Questions and Answers About Writing in WI Courses and Writing Across the Curriculum — Page 1

What is the Writing Intensive course requirement?
The policy requires students to take two Writing-Intensive (WI) courses in addition to the two foundation courses in composition. At least three credit hours of Writing-Intensive course work should be in the student’s major.

What does the WI policy entail?
Writing Intensive Course Policy Premises:
• Writing improves with practice in diverse settings.
• Writing engages students and improves their learning of content.
• Writing develops thinking skills.

• Equivalent of 15 typed pages.
• Two or more pieces of writing; as an option in upper division courses only, the instructor may assign a single project that the student submits in multiple drafts and the instructor responds to in multiple drafts.
• Instructors evaluate all final drafts before the end of the semester.
• Excludes any writing required for final examination.
• Instructor gives students opportunities for serious revision.
• Instruction in writing techniques specific to the discipline and clarification of requirements and methods of preparation for assignments.
• Evaluation of writing includes written and oral comments, conferences (for students who need them), and grades.

Class size
Maximum of 25 students.

Nature of Course
Each academic department designates some course sections as WI.

Academic departments assess the writing proficiency of their graduates.

At least two WI courses, at least three credit hours of which are in the student’s major.

One composition course – required.
Two composition courses – strongly recommended.

Encourage students to use the Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers.

Questions and Answers About Writing in WI Courses and Writing Across the Curriculum — Page 2

What is the procedure for getting a course designated as WI?
Complete the course proposal form, append your syllabus, and forward these materials to the College Writing Committee (114D Old Main).

What are the purposes of the Writing-Intensive Course Program?
• To enable learning.
• To empower students to become competent in the thinking and language of their disciplines.
• To extend literacy by reinforcing the writing and writing-related skills taught in foundations courses in composition.

Why is there a need for a WI requirement?
When surveyed, only four percent of the Cortland faculty agreed wholeheartedly that “Cortland students write well.” Fifty-one percent of the faculty indicated that they did not agree with this statement “at all.” We are aware that first-year students may write competently after taking the two-course sequence in composition, but we also know that their level of performance will decline if writing is not reinforced throughout the remainder of their college experience.
Even though dedicated faculty in every department assign writing and use it in their teaching, students report that many of their teachers do not require them to write. Multiple-choice responses, short answers, and optional essay questions on final examinations substitute for written discourse. Under extenuating circumstances, many second-semester seniors cannot recall having taken a course in which they wrote a total of ten pages of prose. These practices create the need for a WI requirement.

At worst, the WI requirement may focus responsibility for writing on a few courses while giving students the message that fluent, confident, and effective writing is not an accomplishment valued by the entire faculty in every course. At best, however, the requirement guarantees that students will do a substantial amount of writing in at least two courses outside of the composition program.

How can I offer a WI course when I feel insecure about my ability to teach and evaluate writing assignments?
Your primary objective is not to teach writing per se but to enable students to become competent in the thinking and language of your discipline. You can do this by expanding their writing experiences, increasing the volume of their writing, and making them feel more comfortable about facing the challenge of writing. You can achieve these goals and impart respect for the mechanics of grammar, syntax, and spelling without belaboring them.

A function of WI courses is to reinforce the writing taught in foundation courses in composition. What should students who have taken CPN 100 and CPN 101 be able to do?

Our composition program has two major goals:
1. To give students strategies for reading college-level texts and drawing on them as sources for their writing.
2. To give students practice approaching reading and writing as a process of planning, drafting, revising, and editing.

Composition 100 initiates students into the academic community by teaching them fundamental strategies for academic writing: quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing texts, responding and reacting to reading sources, and comparing and contrasting sources. Building on CPN 100, Composition 101 focuses on strategies for synthesizing multiple sources, drawing on sources for argument essays, analyzing and evaluating sources, and conducting library research.

