Tutorial: A Critical Analysis of Pokemon


Professor: Anya Vostinar
Office: Science (Noyce) 2610
Email: vostinar (at) grinnell (dot) edu

Office Hours: M,T,W,TH,F 10-11 (and by appointment, email me)

Meeting time: Tuesday and Thursday: 8:30-9:50pm
Location: Science (Noyce) 1302

Writing Mentor: Liv Woolam (woolamol (at) grinnell (dot) edu)


Do you want to be the very best (writer), like no one ever was? Then this class is your real test; to train you is my cause. We will travel across the campus, searching far and wide, for each of you to understand the power that's inside. Pokemon! Gotta analyze 'em all!

In this class, we will explore questions regarding the ethics, religious themes, and biological feasibility of the Pokemon world. You will read academic and popular texts to discuss, write upon and present upon these topics.

Course Philosophy and Purpose

This tutorial is designed to help you become a more skilled reader, writer, and oral communicator. In reading, you will hone your ability to discern an author’s central and peripheral arguments, their motivation for writing, and the qualities of good or poor writing. In writing, you will learn to articulate and organize your own arguments, convincingly supported by evidence. A significant portion of this course is devoted to meaningful interactions with your peers, in formal class discussions (and hopefully informal out of class discussions!), peer review of writing, and other group assignments. In my view, scholarship is becoming increasingly collaborative, and learning how to work with others with differing backgrounds, perspectives, and skills will serve you well at Grinnell and beyond.


In all of your reading assignments, you should seek to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the author’s main point or argument?
  2. What theories and research methods does the author use to demonstrate his/her point?
  3. What key pieces of evidence are presented in support of the author’s argument?
  4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the particular argument?
  5. What questions does this argument raise for you?
  6. How does this article or chapter relate to previous discussions, readings or experiences?


While what you write is essential, how you present your ideas in writing is also extremely important. Informal writing exercises and formal writing assignments are designed to provide you with an opportunity to exercise and strengthen your writing skills. I recommend that you take advantage of the Writing Lab for assistance with your assignments. If you do go to the Writing Lab, acknowledge the assistance of your tutor in your paper.

The Writing Lab, located in HSSC N3129, supports students working on papers, projects, and presentations. In one-on-one sessions, students can get feedback as they brainstorm ideas, strengthen arguments, choose and analyze evidence, focus paragraphs, craft introductions and conclusions, rewrite sentences, organize and revise whole drafts, plan presentations, and more. Writing Lab instructors do not proofread papers, but they can help writers learn strategies for editing their own work. For a link to the schedule and appointment system, search “Writing Lab” on grinnell.edu or grinnellshare.grinnell.edu.

Interim Advising

In addition to serving as your instructor for this course, I’ll also be your academic advisor at Grinnell until such time as you choose a major field of study. It will be my job to help you translate your interests into meaningful curricular and extra-curricular experiences. A liberal arts education should also give you room to discover new interests, and I will encourage you to develop a broad as well as deep academic program at Grinnell. As an advisor, I will aim to be accessible and responsive to your needs. I sincerely hope that we will cultivate a relationship enriching to both of us.

Course Contract

The syllabus is the contract for this course, and it is your responsibility to read and follow the policies in the syllabus. If you remain registered for this course, you have agreed to follow the procedures in the syllabus and all other course documents.

Attendance/Unexcused Absence

Your classmates and partner(s) depend on your contributions to learn new material and complete the required work for this course. Don’t let them down! You are expected to arrive on time and participate actively in every class.

Because your participation is so important, I will not grant excused absences except in exceptional circumstances. I will deduct 2% from your final grade for each unexcused absence and 1% for each time you are late to class. However, each student is allotted a 4% “penalty buffer,” so you may miss two classes or arrive late four times with no impact on your final grade. This policy is intended to give you the flexibility to deal with brief illnesses or personal issues that require you to miss class.

I encourage students who plan to observe religious holidays that coincide with class meetings or assignment due dates to consult with me in the first three weeks of classes so that we may reach a mutual understanding of how you can meet the terms of your religious observance and also the requirements for this course.

If you need to miss more than two class periods for an exceptional reason (e.g. to attend an academic conference, deal with a family emergency, or due to long-term illness) please talk to me as soon as possible and we will make an alternate arrangement.

If your are sick, please do not come to class. Stay in your room, send me a message, rest, and seek medical care as needed. Student Health and Counseling Services (SHACS) offers health and mental health services to students.

I will generally only grant excused absences if you notify my at least 48 hours before the class you will miss. If you need to miss class on short notice because you are sick, I will require a note from SHACS or the absence will be counted as unexcused. You do not need to notify me ahead of time if you are comfortable allowing your absence to count against the “penalty buffer,” but I strongly encourage you to contact your classmates or review the posted notes from class to catch up on any material you missed.

