Writing in the Disciplines

These colleges typically make the writing process a priority at all levels of instruction and across

These colleges typically make the writing process a priority at all levels of instruction and across the curriculum. Students are encouraged to produce and refine various forms of writing for different audiences in different disciplines. In spring and summer 2022, we invited college presidents, chief academic officers, deans of students and deans of admissions from more than 1,500 schools to nominate up to 15 institutions with stellar examples of writing in the disciplines. Colleges and universities that received 10 or more nominations are ranked here. Read the methodology »

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writing in the university

Brown University

Providence, RI

At Brown University, undergraduate students are responsible for designing their own academic study with more than 80 concentration programs to choose from. Another unique offering at this private, Ivy League institution in Providence, Rhode Island, is the Program in Liberal Medical Education, which grants both a bachelor’s degree and medical degree in eight years.

(fall 2021)

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writing in the university

University of Iowa

Iowa City, IA

The University of Iowa offers top-notch academic programming in more than 100 areas. Students looking to hone their leadership skills have many options, too: They can enroll in the LeaderShape Institute, a six-day getaway workshop; or participate in one of the many programs offered through the Center for Student Involvement & Leadership, including arts and entertainment, and multicultural programs. Freshmen do not have to live on campus, but about 95 percent choose to do so. Campus life may pose a challenge to tobacco users, as Iowa is a smoke-free campus. Students have more than 500 clubs and organizations from which to choose, and close to 10 percent of students go Greek as members of the school's more than 50 fraternities and sororities. Sports are another big focus of campus life; even in the competitive NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference, the Iowa Hawkeyes are notorious players. Four blocks from campus is Iowa City, a Midwestern metropolis that has been recognized among the nation’s best for its scenery, greenery and sustainable energy efforts.


writing in the university

Yale University

New Haven, CT

Yale University, located in New Haven, Connecticut, offers a small college life with the resources of a major research institution. Yale students are divided into 14 residential colleges that foster a supportive environment for living, learning and socializing.

writing in the university

Cornell University

Cornell University, a private school in Ithaca, New York, has 14 colleges and schools. Each admits its own students, though every graduate receives a degree from Cornell University. The university has more than 1,000 student organizations on campus.

writing in the university

Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

Harvard University is a private institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. This Ivy League school is the oldest higher education institution in the country and has the largest endowment of any school in the world.

writing in the university

Carleton College

Northfield, MN

Carleton College is a private school in the historic river town of Northfield, Minnesota. Carls, as its students are known, have about 35 majors to choose from and more than 170 organizations to check out.

writing in the university

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore, PA

About 10 miles outside of Philadelphia is Swarthmore College, a private liberal arts institution that also offers a unique engineering degree program. Because Swarthmore is part of the Tri-College Consortium, students can also take courses at nearby Bryn Mawr College and Haverford College.

writing in the university

Amherst College

Amherst, MA

Amherst College, a private school in Amherst, Massachusetts, is known for its rigorous academic climate. Because Amherst is a member of the Five Colleges consortium, students can also take courses at Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Hampshire College and the University of Massachusetts—Amherst.

writing in the university

Duke University

Located in Durham, North Carolina, Duke University is a private institution that has liberal arts and engineering programs for undergraduates. The Duke Blue Devils sports teams have a fierce rivalry with the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill Tar Heels and are best known for their outstanding men's basketball program.

writing in the university

Princeton University

Princeton, NJ

The ivy-covered campus of Princeton University, a private institution, is located in the quiet town of Princeton, New Jersey. Princeton was the first university to offer a "no loan" policy to financially needy students, giving grants instead of loans to accepted students who need help paying tuition.

writing in the university

The Undergraduate Writing Program

The Undergraduate Writing Program

What is University Writing?

ENGL CC/GS1010 : University Writing, is a one-semester seminar designed to facilitate students’ entry into the intellectual life of the university by teaching them to become more capable and independent academic readers and writers. The course emphasizes habits of mind and skills that foster students’ capacities for critical analysis, argument, revision, collaboration, meta-cognition, and research. Students read and discuss essays from a number of fields, complete regular informal reading and writing exercises, compose several longer essays, and devise a research-based project of their own design.

The Essays Students Will Write:

To read student essays from the course, see The Morningside Review .

Courses of Instruction:

ENGL CC/GS1010 : University Writing (3 points)  focuses on developing students’ reading, writing, and thinking, drawing from readings on a designated course theme that carry a broad appeal to people with diverse interests. No University Writing class presumes that students arrive with prior knowledge in the theme of the course. We are offering the following themes this year:

For further information on course requirements in general:

CC and SEAS students: Center for Student Advising , 403 Lerner Hall

GS students should contact their advisor.


Spring 2023 Registration Deadlines:

For CC/SEAS students only:

General Studies students: Students may change GS UW sections only online. Students who have questions should talk to their advisors.

For all students: There are no waitlists for UW, and instructors cannot add or drop students from their sections. Students should follow the procedure of their school in order to add/drop a section. To maintain the learning environment that the course requires, sections are capped at 14 and never over-enrolled.


Please email John Stobo, [email protected] , the UWP administrative assistant, if you have any questions.

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Essay Structure

Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader's logic.

The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay's structure is necessarily unique to the main claim you're making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formula.

Answering Questions:  The Parts of an Essay

A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument, analyzing data, raising counterarguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but other parts don't. Counterargument, for example, may appear within a paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the specific section to which it's relevant.

It's helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don't, your thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)

"What?"   The first question to anticipate from a reader is "what": What evidence shows that the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This "what" or "demonstration" section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you're essentially reporting what you've observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn't take up much more than a third (often much less) of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or description.

"How?"   A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is "how": How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you're making? Typically, an essay will include at least one "how" section. (Call it "complication" since you're responding to a reader's complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the "what," but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.

"Why?"   Your reader will also want to know what's at stake in your claim: Why does your interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger context. In answering "why", your essay explains its own significance. Although you might gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your essay's end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished—or, worse, as pointless or insular.

Mapping an Essay

Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader's needs in understanding your idea.

Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counterargument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:

Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.

Signs of Trouble  

A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" (also labeled "summary" or "description"). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with "time" words ("first," "next," "after," "then") or "listing" words ("also," "another," "in addition"). Although they don't always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay's thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example ("In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil").

Copyright 2000, Elizabeth Abrams, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

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Teaching excellence & educational innovation, how can i help students become better writers in the discipline when i am not a writing teacher.

There are a variety of things you can do that do not require expertise as a writing teacher, as well as ways of creating assignments and assessments that will aid students in this academic endeavor.

Share Useful Strategies with Students.

Many of the writing strategies we take for granted (e.g., how to write an introduction, how to research relevant sources) are not at all obvious to our students. And yet, these issues arise so frequently that there are resources available for us to share with our students. For example, the library offers workshops on various topics such as conducting literature searches and evaluating sources that can be scheduled during class time so students all get the chance to learn these basic skills before they need to be applied in writing assignments. In addition, there are several sources of information on the web that we can share with our students on basic writing tips and strategies:

Provide Examples.

Use examples of good student writing to discuss with your students what makes these pieces of writing effective. This helps students identify the elements of good work for particular assignments within particular disciplinary domains that, in turn, helps them become conscious of these elements in their own work. Diverse models of student work also illustrate that there are different ways to approach the same assignment, thus offering students some sense of creative scope.

Model Your Process.

It may also be helpful for you to share with students your process in approaching writing tasks. For example, you can tell students:

This is not always easy: it means we must become aware of and then make explicit the processes we engage in unconsciously and automatically. However, illuminating the complex steps involved in writing and revising to both you and your students is a useful exercise.

Design Assignments that Offer Appropriate Practice with Feedback.

Of course, one of the best ways for students to become better writers is through practice. However, as our learning principle on practice and feedback shows, not all practice is equally effective. An important way to help students develop as writers, even in a course not solely designed for this purpose, is to match the writing assignments to the students' skill level and offer practice (with feedback) on the aspects of writing where they can benefit. See more information on designing effective writing assignments and on responding to student writing .

Embed Milestones.

It is also helpful to include milestones into an assignment so that students submit either preliminary drafts (so they can incorporate feedback in their subsequent revisions) or components of a larger paper (so they avoid leaving the entire assignment to the last minute). For example, you could require your students to read and comment on at least two other classmates' early drafts by a specific deadline (for information on peer review, see the University of Wisconsin's Writing Center ).

Require Drafts.

Few people are able to turn out high-quality writing in first drafts. For most people, good writing requires rereading, rethinking, and sometimes fairly extensive revising. Many students, however, misconstrue or underestimate what good writing involves, believing that it's a simple linear process when, in fact, it is complex and iterative. Many students leave writing assignments to the last minute, expecting to be able to sit down and rapidly turn out a good paper. Thus, they may not give themselves enough time to re-examine premises, adjust the organizational scheme, refine their arguments, etc. Requiring drafts forces students to build in appropriate time frames for their work.

Create Rubrics.

A detailed scoring guide or performance rubric helps students to recognize the component parts of a writing task and understand how their competence will be assessed in each of these areas. A good rubric helps students to see what comprises high quality writing and to identify the skills they will need to perform well. You might want to provide your rubric to students along with the assignment so they know what the criteria are in advance and can plan appropriately.

Recognize Cultural Differences.

Besides the differences between skilled and unskilled writers, there are cultural differences that often manifest themselves in the written work of non-native speakers of English. For example, Arabic speakers may develop their arguments by restating their position rather than stating rationales. Japanese speakers are inclined to argue both for and against an issue, and to be more tentative in their conclusions. Some non-native speakers generally provide lengthier treatments of historical context, minimizing their own arguments. For more information about this area, contact the Intercultural Communications Center 's Writing Clinic for non-native English speakers.

Be explicit with students about the behaviors of skilled writers.

Understanding the behavioral differences between skilled and unskilled writers can help us work more effectively with students, even to "warn" them in advance of potential pitfalls to be avoided.

Skilled/successful writers

Unskilled/unsuccessful writers.