Students who complete our composition sequence should be able to do the following:
• Read assertively for content, forms, and conventions of the text, and for rhetorical concerns such as the author’s purpose, audience, and context;
• Integrate information from research sources with their topic knowledge and experience;
• Adapt their writing for various rhetorical purposes;
• Employ a standard repertoire of strategies for read-to-write tasks: paraphrasing, summarizing, quoting, and documenting sources;
• Practice commonplace forms of academic discourse, including summarizing, responding to, and comparing and/or contrasting sources in CPN 100, and synthesizing sources, drawing on them for argument essays, researching them, analyzing them, and evaluating them in CPN 101.

Questions and Answers About Writing in WI Courses and Writing Across the Curriculum — Page 3

Will adding writing compromise course content, and won’t that reduce students’ subject mastery?

In-class writing enhances lecture/demonstration effectiveness by increasing student involvement. Adding writing justifies the time spent because writing requires students to generate ideas, clarify thought, and engage meaningfully with the subject matter, thus increasing their mastery of the subject.

What types of writing can be included in the 15 typed pages?
The guidelines specify two or more pieces of writing or, as an option in upper division courses, a single project that students submit in multiple drafts and that instructors respond to in stages.

A good rule of thumb is to fit the type of writing you assign to your purposes of teaching. Ask yourself what subject matter learning you want to happen. Then develop writing assignments that will enable that learning. For example,

• A sociologist who wants students to become familiar with the ways sociologists do their work and report will ask them to write a short paper (3 pages) summarizing an original source journal article and discussing the implications of the research for observed behaviors in everyday life.

• A political scientist who wants students to be able to understand issues and debate them in writing will ask the class to read critically ten partisan essays and identify, summarize, and categorize as pro or con each of their major arguments in a series of microthemes, or short “mini-essays,” typed or handwritten on 5 X 8 inch note cards.

• A biologist who wants upper-level students to go beyond a critical review and synthesis of primary scientific literature will assign them a research proposal and then ask them to conduct the research and write up their findings.

The length of the papers also depends on your purpose. A professor whose aim is to promote growth in a variety of specified thinking skills might assign fifteen one-page microthemes, whereas a teacher who wants students to learn how to synthesize large amounts of information might require a five-page essay and a ten-page term paper.

See the Bibliography of Sources for a list of books and articles that provide clear, useful advice on how to write for college courses in a variety of academic fields. You can also obtain useful materials by calling the English Department (x4307).

The types of writing covered include:

Analyses (e.g., formal analysis of a single work of art; analysis of historical documents, texts, sites, structures, and material culture; policy analysis)
Book reviews
Case studies
Comparisons (e.g., of two works)
Field reports
Field and laboratory notes
Film reviews
Journals, course logs, analytical notebooks
Laboratory reports
Letters to editors and public officials
Microthemes (“mini-essays”)
One-Minute papers
Policy analyses
Research proposals, papers, and reports
Reviews (books, articles, lectures, films, exhibits)
Speculative or free writing
Term papers (long papers reflecting a more extensive treatment of the topic than an essay)

Questions and Answers About Writing in WI Courses and Writing Across the Curriculum — Page 4

Can students fulfill the WI requirement with a collaborative writing project?
Collaborative learning can enliven any classroom. If you use this pedagogical strategy in a Writing-Intensive course, however, be sure to design projects that are in keeping with the spirit of the WI guidelines. Each student in the course should do the requisite amount of writing and each should have the opportunity to revise his or her work.

Why are final examinations excluded from the 15-page requirement?
Writing for final examinations is excluded for two reasons. First, essay exams evoke low-quality, hurried, panic-stricken prose. They also require students to perform a task that few writers outside of academia are expected to do: to write on topics from memory without source materials- books, notes, data – beside them. Second, the writing submitted at the end of a semester or during a final exam period is not a useful medium for teaching and learning because students cannot act upon instructor feedback and make meaningful revisions to their work.

If only a few courses are labeled as writing-intensive, won’t students object when other courses require writing?
If the norm is passive, rather impersonal methods of instruction – lecture, objective testing, and the like – students may resent professors who require them to engage themselves actively and personally through a series of writing tasks. Unless all of us require some form of writing and regularly use writing to enable learning, students will view writing as a separate activity, compartmentalized into first-year composition and Writing-Intensive courses. They may also regard writing as a punishment, not as an accomplishment that the entire academic community values.

