This page is designed to provide important information to students that clarifies classroom procedures, offers writing help, and advises on matters of academic interest.
My courses are designed to develop critical thinking skills. From time to time, when I challenge a student in the classroom to back up an assertion about a text, the student will respond, "But everybody is entitled to an opinion!" Of course. But the value of your opinion is based on the strength of its construction. All your opinions are based on your observations of facts. All the facts you know are filtered through the lens of your pre-established opinions. If you express an opinion (or more appropriately, make a critical judgment), the burden is on you, like a lawyer in a courtroom, to show why and how you formed that opinion. To show the evidence and reasoning that supports the truth-value of that judgment. To communicate that critical analysis to an audience or a reader clearly and concisely, so that others will see things as you know they should be seen. These are the skills I endeavor to develop in my courses.
USF Exit Requirements are designed to be writing-intensive and to develop critical thinking skills through writing and discussion. The following links address issues directly concerned with the writing requirements for my courses, as well as helpful advice in developing your writing and critical analysis skills.
Dr. Pinsky's Gallery of Writing Pages
Other Writing Assistance
Avoiding Cheating and Plagiarism
Because your courses focus entirely on primary texts (fiction, critical theory, and philosophy) with no outside research necessary, there should not be a problem with avoiding plagiarism. Of course, having said that, I am well aware that you may be tempted to use outside material, from the library or the web, to bolster your arguments.
My courses are designed to develop your critical thinking skills (see My Teaching Philosophy), to help you articulate and support your arguments, and not to repeat back someone else's ideas (even mine). So copying someone else's work is not only cheating in a basic sense, it violates the entire spirit of the course. You are encouraged to form your own assessments of the material and philosophical ideas. Moreover, you are encouraged to back up your assessment with your own observations and analysis of that material.
But should you still feel tempted to let somebody else do your talking for you, consider these sage words on the subject: