HFA - College of Humanities & Fine Arts view HFA submenu
For Instructors

Junior Year Writing Course Criteria

The Purpose of Junior Year Writing:

The purpose of the JYW course is for students to practice and develop critical awareness about writing within discipline-specific academic and/or professional communities. Learning to write in the discipline entails learning to think--whether critically, analytically, reflectively, or creatively--through a disciplinary lens.

If you wish to propose a new JYW course for your department:

The University Writing Committee approves all courses that satisfy the JYW requirement. The UWC will notify the Registrar directly about course approvals, and only these approved courses will satisfy the university’s Junior Year Writing requirement. This includes:

  • New JYW courses

  • Adding the JYW designation to existing courses

  • Quinquennial reviews of all JYW courses currently offered at the university

All reviews are submitted electronically through the UMass Course and Curriculum Management System.

For a comprehensive description of contents of the review proposal including required materials and questions, please refer to this Guide to JYW Proposals. Additionally, please refer to the criteria for JYW courses below.

Criteria for Junior Year Writing courses:

All JYW courses should meet the following criteria. If you have questions about how to structure a JYW course or prepare a proposal or review, please contact the University Writing Committee at uwritingcommittee@acad.umass.edu.


  1. Course description that clearly communicates to students how the course fulfills the Junior Year Writing requirement and identifies learning objectives to help them develop more advanced writing for their discipline.

  2. Brief descriptions and due dates for all writing assignments and related requirements (including required revision based on teacher feedback and peer review).

  3. Bibliographical citations for texts used in the course (print or online), including a writing handbook.

  4. Grading criteria and points-to-grade values.

Course Requirements

  1. Prerequisite. Students should satisfy the College Writing (CW) requirement--or have earned exemption from the requirement--prior to taking JYW courses.

  2. Formal Writing in the Discipline.

    • Multiple Discipline-Relevant Writing Assignments. All junior-year writing courses ask students to write and revise multiple writing assignments that reflect writing valued in the discipline.

    • Genres, Media, & Audiences. These assignments should ask students to engage with a variety of discipline-specific genres and audiences to make the course relevant for students and improve their writing versatility. Assignments may also ask students to engage in a variety of media. For example, courses may include assignments focused on images, tables, graphics, and/or data visualizations. Assignment formats may include poster presentations, oral presentations, blogs, podcasts, videos, and more. Audiences may be varied: e.g., communities with a stake in the writing topic, academics, funding agencies, prospective employers.

    • Amount of Writing. The course should foster writing fluency and development by requiring students to write and revise regularly and substantially throughout the semester. The final discipline-relevant writing assignments should include at least 4,500 words, or equivalent “length” in a manner that reflects appropriate disciplinary practices.

    • Portfolios. Asking students to curate a portfolio of writing from the course is strongly encouraged. Portfolios might be formative, prompting students to reflect on their writing development. And/or portfolios might be summative, i.e., a polished collection of writing that they might share with audiences beyond the course.

  3. Drafting, Feedback, & Revision.  Writing is improved through practice; for this reason, major writing assignments should ask students to draft, give and receive feedback, and revise.

    • Drafting.  Students should write drafts of the major assignments; drafting can help since one’s writing can get messy when an assignment asks one to grapple with new or difficult concepts in the discipline.  Informal, low-stakes writing (e.g., brief in-class responses, discussion board posts) can help students learn course content and develop writing fluency.  And writing drafts of formal, “high stakes” writing (e.g., academic essays, proposals, lab reports) can help students develop and effectively communicate their ideas.

    • Feedback.  Students should also get responses on the major assignments from the teacher and from other students and, based on these responses, revise at least once.

      • From teachers.  Students benefit most when an instructor offers feedback on global writing issues (e.g., clarity, focus, development, critical thinking, organization) before turning to grammar and mechanics issues that do not impede meaning.

      • With peers.  Students benefit most from peer reviews in which they share drafts of their writing, give feedback, and reflect critically on each other’s writing.  It is an important source of mutual help in which students can become more aware of strengths, areas needing improvement, and their writing options.

    • Revision.  After receiving these comments, students should be required to revise and edit their writing.  Revision can help students clarify their understanding of course content and also further develop and polish their writing.

  4. Access to Writing Handbook.  All writers need access to writing reference resources (print or online) for assistance with grammar, mechanics, and citation information.  Students in JYW courses who took College Writing their first year at UMass will have purchased a print reference book which could be used for the JYW course as well.

  5. Class Size.  Because good writing-intensive courses require active learning, interaction, and individualized feedback from instructors, classes should be small.  An enrollment of 15-20 students is recommended, with no more than 25 students per section.

Additional Recommendations for Course Content

  1. Information Literacy.  Learning to do advanced writing in a discipline also means learning how to find and cite appropriate sources in the discipline.  As students advance in their major, they need to learn how to access and make effective use of the literature of their field.  They need to become familiar with the indexing databases, reference sources, search strategies, and citation styles used in their major and in their future professions.  Junior Year Writing courses should give some attention to discipline-specific information literacy which encompasses the ability to recognize when information is needed and how to locate, evaluate, and effectively use information in writing and other contexts.  Students should also understand the ethical issues pertaining to the use of and citations to sources of information in their field.  The Junior Year Writing Program partners with UMass Libraries in this effort.

  2. Career Development.  Professional development elements (e.g., resumé writing, oral presentation skills, etc.) may be incorporated into the syllabus as a way to add value to the course and give students an opportunity to plan ahead for their careers. UMass Career Services can be a great resource with these course elements.

Do you have additional questions? Please contact the University Writing Committee at uwritingcommittee@acad.umass.edu.