What is meant by giving students “opportunities for serious revision?”
We know from thirty-five years of research in written composition that the most effective way to help student writers acquire proficiency is to read their initial responses to assignments as works-in-progress rather than as polished final products, and then to respond to those drafts by giving the writers suggestions for serious revisions. Elaine Maimon, one of the founders of the writing-across-the-curriculum movement, observes, “Most of the work that comes to our initial attention is not bad but humble, rough, incomplete. When we look at a student’s first try at a difficult assignment, we should shift our focus away from ‘What this is not’ to ‘What you can make this become’” (734).

For teachers, this means “reallocating time from writing extensive comments and questions on graded papers to writing brief comments and questions on work-in-progress” (Maimon 735). We may recommend that a student make major changes to expand ideas, clarify meaning, or reorganize information. If the student has already found something important to say and a way to say it, however, we may focus on editorial concerns, advising the writer to analyze and correct spelling, punctuation, syntax, and structure.

This approach allows us to be supportive while maintaining standards; it liberates us from covering papers with copious comments, coercions, and corrections that students rarely act upon, let alone read; and it lets us give students responsibility for their writing.

By responding to students’ papers as works-in-progress, we function as allies or coaches suggesting ways that writers can display their knowledge of content, handle the conventions of standard written English, and observe the conventions of writing in our particular disciplines. When students resubmit their papers, all we have to do is assign grades. We are no longer appropriating the students’ job of revising, editing, and proofreading. Instead, we let the students perform these tasks for themselves.

How can instructors encourage students to revise?
Here are some suggestions from three experts.

Elaine Maimon:
“When students submit final drafts to the instructor, they might also exchange papers with peers and discuss their drafts in small groups. These discussions will proceed more smoothly if the writer of the draft attaches a self-analysis form answering the following questions: How close to being finished is this project? What is the major idea that you are working to express? (What are you driving at?) How can readers most effectively help you at this stage? When writers answer those questions in advance, the conference with the instructor, the instructor’s written comments, and conversations with peers are placed in a more constructive context. The writer is asking for help rather than waiting for the instructor or classmates to find problems that the writer missed. The writer is able to state disclaimers and plans for improvement up front, rather than wait for the ax to fall. Furthermore, people are more willing to listen to advice when they have asked for it, even if they decide not to follow the suggestions they receive. The process of asking for advice paradoxically highlights the responsibility of the author for his or her own work. Under other formats for the classroom response, students believe that they are ‘giving’ their papers to the teacher, thereby ridding themselves of all responsibility. Asking for advice reminds students that the final responsibility is theirs. Readers, including the instructor, can then answer the following questions: What do you think is the main idea of this draft? What do you like best about the draft? What would you like to read more about? Please respond to your colleague’s request for suggestions” (736).

Stephen Tchudi:
“With training and instructor support, peers can often serve quite successfully as readers of each other’s work. They can identify problems with organization, structure, accuracy of content, style, and correctness. Although peer editing consumes some class time, I find it time well spent and always build in a day for my students to share and critique drafts in the classroom. For the content teacher this time is not merely writing time, it is also content learning time, for the focus of such sessions should be kept on the knowledge and understanding of the paper and the clarity with which it is displayed. Usually the peers are divided into groups of three to five students. Papers may be read aloud to the small group, or authors can be told to bring in copies for each group member. Peer groups need guidance and direction from the instructor; students should not simply be split into groups and told to ‘criticize’ the papers. Generally I chalk two or three major questions on the board as guidance for the sessions; then as the peers read aloud and discuss, I circulate about the class monitoring results.

Revision is an easy stage for the content instructor to neglect, but it is an important one for both knowing and writing. Learning theory suggests quite clearly that people learn most when they do things right, not wrong. Focusing on revision allows students to write better drafts before turning in final copy. I also think that content instructors will find that revised papers in the disciplines will show greater knowledge of the subject matter; once again, then, good teaching of writing is bound up with good teaching” (46).