Late Work

Your written work needs to be in on time. I rarely allow late work to be handed in, and only if you contact me in advance of the deadline. All written assignments must be typed in a Word document and uploaded to PioneerWeb by the deadline. The deadline will be stated on the prompt and is usually 10pm. I enforce this deadline because it isn't healthy for you to pull an 'all-nighter' to finish work before class. If you are running up against a deadline, it's best to turn in what you have by the deadline because I won't accept anything after.

Academic Honesty

Academic dishonesty (plagiarism, cheating, taking individual credit for a group effort, etc.) undermines the integrity of our academic community and creates a climate of mistrust. We will devote significant time in this tutorial to understanding Grinnell’s academic honesty policy and how to behave ethically in the liberal arts setting. Any suspected cases of academic dishonesty will be referred to the Committee on Academic Standing. If you ever have a question about academic honesty policies (especially as it relates to proper citation and credit of other scholars’ work) please see me or consult the college’s academic honesty policy (http://www.grinnhttps://www.grinnell.edu/sites/default/files/documents/AcademicHonesty_2017-18.pdfell.edu/files/downloads/AcadHonestyBklt_2011-12.pdf).

Inclusivity and Accommodations

I strive to create a fully inclusive classroom, thus I welcome individual students to approach me about distinctive learning needs. In particular, I encourage students with disabilities, including invisible or non-apparent disabilities such as chronic illness, learning disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities, to have a conversation with me and disclose how our classroom or course activities could impact the disability and what accommodations would be essential to you. You will also need to have a conversation about and provide documentation of your disability to the Coordinator for Student Disability Resources, John Hirschman, located on the 3rd floor of Goodnow Hall (x3089). If for whatever reason you do not currently have documentation, please still see me to discuss strategies to succeed in the class.

Electronic Devices

I understand the value of using tablets and laptops during class. You are allowed to use your electronic devices for class-related purposes such as taking notes or looking up reference materials. If at any point I see that you are using your electronic device for purposes not related to class, I will ask you to stop. If this becomes a repeated problem, I may have to revisit this policy.


Your grade in this course will be based on your participation in class discussions, writing assignments and oral presentations. A breakdown of the grading distribution follows:

  • Class Participation 20%
  • Informal Writing 15%
  • Formal Essays 50%
  • Oral Presentations 15%

Class Participation (20%): Student participation is central to this Tutorial. I expect you to come to class prepared to discuss and work together on the reading, research, or writing assignment of the day. I expect students to interact, ask questions, share insights, and push each other’s thinking throughout the term. The participation grade is determined by your level of involvement, both in terms of frequency and quality of your contributions. Your participation grade will reflect how much and how well you contribute to our work this semester, from discussing ideas to evaluating your peers’ work, from contributing intellectually to providing encouragement to one another. If you have any concerns about this portion of the grade, please speak to me early in the term.

Informal Writing (15%) One of the primary goals of Tutorial is to launch your college writing career. Toward this goal we will write early, often, and in many different formats. Sometimes your informal writing will take place in class in preparation for discussion or a more formal assignment, sometimes your informal writing will be a first response to a reading assignment. Throughout the term, you will be asked to perform a series of writing tasks designed to develop a range of writing skills and familiarize you with some of the pleasures and challenges of writing at the college level. Informal writing is evaluated for thoroughness and attentiveness to the assignment, not with a letter grade.

Revised Essays (50%): You will have two formal essays due during the semester that you will rewrite and revise for a grade.  The papers will be assigned of varying length and format, specified in their rubrics. The papers will be due in stages. Writing is an iterative process, and I expect you to incorporate my comments and the suggestions of your peers into all final products you produce. Your final grade on a paper will reflect your completion of all stages of the paper (i.e., it is insufficient to turn in a final product only).

Oral Presentations (15%): At the end of the semester, you will present on your final research paper topic. As the culmination of your research, you will prepare a ~12 min oral presentation with PowerPoint slides summarizing your findings.

Grading Distribution

  • A: 94% and up
  • A-: 90-93%
  • B+: 87-89%
  • B: 84-86%
  • B-: 80-83%
  • C+: 76-79%
  • C: 70-75%
  • D: 60-69%
  • F: 59% and below


The college has specified the following objectives for Tutorial and we will do our best to meet them during the semester:

  1. Introduce students to college-level writing.
  2. Introduce students to critical reading skills through close reading of texts and analysis of materials.
  3. Introduce students to college-level oral communication skills through class discussion, formal presentation, or both.
  4. Acquaint students with a librarian and library resources.
  5. Introduce elements of the academic honesty policies and practices at Grinnell, including both correct citation practices and discussion of issues related to academic integrity.
  6. Plan individualized academic programs in the liberal arts.


There are a lot of great resources on writing and reading out there, here are some that I or my colleagues recommend. (I will likely have some lecture based on these resources, so this is also a list for me to keep track of the best ones!)

The Grinnell Guide to Writing, Research and Speaking

5 Ways of Looking at a Thesis

This syllabus is heavily borrowed from Erick Leggans's and Karla Erickson's Tutorial syllabi.