undergraduate section

First-Year Composition

Goals for First-Year Composition Courses

updated Fall 2016

Seminar in Composition—preceded in some cases by Workshop in Composition or Workshop in Composition: ESL—is the course that most undergraduates take to fulfill the first of three writing-intensive requirements in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. While the readings and assignments in different sections of the course may vary, your section, like all the others, consists of a sequence of assignments that will require you to

1.  Engage in composing as a creative, disciplined form of critical inquiry.

In this course, you’ll compose as a way to generate ideas as well as explain them. You’ll form questions, explore problems, and examine your own experiences, thoughts, and observations.  Investigating a multifaceted subject, you’ll be expected to make productive use of uncertainty as you participate in sustained scrutiny of the issues at hand.

2.  Compose thoughtfully crafted essays that position your ideas among other views.

In response to reading, listening to and discussing challenging texts, you’ll compose essays in which you develop informed positions that engage with the positions of others.  You’ll analyze as well as summarize the texts you read, and you’ll compose essays that pay close attention both to the ideas voiced by other writers and to specific choices they make with language and form.

3.  Compose with precision, nuance, and awareness of formal conventions.

You’ll work on crafting clear, precise prose that uses a variety of sentence and paragraph structures. You’ll be required to learn the conventions for quoting and paraphrasing responsibly and adeptly, and you’ll be assisted with editing strategies that reflect attention to the relation between style and meaning.  You’ll also have opportunities to consider when and how to challenge conventions as well as follow them.

4.  Revise your writing by rethinking the assumptions, aims, and effects of prior drafts.

This course approaches the essay as a flexible genre that takes on different forms in different contexts—not just as a thesis-driven argument that adheres to a rigid structure. Much class time will be devoted to considering the purpose, logic, and design of your own compositions, and you’ll be given opportunities to revise your work in light of comments and class discussion, with the aim of making more attentive decisions.

You must earn a grade of “C-minus” or higher in order to fulfill the introductory composition course requirement; those who earn a “C” or above will have substantially progressed toward fulfilling the goals described above. Subsequent writing-intensive courses you take in any discipline should help you further develop your abilities as a writer and reader.