Conceive the writing problem in its complexity, including issues of audience, purpose, and context.

Conceive the writing problem narrowly, primarily in terms of topic.

Shape writing to the needs of the audience.

Have little concept of audience.

Are committed to the writing.

Care little about the writing.

Are less easily satisfied with first drafts. Think of revision as finding the line of argument. Revise extensively at the level of structure and content.

Are more easily satisfied with the first draft.

Think of revision as changing words or crossing out and throwing away. Revise only at the level of single word or sentence.

Are able to pay selective attention to various aspects of the writing task, depending on the stage of the writing process.

Often tried to do everything perfectly on the first draft. Get stuck on single word choices or on punctuation, even at early stages. Tend to believe that writing well is a gift you either have or don't have.

Sharing this information with students in advance of writing assignments can aid them in the writing process.

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The Writing University

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More than 40 Pulitzer Prize winners. Seven U.S. Poets Laureate. Countless award-winning playwrights, screenwriters, journalists, translators, novelists and poets. The University of Iowa’s writing programs shape the landscape of American literature.

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Departments & Programs

Iowa Writers' Workshop

Iowa Writers' Workshop

Iowa Playwrights Workshop

Iowa Playwrights Workshop

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Nonfiction Writing Program

Spanish Creative Writing MFA

Spanish Creative Writing MFA

International Writing Program

International Writing Program

Translation Workshop

Translation Workshop

Iowa Center for the Book

Center for the Book

Department of English Iowa

Department of English

School of Journalism and Mass Communication

School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Iowa Department of Rhetoric

The Department of Rhetoric

Screenwriting Workshop

Screenwriting Workshop

 Carver College of Medicine Writing and Humanities Program

Carver College of Medicine Writing

Iowa Summer Writing Festival

Iowa Summer Writing Festival

Iowa Young Writers' Studio

Iowa Young Writers' Studio

Undergraduate Certificate in Writing Iowa

Undergraduate Certificate in Writing

Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing

Magid Center for Writing

The Iowa Review

The Iowa Review

Creative Writing Major Iowa

English and Creative Writing Major

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Writing centers & resources.

The History of Writing at Iowa

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The University of Iowa’s tradition of great writing originates in its early and enduring commitment to the creative arts. Under the leadership of Carl Seashore in 1922, Iowa became the first university in the United States to accept creative projects as theses for advanced degrees. Traditionally, graduate study culminates in the writing of a scholarly thesis, but, under this new provision, works including a collection of poems, a musical composition, or a series of paintings could be presented to the Graduate College instead. Thus, Iowa established a standard for the Master of Fine Arts degree and secured a place for writers and artists in the academy.

The University of Iowa’s writing community flourished in the wake of this commitment to the arts. Though creative writing coursework was offered at Iowa as early as 1897, the curriculum expanded and diversified in the 1920s. Writers came from all over the country to enroll in courses in playwriting, fiction, and poetry writing.

paul engle leading a writers workshop

A new method for the study of writing emerged in these classes: the writing workshop. In a writing workshop, a senior writer leads a discussion about a work written by a member of the class; workshop students share impressions, advice, and analysis. As Paul Engle , director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and founder of the International Writing Program , observed: “the students benefited greatly from hearing a variety of attitudes toward their work. It was like publishing then being reviewed.” Workshop students receive honest and immediate feedback about their writing and become better critics of their own work. Many also discover the sympathetic but critical readers who they will turn to throughout their careers.

The Program in Creative Writing, known worldwide as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop , was founded in 1936 with the gathering together of writers from the poetry and fiction workshops. It was the first creative writing program in the country, and it became the prototype for more than 300 writing programs, many of which were founded by Workshop alumni. The Workshop remains the most prestigious creative writing program in the country and one of the most selective graduate programs of any kind, typically admitting fewer than five percent of its applicants.

Since its establishment, the Workshop has been the cornerstone of the writing community at the University of Iowa. In its early years, the program enjoyed a series of distinguished visitors, such as Robert Frost , Robert Penn Warren , Dylan Thomas , John Berryman , and Robert Lowell . Workshop students met with early success in publishing their work; thus began what Workshop director Frank Conroy would describe as the Workshop’s “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Talented writers teach and study here; this compels more to come and do the same. Iowa's perennial society of writers has grown considerably since the early days of the Workshop; this community has been a dynamic and sustaining force for growth and change. The logic of the “self-fulfilling prophecy” applies at an institutional level, as well as the individual. The University of Iowa set an early precedent for innovation in the study and practice of writing. This precedent created an environment where further advances, including the following, are possible, and likely:

Iowa’s tradition of writing has been guided by the principle that, though writing is a solitary practice, it’s one significantly enriched by the presence of other writers. As Paul Engle wrote, “Our plan gives the writer a place where he can be himself, confronting the hazards and hopes of his own talent, and at the same time he can measure his capacity against a variety of others.” Through the years, some of the best writers in the world have come here to deepen their understanding of the craft of writing. Since 1939, 40 individuals with ties to the University of Iowa have been awarded Pulitzer Prizes ; four recent U.S. Poet Laureates have been either students or faculty at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 2006, Orhan Pamuk, a 1985 fellow of the International Writing Program, won the Nobel Prize in Literature. While the UI has been host to many award-winning authors, Iowa is known as The Writing University because countless numbers of writers at varying stages in their development have found a literary home here. High school students can study writing at the Young Writers’ Studio, and over 1,500 writers each year participate in over 130 workshops at the Summer Writing Festival. The departments of English, Journalism, Theater, and Cinema and Comparative Literature offer writing classes to undergraduates, and Iowa’s graduate programs in playwriting, nonfiction, translation, and journalism are some of the best in the country. The Writers’ Workshop is the country’s oldest and most celebrated graduate program in creative writing, and the International Writing Program hosts accomplished writers from around the world each fall. The following timeline provides an overview of important dates in the history of writing at Iowa. For more information about the writers who have taught and studied at Iowa, please visit the Writers page . or our LitCity project . A directory of all of the writing programs, as well as programs affiliated with writing at Iowa, is available from the Programs page.  

About the Writing University

The Virtual Writing University (VWU) is a collaborative, interdisciplinary initiative sponsored by the Graduate College and the Office of the Provost at the University of Iowa. The project launched in fall, 2006, with the mandate to create a virtual space for the University of Iowa's writing community. Its primary venue is the Writing University website ( www.writinguniversity.org ), a portal to the programs, news, and events associated with writing at Iowa, and a platform for special VWU Projects, such as LitCity, The Undergrad Writing Portal, First-Year Seminars and the Eleventh Hour Podcast .

People Support for the Virtual Writing University comes from many different areas of the University of Iowa community. We are grateful for the many staff and faculty members who have contributed their creative, technological, and administrative expertise to this initiative.  

Writing University Senior Editor

Lauren Haldeman, Senior Editor, The University of Iowa

Writing University Advisory Panel

Aron Aji, director of the Translation Workshop Lan Samantha Chang, director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop Ed Folsom, Professor, Department of English Ben Hill, senior director for marketing communication Joan Kjaer, Strategic Communications Officer, International Programs Communications and Relations Amy Margolis, director of the Iowa Summer Writing Festival Lindsay Mattock, associate director, SLIS Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program Paul Soderdahl, director of Library Information Technology, UI Libraries

Writing University Director

Christopher Merrill, director of the International Writing Program

Writing University Archive

Thomas Keegan, Director, Digital Library Services Mark Anderson, Digital Initiatives Librarian

LitCity Project

Thomas Keegan, Director, Digital Library Services Jim Cremer, Consultant, Computer Science Department Loren Glass, Faculty, English Department Nicole Dudley, Lead Database Developer

History of Writing at Iowa

Robin Hemley Michael Allen Potter, Graduate Assistant

Technological Support

Wendy Brown, Web Production, University Relations Web Unit Ken Clinkenbeard, Instructional Services, Academic Technologies Ann Freerks, Designer, University Relations Web Unit Andrew Rinner, Research Services, Academic Technologies Paul Soderdahl, director of Library Information Technology, UI Libraries

Biographies of Writing University Project Leaders

Lauren Haldeman is the senior editor of the Writing University website. She is the author of Instead of Dying (winner of the 2017 Colorado Prize for Poetry), Calenday , and The Eccentricity is Zero . Her work has appeared in Poetry , Tin House , The Colorado Review , The Iowa Review , Fence and others. A graphic novelist and poet, she’s received an Iowa Arts Fellowship, a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award and visiting artist fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Christopher Merrill ’s books include four collections of poetry, Brilliant Water , Workbook , Fevers & Tides , and Watch Fire , for which he received the Peter I. B. Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets; translations of Aleš Debeljak’s Anxious Moments and The City and the Child ; several edited volumes, among them, The Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature and From the Faraway Nearby: Georgia O’Keeffe as Icon ; and three books of nonfiction, The Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer , The Old Bridge: The Third Balkan War and the Age of the Refugee , and Only the Nails Remain: Scenes from the Balkan Wars . His work has been translated into sixteen languages. He has held the William H. Jenks Chair in Contemporary Letters at the College of the Holy Cross, and now directs the International Writing Program at The University of Iowa.

Brigham Young University

First Year and Advanced Writing Courses

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University Writing

University Writing is a program in Undergraduate Education, housed in the English Department has a threefold mission:

The Aims of a BYU Education document states that each student should acquire language abilities that enable students to listen, speak, read, and write well; to communicate effectively with a wide range of audiences in one area of expertise as well as on general subjects. BYU also wants students to engage successfully in logical reasoning, critical analysis, moral discrimination, creative imagination, and independent thought. Learn more about how the University Writing program supports these aims by visiting the links above.