Joanne Yates:
“1. Give positive feedback whenever possible; point out strengths as well as weaknesses.
2. Use personal conferences for difficult or sensitive problems.
3. Respond to specific problems with specific suggestions for improvement.
4. Do not ‘grade’ early drafts; reserve judgment for final drafts.
5. Create sample ‘self-critique’ sheets to help students guide themselves.
6. Give students some responsibility for evaluating each other’s work” (15).

Continued ...
Questions and Answers About Writing in WI Courses and Writing Across the Curriculum — Page 5

Here are some useful questions to give your students for peer reviews.

Questions for revising groups
Note: Do not have students ask all these questions (or similar ones) at every revising session. Rather, pick some questions that seem most appropriate to your assignment and have the students work on two or three each time.

• Where is this writing headed? Can readers clearly tell?
• Is it on one track, or does it shoot off in new directions?
• Is the writer trying to do too much? Too little?
• Does the author seem to care about his or her writing?

• When you’re through, can you easily summarize this piece or retell it in your own words?
• Can a reader understand it easily or are parts confusing?
• Are there parts that need explanation or evidence?
• Are there places where the writer said too much or overexplained?
• Can the reader visualize the subject?
• Does it hold your interest all the way through?
• Did you learn something new from this paper?

• Do the main points seem to be in the right order?
• Does the writer give you enough information so that you know what he or she is trying to accomplish?
• Does the writing begin smoothly? Does the writer take too long to get started?
• What about the ending? Does it end crisply and excitingly?

• Who are the readers for this writing? Does the writer seem to have them clearly in mind? Will they understand him or her?
• Does the writer assume too much from the audience? Too little?
• What changes does the writer need to make to better communicate with the audience?

Language and Style
• Is the paper interesting and readable? Does it get stuffy or dull?
• Can you hear the writer’s voice and personality in it?
• Are all difficult words explained or defined?
• Does the writer use natural, lively language throughout?
• Are the grammar, spelling, and punctuation OK? (Tchudi 47).

What criteria should I use to evaluate student writing?
If your goal is to use writing to enable students to become competent in the thinking and language of your discipline, you will evaluate both content and written expression. You may also consider the extent to which students observe the conventions of writing in the discipline.

Stephen Tchudi advises, “Grade papers for content and place writing on a pass/fail basis.” He says, “Content instructors who use this plan make clear that high-quality writing is a course expectation, and they describe what they mean by quality writing: it is well planned and coherent; it has gone through drafts and revisions; it follows standard written English practices. Papers that do not meet those criteria (or any other set described by the instructor) are returned to the student for revision. Under this plan, writing is treated as a vital part of content learning, but the arbitrariness of grading writing is avoided” (55-56).

William Zinsser endorses a similar approach. He describes a method used by chemistry professor Estelle Meislich:

“Here is a method I have used successfully for the past eight years in courses for both chemistry majors and non-majors. On every examination I ask at least one and often several questions that require a written response. Students are told that their answers must be written in acceptable English for credit. If I decide that a scientifically correct response is poorly written, the student cannot get credit for the correct answer until it is written in correct English. The student has one week to return the rewritten paper for credit. During this time students are encouraged to meet with a writing tutor for help in rewriting. (I send the writing tutor a copy of the examination with correctly written answers to prepare him or her for students’ requests for help.) Of course incorrect answers, no matter how well written, cannot be rewritten for credit. A paper that requires a rewritten answer will have two grades. The first is for the originally submitted examination. The second grade, shown in parentheses, is the one that the student will receive if an acceptable written answer is returned on time…. Once students accept the fact that correct but poorly written answers are unacceptable, most of them write more carefully. Eventually very few of them have to rewrite at all. In this way, writing becomes an integral part of the course without diminishing the chemical content” (204).

Another way to evaluate student writing is to use a grading scheme.

An analytic scale for content writing
This sample scale attributes 70% of the grade to the successful explication of the three content objectives, one weighed 30%, two others valued at 20%. An additional 30% of the grade is attributable to writing quality, divided equally among organization, clarity, and correctness. Space is left after each category for instructor comments.

