Writing in Departments

Some departments have furnished the Writing Resource Center with guidance specific to SUNY Cortland to improve your writing. We've also tried to compile some resources that may help.

Africana Studies

The Africana Studies Department at SUNY Cortland, building on the legacy of the ancient transliteration traditions of Kemet and Nubia and combining that with the vision of the twenty-first century methods of communication, provides students with rigorous, post-colonial, and dynamic intellectual milieu not just to learn to write, but to write in order to learn the histories, arts, cultures, literatures, economics, political systems and organizations, and technologies of the Africana world.  Africana Studies is a multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary department that promotes writing across the disciplines through liberatory pedagogical approaches to develop productive communication, writing, and critical thinking skills in order for our students to function effectively in a diverse society and the interdependent global village.

Maintaining the Africana tradition that writing crystallizes visceral and cerebral abilities, enhances intellectual inquiry, facilitates record keeping, and transforms complex ideas into communicative forms, our students are exposed to, and engaged in a wide array of writings including but not limited to:

  • Research papers
  • Analytical review essays
  • Concept mapping writings
  • Fiction re-creations
  • Collaborative writing projects
  • Simple syntheses
  • Multiple source essays
  • Argumentative essays
  • Responses

Three of our introductory level courses require writing exercises and assignments. These courses are Introduction to African American Studies, AAS 100; Politics and Multiculturalism, AAS 120; and Institutional Racism, AAS 170.  AAS 100 is one of the few introductory level courses on campus with a writing intensive component.  Our Independent Study (AAS 412) and Senior Seminar (AAS 456) courses require substantial writing and receive writing intense credit upon approval. Many of our upper level courses have substantial writing assignments and are taught as writing intensive courses. These courses include AAS 352, AAS 362, AAS 365, AAS 336, AAS 425, AAS 428, AAS 436, AAS 581 and AAS 590.

Art & Art History

Students in the Art and Art History Department paint, draw, sculpt, and write. The department provides many opportunities for students to write formally and informally. From research papers on artists and movements to more informal reaction papers, art and art history students explore the creative process on the page as they do on the canvass. Many opportunities exist for writing in the major. In addition to major research essays, students also write proposals, project outlines and intentions, self-critiques and artists' statements.

While the visual is often of primary concern to art and art history students, verbalizing art is also important. As such, all upper division courses in art history are designated as writing intensive courses


  • University of North Carolina discusses several common types of art history assignments, and talks about various strategies and resources that will help you write your art history papers.

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Biological Sciences

One of the most important aspects of working in the scientific disciplines is sharing knowledge with the larger scientific community and the non-scientific audience as well. Regardless of the specific field of biology you choose, writing will play a major role in your future career. For example, you will need to write grants based on extensive literature review in order to obtain funding for research. When you've completed a research project, you will write about your results in peer-reviewed scientific journals. You may write case studies for patients, or research reports for government agencies. You choose the important role of communicating scientific knowledge to the wider audience, and compose articles for popular literature or report on scientific developments for news publications. And if you become a biology teacher, you will instruct your own students in proper writing techniques for the discipline.

In order to prepare for your career in the biological sciences, you can expect to do a significant amount of writing while you earn your degree at SUNY-Cortland. In addition to traditional term papers and writing for exams, there are styles of writing unique to biology and other scientific disciplines. As a biology major, you will write scientific reports to convey your findings from experiments conducted in laboratory courses. You may be asked to write responses to published papers from the scientific literature.

If you work with a faculty member on a research project, you will likely write about your results for a presentation on Scholars' Day. You may even assist that faculty member in preparing your research results for formal publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

All biology majors will also complete a course in Biological Literature (Bio 319), which instructs students in library resource use, bibliography writing, and oral presentations. In addition, there is a wide variety of writing-intensive (WI) courses offered through the Department of Biological Sciences (see list below), through which you may meet your undergraduate WI requirements. Be aware, however, that not all sections in the listed courses provide WI credit. Be sure to check the course catalog carefully when registering.

