undergraduate section

Upcoming Courses

Courses Offered in Fall Term 2019

Beyond our first-year Composition courses, the Composition Program offers a major and certificate in Public and Professional Writing.

If you are just looking for a good writing-intensive course to take, we offer many intermediate and advanced courses that are ideal for undergraduates who want to develop their ability to write prose, prepare to teach, learn about specific types of public and professional writing, or improve their ability to compose in traditional or digital media. Our courses explore expository writing, style, pedagogy, rhetoric, digital media, and more. All of the below courses count toward the PPW Major.

Below are sample course descriptions for regularly offered courses. Since course descriptions may change from term to term, check the PeopleSoft for the term when you are registering.

ENGCMP 0400 Written Professional Communication

In this course we will examine the contexts for and rhetorical dimensions of a variety of professional documents, including those documents students produce in the course itself. Major assignments include a set of career materials (resume, cover letter, career report); a correspondence packet that addresses a conflict; a proposal; and a longer report based on research and analysis. As we engage in this work we will explore the nature of professionalism, common features and efforts (enabling and disabling) of professional discourse, and strategies for negotiating the "borders" of specialized and non-specialized discourse. This course is offered Fall, Spring, and Summer terms and during both Summer sessions. GER: W

ENGCMP 0401 Written Professional Communication: Topics in Diversity

This course explores the methods of inquiry, analysis and composition characteristic of written communication in professional settings.  The course will examine such writing's specialized use of language, conventions and formats, premises, motives, and purposes.  By preparing letters, resumes, proposals, reports, etc., students will get a feel not only for what "professional" communication is, but also for how and why it does, or can, or should function. This Topics in Diversity section of WPC will invite students to expand and complicate their understanding of the benefits of workplace diversity and of the problems arising from the unequal distribution of power and privilege across positions (including race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, ability, religion, and class) in the professions. Students will explore the dynamics of power and hierarchy in their chosen field as they observe daily operations and interactions during worksite field visits, and they will consider how these dynamics perpetuate or diminish inequities and marginalization. Among the topics considered are discrimination in hiring and on the job in terms of employment training, responsibilities, pay, and promotions.  Students gain practice articulating their individual diversity as job candidates in resumes and cover letters, and in composing professional documents that address a complaint, seek a remedy, and establish new policies to address hypothetical discriminatory issues that they may experience in the future. GER: W, Diversity

ENGCMP 0410 Writing in the Legal Professions   

This course focuses on the rhetoric of law and the ways that legal texts create a culture and a world through the language and arguments they employ. Students interested in law, rhetoric, and questions of cultural construction should find this course of interest. The course will use literacy texts and the works of legal scholars to consider how arguments, evidence, testimony, assertions, assumptions and judgments constitute a set of public issues and values. This course is offered during Fall and Spring terms. It is sometimes offered during a summer session as well. GER: W

ENGCMP 0420 Writing for the Public    

This course explores the theory and practice of writing that serves the public interest. Public writing is crucial in the nonprofit sector, serving every kind of cause: safety and health, political activism, the environment, animal rights, the arts. It also takes the form of writing that facilitates communication between government and its policies and those people who are impacted by those policies. Many of those who write for the public are working to make a difference in the world. The course will explore the ethics of writing for the public, the impact of rhetorical contexts on writing, and how writing and revision can allow you to understand a problem or issue in a new way. We'll use examples of public writing, theoretical articles, and the work of students in the class to inform our discussion. Students can expect to write proposals; press kits; editorials; informational Web sites; articles; and complex documents that incorporate photos and other visual elements, sidebars, and feature articles. Since we will see writing as part of a conversation with a larger world, students will report on an event they attend, interview a professional in a field that interests them, and identify and regularly read on or more sources of information: professional journals, media outlets, research studies, or other materials. This course is offered during Fall and Spring terms and during a Summer session. GER: W