Content (70 %)
Content Objective A (30%)
2 4 6 8 10 x 3 = _______

Content Objective B (20%)
2 4 6 8 10 x 2 = _______

Content Objective C (20%)
2 4 6 8 10 x 2 = _______

Writing (30%)
Organization (10%)
2 4 6 8 10 _______

Clarity (10%)
2 4 6 8 10 _______

Correctness (10%)
2 4 6 8 10 _______

TOTAL _______
Overall reaction and suggestions (Tchudi 57)

Questions and Answers About Writing in WI Courses and Writing Across the Curriculum — Page 6

Is it wise to label and correct every effort a student makes?
The rationale behind labeling and correcting errors, especially on final drafts, is that this labor-intensive work is an effective pedagogical tool. We expect students to recognize the labels, learn from our corrections, and transfer this learning to subsequent writing assignments. When we put this theory into practice, however, we find that students are baffled and befuddled by many of our abbreviations, symbols, labels, and terms; awed by our ability to hunt down and correct errors of which they were totally unaware; relieved by our willingness to appropriate a job that is rightfully theirs; and unsure whether they should learn anything from the experience, except perhaps that there is usually a correlation between the amount of teacher editing and the paper grade: The greater the number of corrections, the lower the grade.

Research indicates that the comments and corrections on final drafts have a negligible influence on students’ subsequent writing performance and are only minimally useful as a tool for learning (Gee, Schroeder, Dudenhyer, Hausner, Harris, Thompson, Ziv). In order to be effective, we need to intervene earlier and respond to work-in-progress. At the final-draft stage, it is useful to circle spelling, usage, and punctuation errors for the purpose of having students correct them and resubmit the paper. But it is futile to rewrite sentences, correct, edit, or proofread student work.

Cris Madigan provides useful guidelines for responding to student papers in an article entitled “Writing as a Means, Not and End” in the Journal of College Science Teaching (Feb. 1987:245-249):

Respond rather than grade
Sometimes good advice is more important than self-justification for a grade. You are more useful to the student before the final draft.

Select what to respond to
The amount of writing students do should be far more than a teacher can evaluate. Fifty percent of a student’s grade can be based on good-faith participation. You can give checks or full credit to everyone who completes an assignment. Or you can read some assignments without telling students which ones.

Respond selectively
Let the assignment’s purpose determine your response. If the aim is to test, then grade. If it’s to promote discovery, praise discovery or ask questions to keep students looking.

Spread the Burden
Don’t do all the responding yourself. Use peer response groups, peer pairs, and self-assessment.

How can I handle paper load in courses with large enrollments?
You can integrate significant amounts of writing into courses in large-lecture format without overburdening yourself. One approach is to assign and collect a number of assignments but select only a few to respond to or grade. Make clear to students that writing is a skill that requires continuous workout, a great deal of output, and constant practice. Not all of their production need be or can be monitored by the teacher.

Throughout the semester you might assign ten one-page papers or microthemes, give checks or full-credit to students who complete the assignments, and select three microthemes for evaluation. If you wish, let the students select the papers they consider their best efforts.
Another labor-saving technique is to respond selectively, keeping in mind the purpose of the assignment. For example, if the objective is for students to learn how to use various types of supports for a thesis, evaluate only the quality of the thesis supports in their papers. This strategy could be streamlined further if you use an analytic scale like the one presented earlier in this section.

Another way to reduce your paper load while expanding your students’ roles as writers is to assign course journals or learning logs, collect them from time to time, and evaluate them on a pass/fail or credit/no credit basis as part of the broad course requirements. You need not read every journal entry. Instead, skim read the journal and comment briefly on selected pieces.
The course journal serves many functions. It can be a repository for frequent, regularly-scheduled in-class writing. You can ask students to write in their journals for a few minutes at various points in the period:

• at the beginning of class to reflect on the day’s topic or to generate ideas for discussion;
• during class to engage themselves meaningfully with the content area under study; or
• at the end of class to draw conclusions, reformulate, or reach closure on the material just discussed.

You can also use journal entries as homework assignments. Each week, require students to do at least three entries responding to the course readings and textbook. Give them prompts which will move beyond mere summary to interpretation, analysis, synthesis, and hypothesis. Any time you wish, you can collect particular journal entries to check if students have completed and understood the assigned reading.