Additional Writing

One of the most valuable forms of knowledge you will develop at the University is the ability to communicate effectively and ethically through writing. Writing effectively in different contexts and for different audiences is a practice that is universally valued by employers as well as graduate and professional programs, not to mention the instructors of your undergraduate courses. Writing is social action that can help us critique, analyze, and respond to injustices in the world and can help us work with others to transform our communities and solve urgent public problems. Writing also involves being mindful of the impact and consequences of our writing choices for diverse audiences. Writing (defined broadly as any of a number multimodal, digital, and/or visual communication modes) helps you not only enrich your communication, but also your reading, thinking, learning, and participation in the scholarship of your major, in other fields, and in various communities you belong to. To that end, you must complete at least seven credits of writing-intensive ("W") courses.

This is in addition to the 5-credit English Composition requirement. Many colleges and schools require more than seven credits, and specify what courses you can choose from. Consult the General Education Requirements by School and College to compare the English Composition and additional writing requirements for each major.

The requirement can be fulfilled in different disciplines, courses, and languages throughout a student’s career at UW. In W courses, your writing assignments  will not typically be summaries of what you have learned in class but in-depth exploration and investigation of aspects of specific course topics. These assignments will give you the opportunity to develop your own ideas and interpretations concerning what you are learning in class, to put texts and ideas in conversation with one another, to create space for you to reflect on your learning, and to think critically about how knowledge is created. In fact, much of your university education will occur in the research, reading and writing assignments required by your courses.

W-course criteria

Guidelines for teaching W courses are now housed on the UW Writing web site . Please consult that site for revised guidelines, along with extensive guides on assignment design, assessment, academic integrity, and writing instruction while working with TAs.

Where to find W courses

Courses that count toward the additional writing requirement are available in a wide range of departments. Although you shouldn't wait until the last minute to meet the W-course requirement, it was originally intended that at least some of your writing-intensive courses should be courses in your major, providing you with writing instruction and practice in your chosen area of study.

For most majors (including those in the College of Arts and Sciences, which requires 10 credits), writing courses may be any courses designated in the quarterly Time Schedule with the comment "Writing." For student in the College of Engineering, please see specific departmental requirements regarding additional writing. In the Foster School of Business, one of the two writing courses can be additional composition or any W-course, but the other must be chosen from a short list of largely business communication classes (e.g., B CMU 301).

The easiest way to look for W courses is to use the General Education Requirement Course Search  offered by the Office of the Registrar.

Grades required

Any passing grade (0.7 or higher) is acceptable. Courses may not be taken on the satisfactory/not satisfactory (S/NS) grading option.

Overlap with other requirements

W courses may overlap with any other requirement except the 5-credit English composition course. The courses you use to satisfy the W-course requirement may also count toward your major , a minor , the Areas of Knowledge requirement , and/or the  Q/SR requirement .

For transfer students/study abroad students

Many students transfer courses/courses taken through study abroad which required enough writing to qualify as W courses. If you think you have transferred a course that should count as a W course, consult your adviser.

For postbaccalaureate students

Postbaccalaureate students are not required to complete the additional writing requirement.

W optional 

Some courses in the Time Schedule have the notation, "OPTIONAL W COURSE." In these courses, the professor will explain the writing requirements for those students who wish to receive a W. Students who complete the additional requirements will receive Ws on their transcripts; the other students in the course will not.

W by special arrangement

Many students make special arrangements to have a UW course count toward the W course requirement, even though it is not designated as a W course in the Time Schedule.

If you are taking a course that requires extensive writing, you can discuss with the professor the possibility of earning a W for the course. Some professors are not familiar with the W-course criteria; it is a good idea to print out the criteria below and take the list with you.

It is also possible for you and the professor to make an arrangement in which you alone will complete the extra work required to meet the W-course criteria. For example, a 10-page paper is not sufficient to meet the W-course criteria; but a 10-page paper which is graded by the professor and then rewritten by you and resubmitted  does  meet the W criteria. Professors can award Ws to individual students in a course; there is a place to mark Ws on the grade sheet they submit for the class at the end of the quarter. Any course which is posted with a W on your transcript can count toward the additional writing requirement.

Registering for W courses

Whether or not a course qualifies as a W course depends on how the course is taught that particular quarter, so there is no permanent list of W courses, and W courses are not indicated in the General Catalog. Each W course is indicated in the quarterly Time Schedule with the notation "Writing" or "Optional Writing Course."

You can generate a complete list of W courses with space still available with the MyPlan Course Search .

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Writing Anxiety

What this handout is about.

This handout discusses the situational nature of writer’s block and other writing anxiety and suggests things you can try to feel more confident and optimistic about yourself as a writer.

What are writing anxiety and writer’s block?

“Writing anxiety” and “writer’s block” are informal terms for a wide variety of apprehensive and pessimistic feelings about writing. These feelings may not be pervasive in a person’s writing life. For example, you might feel perfectly fine writing a biology lab report but apprehensive about writing a paper on a novel. You may confidently tackle a paper about the sociology of gender but delete and start over twenty times when composing an email to a cute classmate to suggest a coffee date. In other words, writing anxiety and writers’ block are situational (Hjortshoj 7). These terms do NOT describe psychological attributes. People aren’t born anxious writers; rather, they become anxious or blocked through negative or difficult experiences with writing.

When do these negative feelings arise?

Although there is a great deal of variation among individuals, there are also some common experiences that writers in general find stressful.

For example, you may struggle when you are:

What are some strategies for handling these feelings?

Get support.

Choose a writing buddy, someone you trust to encourage you in your writing life. Your writing buddy might be a friend or family member, a classmate, a teacher, a colleague, or a Writing Center tutor. Talk to your writing buddy about your ideas, your writing process, your worries, and your successes. Share pieces of your writing. Make checking in with your writing buddy a regular part of your schedule. When you share pieces of writing with your buddy, use our handout on asking for feedback .

In his book Understanding Writing Blocks, Keith Hjortshoj describes how isolation can harm writers, particularly students who are working on long projects not connected with coursework (134-135). He suggests that in addition to connecting with supportive individuals, such students can benefit from forming or joining a writing group, which functions in much the same way as a writing buddy. A group can provide readers, deadlines, support, praise, and constructive criticism. For help starting one, see our handout about writing groups .

Identify your strengths

Often, writers who are experiencing block or anxiety have a worse opinion of their own writing than anyone else! Make a list of the things you do well. You might ask a friend or colleague to help you generate such a list. Here are some possibilities to get you started:

Choose at least one strength as your starting point. Instead of saying “I can’t write,” say “I am a writer who can …”

Recognize that writing is a complex process

Writing is an attempt to fix meaning on the page, but you know, and your readers know, that there is always more to be said on a topic. The best writers can do is to contribute what they know and feel about a topic at a particular point in time.

Writers often seek “flow,” which usually entails some sort of breakthrough followed by a beautifully coherent outpouring of knowledge. Flow is both a possibility—most people experience it at some point in their writing lives—and a myth. Inevitably, if you write over a long period of time and for many different situations, you will encounter obstacles. As Hjortshoj explains, obstacles are particularly common during times of transition—transitions to new writing roles or to new kinds of writing.

Think of yourself as an apprentice.

If block or apprehension is new for you, take time to understand the situations you are writing in. In particular, try to figure out what has changed in your writing life. Here are some possibilities:

It makes sense to have trouble when dealing with a situation for the first time. It’s also likely that when you confront these new situations, you will learn and grow. Writing in new situations can be rewarding. Not every format or audience will be right for you, but you won’t know which ones might be right until you try them. Think of new writing situations as apprenticeships. When you’re doing a new kind of writing, learn as much as you can about it, gain as many skills in that area as you can, and when you finish the apprenticeship, decide which of the skills you learned will serve you well later on. You might be surprised.

Below are some suggestions for how to learn about new kinds of writing:

Once you understand what readers want, you are in a better position to decide what to do with their criticisms. There are two extreme possibilities—dismissing the criticisms and accepting them all—but there is also a lot of middle ground. Figure out which criticisms are consistent with your own purposes, and do the hard work of engaging with them. Again, don’t expect an overnight turn-around; recognize that changing writing habits is a process and that papers are steps in the process.

Chances are that at some point in your writing life you will encounter readers who seem to dislike, disagree with, or miss the point of your work. Figuring out what to do with criticism from such readers is an important part of a writer’s growth.

Try new tactics when you get stuck

Often, writing blocks occur at particular stages of the writing process. The writing process is cyclical and variable. For different writers, the process may include reading, brainstorming, drafting, getting feedback, revising, and editing. These stages do not always happen in this order, and once a writer has been through a particular stage, chances are she or he hasn’t seen the last of that stage. For example, brainstorming may occur all along the way.

Figure out what your writing process looks like and whether there’s a particular stage where you tend to get stuck. Perhaps you love researching and taking notes on what you read, and you have a hard time moving from that work to getting started on your own first draft. Or once you have a draft, it seems set in stone and even though readers are asking you questions and making suggestions, you don’t know how to go back in and change it. Or just the opposite may be true; you revise and revise and don’t want to let the paper go.

Wherever you have trouble, take a longer look at what you do and what you might try. Sometimes what you do is working for you; it’s just a slow and difficult process. Other times, what you do may not be working; these are the times when you can look around for other approaches to try:

Okay, we’re kind of kidding with some of those last few suggestions, but there is no limit to what you can try (for some fun writing strategies, check out our online animated demos ). When it comes to conquering a block, give yourself permission to fall flat on your face. Trying and failing will you help you arrive at the thing that works for you.

Celebrate your successes

Start storing up positive experiences with writing. Whatever obstacles you’ve faced, celebrate the occasions when you overcome them. This could be something as simple as getting started, sharing your work with someone besides a teacher, revising a paper for the first time, trying out a new brainstorming strategy, or turning in a paper that has been particularly challenging for you. You define what a success is for you. Keep a log or journal of your writing successes and breakthroughs, how you did it, how you felt. This log can serve as a boost later in your writing life when you face new challenges.

Wait a minute, didn’t we already say that? Yes. It’s worth repeating. Most people find relief for various kinds of anxieties by getting support from others. Sometimes the best person to help you through a spell of worry is someone who’s done that for you before—a family member, a friend, a mentor. Maybe you don’t even need to talk with this person about writing; maybe you just need to be reminded to believe in yourself, that you can do it.

