University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst: General Education

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Teaching & Advising

 

Writing

Arguably, no activity is more central to a literate people than writing. Writing facilitates critical thinking and is the primary means by which most educated citizens communicate personally, publicly, and professionally. New communication technologies, globalization, and increased centralization of professional tasks have created a demand for stronger and more complex writing skills.

Responding to the need for improved writing ability within engineering, sociology, business, education, and the public sector, a nationally recognized two-part Writing Program consisting of a First Year Writing course and a Junior Year Writing course was developed in 1982.

First Year Writing

The First Year Writing course, also known as College Writing or English 112, prepares students for writing in future academic situations and helps them develop writing skills applicable to professional and civic contexts beyond the university.

Instruction within the First Year Writing course operates on the following key principles:

  • Writing is a series of choices (about genre, organization, style, etc.) made in response to the context, purpose, and audience of a given text
  • Writing can serve a variety of purposes for writers throughout their lives, including but not limited to personal, academic, civic, and creative purposes
  • Writing is a recursive process of continual revision, reflection, and response from others
  • Writing exists to be read, and thus writers must also be readers—of other texts, of contexts, of culture—in order to read their own texts and assess its effects on potential readers

Specifically, the course provides students with practice in the following areas:

  • Writing for diverse audiences and purposes
  • Developing and extending their own thinking by questioning their views and considering others
  • Drawing on various sources of thinking and information
  • Revising their writing in substantive ways
  • Being a constructive reader of their own and others ’ writing
  • Generally managing their own writing processes
  • Copy-editing final drafts

Junior Year Writing

Students write better when they are expected to write better; they are likely to develop the habit of careful writing when this expectation is satisfied in various intellectual contexts over a number of years. Based on these assumptions, all students are expected to complete a writing intensive course during their third year.

The goal of the Junior Year Writing course is to enhance and reinforce the subject being studied, not to teach grammar and spelling at the expense of that subject. Instructors assist students primarily in formulating effective arguments and organization for a specific topic in a particular discipline.

Each department, school or college, in consultation with writing specialists, determines what kinds of writing competence its majors need. Based on these decisions, departments, schools or colleges, when possible, develop and offer courses that meet the specific needs of their students. For example, Engineering might require technical writing, Business might require speaking and writing, Nursing might require report writing.

More Resources

For further information about the goals, curricula, and requirements of the writing courses, visit the Writing Program's website.

To learn about the history of the two-part writing program and read about a recent review of the Junior Year Writing, read the 2007-2008 Annual Report of the University Writing Committee.

For a recent review of the First Year Writing program, read the 2005-2006 Annual Report of the University Writing Committee.

For tutoring support, visit the Writing Center's website.


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