List of Writing Intensive Courses Offered by the Department of Biological Sciences:

      Bio 210 - Cellular Biology

      Bio 412 - General Ecology

      Bio 304 - Microbiology

      Bio 422 - Biological Evolution

      Bio 324 - Mammalian Anatomy

      Bio 512 - Limnology

      Bio 402 - Biology of Vertebrates

      Bio 514 - Mammalian Physiology

      Bio 405 - Conservation Biology

      Bio 525 - Developmental Biology

      Bio 410 - Plant Physiology

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Communication Disorders and Sciences

In the field of Communication Disorders and Sciences, writing is one of the most important factors leading to academic, clinical and professional success.  It is necessary for students and future professionals to master the art of professional, ethical, and confidential writing.  Our students must be able to succinctly write and describe a client/topic in an objective manner without the use of the first person or language that may indicate personal involvement.  Students must also learn to protect confidential information to assure that no identifying information is inappropriately disclosed.  In the field of Communication Disorders and Sciences, students will need to be able to minimally do the following for future success:

  • Understand and strictly adhere to APA style
  • Search for and identify scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles
  • Support their clinical knowledge/work in relevant evidence based practices
  • Write professionally while demonstrating a strong ethical disposition
  • Write scientific clinical documentation while safeguarding client information


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Communication Studies

A significant number of courses in both the Communication Studies major and the New Communication Media major require writing.  This requirement is a legitimate recognition of the significance of writing which the careers and professions in those majors demand. 


There is no one-writing style that fits all courses in the two majors.  One challenge is for you to develop flexibility in writing style.  You will need to the writing style your course instructor requires.  Generally, courses in the two majors use an open, a closed, or a mixed format.

Closed Format Courses. These courses have a predetermined structure you must use.  For example, in “Communication Research and Statistical Methods,” you must include the following sections: rationale (or introduction), method, results, conclusion, discussion, and references in that order.  Other closed format courses are basic journalism or news reporting courses.  Typically, these courses use a writing style called the “inverted pyramid.”  That is to say, the first paragraph of the news story contains all the important details in terms of “the 5Ws and H (i.e., who, what, when, where, why, and how).  The first paragraph is designed to inform the reader adequately about the gist of the news story.  It is expected that the details of the news story decrease after the first paragraph.  Use of the inverted pyramid style provides important details to a reader who may not be interested in reading the entire story.  The inverted pyramid style is also of practical value to a newspaper or magazine editor (gatekeeper) who may be forced to cut the length of the news story to fit the textual space available.  If this editorial decision is made, the editor cuts the length of the news story from its bottom to avoid losing the details of the news story for the reader.

Open Format Courses. These are courses do not require you to use a predetermined structure.  However, a course instructor may advise you to identify the first content section as “introduction” and the last content section as “conclusion,” “summary,” or “discussion.” Between these two sections, you create your own content sections so long as they are logical.  There are many courses with open format.  Examples of these courses include human communication, intercultural communication, organizational communication, issues in news, issues in digital culture, mass media and society, media and politics, mass media advertising, media criticism, African American in television and film, films of Spike Lee, feature and opinion writing, public relations, communication campaigns, and communication in social change.

Mixed Format Courses. These are courses that use both the open and closed formats.  Generally, they include courses with a PRES (i.e., presentation) attribute.  For example, papers in the fundamentals of public speaking, intercultural communication, and presentation competency courses use an open format.  However, each of these courses has a PRES attribute with a fixed format of introduction, body, and conclusion.  You will need to use this format when writing your presentation.  While a course such as communication research has a fixed format for its papers, the course also has a PRES (presentation) attribute that requires you to use a fixed format of introduction, body, and conclusion.

The second challenge for you in your writing is to know the universal writing requirements regardless of the writing format you use.  This knowledge is about three important areas: writing mechanics, citation format, and credibility issues.

Writing Mechanics. These refer to the compositional elements that make your writing meaningful.  The elements include grammar, spelling, punctuation, coherence, page numbering, margin width, font type and size, etc. 