If you don’t know anyone on campus yet whom you have this kind of relationship with, reach out to someone who seems like they could be a good listener and supportive. There are a number of professional resources for you on campus, people you can talk through your ideas or your worries with. A great place to start is the UNC Writing Center. If you know you have a problem with writing anxiety, make an appointment well before the paper is due. You can come to the Writing Center with a draft or even before you’ve started writing. You can also approach your instructor with questions about your writing assignment. If you’re an undergraduate, your academic advisor and your residence hall advisor are other possible resources. Counselors at Counseling and Wellness Services are also available to talk with you about anxieties and concerns that extend beyond writing.

Apprehension about writing is a common condition on college campuses. Because writing is the most common means of sharing our knowledge, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves when we write. This handout has given some suggestions for how to relieve that pressure. Talk with others; realize we’re all learning; take an occasional risk; turn to the people who believe in you. Counter negative experiences by actively creating positive ones.

Even after you have tried all of these strategies and read every Writing Center handout, invariably you will still have negative experiences in your writing life. When you get a paper back with a bad grade on it or when you get a rejection letter from a journal, fend off the negative aspects of that experience. Try not to let them sink in; try not to let your disappointment fester. Instead, jump right back in to some area of the writing process: choose one suggestion the evaluator has made and work on it, or read and discuss the paper with a friend or colleague, or do some writing or revising—on this or any paper—as quickly as possible.

Failures of various kinds are an inevitable part of the writing process. Without them, it would be difficult if not impossible to grow as a writer. Learning often occurs in the wake of a startling event, something that stirs you up, something that makes you wonder. Use your failures to keep moving.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Hjortshoj, Keith. 2001. Understanding Writing Blocks . New York: Oxford University Press.

This is a particularly excellent resource for advanced undergraduates and graduate students. Hjortshoj writes about his experiences working with university students experiencing block. He explains the transitional nature of most writing blocks and the importance of finding support from others when working on long projects.

Rose, Mike. 1985. When a Writer Can’t Write: Studies in Writer’s Block and Other Composing-Process Problems . New York: Guilford.

This collection of empirical studies is written primarily for writing teachers, researchers, and tutors. Studies focus on writers of various ages, including young children, high school students, and college students.

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A partnership between the University Writing and Speaking Center (UWSC) and the Writing and Speaking in the Disciplines (WSID) Program, the WSI Fellows program pairs experienced fellows–undergraduates trained to consult on writing and speaking assignments–with your students to support one writing or presentation assignment in your course. We have supported assignments, faculty and students across disciplines, including biology, education, English, community health sciences, psychology and marketing.

Requirements for partnering your course with the WSI Fellows Program

To be eligible to work with the Writing and Speaking Initiative Fellows Program, you must meet the following requirements:

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“ I cannot say enough great things about the Writing and Speaking Fellows program. The fellows were fantastic and offered clear, achievable advice to my students. The program also made me think more clearly about my own goals within my assignment and led me to restructure it in a way that was so much more valuable to my students and easier to grade for me! I will definitely use this program again and highly recommend everyone try it. ”

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Writing a Research Paper

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The pages in this section provide detailed information about how to write research papers including discussing research papers as a genre, choosing topics, and finding sources.

The Research Paper

There will come a time in most students' careers when they are assigned a research paper. Such an assignment often creates a great deal of unneeded anxiety in the student, which may result in procrastination and a feeling of confusion and inadequacy. This anxiety frequently stems from the fact that many students are unfamiliar and inexperienced with this genre of writing. Never fear—inexperience and unfamiliarity are situations you can change through practice! Writing a research paper is an essential aspect of academics and should not be avoided on account of one's anxiety. In fact, the process of writing a research paper can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in academics. What is more, many students will continue to do research throughout their careers, which is one of the reasons this topic is so important.

Becoming an experienced researcher and writer in any field or discipline takes a great deal of practice. There are few individuals for whom this process comes naturally. Remember, even the most seasoned academic veterans have had to learn how to write a research paper at some point in their career. Therefore, with diligence, organization, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most important of all, patience, students will find that they can achieve great things through their research and writing.

The pages in this section cover the following topic areas related to the process of writing a research paper:

Grammar Guide

What to Expect when Writing at University

Millie Dinsdale

Millie Dinsdale

Content Manager at ProWritingAid

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So, you started university last week and have just received your first assignment. What now?

University can be really daunting if you don’t know what to expect—it’s nothing like school, and it’s nothing like work. It’s an in-between world where young adults learn to find their feet living away from home for the first time.

This article will outline how school differs from university, the best practices for essay writing, and how to make your transition to university as smooth as possible.

How is Writing at University Different from Writing at High School?

How does learning work at university, how is work graded at university, what is referencing, how do you write a university essay, want to improve your essay writing skills.

The primary difference between writing at university versus writing at school is that at university you have to write academically.

Academic writing is clear, concise, and clearly structured; it is also strongly backed by evidence. The purpose of it is to aid the reader's understanding of a particular topic or theme.

Referencing, Referencing, and More Referencing

In order to add evidence, you must reference where you got it from. Gone are the days when you could make a sweeping statement and receive good marks for it. University is a time to build on the canon of arguments and observations made before you by academics. Wave goodbye to Wikipedia—it is not, nor will it ever be, a good source of information.

Image showing different sources of information

You Are in Control

Another big difference is how much freedom university students have. There is no teacher breathing down your neck checking that you are progressing with your work.

In fact, it is common that the first time your lecturer sees your essay is when they are giving it a final mark. All this means that you have to be on top of your work and ensure that you are producing the best work that you can in the correct time frame.

Image showing difference between high school and university

Education at university takes place in four forms: lectures, seminars, labs, and independent learning—the latter of which take up 90% of a student's time. In high school you would have six hours a day of lessons, plus one hour a day of independent learning (more often than not in the form of homework).

University is the opposite, you may only receive ten hours a week of lectures and seminars. Alongside this you may be expected to do as many as 40 hours of independent learning weekly.

What Are Lectures?

Lectures usually involve your entire course, which could easily exceed 200 students. They will take place in large lecture theaters with a single lecturer at the front. The lecturer will present for an hour or two, and there is hardly any chance to ask questions or discuss topics.

What Are Seminars?

Seminars are the partner to lectures. They involve much smaller groups of up to about 20 students, but they can be as small as 4 or 5. They are your chance to discuss, ask questions, and delve deeper into the nitty gritty of your topic.

What Are Labs?

If you are studying a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) topic then you may also have labs. They can involve everything from a two-day chemical experiment to a hands-on project.

Image showing how students learn at university

Different institutions have slightly different classifications but here are the basic grading systems you will encounter in American and British Universities.

American University’s Grading System

In America, the grading system is fairly consistent throughout all the stages of education. There are two primary ways to receive a grade, either as a letter (the highest being an A) or a GPA (the highest being a 4.0).

British University’s Grading System

In Britain, unlike in America, the university grading system is completely different to the school grading system. There are five rankings: a 1st, a 2:1, a 2:2, a 3rd, and a fail. To put that into context:

Image showing comparison of American versus British grading system

When you are writing and use someone else’s ideas, you must acknowledge and reference them. If you don't reference correctly, then it will count as plagiarism.

Plagiarism is when someone takes someone else’s work and pretends that it is their own. If an essay contains plagiarism, it can be disqualified, essentially being awarded a mark of zero, even if the plagiarism is unintentional. To ensure that this does not happen to your work, it is essential to reference correctly.

This might be your first time hearing about plagiarism but rest assured, there are tools to help. Grammar checkers like ProWritingAid offer plagiarism checks that allow you to check your work against over a billion web-pages, published works, and academic papers to be sure of its originality.

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There are two primary ways to reference: in-text citations and end-of-text citations in a bibliography at the end of your paper. Not all subjects will use both methods, but they will all use one.

In-text Citations

In-text citations provide a shortened reference within the body of the text. These must be used when you refer to, summarize, paraphrase, or quote from another source.

For example:


A bibliography is a list of all works used within a piece of scholarly work, typically listed at the end. The fundamental difference between a bibliography and in-text citations is that a bibliography contains all sources that a person used in research or writing, regardless of whether they are explicitly referenced or not.

Here's what an entry in your bibliography might look like:

Image showing difference between in-text citation versus a bibliography

Referencing Systems

There are four main referencing systems:

Each system has a distinct set of rules that can take years to fully understand. Lucky for you, unless you are minoring in a totally different subject to your major, you should only need to learn one of them.

Why You Shouldn't Use Referencing Tools

The internet has a solution for everything and referencing is no different. There are various tools that claim to accurately generate citations for any source for every referencing system.

The problem is that some people rely on them and therefore do not understand how to reference without them. When the tool inevitably makes a mistake, these people don't notice and then lose marks on their submitted essays. My advice is to use them as supporting technology rather than a primary source.

Now you know about lectures, grading systems, and referencing, let’s have a look at some best practices for essay writing.

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Although each subject will have slightly different guidelines on how to write a first-class essay, there are some basic rules that everyone should follow.

Do your Research

I was constantly reminded at university “the research should take longer than the writing” and it took around two years for me to believe it. It may feel like a waste of time, but doing research before you write can have some distinct benefits.

Even if you don’t come out with physical proof of your research, you will have concreted your knowledge on the topic and, in turn, will produce a better essay.

Most essay assignments will have a requirement to include references, so for this research is essential to hit the top-grade boundaries.

Through researching, you may encounter a new perspective you had not considered before. Examiners love reading fresh material, so this may be just the thing to gain you that coveted first-class degree.

Image showing reasons to conduct research first

You should always have a detailed understanding of the essay topic before putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

Understand the Question

A great essay is no good if it does not answer the question, so make you sure you hone in on the action words in the question. An action word could be explain , describe , compare , or explore . Many top students have been tripped up by answering "what" instead of "explain".

Image showing common action words

Plan, Plan, Plan

From high school to university, the importance of planning essays does not decrease.