ENGCMP 0420 Writing for the Public: Pitt Prison Education Project (PPEP) Read more >

Class meets at SCI Fayette maximum security prison once a week. This course explores the theory and practice of writing that serves the public interest. Public writing is crucial in the nonprofit sector, serving every kind of cause: safety and health, political activism, the environment, animal rights, the arts. It also takes the form of writing that facilitates communication between government and its policies and those people who are impacted by those policies. Many of those who write for the public are working to make a difference in the world. The course will explore the ethics of writing for the public, the impact of rhetorical contexts on writing, and how writing and revision can allow you to understand a problem or issue in a new way. We'll use examples of public writing, theoretical articles, and the work of students in the class to inform our discussion. Students can expect to write proposals; press kits; editorials; informational Web sites; articles; and complex documents that incorporate photos and other visual elements, sidebars, and feature articles. Since we will see writing as part of a conversation with a larger world, students will report on an event they attend, interview a professional in a field that interests them, and identify and regularly read on or more sources of information: professional journals, media outlets, research studies, or other materials. GER: W

ENGCMP 0440 Critical Writing

This course is designed to help students improve as critical writers by becoming more observant and discriminating evaluators of the ways in which they and others use language to interpret and judge the world. Students will be asked to reflect upon the behavior of critics they have encountered in order to define what they believe as a critical writer, at her or his best, should do. They will then be asked to test, and perhaps refine, their definitions through work with some texts and topics selected by the group as well as through close analysis of writing samples provided by the instructor. The course is discussion-based, and class members' writing will be its steady concern. GER: W

ENGCMP 0450 Research Writing

This course explores the skills needed for good research writing and the different forms of research writing that a college graduate may encounter. While the course will give attention to methods of library and Internet research and citation, it will focus on the challenge of reporting on research, starting with the evaluation, summation, and outlining of sources, then broadening as the term progresses into an examination of different kinds of researched writing, including the personal philosophy statements required in many graduate and professional school applications. Much of the class time will be devoted to workshop discussions of student projects and the writing that results from individual research. Students should expect to write a 10-page final project; in addition, the class will work together on a series of research assignments that will be used to illustrate methods and sources of research materials. GER: W

ENGCMP 0510 Narratives of the Workplace

What do you want to be when you grow up? This course takes the cliché You are what you do as a starting point to investigate the intersection of narrative, work, identity, and social structure. We will read and respond to academic and literary writing and media representations of forms of labor ranging from truck driving to housekeeping to managing nuclear power plants. Along the way, we will explore questions such as, What counts as meaningful work, to whom, and why?How do new technologies influence the organizing of work and professional identity?, and How are forms of labor intertwined with cultural ideas about gender, race, class, ability, sexuality, and age? The course also invites students to study the kinds of work and workplace cultures they hope to enter when they graduate, and to explore the connections between education and the professions. GER: W

ENGCMP 0515 Persuasive Writing in Advertising    

You can hum that jingle. You can recite that slogan. But did you buy that product? The ubiquity of advertising messages in our modern world has made us more discerning consumers, but developing a persuasive strategy for a specific target audience is a process that requires quality research, strategic planning, and creative vision. This course will teach you the persuasive techniques used in advertising today in order to create messages that influence consumers’ decisions while maintaining high ethical standards.Together we will explore the rhetorical parameters of different media including print, broadcast, digital, and non-traditional forms of advertising and examine real-world campaigns that have made an impact in our own lives. You will then create your own advertising pieces in preparation for the final project of an original creative advertising campaign. These pieces are designed in a way to help refine your persuasive communication skills and to strengthen and diversify the body of work in your professional portfolio. This course is offered during Fall and Spring terms. GER: W

