Tips for Designing a Writing Syllabus

Using Keywords to Reflect Writing Pedagogy

Writing-related words and references to a writing handbook highlighted on a syllabus help students recognize the writing and learning skills the course will address. Here are possible words/phrases that an instructor might place on a writing syllabus:

Thesis & Focus; Developing & Organizing Ideas; Audience & Purpose; Introductory Strategies; Concluding Strategies; Style; Transitions; Claims, Reasons, & Evidence; Clarity; Voice; Strategies for Revisions; Figurative Language; Argumentative/Persuasive Strategies; Appeals-ethical, logical, emotional; Strategies for Summarizing & Paraphrasing; Conducting and Citing Research; Evaluating Sources

Sequence Assignments to Help Novice Writers Build Upon Skills

It is helpful to assume that the writing experiences of first-year seminar participants may vary widely among those in any given section of Writing 101. While some students may have extensive research experience, it is more likely that many of the students have little to no experience situating their own voices and informed opinions among other/published writers. With that in mind, it may be helpful to build up students’ abilities as readers and writers before assigning a lengthy research paper. However, because researching and synthesizing of sources are skills highly valued and often required in the academy, first-year writing students should receive at least a general introduction to conducting research, evaluating sources, integrating source materials into their own writing, and attribution of sources through the use of a style guide. Below are suggestions for sequencing assignments:

  • Use readings to help generate ideas, as models, and as resources for the vocabulary and tools of the larger conversation; you might sequence readings to move from expressive and personal pieces to analysis essays to argumentative and synthesizing articles.
  • Sequence assignments to build on rhetorical strategies/writing skills.
  • Sequence assignments to build in length.
  • Sequence assignments to build in the number and types of texts incorporated and/or responded to.
  • Sequence assignments in ways that require students to write for a variety of aims and audiences (For example, students might move from expressive writing for a limited audience to argumentative synthesis essays directed for a wider academic audience.).
  • Have students meet with a reference librarian, create an annotated bibliography, and then produce a paper that incorporates and cites source material.