A plan can help you to coherently express and structure your ideas in a consistent and logical way. Without a plan it is easy to stray from the question and become too “wordy”. With a plan you will lead the marker from relevant argument to relevant argument in a clean and concise way.

There is a reason teachers and lecturers alike are so enthusiastic about plans, they can turn a second-class essay into a first-class essay.

Check out this guide to creating a solid essay outline.

Write the body of your essay.

The body is the longest part of an essay. It is where you can lead your reader through each of your arguments, presenting all of your main points and evidence . Although each paragraph should have a distinct argument, there should be a logical line that connects them all. After all, you're writing a long essay and not a series of unconnected mini arguments.

Write the Introduction and the Conclusion

It is best to write your introduction and your conclusion after writing the body of the essay. This is because the finer points of your argument are likely to deviate from your initial plan so you can’t set out exactly what is going to be included in your essay until you have written it.

The conclusion is arguably the most important part of an essay. If you are struggling to write a conclusion, I would strongly recommend that you review your essay. If you cannot summarize a logical argument, then your reader cannot either.

The conclusion should not introduce new ideas but it also should not just repeat old ones. Instead, a conclusion should clarify and accentuate your argument for your reader (who is also most likely your examiner).

Image showing the process of writing an essay

Writing your essay is only half of the battle, the other half is proofreading. If you have time, and your essay is not due at midnight (we've all been there), put it aside and come back to it a few days later. Ask yourself these questions:

Have I answered the question?

Is my argument clear and logical?

Are my style and tone appropriate?

Have I included enough examples to back up my argument?

Is every paragraph relevant? (adding irrelevant paragraphs is not a good way to hit the word count)

Is my conclusion relevant? (Your conclusion should not parrot the body of the essay but bring a new insight)

Are the spelling, grammar, and punctuation correct?

Is everything referenced correctly?

Image showing steps in proofreading essay

When you can answer yes to all eight of these questions, congratulations , your essay is ready to be submitted.

Use ProWritingAid!

Are your teachers always pulling you up on the same errors? Maybe you're losing clarity by writing overly long sentences or using the passive voice too much.

ProWritingAid helps you catch these issues in your essay before you submit it.

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Millie is ProWritingAid's Content Manager. A recent English Literature graduate, she loves all things books and writing. When she isn't working, Millie enjoys gardening, re-reading books by Agatha Christie, and running.

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Types of academic writing

The four main types of academic writing are descriptive, analytical, persuasive and critical. Each of these types of writing has specific language features and purposes.

In many academic texts you will need to use more than one type. For example, in an empirical thesis:


The simplest type of academic writing is descriptive. Its purpose is to provide facts or information. An example would be a summary of an article or a report of the results of an experiment.

The kinds of instructions for a purely descriptive assignment include: 'identify', 'report', 'record', 'summarise' and 'define'.

It’s rare for a university-level text to be purely descriptive. Most academic writing is also analytical. Analytical writing includes descriptive writing, but also requires you to re-organise the facts and information you describe into categories, groups, parts, types or relationships.

Sometimes, these categories or relationships are already part of the discipline, while in other cases you will create them specifically for your text. If you’re comparing two theories, you might break your comparison into several parts, for example: how each theory deals with social context, how each theory deals with language learning, and how each theory can be used in practice.

The kinds of instructions for an analytical assignment include: 'analyse', 'compare', 'contrast', 'relate', and 'examine'.

To make your writing more analytical:

In most academic writing, you are required to go at least one step further than analytical writing, to persuasive writing. Persuasive writing has all the features of analytical writing (that is, information plus re-organising the information), with the addition of your own point of view. Most essays are persuasive, and there is a persuasive element in at least the discussion and conclusion of a research article.

Points of view in academic writing can include an argument, recommendation, interpretation of findings or evaluation of the work of others. In persuasive writing, each claim you make needs to be supported by some evidence, for example a reference to research findings or published sources.

The kinds of instructions for a persuasive assignment include: 'argue', 'evaluate', 'discuss', and 'take a position'.

To help reach your own point of view on the facts or ideas:

To develop your argument:

To present your argument, make sure:

Critical writing is common for research, postgraduate and advanced undergraduate writing. It has all the features of persuasive writing, with the added feature of at least one other point of view. While persuasive writing requires you to have your own point of view on an issue or topic, critical writing requires you to consider at least two points of view, including your own.

For example, you may explain a researcher's interpretation or argument and then evaluate the merits of the argument, or give your own alternative interpretation.

Examples of critical writing assignments include a critique of a journal article, or a literature review that identifies the strengths and weaknesses of existing research. The kinds of instructions for critical writing include: 'critique', 'debate', 'disagree' and 'evaluate'.

You need to:

Critical writing requires strong writing skills. You need to thoroughly understand the topic and the issues. You need to develop an essay structure and paragraph structure that allows you to analyse different interpretations and develop your own argument, supported by evidence.

This material was developed by the Learning Hub (Academic Language and Learning), which offers workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills .

See our Writing skills handouts .

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A practical guide to ethical use of ChatGPT in essay writing

Date: Mar 15, 2023 | 4th Industrial Revolution , Media Release , News , Opinion Pieces

Benjamin Smart is Director of The Centre for Philosophy of Epidemiology, Medicine, and Public Health, and Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg. His research focuses primarily on the philosophy of medicine and public health, the metaphysics of science, and the scholarship of teaching and learning .

Catherine Botha is a full professor in Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, her research and teaching is focused mainly on issues in ethics and aesthetics, especially the philosophy of dance, as well as ethics and aesthetics of artificial intelligence .

They recently published an opinion article that first appeared in the Mail & Guardian on 14 March 2023.

Academic concerns over the threat that artificial intelligence (AI) language models such as ChatGPT pose to the integrity of academic assessments have prompted universities to consider abandoning assessments influenced by these systems and returning to exam conditions for all grades.

The risk of undetectable plagiarism is a significant concern, leading many to view this move as the only viable option, but this strategy is misguided.

We propose a practical guide for the ethical use of AI systems such as ChatGPT in academic essay writing. This guide aims to help academics teach students how to write significantly better essays without resorting to cheating, and to assist academics in using these tools to improve their research.

Why encourage the use of ChatGPT-like AI systems?

The authors of this article are academic philosophers. We asked ChatGPT to answer a series of essay questions one might expect a first-year philosophy student to answer. These included:

ChatGPT provided a basic answer in each case, with numerous inaccuracies. Were the essay written by a student, one would infer only a superficial understanding of the core issues. Although the essays were well-written, they would receive either a failing grade or a low passing grade because of the lack of references or the inclusion of fabricated ones.

Furthermore, ChatGPT’s inability to evaluate arguments and lack of nuanced understanding of the questions posed made it unsuitable for higher education assessments, especially for subjects such as philosophy that require critical thinking.

Relying on ChatGPT to write essays is not a viable option for obtaining good grades.

But there are ethical ways to use AI systems when writing academic essays. Wealthy students and academics have historically been able to employ copy editors to improve the quality of their work, but this option is exclusionary because of its cost. ChatGPT can serve as a free and accessible copy editor to help disadvantaged students, who often write essays in a second or third language, addressing one of the inequalities they face in higher education.

In addition to copy editing, AI language models can help students and academics plan the structure of their essays and articles, participate in debates to clarify ideas and arguments, provide feedback on the final product and offer suggestions for improvement. Although independent research is necessary for producing high-quality academic work, AI language models can significantly enhance the quality of outputs without resorting to plagiarism or other forms of cheating.

Planning the essay

Students often struggle to properly structure their essays. ChatGPT can provide sample structures of essays targeting well-specified questions. Students should be encouraged to first do independent research and in their instructions to ChatGPT include a list of some of the topics they wish the essay to cover. The following prompt tends to work well:

Prompt 1:  “Please provide an essay plan for an academic [insert field] essay entitled [“insert title”]; including, but not restricted to, the following topics: “[Topic 1; Topic 2; Topic 3]”.

This will provide students with a rudimentary but solid structure for their essays. Students can experiment by not including specified topics, which will often result in ideas and arguments they hadn’t previously considered, providing additional fuel for further research.

While some critics might take issue with ChatGPT playing this role, it is little different to students receiving guidance from the lecturers, which they are typically entitled to do.

Further, while these prompts provide fuel for further research, they do not do the research on behalf of the student.

To take advantage of these suggestions, the student must still go to the literature and enhance their understanding of the relevant issues.

Clarifying the student’s Ideas: The Socratic method

AI language models can be surprisingly good at debating with researchers or, alternatively, providing complete Socratic dialogues on one’s question of choice, that help students see both sides of an argument. Students should be encouraged to ask ChatGPT to adopt a particular position, and argue with them in the Socratic style.

Prompt 2:  “Please adopt the [insert position opposite to that you’ll argue for] position, and argue with me on the [insert topic] in the Socratic style. I’ll start. [Insert first argument].

For example, “Please adopt the position of the theist, and argue with me on the problem of evil in the Socratic style. I’ll start. The existence of a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient God is inconsistent with the existence of evil in the world.”

Students should continue to press ChatGPT on its responses, drawing on arguments they have found in the literature, and taking careful note of its responses. This process should take place for all the arguments the writer wishes to make, and should help clarify their ideas, and provide possible responses to their arguments which can later be addressed.

AI systems as copy editors

Lecturers are often frustrated by the quality of many students’ writing. Their poor sentence structure, grammar, spelling and referencing can obfuscate what academics are really interested in —  the quality of the student’s understanding and argumentation. Using ChatGPT as a copy editor can be a useful tool to overcome these difficulties, particularly in climates where underprivileged students are not writing in their first language and cannot afford the services of professional human copy editors.

Prompt 3:  “Please make the following passage coherent, well-structured, and remove unnecessary words. It should be written in the style of academic [insert field], using the [insert preferred referencing system] referencing system: “[copy and paste passage]”.

Using the prompt above, students can copy and paste their work, a few paragraphs at a time (ChatGPT cannot deal with large quantities of text at a time), making their outputs far more accessible to their lecturers, and allowing them to assess the students’ understanding.