ENGCMP 0520 Integrating Writing and Design  

This course allows students to explore the rhetorical implications of design and invites students to consider design and writing as an integrated process. The class will alternate lecture/discussion sessions with studio sessions, so that students can learn how to use Adobe InDesign to create both single- and multi-paged documents for particular rhetorical contexts. Students will also learn how to manipulate images in Adobe Photoshop so that they will better serve their purposes. Our classes will focus on theory of writing and design, critique and analysis of documents that students create, and critique and analysis of documents created by professionals. Students will write and design a resume and cover letter; write analyses of professional examples they find especially problematic or compelling; create brief, fully designed argument pieces conceptualized in two different ways; create a poster; replicate and revise existing professionally produced examples; and propose, write, and design a multi-paged designed document to accomplish a specific outcome for a particular audience. This class assumes that students are comfortable with using a computer and with learning new software. The course is offered during Spring term and Summer session 1. GER: W, CW

ENGCMP 0521 Writing with Data

This course is designed to allow students to engage with data in their writing and learn how to effectively write with numbers. This course is for anyone: those who love to write but are sometimes less confident working with numbers, those who love numbers but want to improve their writing, for people who love numbers and writing rather equally, for scientists, for artists, for people who anticipate working with a lot of data in their career, etc. Students will work with a dataset of their choosing and develop several pieces reliant on quantification for both lay and specialized audiences. Through these writing projects and through classroom activities, students will learn about how to find data to use for their writing, how to plan effective utilization of this data in a broader argument, how to responsibly and effectively use word choice and syntax to convey quantified material, how to organize writing reliant on data for both lay and specialized audiences, and how to incorporate data visualization for purposes of understanding and persuasion. There is no need to know anything about statistics; throughout the term we will learn how mathematical encounters with writing can be engaging, exciting, and something we can work on together. We will be going over a handful of statistical concepts in the second half of the course so we can write about them, but the emphasis here will ultimately be on proficiency for the purposes of a given concepts use in writing. By the end of the course, both traditional and quantitative literacy will be improved to serve student development as competent quantitative writers and readers in future PPW courses, courses across different majors at Pitt, in their writing as professionals, and as more discerning consumers and producers of knowledge as global citizens. GER: W

ENGCMP 0530 Writing for the Sciences

This course invites students to explore the purposes and conventions of writing within the sciences. Students will read and analyze examples of professional scientific documents—including abstracts, literature reviews, research proposals, graduate school papers, journal articles, and correspondence. They will learn to craft scientific research into engaging written material, using information drawn from publicly available studies or their own research. They will consider their audience’s needs and tailor their writing for both expert and general readers in different rhetorical contexts. Students will also learn strategies for document design, including how to effectively use visuals to represent data and findings. Throughout the course, students will learn how to write clear, powerful sentences and paragraphs. Finally, to develop their professional collaboration skills, students will practice providing each other with effective feedback on works-in-progress. GER: W Read more >

ENGCMP 0535 Writing in the Health Science Professions

This course is designed for students who are interested in learning about the kinds of writing typically done by clinicians, researchers, and others working in health science contexts. The course focuses on developing the skills needed to write and communicate effectively in health and medical contexts, from writing essays for graduate and professional program applications and documenting research to communicating with patients and staff, writing professional reports and correspondence, and giving conference presentations. Students will gain familiarity with the formal requirements of biomedical abstracts, literature reviews, and research papers, and they will learn effective strategies for conducting secondary research using health science databases and search engines. The course will also introduce techniques for improving documents’ structure and style, so that readers can easily grasp, follow, and absorb the significance of the information presented. Students will be introduced to expectations and challenges they are likely to encounter in other common writing scenarios, such as explaining complex information to patients, writing reports for administrators or regulatory agencies, and communication policies or procedures to staff. Different approaches to writing graduate and professional school personal statements will be discussed, and students will draft and revise either personal statements for applications or “mission statements” articulating their professional visions within a larger ethical framework. Through the course of the term students will work towards completion of a final paper on a medical communication issue, and they will present their findings in a conference-style format, at the end of the semester. GER: W