In addition to having students write on specified topics, you can require weekly self-sponsored entries. If you wish to avoid receiving entries that are too personal or intimate for a course journal, impose some restrictions on their form or content or distribute journal guidelines.

How do I give students “instructions in writing techniques specific to the discipline and clarification of requirements and methods of preparation for assignments”?
To help students write like competent members of your discipline, you need to expose them to the various rhetorical forms the discipline uses and give them practice in the types of writing required for communicating information.

Psychologists, for example, need to teach students how the discipline of psychology creates and transmits knowledge and how the conventions of the discipline shape psychological texts. If they require students to write psychological reports that adhere to the Guidelines of the American Psychological Association, they should devote class time to discussing the style and organization of these reports and to showing students how to conform to the expectations held by journals in the field.

A useful way to determine if you are conveying expectations about writing in your field is to check that your assignments contain answers to the following questions:

• What do professionals in your field call this type of writing?
• What are the parts of this type of writing?
• What do you call them?

• What are the most important goals of the writer?

• Who are the readers?
• Are they experts?
• How much can the writer assume they know about the subject?
• Are they general readers?
• How much more does the author have to make explicit for an audience of non-experts?

Stylistic Features:
• What do readers expect in terms of stance, format, style?
• What is the average length for this type of writing?
• What conventions about titles are observed?
• Are sub-headings appropriate?
• Are charts, graphs, illustrations usually provided?
• Are passive constructions permissible?
• Are complete sentences always required?
• What type of documentation is used?
• What is the preferred style sheet?

• What are the reasons for the features above?
• How do the nature of the discipline and the behavior of those within it influence choices about format, style, and documentation?" (Dick 179).
Most important, give students clear-cut guidelines. Take, for example, the guidelines provided by Richard Marius, Professor of History and former Director of Harvard’s Writing Program.
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10 common features of the essay about history
1. The essay has an argument. We write to persuade readers to believe something. “Why am I writing this essay?” “What do I want to tell my readers?” “What do I want them to believe?” Ask yourselves these questions and answer them every time you write.
I want people to believe that Robert E. Lee was chiefly responsible for the Confederate defeat in the battle of Gettysburg.

I want people to believe that the highly praised eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica reveals many prejudices against women and blacks.

I want people to believe that many historians have disagreed with one another on why Rome fell and that their opinions were related to broader cultural influences in their own times.

Whatever your thesis – whatever you want your readers to know – stick to it. If you write about historians’ opinions about the fall of Rome, don’t digress into describing Roman temple architecture. Stick to your point.

2. Good essayists get to the point quickly. Don’t postpone stating your purpose. Let your readers know what you’re doing as soon as you can. It’s almost always a mistake to try to pull off a surprise ending in an essay about history. At the beginning of your paper, your readers should know the subject you are treating and the general direction you take in treating it.

Titles can help you get to the point. Devise a title that helps readers understand your purpose. For example, the title, “Evangelical Thought: John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards,” tells readers that the write intends to study evangelical thought as it was expressed by John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards, who led religious revivals at the same time, Wesley in England and Edwards in America.

Go from a clear title to your purpose in the paper as quickly as you can. In the opening paragraph, plunge right in. Certainly by the end of the second paragraph readers should know your subject.

3. A good historical essay is built on evidence. You may have opinions about how something happened, why it happened, who was most responsible and who was most affected, when it happened, where it happened. Unless you present evidence, no one will pay much attention to your opinions. Your readers are your judge and jury. You are the lawyer arguing your case.

What is evidence? Evidence is detailed factual information that may give your readers reason to believe what you tell them. Are you writing a paper about Woodrow Wilson? Evidence may be

• A book or an article about him written by a historian whose work is recognized and authoritative,

• A book or an article written by one of Wilson’s contemporaries who knew him well,

• A book or article written by a colleague at an occasion such as the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 after World War I.

4. Writers of formal essays in history document their sources and avoid plagiarism. Readers want to know where your information comes from.