Using AI systems for feedback

Once a researcher or student has a final draft, they can use ChatGPT to provide useful feedback — the kind of feedback a lecturer would provide after assessment. Students can also ask for suggestions for improvement, and then incorporate these suggestions into their work. Lecturers typically have fairly large classes, and feedback can take a while to come back to students when they request it. Feedback from ChatGPT remains a less desirable option to that from the lecturer but it is free and instant.

Prompt 4:  “Please provide feedback on the following section from my academic essay, entitled “[insert essay title]”: “[insert section].

Prompt 5:  “Please suggest ways in which I can improve the following section from my academic essay, entitled “[insert essay title]: “[insert section]”

ChatGPT will provide feedback on the structure, content and argumentation, in much the same way as a lecturer would. These insights can usefully be addressed and incorporated into the essay prior to final submission.

It is worth issuing a number of warnings to students and academics wishing to make use of AI systems in their academic work. First, ChatGPT requires regular fact-checking. If you ask it about historical matters such as the career of a specified academic, much of what it says is false. Second, if you ask ChatGPT to include references, it makes them up. It will provide references to books and articles and even authors that do not exist.

ChatGPT cannot write good academic essays alone. Of course, submitting an essay entirely generated by ChatGPT would be a clear case of plagiarism (and there are AI systems that can detect the likelihood of a passage being generated by AI), but notably, these essays are not good essays. Whilst using ChatGPT in a responsible way can massively improve the quality of one’s research outputs, left to its own devices, it cannot yet generate high quality academic work.

*The views expressed in this article are that of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect that of the University of Johannesburg.

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Five common misconceptions on writing feedback

Misapprehensions about responding to and grading writing can prevent educators using writing as an effective pedagogical tool. Rolf Norgaard and Stephanie Foster set out to dispel them

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Chatgpt and the future of university assessment, how to turn academic libraries into social organisations, keep calm and carry on: chatgpt doesn’t change a thing for academic integrity, emotions and learning: what role do emotions play in how and why students learn.

Writing is essential for developing higher-order skills such as critical thinking, enquiry and metacognition. Common misconceptions about responding to and grading writing can get in the way of using writing as an effective pedagogical tool. Here, we attempt to dispel these myths and provide recommendations for effective teaching.

Misconception 1: Responding to student writing takes too much time

If you are daunted by the stack of final papers to be graded, you might be misplacing your efforts and time. Feedback on student writing need not be a time sink if you factor feedback strategies into your assignment and course design. Use your time wisely with these approaches:

Misconception 2: Students disregard comments

Do you often lament that students merely scan your thoughtful comments on their papers and go straight to the grade? The problem might lie less with the students’ responses and more in the timing and nature of the comments themselves. Feedback is most effective when it is given at a formative time, when students can make changes. 

Grant Wiggins identified  seven characteristics  of effective formative feedback:

Misconception 3: Attention to writing detracts from course content

Working with faculty across the disciplines, a common complaint I hear is that they are not writing instructors but subject specialists.

Writing is an important component of everything we do, whether it be in the classroom or the lab. If you relegate it to “writing up” findings and research, you are not harnessing writing’s power. Writing is a tool that can be used to reflect and build understanding. It is not just a way to communicate what has been learned, but a means of learning itself. Every university instructor is a writing instructor . 

Writing-to-learn  is a set of strategies that can engage students in course content in ways that help build mastery. It involves mostly informal, often ungraded writing activities, including brief writing assignments, journaling, response papers, freewriting exercises and collaborative writing.

You do not need formal training in writing instruction to use these strategies. Writing-to-learn can be used in any course in any discipline. These low-stakes activities help students to engage more fully in your course and can be used as formative assessment to help you understand how students are progressing. 

Misconception 4: I need to correct all the mistakes

Do you feel disheartened by surface errors that litter a paper, making it hard to read a paragraph without mental interruption? Imperfect grammar and syntax can make us focus on those errors instead of understanding what students are trying to say. Fight those urges. Students will learn better if you handle surface errors in a productive way.

Resist the temptation to become a copy editor. Here are some tips for handling surface errors and ungainly prose:

It might not be as bad as it looks. Are the errors lower-order concerns such as grammar or style? Or higher-order concerns such as structure and sense-making? Try to see past the surface errors and  focus on what skills students are using  and how they can be mentored to make their writing work. 

Misconception 5: Good writing is error-free prose 

Were your student papers to be free of lower- and higher-order errors, would you be pleased with them? Sometimes you get a beautiful paper that has nothing at all to say.

Appropriate feedback strategies help you to focus attention on broad rhetorical issues such as audience, genre, clarity of purpose, lines of reasoning and use of evidence. Feedback can play a central role in demystifying the  unspoken rhetorical conventions  in your discipline.

Strategies for helping students shape their analysis or argument:

The grand misconception: I need to grade the writing

These recommendations are meant to support instructors in using writing as an instructional strategy to help students learn the course content and develop critical and reflective thinking skills. Teaching with writing can be a valuable and rewarding experience if you approach it with the right goals. Instead of focusing on grading, think of yourself as  coaching . A good coach uses feedback as a way to build skills, rather than justify the grade.

This article was originally published by the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Colorado, Boulder, “ Five misconceptions on writing feedback ”.

Rolf Norgaard is teaching professor of distinction and associate director of the program for writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado Boulder; Stephanie Foster is director of assessment at Colorado State University

If you found this interesting and want advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week,  sign up for the Campus newsletter

ChatGPT as a teaching tool, not a cheating tool

Creating ‘third spaces’ will revolutionise your campus, contextual learning: linking learning to the real world, waste management: a fast track to net zero, chatgpt and the rise of ai writers: how should higher education respond, tips for teachers who are new to blended learning.

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Descriptive Essay Writing

Descriptive Essay Examples

Cathy A.

Amazing Descriptive Essay Examples for Your Help

Published on: Jun 5, 2020

Last updated on: Jan 3, 2023

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Descriptive essays are very commonly assigned essays. This type of essay tends to enhance their writing skills and allow them to think critically.

A  descriptive essay  is often referred to as the parent essay type. Other essays like argumentative essays, narrative essays, and expository essays fall into descriptive essays. Also, this essay helps the student enhance their ability to imagine the whole scene in mind by appealing senses.

It is assigned to students of high school and all other students at different academic levels. Students make use of the human senses like touch, smell, etc., to make the descriptive essay more engaging for the readers.

Examples make an understanding of things better. But before moving on to the examples, let us have a quick look at how to write a good descriptive essay.

Examples make it easy for readers to understand things in a better way. Also, in a descriptive essay, different types of descriptions can be discussed.

Here are some amazing examples of a descriptive essay to make the concept easier for you.

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Descriptive Essay Example 5 Paragraph

Descriptive Essay Example 5 Paragraph 5 paragraphs  essay writing format  is the most common method of composing an essay.

5 Paragraph Descriptive Essay (PDF)

Descriptive Essay Example About A Person

Descriptive essays are the best option when it comes to describing and writing about a person. A descriptive essay is written using the five human senses. It helps in creating a vivid image in the reader’s mind and understanding what the writer is trying to convey.

Descriptive Essay Example About A Place

If you have visited a good holiday spot or any other place and want to let your friends know about it. A descriptive essay can help you explain every detail and moment you had at that place.

Descriptive Essay Example for Grade 6

Descriptive essays are frequently assigned to students of the school. This type of essay helps the students enhance their writing skills and helps them see things in a more analytical way.

Descriptive Essay Example for Grade 7

Descriptive Essay Example for Grade 8

Descriptive Essay Example for Grade 10

Essay writing is an inevitable part of the academic life of a student. No matter what grade you are in, you will get to write some sort of essay at least once.

Descriptive Essay Example for Grade 12

If you are a senior student and looking for some great descriptive essay examples for grade 12, you are exactly where you should be.

Descriptive Essay Example for University

Descriptive essays are assigned to students at all academic levels. University students are also assigned descriptive essay writing assignments. As they are students of higher educational levels, they are often given a bit of difficult and more descriptive topics.

Look at the below given example and see how a descriptive essay at the university level looks like.

Short Descriptive Essay Example

It is not necessary that every time a descriptive essay isn't written in detail. It totally depends on the topic of how long the essay will be.

Subjective Descriptive Essay Example

It is a common concept that a descriptive essay revolves around one subject. Be it a place, person, event, or any other object you can think of.

Following is one of the subjective descriptive easy examples. Use it as a guide to writing an effective descriptive essay yourself.

Writing a descriptive essay is a time-consuming yet tricky task. It needs some very strong writing, analytical, and critical thinking skills. Also, this is a type of essay that a student can not avoid and bypass.

But if you think wisely, work smart, and stay calm, you can get over it easily. Learn how to write a descriptive essay from a short guide given below.

How to Write a Descriptive Essay

A writer writes a descriptive essay from their knowledge and imaginative mind. In this essay, the writer describes what he has seen or experienced, or ever heard from someone. For a descriptive essay, it is important to stay focused on one point. Also, the writer should use figurative language so that the reader can imagine the situation in mind.

The following are some very basic yet important steps that can help you write an amazing descriptive essay easily.

For a descriptive essay, you must choose a vast topic to allow you to express yourself freely. Also, make sure that the topic you choose is not overdone. An overdone will not grab the attention of your intended audience.

A thesis statement is the essence of any academic writing. When you have selected the descriptive essay topic, then you create a strong thesis statement for your essay.

A  thesis statement  is a sentence or two that explains the whole idea of your essay to the reader. It is stated in the introductory paragraph of the essay. The word choice for creating the thesis statement must be very expressive, composed, and meaningful. Also, use vivid language for the thesis statement.

Once you have created the thesis statement and you are done writing the introduction for your essay, it's time to move towards the body paragraphs.

Collect all necessary information related to your topic. You would be adding this information to your essay to support your thesis statement. Make sure that you collect information from authentic sources.

