Satisfying Writing Requirement Guidelines

The goal of writing-intensive courses is to improve writing skills through writing regularly in a context where mentors in the various communities of discourse encourage, guide, and communicate to students high standards of writing through instruction and example. The goals of the course may be fulfilled by a combination of assignments that include short papers, a longer research paper, revisions, journals, and written exercises in class--all designed to achieve higher standards of writing.

A writing intensive course should combine the following two components in ways appropriate to the discipline:

  • frequent writing assignments (which may be un-graded)
  • at least one rigorous writing project carried out over the course of the semester under the guidance and supervision of the instructor.

Writing Intensive courses must either be about writing or demonstrate that writing is an integral part of the learning experience. Intensive writing is not an elective option but a central focus of the course.

Normally, writing intensive classes focus not only on the product, but also on the process of writing. Writing should thus occur on a regular basis, with assignments staged in a manner that facilitates improvement over the course of the semester. Papers should, of course, conform to the highest standards of correctness in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage. Strategies for improving writing will vary with the instructor. But at least once during the semester a writing intensive class must involve students revising their work for a writing assignment in response to the instructor's written and/or oral comments (in individual conferences) on an earlier draft.

Criteria for judging a writing intensive course include the following:

Centrality of writing assignments to the intellectual experience of the course

Every discipline possesses its own discourse conventions, governing, for example, what constitutes an interesting question, the effective presentation of evidence, or valid criticism. Instructors should use writing to teach students the concepts, assumptions, and intellectual moves central to your discipline. Think about writing assignments in terms of what you want them to teach rather than exclusively in terms of what they might measure.

Some suggestions for designing assignments:

  • choose words precisely : consider how students may interpret (or misinterpret) your words
  • anticipate students' questions and address these in the assignment
  • provide details to guide students through the process of completing the assignment and to help them understand the conventions unique to your discipline
  • include a description of your criteria for an excellent paper

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Attention given to the process of teaching writing

Writing is a recursive process that involves:

  • generating ideas
  • formulating a thesis/statement of purpose
  • organizing arguments and evidence to support them
  • composing a draft
  • revising and editing

Time spent (inside or outside of class-through peer review or reflective writing) discussing these stages of the process usually results in more substantive, coherent, and polished final papers. As most of us have learned, no matter how polished the final paper, a lame or confusing thesis will doom it to oblivion.

Writing should occur on a regular basis, throughout the semester. Weekly or biweekly writing assignments help students assimilate the course material by encouraging them to formulate hypotheses, draw connections, make judgments, and consider possible implications. Where class discussions favor certain students and may exclude others, written assignments compel each student to take an active intellectual role. Because the purpose of frequent writing assignments is to keep students actively engaged with the course material rather than to enslave faculty, not all of them need to be commented on or graded.

Assignments should be staged in a manner that facilitates improvement over the course of the semester. Improvement in writing and improvement in thinking go hand in hand. Studies show that when students attempt to write about material they do not fully understand, their writing falters, and grammar and syntax may fall apart. Breaking down a long assignment into stages enables students to master one part before going on to the next. Instructors might design a separate assignment for each stage, sequence these assignments so that they build to a more complex whole, and comment on each stage, guiding students to see how it develops out of the previous stage and leads to the next.

Improvement is also fostered by showing students models of excellent work. Class time spent on discussing model papers (or parts of papers) usually pays off in less time spent on commenting and grading.

Papers should conform to the highest standards of correctness in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and usage. It is crucial for students to know that grammatical/mechanical correctness is important to every instructor. By circling errors and directing students to correct them, instructors send an important message.

Encourage students to:

  • use a handbook (e.g., Lunsford & Connors, The New St. Martins Handbook or Watkins & Dillingham, The Practical English Handbook)
  • consult the Emory Writing Center website
  • and/or sign up for a conference with a Writing Center Tutor (404-727-0886)

Strategies for improving writing will vary with the instructor. But at least once during the semester a writing intensive class must involve students revising their work for a writing assignment in response to the instructor's written and/or oral comments (in individual conferences) on an earlier draft.

Studies show that intervening when the student is in the process of completing a writing assignment is far more effective than writing copious comments at the end of a final draft. Structure into your syllabus specific occasions for students to meet with you to conceptualize an essay, discuss ways of organizing and/or revising it. At the very least, comment on a draft of one essay by each student and direct the student to revise it. Don't simply assign a long paper due at the end of the semester with no intervention along the way. To support, but not replace your efforts, consider using TAs as well as Writing Center tutors.

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Significance of writing assignments in final course grade ( minimum 40% )

Ideally, the percentage refers to polished, graded writing rather than to journal entries, exercises, response papers, or in-class writing.

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Quantity of polished writing produced ( minimum 20 typed pages )

Polished writing refers to final drafts-carefully revised and edited (attending to structure and style as well as the conventions of Standard American English and proper/accurate citations), and proofread. The key to polishing a piece of writing is REVISION-not simply editing but re-envisioning the parts of the paper to ensure that they cohere.

Support Services

  • The Emory Writing Center Tutors, Website, Course Tutors, Workshop Series
  • Colleagues who have participated in Writing Workshops
  • Participate yourself in a Writing Workshop

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