Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program
University of Rochester Upper Level Writing Requirement
All candidates for B.A. or B.S. degrees are expected to acquire significant experience in writing as part of the requirements for their majors. Each concentration will explicitly incorporate student writing into its curriculum and/or requirements. This may include writing courses in the department's own curriculum, upper-level writing courses in another department, or a combination of both. Because the writing requirement is an integral part of the major itself, students who elect to do two majors should expect to gain writing experience in each major. For further information, students should consult the advisor in their major.
- Upper Level Writing (Approved by Faculty Council, May 9, 1997)
- Guidelines for courses in which students may earn upper-level writing credit
College Writing Requirement
(Approved by Faculty Council, May 9, 1997)
The College Curriculum Committee proposes that the general structure of the present College writing requirement be retained, but that the nature of the requirement be clarified by (1) providing more explicit focus to primary writing courses, and (2) strengthening the relationship between primary writing and upper level writing. To accomplish the latter, we propose that direct linkage be established between upper level writing and the requirements of the major. In its modified form, the revised College writing requirement would encompass the following elements:
* Entering students must establish competence in writing effective prose. Because mastery of the skills of written argument, including critical thinking, problem solving, organization of ideas, and clarity and power of expression, is important both in subsequent college work and in the world beyond graduation, a primary writing course emphasizing those skills is a legitimate College requirement. Students who have not established writing competence must complete with a grade of “C” or better, by well-organized, coherent, persuasive prose.
* The instructors in primary writing courses may come from any department. However, graduate instructors must have completed a graduate level English course in the teaching of writing (such as the present English 571/572 but emphasizing teaching the above skills). This course may also be appropriate for others who wish to teach a primary writing course but have no previous experience in teaching college composition.
* While the College Curriculum Committee will retain responsibility for approving changes in the College writing requirement, the administration of the College’s primary writing requirement will be delegated to a College Writing Committee (WSC) comprised of five members of the College faculty, one of whom will chair the WSC and serve as Director of College Writing. The Dean of the Undergraduate College will serve as an ex officio member of the College Writing Committee and, in consultation with the Chair of the Department of English, will appoint the WSC and Director of College Writing. The WSC will be responsible for reviewing and subsequently monitoring individual courses for the purpose of designating them “primary writing courses” and for certifying the writing competence of individual students petitioning to satisfy the requirement by other means.
* The present upper-level writing requirement will be modified as follows: Each concentration will explicitly incorporate significant experience in student writing into its curriculum and/or requirement. Concentrations may include writing courses in their own curriculum; they may require their concentrators to do upper-level writing in another department, or they may do a combination of both. “Significant experience in writing” will typically occur in at least two courses, as prescribed by the present requirement, but concentrations may choose to design other generally equivalent plans to encourage advanced competence in writing. Such plans should include frequent student writing, responses to the effectiveness of the writing, and guidance in revision and rewriting. Upper-level Writing, Speaking, and Argument Programs in the concentrations should build on students’ initial exposure to the principles of written argument in the primary writing course, and students should gain experience in using a range of writing styles and techniques characteristic of their major discipline.
* Each major should submit its upper level writing requirement for approval by the College Curriculum Committee (CCC), which will be assisted in this task by the Director of College Writing, who will serve for these purposes as an ex officio member of the CCC.
Guidelines for courses in which students may earn upper-level writing credit:
- To be certified for the upper-level writing requirement, courses must require a minimum of three essays, of which at least one must be revised after correction and criticism. To count in this reckoning, an essay should consist of at least 350 words, and at least three of the essays should involve separate assignments (i.e., not merely be versions of one assignment). Over-all, students should write a minimum of 5,000 words per course. Writing done in examinations should not be counted towards any of these minima.
A course may be inclusive, optional, or individual. An inclusive course is one in which the minima listed above are met by all students in the class. An optional course is one in which these minima are met by a subset of the class (usually 10-15 students). Where feasible, instructors of optional writing requirement courses should substitute writing requirement work for a regular assignment (e.g. an examination).
- Courses satisfying the upper-level writing requirement must be taught by regular (i.e., full-time or equivalent) faculty members. In many instances, marking, grading, and consultation will be provided by teaching assistants -- but final responsibility for instruction and grading in these courses must reside with the faculty member in charge of the course.
- Where feasible, the grade for writing effectiveness assigned a student should be incorporated into the student’s final course grade.
- To promote continuity in writing instruction, students in the upper-level courses will be expected to use the writing handbook that is required for basic freshman-level writing courses, such as Constance Gefvert, The Confident Writer or Sheridan Baker, The Compete Stylist and Handbook. Instructors may elect to supplement this text with another writing textbook or manual -- for example, a handbook dealing with writing about particular subjects.
- Students in all upper-level writing courses will be expected to own and use a standard “collegiate” dictionary -- the Random House American Heritage Dictionary or the Merriam-Webster New Collegiate Dictionary, for example.
- When practicable, students should regularly be exposed through reading assignments to models of effective writing of the kind they are assigned to do.
- Beginning with the Class of 1991, all students should satisfy the writing requirement by taking two of the courses offered as such. Independent study courses can be arranged to satisfy the writing requirement. A separate upper-level writing form must be submitted, along with the independent study form, documenting in full how the writing requirement will be satisfied. All decisions of the Writing Committee on such requests are final.
- A senior thesis may be used as one course in satisfying the upper-level writing requirement. The thesis should consist of several major sections (three or more). In preparing the final document, a student must substantially revise the draft of each section in the light of detailed criticism by his or her instructor. The entire thesis should consist, minimally, of 5000 words.