Citation Format. This refers to the style you use in citing sources in the text of your paper and in listing them at the end of your paper.  You must know the citation format that your course instructor requires.  The most common citation formats are the American Psychological Association (APA) style, Modern Language Association (MLA) style, and the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS). 

Credibility Issues. These refer to the extent to which you: (a) cite valid and reliable sources of information or data to support your ideas, claims, or arguments,  (b) consider the datedness of information or data, and  (c) attribute information or data to specific sources to avoid being charged for plagiarism.


  • University of North Carolina explains what people write about in communications studies and describes the steps for planning and writing course papers.

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  • Marquette University faculty answer student questions about writing in economics courses.
  • The Economics Writing Guide is intended to help students with all aspects of writing in economics. You will find useful information on choosing topics for term papers, formulating a thesis, writing the thesis proposal, establishing a time table, searching library and Online resources, conducting empirical work, and writing the research paper.

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Adolescence Education


Professional Writing

In their classes, Professional Writing students practice writing and also study how writing works and evolves. One challenge of being a Professional Writing student is developing flexibility: that is, instead of having to perfect one type of writing (the research paper, for instance), a student in a PWR course will often have to practice writing different types of papers (responses, summaries, minutes, resumes, arguments, research papers, stories, poems, essays, weblogs, memoirs, reflective pieces and more). Writing in these many styles, media, and genres is a challenge, but it makes one familiar with how to go about writing in any situation, in any timeframe, for any audience. Simultaneously, PWR writers work to develop a personal style that will be instantly recognizable to others. Students write individually and collaboratively, in workshops, projects, and papers.

The program of Professional Writing teaches almost exclusively Writing Intensive courses. Some of the most common papers are listed below (thanks to Dr. Victoria Boynton for this list):

  • A paper that explicitly refers to rhetorical principles
  • A new media text (Web page)
  • An analysis of a community's discourses
  • A document exemplifying a technical genre: set of instructions, a grant proposal, a technical report, a feasibility study, a progress report, a business plan, a public relations document, a public service announcement, a white paper.
  • A problem-solving document (such as a recommendation paper)
  • Creative work in poetry, fiction, new media and/or creative nonfiction
  • On-line reviews of your peers' work in professional writing
  • A reflective piece on the contents of your end-of-semester (or end-of-major) portfolio.
  • A paper that reflects on your writing process and explicitly examines how you revise
  • Resumes and applications adapted for particular audiences and purposes.

Professional Writing students will be asked to develop the following sorts of understandings and abilities in their writing (depending on the class, of course):

  • understanding the principles of rhetorical theory, with attention to purpose, audience, motive, scene (context), genre.
  • acknowledging audience, purpose, and image (ethos).
  • writing on many levels, from poems to essays to technical reports
  • using computer resources and applying technology to writing situations.
  • writing in a variety of well-defined genres, such as belletristic essay, poem or short story, review, investigative report, evaluative report, manual, and grant proposal.
  • recognizing the relationship between form and content (how a change in one causes a change in the other)
  • taking relevant historical, biographical, and/or social contexts into account in the interpretation of reading and the composition of written texts
  • understanding, summarizing, and synthesizing critical arguments
  • evaluating varied critical views
  • exhibiting conventional spelling, punctuation, paragraphing, grammar, and usages when appropriate



  • "Getting an A on an English Paper" by Jack Lynch, Rutgers University. Lynch gives students helpful advice on thesis writing, research, class reading, style, and mechanics.
  • Web English Teacher provides advice for writing eight different types of essays about literature.

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Writing is considered the single most important skill our students master in the course of their preparation as geoscientists and teachers. Through experiences gained during the required composition courses as part of the core curriculum, and in other courses in the General Education program at SUNY Cortland, Geology Majors gain the rudimentary skills required for advanced writing assignments in their science major courses, for independent study, internships and student teaching. Many courses in the department require a combination of research papers, literature reviews, position papers, laboratory write-ups, short essays and full research project reports, all designed with “real-life” experiences in mind, which students require for employment and graduate school opportunities upon graduation. Indeed, the 2002 Geology Department Assessment results revealed that our “practicing” alumni rated “writing skills” as the highest priority for graduates of the program.