To enhance your essay, make use of some adjectives and adverbs. To make your descriptive essay more vivid, try to incorporate sensory details like touch, taste, sight, and smell.

An outline is yet another necessary element of your  college essay . By reading the outline, the reader feels a sense of logic and a guide for the essay.

In the outline, you need to write an introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs and end up with a formal conclusion.

Proofreading is a simple procedure in which the writer revises the written essay. This is done in order to rectify the document for any kind of spelling or grammatical mistakes. Thus, proofreading makes content high quality and gives a professional touch to it.

You might be uncertain about writing a good enough descriptive essay and impress your teacher.However, it is very common so you do not need to stress out.

Hit us up at CollegeEssay.org and get a descriptive essay written by our  professional writers . We aim to facilitate the students in every way possible and to ease their stress. Get in touch with our customer support team, and they will take care of all your queries related to your writing.

Place your  order now  and let all your stress go away in a blink!

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For more than five years now, Cathy has been one of our most hardworking authors on the platform. With a Masters degree in mass communication, she knows the ins and outs of professional writing. Clients often leave her glowing reviews for being an amazing writer who takes her work very seriously.

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From the CRLT Blog

Chatgpt: implications for teaching and student learning.


Recently, the artificial intelligence app ChatGPT has been making headlines in the higher education media and beyond. Some have taken an alarmist approach, such as a recent Atlantic piece titled “The College Essay Is Dead.” Others have been more sanguine, examining the limitations of the app as well as offering suggestions for how it can inform student learning and writing. Below is an FAQ about ChatGPT that includes links to useful resources.

Developed by Open AI, ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is a machine learning tool that can sift through large amounts of data available on the web to generate responses to user prompts. Responses are often quite plausible across a wide range of topics, and the power of this artificial intelligence tool has caused widespread concern that students will use it to plagiarize assignments, generating answers to essay or exam prompts rather than spending time developing their own responses.

ChatGPT itself responded as follows when given the prompt “Write a description of OpenAI GPT-3” 

GPT-3 has received a lot of attention in the media and in the tech industry due to its impressive language processing capabilities. It has the ability to generate coherent and fluent text that is often difficult to distinguish from text written by humans. However, it is important to note that, like any machine learning model, it has limitations and is not a replacement for human intelligence.

A more technical explanation is available here .

While powerful, there are limitations. ChatGPT can respond credibly on a range of topics but its responses tend to be formulaic and can include incorrect information. In addition, it cannot access material behind a firewall, such as articles from JSTOR, and it only references material from 2021 or earlier. Nor does it have access to experiences not stored on the Web, including the content you present and discuss with students in your classroom. Daniel Lameti notes in his article “AI Could Be Great for College Essays,” that while ChatGPT does particularly well with very general prompts such as "contrast capitalism and socialism",

few professors ask students to write papers on broad questions like this….And the more you make the question like something a student might get—narrow, and focused on specific, course-related content—the worse ChatGPT performs. I gave ChatGPT a question about the relationship between language and colour perception that I ask my third-year psychology of language class, and it bombed . ( “AI Could be Great for College Essays” ).

You might consider running your own experiment by signing up for a ChatGPT account and entering your assignment prompts to see how ChatGPT would fare in response to assignments in your course.

While there have been reports of programs developed to detect use of ChatGPT , it is likely that there will be technologies developed to thwart such detectors. Rather than pursuing such approaches, you can adopt strategies that discourage use and promote learning. One important strategy for deterring use of ChatGPT or other similar technologies is to create assignments that require students to show stages of their work (outlines, rough drafts, etc.). These strategies can lead to deeper learning, provide instructors with more regular insight into student work, and increase the likelihood that the final product reflects student efforts rather than a copy of others’ work (human or artificial). The following examples offer a starting point. See CRLT’s Occasional Paper on academic integrity for a fuller discussion of these and similar approaches.

In a recent email exchange on this topic, Moni Dressler, head of LSA’s Office of Academic Technology, suggested the following additional practices:

It is also worth considering why you assign writing in your classes and discussing that explicitly with students. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education discussed the power of such an exchange.

For most professors, writing represents a form of thinking. But for some students, writing is simply a product, an assemblage of words repeated back to the teacher….[According to] John Warner, a blogger and author of two books on writing, "If you can create an atmosphere where students are invested in learning, they are not going to reach for a workaround. They are not going to plagiarize. They are not going to copy, they are not going to dodge the work. But the work has to be worth doing on some level, beyond getting the grade.”

Some recent articles have suggested only assigning in-class, hand-written writing as a way to avoid plagiarism associated with ChatGPT. While this would certainly solve the problem of students using ChatGPT, such exercises could be very problematic for a range of students, such as students who need extra time to complete assignments as well as students whose first language is not English who need additional time and resources to write. Moreover, during the pandemic semesters, we heard from students across the university that they appreciated the move away from timed high-stakes assignments. Increasing the use of graded, in-class, written assignments would be a step backward, and would severely limit the genres of writing students engage with.

These types of apps are not going away and will no doubt proliferate in the future (e.g., Magic Write ), so encouraging students to use them productively could be seen as an important contribution to information literacy. For example, consider using ChatGPT as a tool within the writing process. You could ask students to use the app to brainstorm topics for a paper or to comment on/edit the app’s response to a prompt, either individually or as a class, by pasting the response into a Google Doc and using the commenting function. Questions might include where arguments are unconvincing, what information is incorrect or missing, and how the writing could be made more persuasive or engaging. This article in Inside Higher Education describes a collaborative project among faculty at the University of Mississippi to develop productive strategies for using ChatGPT with students.

More on ChatGPT and educational strategies

While this is interesting and a helpful start, it doesn't include some important pieces of information. 

For limitations, they should really include that ChatGPT tends to falsify citations, including fictional articles written by well known authors, actual DOIs that are for completely unrelated articles not cited, and similar problems. Often the fake citations are too good to be true. I've had researchers come to me asking me to help them find something cited by ChatGPT because it's exactly what they've been looking for, but ... it doesn't exist. It's also been caught creating fictional scientific specialties in esoteric domains. Basically, depending on your prompt, it tries to assure you that what you are looking for exists, whether or not this is true. 

While the blogpost indirectly references  GPTZero , it did not provide the link or name it, and there are related tools people are using which don't have fancy websites. Some of these are quite interesting, and ChatGPT is also working to add "watermark" code hidden in its output to facilitate identifying their products. 

Some of the strategies recommended here to avoid ChatGPT-generated student writing have already been tested and failed. 

"Have students work on peer editing and peer commentary as part of the evaluation/writing process, so that they have to comment and make suggestions and respond to other students' writing. Have students write and submit a Google Doc where you are added as an editor so that you can see the document history."

ChatGPT is being used to create commentary and to grade assignments, and when supplied with a rubric and original draft will revise to meet the new specifications. The final suggestion is the best:

"Focus on research skills and the expression of original thought, rather than creating a synthesized document."

The AI tools focus on a lowest common denominator approach, not creativity. What is it that humans do well, and what are approaches that emphasize the human aspects of communication, literacy, creativity? Assignments that focus on this are where the future of education lies. Where I've been finding the most useful ideas for innovative assignments is with the Twitter hashtag  #unessay . I encourage people to explore this, and also  #AIEducation  and  #AIinEdu .

My two cents ... 

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Writing in English at University

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About this Course

Acquiring good academic research and writing skills early on is essential for your success both at university and in your professional life.

This course aims: - to give you an understanding of the conventions of academic writing in English and to teach you the components and benefits of what is called process writing. - to help you to put together your own “toolbox” of academic writing skills, as well as to give you a chance to test out these tools and to reflect on your own development as a writer. - to encourage reflection on discipline specific conventions; although the course deals with generic skills, you will be able to apply these generic skills to meet the particular needs of your own discipline. The course consists of four modules: 1. Writing in English at university: An introduction 2. Structuring your text and conveying your argument 3. Using sources in academic writing 4. The writer’s toolbox: Editing and proofreading In each module you will find video lectures and reading assignments and assignments, such as quizzes, reflective self-assessment questions, as well as some peer review exercises in which you will have an opportunity to interact with other students taking the course. The course is free of charge, and learners have access to a free electronic textbook written to complement the MOOC: Writing in English at University: A Guide for Second Language Writers.

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Satu Manninen


Ellen Turner


Cecilia Wadsö Lecaros


Lund University

Lund University was founded in 1666 and has for a number of years been ranked among the world’s top 100 universities. The University has 47 700 students and 7 500 staff based in Lund, Sweden. Lund University unites tradition with a modern, dynamic, and highly international profile. With eight different faculties and numerous research centres and specialized institutes, Lund is the strongest research university in Sweden and one of Scandinavia's largest institutions for education and research. The university annually attracts a large number of international students and offers a wide range of courses and programmes taught in English.

In addition, International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics (IIIEE) is part of the university and works to advance strategies for sustainable solutions through cutting edge interdisciplinary research, high-quality innovative education, and effective communication and strong partnerships.

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Syllabus - What you will learn from this course

Writing in english at university: an introduction.

Welcome to the MOOC course Writing in English at University! This course has been designed as a resource for university students who are currently involved in writing assignments or degree projects as well as for students who wish to learn about academic writing in order to prepare for future writing at university. Although the course will provide guidance and useful tips and tricks to all student writers, it is specifically useful to those who are writing in second language contexts and whose native language is not English.

Structuring your text and conveying your argument

In module 1 we looked at some of the aspects that you will need to consider before embarking on an academic writing project. In module 2 we will build on this knowledge when we explore issues of building and shaping an academic text. In this week’s module you will learn about argument, types of essay structure, and also how to structure information within paragraphs and sections. Structuring a text so that it is coherent and makes sense to your target audience requires a great deal of thought, and we will guide you through the decisions that you will have to make in composing a text. Though the information in this module will be of interest to anyone looking to improve their academic writing competencies, you will find the material here especially helpful if you have a particular writing project of your own in mind to reflect on, and to which you can apply the ideas that we present here.

