Seminar in Composition

Most undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh are required to take Seminar in Composition (SC). SC is offered under several different course numbers:

  • ENGCMP 0200 Seminar in Composition
  • ENGCMP 0203 Seminar in Composition: Gender Studies
  • ENGCMP 0205 Seminar in Composition: Film
  • ENGCMP 0207 Seminar in Composition: Education
  • ENGCMP 0208 Seminar in Composition: Service-Learning  Read more>
  • ENGCMP 0212 Seminar in Composition: Topics in Diversity Read more>
  • ENGCMP 0213 Seminar in Composition: Disability Studies Read more>
  • ENGCMP 0214 Seminar in Composition: Sustainability Read more>
  • For Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences first-year students only: FP 0003 First-Year Seminar or FP 0006 (You can browse specific course topics on the First-Year Seminar page.)
  • For students in the Swanson School of Engineering only: ENGCMP 0210 Seminar in Composition: Engineering.

To excel in your academic career and beyond, you must develop sound writing, reading, and discussion skills. SC has been designed to help undergraduates who are beginning their work at the University become more engaged, imaginative, and disciplined composers. Your SC experiences will better equip you to handle complex subjects thoughtfully and to use sources responsibly. Even if you have already had considerable writing experience in high school, you will encounter new challenges in SC as a writer, reader, and thinker. Honors College sections are available for students with strong basic skills who are seeking a more intensive Seminar in Composition experience.

To be prepared for SC, you must demonstrate the ability to comfortably compose prose in English and the organizational skills required to write a coherent essay of several well-developed paragraphs. SC requires familiarity with the basic conventions of edited written English, but does not assume you already have a full understanding of all the intricacies of grammar, punctuation, and organization.

Seminar in Composition Course Goals

While the readings and assignments in different sections of first year writing courses 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.

If, based on placement, you are required to complete ENGCMP 0150 Workshop in Composition or ENGCMP 0152 ESL Workshop in Composition (or equivalent), you must earn a grade of "C minus" or higher in that course before enrolling in Seminar in Composition.