ENGCMP 0550 Topics in PPW: Writing for Environmental Advocacy

This course focuses on writing in response to the natural environment, primarily as a tool to raise awareness of environmental challenges and to advocate for ways to meet those challenges. You'll read work by authors ranging from Aldo Leopold to Alice Walker to Rebecca Solnit. Through varied assignments including blog posts, editorials, and policy memos, you'll increase familiarity with approaches to and niches for environmental writing, and with some of the historical and political context of the environmental movement. Class activities will include a field trip led by a local naturalist, a guided visit to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and a guest speaker from a local environmental organization. You'll devote the second half of the semester to an individual writing project and presentation focusing on an environmental challenge of your choosing. GER: Writing

ENGCMP 0560 Writing Arguments

This course has two goals: to help students become more adept at understanding and critically analyzing arguments, and to help students become better arguers themselves. Students in “Writing Arguments” will practice composing arguments across a variety of forms, genres, and technologies (written, visual, oral, digital) in order to develop and hone their persuasive language skills. As part of this practice, students will have the opportunity to design and participate in written and oral debates on topics of present interest and to compose their own examples of public persuasive communication. Writing Arguments would be especially appropriate for students headed to law or graduate school. GER: W

ENGCMP 0600 Introduction to Technical Writing

This course will explore the ways that writing supports work in scientific and technical fields. Through a variety of assignments incorporating both written and visual formats, students in this course will learn effective strategies for responding to communication challenges, with special emphasis on audience analysis, document design, communication ethics, collaboration, professional style, and editing. You can expect to develop your ability to organize and craft information for manuals, journal articles, and reports and to learn about document design, production principles, interactive documentation, and desktop publishing. Technical writers are crucial for fields in engineering, software, and the sciences. Successful technical writers are good at translating science and technology for various audiences, including non-experts such as the end users of a product or customers who are willing to pay for technical solutions for a problem. Experts who work in technical and scientific fields can also benefit from familiarity and practice in technical writing. GER: W

ENGCMP 0610 Composing Digital Media

This course requires students to compose digital media while exploring the rhetorical, poetic, and political implications of multiple writing platforms. Students will learn how to compose a range of critical media objects using web-authoring languages, text, sound, images, and video in proprietary and open-source software. Classes will focus on theories of writing, composing, design, critique, delivery, and networked distributions; critique and analysis of digital media produced by professional and amateur digital media practitioners; and analysis and revisions of digital media composed by the students themselves. GER: W, CW

ENGCMP 0641 Writing for Change 

This course is an opportunity for students to examine and produce writing that engages in advocacy, solidarity, social critique, and/or social justice. Students will explore theories of persuasive writing for public audiences, as well as argumentative strategies more broadly. Students will define the subject of a core project for the term, and move beyond understanding an issue to understanding various discourse communities that generate writing on that topic, how those organizations represent themselves, and how they define an audience. Our theoretical discussion will be balanced by a more pragmatic look at the language of social change, and how various writing forms—produced by nonprofits, activist groups, international organizations and coalitions, as well as socially engaged journalism—inform, persuade, and engage the public. Students in Writing for Change can expect to compose traditional essays as well as public writing in print, digital, visual, and a variety of other forms of persuasive communication. GER: W

ENGCMP 0712 Critical Making

The maker movement is an emerging social and media form that is at once highly networked and post-digital. Making is situated at the intersection of social media, the online gift economy, and a participatory, interventionist engagement with one's physical environment. Drawing on open source ideals and innovation structures, making has become an attempt to democratize material culture through networked access to tools. Makerspaces and makerhubs have become critical nodes in efforts to materialize the virtual gift economy of the internet. In this course we will engage the intellectual and practical roots of this new medial and social form and engage in our own critical making projects, utilizing scanning, modeling, and 3d printing technologies. The course will include examination of the history and philosophy of open source software development and the political, social, cultural, and technological developments that have given rise to critical maker culture. Students will learn some of the basic tools of scanning, modeling, and 3d printing. Throughout, students will reflect on their own work, on the objects around them, and the tools available to them to creatively intervene in that “object ecology.” Its aim is to “close the circuit” between creative conceptual production, social networking, and materialized object relationships. GER: W, CW