Using sources in academic writing

Academic writing does not happen in a vacuum, but rather builds on scholarly work that has come before. When you compose a piece of academic writing, it is necessary to show that you have done your homework and read up on the subject. Sometimes you will be given specific texts to read, and sometimes you will need to go and find these sources for yourself. The kinds of sources that you will be expected to use, and the manner in which you use them, will vary depending on the discipline that you are writing within and the level at which you are studying. Though a Master’s level student will be expected to have acquired a more sophisticated approach to using secondary sources than, say, a student on an introductory undergraduate course, the basic set of skills required is the same. Using secondary sources in your writing relies on developing this particular set of skills. In this module, which has been developed in collaboration with the librarians, we will talk about how to go about acquiring these skills. The competencies that we discuss here are ones that require practice, and you shouldn’t expect to simply acquire them overnight. However, the tasks that we have set are designed to set you on the right path to honing your skills. This module is divided into three separate lessons. In the first lesson you will learn about reading strategies. In the second lesson, called "Integrating sources: positioning and stance," we will explore how to situate your own arguments and ideas in relation to secondary sources. In the third lessons, called "Referencing and academic integrity," we will explore issues surrounding referencing, academic integrity and plagiarism.

The writer’s toolbox: Editing and proofreading

Welcome to module 4 of the course. In this module, we will focus on editing and proofreading a text. In our earlier discussion of the writing process in module 1, we have seen that many experienced writers view revising and editing as important parts of the actual writing process, and they intend to revise and edit virtually everything they write. Instead of only correcting mistakes in a piece of text, revising and editing are ways for writers to evaluate their ideas, to generate and test new ideas during the writing process, and to polish and tighten the overall argumentation and presentation. Although revising and editing are parts of the creative process, we recommend that you save them until you have a piece of text – a section, sub­section or paragraph – that you view as complete, in that the ideas you discuss and the organization into an introduction­-part and a body­-part (for sections) or a topic sentence followed by development (for paragraphs) are relatively stable. That way, you do not end up wasting your time correcting mistakes in a piece of text that does not seem to fit in or serve a purpose, and is therefore likely to be deleted later. Before you start revising and editing a passage, you should also have clarified to yourself how important the passage in question is going to be for the essay as a whole. If the passage contains ideas that are directly relevant for your research question and thesis, you should allow yourself enough time to revise and edit and possibly re­write the text several times. A passage that only contains extra information that is not directly linked to your thesis will need less time and attention, and some cases you may get away with only proofreading such passages quickly. This module is divided into three lessons, all of which focus on issues that you should be aware of, when you revise, edit and proofread your text. The first lesson, "The need to revise and edit one’s text," introduces you to issues that require both large-­scale and small­-scale revision and editing. Following, the lesson "Revising and editing for language" focuses on issues that affect the style and tone of your writing. The third lesson, called "Some tips and tricks on common errors," gives you practical advice on issues that are often problematic for writers.


I'm in the midst of drafting my dissertation. This is a good course to prepare my fundamentals.

I would recommend the course for everyone who would start new classes at university including intermediate level researcher like me! Best of Luck!

It's a great course to get a better understanding of English Language at University.

I absolutely enjoyed completing this course. There is still much to learn but it gave me a very good basis. Thank you!

Frequently Asked Questions

When will I have access to the lectures and assignments?

Access to lectures and assignments depends on your type of enrollment. If you take a course in audit mode, you will be able to see most course materials for free. To access graded assignments and to earn a Certificate, you will need to purchase the Certificate experience, during or after your audit. If you don't see the audit option:

The course may not offer an audit option. You can try a Free Trial instead, or apply for Financial Aid.

The course may offer 'Full Course, No Certificate' instead. This option lets you see all course materials, submit required assessments, and get a final grade. This also means that you will not be able to purchase a Certificate experience.

More questions? Visit the Learner Help Center .

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Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

Structuring your dissertation

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

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University of Rochester

How to write your best college application essay

Graduation cap and crumpled paper to illustrate college application essay writing.

University of Rochester dean of undergraduate admissions offers college applicants some dos and don’ts in writing the personal statement.

By robert alexander, the dean of undergraduate admissions, financial aid, and enrollment management for arts, sciences & engineering, university of rochester..

Many universities ask applicants to include a college application essay—usually a personal statement or similar essay—along with their application materials. With more students applying to selective colleges than ever, and with many of those colleges placing less emphasis on standardized test scores, the admissions essay can be a crucial component of the applicant’s file.

We’ve made that shift in emphasis away from testing at the University of Rochester . As a selective private research university with programs in the liberal arts, sciences, and engineering, the undergraduate college draws from a global pool of high-achieving students. Since nearly all of those candidates are at or near the top of their class, we use a holistic approach to select those with strong ethical character who align with our institutional values. So, as an applicant, how can you distinguish yourself?

One of the most important ways is through your college application essay.

Many students may dread this part of the process. Yet with the right attitude and strategy, you can write an essay that will improve your candidacy for admission. A good college application essay will not overcome poor grades for a student at the lowest end of a school’s applicant pool, but it can help a qualified candidate stand out from the crowd.

Pencil drawing graduation cap to illustrate choosing college application essay topic.

Tackle the college essay topic

The traditional college application essay usually requires an open-ended personal statement in response to broad or general prompts that might have you share a story, reflect on an event, or discuss a topic. The Common Application, Coalition for College Application, and other online college application forms typically provide a set of options from which you can choose.

Of course, some college and universities require you to respond to a specific prompt or question. In that case, you want to make sure to answer that prompt or question clearly and directly.

Whether the guidelines are open-ended or specific, the topic itself is less important than how you express yourself.

And above all: Don’t write an admissions essay about something you think sounds impressive or that you think the admissions officer wants to read. While it’s fine to look at college application essay examples, don’t simply mimic one. Write about something truly important to you.

Breadth versus depth?

→  For example : If you’re writing about a life-changing trip, don’t spend six paragraphs on where you traveled, how long it took to get there, and the weather. We want to know why you went and why the experience was meaningful. How are you different now because of it?

Details bring your application essay to life

→  For example : If you’re writing about how much you loved playing your high school sport, tell a story about a specific game-winning play (or a devastating loss), how you felt, and what you learned.

Pencil with text 'do's and don'ts' to illustrate tips on writing college application essay.

Writing a college application essay: dos and don’ts

Here are a few guidelines for crafting a college application essay that effectively conveys who you are while also helping you stand out from the thousands of other applicants.

And a few don’ts:

Ultimately, your college application essay is a chance to tell the admissions committee who you are and what is important to you. We want to know: What are your values?

At the University of Rochester, for example, we have a motto: Meliora, meaning “ever better.” So, it stands to reason that when we read an application essay, we want to know: How will you make yourself, your community, or the world better?

Tell us your story. This may be your best chance to come through as an individual, so make the most of this opportunity!

About Robert Alexander

Robert Alexander, the dean of undergraduate admissions, financial aid, and enrollment management for Arts, Sciences & Engineering at the University of Rochester, has more than 22 years of enrollment management experience in higher education. He joined Rochester in June 2020 and previously served in senior admissions, enrollment, and communications roles at Millsaps College, University of the Pacific, and Tulane University.

Young person's hands holding stack of books.

Rochester’s dean of undergraduate admissions offers advice on which courses to take, and why.

Hand pulling pennant that says

Grades. Clubs. Scores. Essays. Interviews. We’ve culled the advice of seasoned admissions professionals from the University of Rochester for a roadmap of what to do—and what to avoid.

Illustration of a college student looking at an open door of possibilities, depicted by icons representing music, medicine, education, and more, as a result of internships.

Equitable access to internships helps University of Rochester students preview their futures.

Tags: college admission , featured-post-side , Robert Alexander , thought leadership

Category : Campus Life

Contact Author(s) Jim Mandelaro

Update on sexual assault reports

This message addresses matters involving sexual assault. It provides an update on two reports of sexual assault on campus from several months ago.

Dear Stanford community,

We’re writing to provide an update to you on a sensitive and difficult matter.

Many of you recall that last August, an AlertSU Community Crime Alert was sent out regarding a reported rape in a restroom near a Wilbur Hall parking lot. This was followed by an alert in October, in which an individual reported having been dragged to the basement of a campus building and sexually assaulted there.

In both of these cases the Department of Public Safety became aware of the reported assault after being notified by a mandatory reporter, and a campus alert was issued because of the possibility of a continuing threat to the community. The Department of Public Safety investigated the reports expeditiously and thoroughly.

Knowing that these reports prompted great concern in our community, we want to share additional information that has now become available.

We learned today that the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has filed criminal charges against the individual who reported both of these incidents to the mandatory reporter. The charges include two felony counts of perjury and two misdemeanor counts of knowingly inducing another person to give false testimony pertaining to a crime. You can read a statement from the District Attorney’s Office here .

The individual, a Stanford employee, is on a leave of absence. The university will be reviewing her employment in light of the information shared by the District Attorney’s Office today.

These false reports are damaging, both for true survivors of sexual assault and for the members of our community who experienced fear and alarm from the reports. We also want to emphasize that both false reports and outcomes such as this one are extremely rare in sexual assault cases. Sexual assault and other sexual offenses regrettably continue to be prevalent both at Stanford and in our broader society. Our steadfast commitment to provide compassionate support for survivors of sexual assault and to prevent these acts from occurring in the first place remains unabated.

Our SHARE Title IX Office and the Department of Public Safety continue to vigorously investigate incidents of sexual violence, and the university is committed to holding accountable those who are found responsible. Our Title IX/Sexual Harassment Annual Report provides data on cases and outcomes.

If you believe you are the victim of sexual violence at Stanford, please reach out to one of the resources that stand ready to support you. And, more broadly, let us continue working together to create each day the environment of safety and well-being that we all wish for our community.

Patrick Dunkley Vice Provost for Institutional Equity, Access & Community Co-Chair, Community Board on Public Safety

Laura Wilson Director, Department of Public Safety


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  26. How to write your best college application essay : News Center

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