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Strong writing skills are imperative for members of the health-related professions.  The quality of health education and health promotion, whether school- or community-based, is greatly enhanced by clear, concise, articulate writing.  Similarly, many aspects of the allied health professions demand a high level of writing competency.  Written communication in the field takes many forms, including lesson plans, teaching materials, letters to parents and community members, brochures, grants, reports, presentations, social marketing campaigns, advocacy materials, and articles for publication in journals and newsletters.

The Health Department strives to support the development of student writing skills.  Many courses, both required and elective, provide varied opportunities for students to apply and practice these skills.  Writing assignments include research papers, reflection papers, lesson plans, assessment and evaluation tools, and literature reviews.  All Health majors take at least two courses designated as “Writing Intensive” to fulfill the college’s general education writing requirement.  Students in these courses write extensively, engage in multiple revisions of their work, and study specific genres of professional writing.  Three health courses are currently designated as “Writing Intensive.”  These courses are: Health 302 (Human Sexuality Education), Health 390 (Environmental Health and Ecology), and Health 494 (Assessment and Evaluation of Health Programs). 


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Historians are writers. History students are also writers. Writing is a central part of history classes. Regardless of the level of the course, from introductory survey courses sometimes covering centuries of the past to upper-division seminars focused on particular periods, students write about the people, events, and ideas that gave shape to the human experience. The most common writing assignments in the major include critical analyses of primary documents, research papers based on primary and secondary sources, book reviews, and historiographical essays. Our secondary social studies majors also devote considerable attention to producing, in written form, lesson plans, observations of practicing teachers, and reflections on the craft of teaching.

The department provides a number of opportunities for students to develop writing skills in its two required writing intensive courses. All majors, generally as sophomores, take “Historical Methods,” which introduces the study of history as a profession while developing critical reading, thinking, research, and writing skills.  Subsequently, and commonly in their senior year, all majors take “Seminar,” a capstone course that requires substantial research and writing. Students produce an original piece of scholarship, based on primary sources, typically numbering twenty-five to thirty pages. Beyond the methods class and the seminar, courses throughout the department’s major curriculum feature a variety of paper assignments, and ensure that students continue to practice their writing.


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Mathematics is more than numbers and calculations. The study of mathematics involves logical reasoning and problem solving, and one of the most important skills that mathematics students need to develop is the ability to communicate mathematical ideas effectively. Professional mathematicians write for a variety of purposes and audiences, including journal articles for other professionals, grant proposals, expository writing for students, and informal explanations to accompany calculations.

Mathematics has been described as the language of science and as such, students need to learn the rules of that language, including the correct use of mathematical notation. The precise use of mathematical terminology is also important, and students need to be aware that many ordinary words (such as continuous, linear or basis) carry specialized meanings in mathematics, and that these meanings can change in different contexts.

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Modern Languages

Writing is infused throughout the curriculum in French, Spanish, and German. Students are encouraged to develop basic writing skills at the beginning and intermediate levels of language instruction; those that continue their study at the upper-levels develop writing skills quite comparable to the outcomes expected from a person writing in College-level English.

The French section does not have a designated writing intensive class; the idea is that since writing is such an integral part in all of the upper-level offerings, any class may be designated any semester for WI credit. The philosophy holds true in Spanish, but there is a specific course that all students are required to take for the major, which is the SPA 308 Spanish Composition.




  • Askoxford Askoxford includes hints and reminders to aid students in making their written Spanish more acceptable to the Spanish reader


American Sign Language:

  • Deaf Resource Library contains information on ASL linguistics, ASL as a foreign language, learning ASL and ASL educational programs, and ASL dictionaries.

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Performing Arts

Writing in Musical Theatre at SUNY Cortland

The Musical Theatre major requires both performance and scholarship; writing is involved with both processes. All acting, musical theatre performance, and even dance classes require written analyses, self-evaluation, and critiques. The more traditionally academic courses, such as Introduction to Theatre and Theatre History, also require written critiques, essay tests, and evaluation papers.

Two writing intensive courses are included in our program: Introduction to Musical Theatre involves five to seven short papers and one longer term paper that is revised over the last weeks of the semester; the Musical Theatre Seminar is more writing-intensive, involving seven to nine papers and a final research paper. Tests in both courses are all essay, and both classes require written critiques of theatre productions attended during that semester.

While the major in Musical Theatre does place emphasis on performance, students are asked to analyze, observe, critique, and express themselves through writing as well.


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Philosophy, the love of wisdom, and at Cortland, the love of writing. Words are important to philosophers. Without them, ideas have no meaning. So students in philosophy practice writing at every turn. It is not uncommon for students to keep journals (particularly important for chronicling an internship experience), write short essays and reflection papers, and to stimulate their thinking by completing impromptu in-class writing exercises. Of course, research papers are important vehicles for exploring ideas in depth. Students learn to write critically, summarize the author's argument and offer a critique, and present their written work orally as well. Some classes have online discussion pages on Cortland’s eLearning site or a NING social network. Students in the social philosophy club have created their own site where they post discussions or questions about classes.  Objective testing is rare; students instead demonstrate their engagement with the material by writing take-home essay exams.

PHI 499 is often used for our Writing Intensive course. Otherwise, students petition to have another PHI class so designated. That's not hard to do since there is typically a great deal of writing in all philosophy courses.


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Physical Education

As physical educator in a school system, you will be expected to have good communication skills. One important aspect of communication is the ability to write well. Your writing skills will determine your effectiveness in preparing letters to parents, developing curriculum documents, and creating web pages and newsletters. In recent years, it has become important for physical educators to apply for grants to supplement their resources and initiate new programs. Your skill in writing the grant will substantially impact your success rate. You may also want to become more professionally involved by presenting your ideas at a conference or workshop, which will require you to write a compelling proposal.  At some point, you may want to share your ideas with a broader audience through journal articles or books. In all these situations, and many others, your ability to write well is very important for you and the quality of your program.

Your coursework is designed to give you many opportunities to practice your writing skills. Your general education requirements as well as courses in your major have numerous assignments that emphasize writing. At least two of your classes will be writing-intensive, which means a large proportion of the class will be devoted to writing, drafting, and editing your work.  In addition, you will also learn how to write in a style that is appropriate for physical education publications.

There is one writing-intensive course within the Physical Education Department that is required of all majors and that is EDU 470 Foundations of Education.  The Department also offers writing-intensive courses as electives when possible.


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Below is a briefly annotated list of sources for physics students.Though most of the links point away from our campus, the principles are constant and will be of use to any Cortland physics student writing in this discipline.


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Political Science

The Political Science Department maintains a proud tradition of promoting writing skills throughout our curriculum. We rely on writing assignments not only to evaluate and promote critical thinking, but also to develop reasoning skills, familiarity with research sources in politics, and a deeper understanding of political issues. All of our upper-level courses require significant writing, as do most of our introductory courses. Writing skills are equally important because they are essential in any workplace, whether in a government office, a corporation, a classroom, a courtroom, or a newsroom.  Upper-division courses that are offered as Writing Intensive include:

POL 240, Introduction to Public Administration and Policy

POL 260, Comparative Politics: Europe

POL 320, Legislative Process

POL 341, Current Issues in Public Policy

POL 347, Education Policy

POL 362, The Politics of Developing Nations

POL 420, The American Presidency

POL 456, International Politics of the Middle East

POL 471, Legal Theory


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The Psychology Department values skill in written communication. Scientific, technical writing is a skill necessary for both post- baccalaureate work and graduate school. Thus, core courses in our program involve scientific writing. In the Experimental Psychology course, Psychology majors learn to produce journal-style research reports in APA (American Psychological Association) format. In the Senior Seminar course, majors produce a review-type manuscript in which they discuss the theoretical and empirical literature relevant to a particular topic in the field of Psychology. In both of these courses students are given multiple opportunities to revise their work. While the Experimental Psychology and the Senior Seminar courses are the two writing intensive courses in the major, Psychology majors also apply writing skills in other courses. The Psychology Group I (lab) courses (Behavioral Neuroscience Cognitive Psychology, Human Emotion, Learning and Memory, Motivation, and Sensation and Perception) all require an APA-style research report based on course lab experiences. In addition, some students write an Honors Thesis and others do a major paper as part of an internship or field experience.


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Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies

Play, leisure, joy, recreation . . . .  The human experience is not complete without these important experiences in our lives. And, in the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department, writing about leisure is as important as doing leisure.

When you graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in outdoor recreation, recreation management, therapeutic recreation, or recreation, you will go on to important positions in agencies and communities where you will be expected to write continuously to meet human and community needs for play. Whether it is a community master plan, a needs assessment, a well-justified budget, a grant proposal, an outdoor education lesson plan, a program plan, or a rehabilitation plan, the writing must be clear, compelling, and concise.

In the courses in the Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies majors, you learn to write many reflective pieces as a part of your professional portfolio development or your field/professional experiences, using an action-reflection model. You write theoretical or philosophical papers in some courses. Also, you will write program plans, policies and procedures, research proposals and reports, term papers, treatment plans, assessment reports, lesson plans, evaluation plans, press releases, program brochures, and many other practical, real-world pieces. You will present your work at research poster sessions, conferences, Scholars’ Day, and other presentation formats.

As a student in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies, you will take at least one writing intensive course in the major, and most of you will take at least two courses. The current list of writing intensive courses in the department includes:

In the professional core of all four RPLS majors:

  • REC 445         Administration of Recreation

In the Outdoor Recreation major:

  • REC 462         Environmental and Outdoor Education

In the Recreation Management major:

  • REC 409         Human Resource Management in Recreation, Parks and Leisure Services

In the Therapeutic Recreation major:

  • REC 430         The Therapeutic Recreation Process

In the Recreation major, or as an elective:

  • REC 425         Leisure Education


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Clear, logically structured, and otherwise effective writing is crucial to the disciplines of sociology and anthropology, for students as well as for scholars. The Sociology/Anthropology Department, therefore, encourages excellence in student writing in a variety of ways and provides students in many classes with specific instruction and assistance in becoming effective writers. Students are also, as a matter of course, exposed to and, in many courses, instructed in the acceptable and standard formatting and citation styles of the respective disciplines.

Frequently Offered Writing Intensive (WI) courses:

  • ANT 406 "Contact and Culture Change"
  • ANT 492 "Anthropological Theory"
  • SOC/CRM 333 "The Police"
  • SOC/CRM 373 "Deviant Behavior"
  • SOC/CRM 380 "White-Collar Crime"
  • SOC/HUS 430 "Social Welfare Institutions"
  • SOC 492 "Sociological Theory"

IMPORTANT NOTES: 1) Special Topics courses are also sometimes offered as WI; 2) Although not designated as WI, many other regularly offered Sociology and Anthropology courses have a quite significant writing requirement (often exceeding that of courses actually designated as WI).  3) Many courses in the department (whether designated WI or not) also require that students complete a substantial research paper.




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Sport Management

Writing is important in the sport industry, and the style of writing is dependent on the audience.  Media writing is very different from business writing. Sport management majors will be exposed to writing for broadcast and print media as well as public relations. It is critical to analyze the similarities and differences between them. Further, the sport management industry requires business writing for client presentation, sponsorship request for proposal responses, advertising and marketing, legal case briefs and corporate strategy communications. Because these styles require different messaging objectives, the Sport Management Department offers three required courses that are Writing Intensive designated: sport marketing, sport law and strategic management of sport organizations.

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