ENGCMP 1099 The Language of Policy and Power: Topics in Diversity

This course invites students to deepen and expand their understanding of public policy writing and to build the skills necessary to address the unequal distribution of power and privilege influencing policy in the public sphere. The course provides students with the opportunity to develop a portfolio of practical and analytical policy-related writing by grounding our work in current discussions about diversity (including race, gender, LGBT+, ethnicity, ability, religion, and class). In this writing-intensive class, students will write a variety of documents, such as a history memo, a set of responses to the readings, a letter of public comment, an op-ed, a polemical essay, and a final policy memo, related to a specific and properly-scaled diversity policy issue. The course will address the specialized use of language, conventions and formats, premises, motives, and purposes related to policy documents and arguments in light of diversity. By preparing both reflective academic and professional policy documents, students will master not only the basics of policy writing, but, through their own research and writing, the rhetorical and critical thinking skills necessary to create effective policy. Students will learn to employ methods of inquiry, analysis, and composition characteristic of written and oral policy discussions as they relate to diversity questions, concerns, and legal requirements. We will read broadly and deeply, and engaged, informed class discussion responding to reading and current policy questions is a cornerstone of the class. We will explore how the explicit and implicit history and applications of public and private policies have created long-standing outcomes that are often taken for granted, and address ways to change and improve those outcomes. GER: W, Diversity

ENGCMP 1103 Public Relations Writing

This course focuses on how nonprofits, governments, associations and companies build good will and develop relationships with their various publics, both in and outside of the organization. Students explore a variety of methods including media releases, public service announcements, event planning, house ads, brochures, newsletters, corporate image pieces, displays, web pages and other forms of online communication. The course also discusses public opinion, social responsibility and crisis management. The major project for the term is a public communications campaign. This course is offered during Fall and Spring term. GER: W

ENGCMP 1111 Professional Writing in Global Contexts 

In order to create effective and powerful documents for diverse global audiences, students need to be able to negotiate the expectations, assumptions, conventions, and professional practices of different cultures. This course will help advanced undergraduate students better understand what is at stake in writing for international audiences, how to research issues relating to communication (and especially the use of English) in global contexts, and how to write professional publications for particular international audiences. In this course, students will learn the following: to think critically and to analyze various approaches related to the use of English on a global scale; to shape their writing to account for high- and low-context cultures; to engage with challenges associated with language and translation; to effectively engage with a range of rhetorical moves to persuade a multi-cultural audience; and to account for writing issues like style, tone, clarity, document design, and specialized language in international contexts. This course is offered during Fall term. GER: W Read more >

ENGCMP 1210 Tutoring Peer Writers

This course prepares students to be effective tutors for peer writers by introducing them to issues and scholarship in teaching, writing and working as a tutor. Students from any discipline who are interested in careers in teaching, or students who recognize the importance and difficulty of responding well to drafts written by others will find this course of interest. The course is a prerequisite for those students wishing to work as peer interns in the Writing Center. GER: W

ENGCMP 1270 Projects in Black Rhetoric

This topics course offers a different focus each time it is offered. The course centers Black writing, experiences, rhetoric, and criticism. Designed for students with some writing experience, this course will allow you to hone your writing ability and create a compelling project that demonstrates your critical and analytical work with example texts.  Fall 2019 Topic: Theory in Practice ‘Ya know Black folk don’t do theory, right?’ Yet, as Barbara Christian (1987) argues “people of color have always theorized--but in forms quite different from the Western form of abstract logic. And I am inclined to say that our theorizing (and I intentionally use the verb rather than the noun) is often in narrative forms, in the stories we create, in riddles and proverbs, in the play with language, since dynamic rather than fixed ideas seem more to our liking. How else have we managed to survive with such spiritedness the assault on our bodies, social institutions, countries, our very humanity?” 

