to write as though we know what we are doing. So, thanks to courses such as this, a blue-collar guy like me can stand in comparison with anyone who enjoys wielding the written word.
Date published: 2013-09-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Where is the Analysis, the Critique? There is an axiom that goes, “If the learner hasn’t learned, the trainer hasn’t taught.” Professor Armstrong, clearly in my mind, exemplifies the trainer who hasn’t taught. Of the more than 60 Great Course lectures I have purchased over the years, this one is by far the biggest waste of money and time. To mention that it was quite a struggle to get through the entirety of the course would be a gross understatement. The professor comes across as pedantic and condescending, like the listener must be treated as an obtuse simpleton. The substance of the lecture appeared to be directed more at eighth or tenth grade students. Why the professor couldn’t seem to find any more modern day writers to use as examples of the points she was attempting to make was annoying. The writers she did choose were very much from another time, and in many cases, another culture. Her effort appeared to be more of a “curve-fitting” exercise wherein the material was parsed, with a sort of forced mutation, in a manner that would illustrate her theme of the moment. I might also add that the themes, or points she was attempting to convey were difficult, if not completely opaque, to discern. I found myself re-playing a number of segments in an effort to find some modicum of clarity. I really don’t know where the analysis comes to the forefront. Maybe I’m a bit of a dullard, but I found the material mostly devoid of genuine analytical investigation, with the examples selected appearing to be from a high school syllabus that was developed 40-years ago. I came away from listening to these lectures wondering what the professor was attempting to convey. There was little real analysis and one would have to search the course with a highly active imagination to find any critique that was of any value among the professor’s examination of the example writings presented. How this course was supposed to make one a better, more “engaged” writer “on any subject” escapes me completely. Save your money for more educational and thought-provoking courses, of which there are a profusion among the Great Courses selections.
Date published: 2013-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Positively Engaging and Uplifting Delivery :) Professor Armstrong gets us enthused and anxious to start writing right away. Her delivery is an example for all of us to follow. She is not afraid of the camera and she stays the course brilliantly. Not academically overdone but focused on life's facts. Her visits with the different pearls of a literary past encourage us to explore and improve. Conclusion: we need more Armstrong!
Date published: 2013-08-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Most Difficult Review Yet This is a very difficult review for me to write. I do not have my usual enthusiasm for this course as I have had for other courses. But I have to ask myself if that is the fault of the course or the nature of the topic. Surely gaining understanding of some of the mysteries of quantum mechanics is more fun than watching lectures on the rudimentary aspects of writing. A solid review of high school level fundamentals was good for my writing. From what I read in the reviews of this class, most of us could benefit from hearing the basics of writing presented by a professional. There is the rub. The course really is a "back to basics" type of course. In order to write effectively, we need to get back to the fundamentals. Can such a flashback to 8th grade English class be that exciting? There is no fun in fundamental! That seems to be what most reviewers are saying. That's the paradox I face writing the review. It might not be fun, but fun is there. I think some reviewers might be missing that. I too found the lectures annoying. I thought each lecture lacked substance. I disliked the flailing gestures. That is, I initially felt those things until I thought more deeply after each lecture. Each 30 minute class has a handful of very useful take-away points. Some may not be new to you but they are important reminders. When I took the time after each lecture to think about the content, there were always points worth noting. As for Dr. Dorsey's style, I'll probably catch it from others but her style is being crushed by the subject and the format. Here's a PhD with a specialty very distant from rudimentary writing teaching a middle school level course. Put a racehorse in a pony ride to walk in circles all day. You can, if you give her the same latitude as you might a male professor (oh gasp!). See glimpses of humor. She's giving us the inside jokes as she grits her way through the necessary tedium. I think she is probably a riot at a party. But in this course she's doing her best to stay in the lane designated by the material. It's like kale. Kale is good for us. But seriously, kale? No one buys kale because they love kale. It's good for us. It's super food. Yum yum. Write a review of kale and no one would buy it. If you want to improve your writing, buy the course. If you cannot bear going through the basics of writing, do not buy the course. If you can set aside ego and allow yourself a very basic review, buy the course. If you want deep advanced lectures on analytical writing, do not buy this course. If you are able to watch a teacher strain under the yoke of what must be pretty boring stuff for her and all the while see that glint in her eye and catch those fleeting wry smiles, buy the course. If you want a rap on the knuckles from Sister Mary of the order of Sacred Sentence Structure, do not buy the course. Res ipsa loquitur. Kale is good for us. It's best blended well with other tasty things. I can recommend this course to everyone who sends me email.
Date published: 2013-08-13
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