5. Essays end simply and smoothly. You can end with a quotation expressing the main point of your essay. You can summarize the significance of the information you give your readers: What did it mean at the time? How did it affect events that came later? How does it affect us still today? You can sometimes come to the end of a series of events and stop with a concluding episode: “On July 5, 1863, Lee fell back toward the Potomac. The battle of Gettysburg was over.” Avoid (1) preaching at the end, (2) making moral judgments on what you have told your readers, (3) introducing significant new information, (4) asking rhetorical questions.

6. Most good essays about history are written in a dispassionate tone. Trust your readers. If characters you describe did terrible things, your readers can see that. If the characters did noble things, your readers can see that, too. If you spend your time telling them your feelings about Hitler or Stalin or some other villain from the past, you detract from the point you are trying to make, and your passion may be embarrassing. Let the facts speak for themselves.

An essay should include original thoughts of the author; it should not be a rehash of others’ thoughts. Don’t disappoint your readers by telling them only what other people have said about your subject. Try to show them that by reading your work they will learn something or see something with a special vision. Try to contribute some interpretation that is your own. Be willing to take risks by asking questions about the information that others may not have asked, and by trying to answer those questions sensibly.

8. Authors of essays consider their audiences. Your first audience will be your teacher and the other students in your class. Tell them something that you have learned or thought about, giving enough information for them to understand what you are telling them. Don’t give needless or irrelevant facts. Don’t spend a lot of time telling them things they already know. Avoid falling into the trap of providing so much background for your paper that you never get to the subject itself.

9. An honest essay takes contrary evidence into account. You do not weaken your case by recognizing opposing views; you strengthen your own argument by letting your readers know that you are aware of other ways of looking at the facts you present. They know then that you have studied the matter, that you have read more than one book or article, that you have surveyed the various opinions, and that you have arrived at your own argument. For example, if you should argue that Robert E. Lee was chiefly responsible for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, you must consider the argument by a number of historians that the blame should be laid at the feet of General James Longstreet, one of Lee’s subordinates.

10. Essayists use standard English and observe the common conventions of writing. It is a distraction to try to read a paper written by a writer who does not observe the conventions. Readers should be following what a writer is saying. They should not be asking themselves questions like these: “Is that word spelled correctly?” “Why has he not put a comma here?” “Why has she used this word?”

In the world beyond school, few things about your writing will be more harshly judged than careless disregard for the conventions. “Look at this letter; it has three misspelled words in it. How can we have confidence in anyone like this?” We would all like to believe that our ideas are so compelling that no one can resist them, no matter how sloppy our use of the conventions may be. The world of readers who do not know us will judge otherwise.

(Adapted from Richard Marius, A Short Guide to Writing about History. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman, 1989, 10-25.)

How should I “encourage students to use the Simon and Schuster Handbook for Writers?”
The Simon and Schuster Handbook, a required text in both Composition 100 and Composition 101, functions as a basic reference book for questions on grammar, punctuation, and writing style. It also treats specific types of writing, such as the argument paper, the research report, and the rhetorical forms used in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

If you would like a desk copy of the Handbook, contact the Prentice-Hall sales representative: Dick Hamlin, (315) 699-6271; dick_Hamlin@prenhall.com.

Questions and Answers About Writing in WI Courses and Writing Across the Curriculum — Page 8

Works Cited
Beach, R. “The Effects of Between-Draft Teacher Evaluation Versus Student Self- Evaluation on High School Students’ Revising of Rough Drafts.” Research in the Teaching of English. 1979, 111-119.

Dick, John A.R. and Robert M. Esch. “Dialogues Among Disciplines: A Plan for Faculty Discussions of Writing Across the Curriculum.” College Composition and Communication, 1972, 406-407.

Dudenhyer, J.P. “An Experiment in Grading Papers.” College Composition and Communication, 1972, 406-407.

Gee, T. “Students’ Responses to Teachers’ Comments.” Research in the Teaching of English, 1972, 212-221.

Harris, M. “The Overgraded Paper: Another Case of More as Less.” In G. Stanford (Ed.). Classroom Practices in Teaching English 1979-1980: How to Handle Paper Load. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1979.

Hausner, R. “Interaction of Selected Student Personality Factors and Teachers’ Comments in a Sequentially-Developed Composition Curriculum.” Dissertation Abstracts International, 1976, 5768-A.

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