In this version of Projects in Black Rhetoric, participants will be exposed to a handful of overarching themes and theories relevant to the study of Black rhetorics in the 21st century. These include, but are not limited to: Black Lives Matter rhetorics, Black Feminist Thought, Black resistance rhetorics, issues in Black education, Black musical traditions, and Black digitality. We will develop projects that delve deeply into one or more of these foundational themes, thinking critically about our methodologies and interventions, as we theorize in practice to respond to simultaneously local, national, and global concerns around Black life. These projects could be research studies, community-based initiatives, public-facing activist work, or some combination of them.  GER: W, Diversity
 

ENGCMP 1400 Grant Writing   

In today's world, grant proposals produce billions of dollars to help solve problems and support causes that people care about. Grant proposals make possible important research in the natural, behavioral, and social sciences; they enable many to benefit from civic and educational projects; and they benefit community development and fund artistic achievement. This course will allow students to understand the functions and conventions of grant proposals, the types of research that they require, and the processes that generate them and lead to approval. Students will focus on two main issues: developing a proposal (which includes activities such as defining needs, reviewing existing projects and literature, and, if seeking a grant, researching sources of funds) and writing a proposal with a specific audience in mind. Coursework will help students develop an understanding of grant proposal writing from an initial idea through final submission. Students will complete a variety of written pieces leading up to the final proposal, which may be valuable in their employment portfolios. They will also explore the kinds of writing that are required after a grant has been won. Upon completion of this course, students will have acquired the research and writing skills necessary to write successful proposals. This course is offered during Fall and Spring term. GER: W

ENGCMP 1510 Writing with Style

Do you feel the force of great writing, but worry that you can’t control it? Have you wondered about your commas, then just shrugged it off and guessed? Through a focus on the moving parts of the sentence—where and why to expand or contract, to elaborate in place or to accumulate in series—students in this course will learn to build coherence and shift emphasis in their writing. Exercises in imitation and variation, derived in part from readings by acclaimed prose stylists, will alternate with more extended writing and revision to allow sentence-level insights to scale up to paragraphs, sections, and beyond. GER: W

ENGCMP 1551 History and Politics of the English Language

This course introduces students to the issues associated with the teaching of English language with special attention to instruction at the K-12 level. Topics include language acquisition and development, standard and non-standard dialects, and issues of composing and analyzing language. A primary consideration of the course is the way historical and cultural forces influence the teaching of English and shape evaluations of what constitutes "correct" and "literate" uses of language. The course can be used to fill teacher certification requirements. GER: W

ENGCMP 1900 Internship: Public and Professional Writing    

Public and Professional Writing (PPW) internships offer you a productive, substantive writing experience in which you learn from and contribute to the sponsoring agency, company, or project. In the internship class, you will learn more about professional life and about your own career path. GER: W Read more about internships >

ENGCMP 1906 Professional Experience: Writing, Editing, and PR

This course offers an exciting opportunity for students who have taken at least a couple of PPW or Writing courses: Professional Experience at Sampsonia Way, the literary journal of City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. The PPW program is teaming up with City of Asylum to produce the magazine. The course is for responsible students who are interested in writing for this journal or running social media to promote the journal. The team will work with a teacher who will serve as managing editor and also faculty member in charge of the project. The group will learn about writing, editing, and PR while producing the online literary magazine. You can also expect to learn more about free speech and social justice while working with writers who are under threat in their home countries. Weekly meetings on campus will focus on learning about the context for the work, learning good practices for professional writing, editing, and PR, reading work by writers in exile, and workshopping your articles for publication. Interviews for articles will be in-person or via Skype. Expect to spend 10-12 hours a week working on this project. You will also need to attend class. A monthly meeting will be held at City of Asylum on the Northside (easily accessible by bus). GER: W