undergraduate section

Upcoming Courses

Courses Offered in Spring Term 2020

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 PeopleSoft for the term when you are registering. Our complete list of courses can be found on our course descriptions page.

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. 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. 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. GER: W

ENGCMP/HAA 0425 Digital Humanity

How have computational devices affected the way we think about our own humanity? This course prepares students to critically examine the intersections between digital devices and human life. Covering topics such as the relationship between computers and humans, surveillance, big data, and interactivity and games, we question what it means to be human in a space of pervasive digitality. Assessment will be based on regular online posts, midterm examination, a final curation project, and class participation, both digital and face-to-face. The course fills the Philosophy General Education requirement and meets three times per week: twice for lecture, once for recitation/lab. GER: PTE (This is not a writing-intensive course.)

ENGCMP 0430 Public Communication of Science and Technology

This course explores the theory and practice of writing that serves the public interest. We will focus on writing about science, technology, and the environment—areas that influence our daily lives in innumerable ways. By composing in a variety of genres, students will gain a deeper understanding of the ethics of writing for the public, the interaction of communication and rhetorical context, and how writing and revision can facilitate new ways of thinking. Students will study academic articles, professional examples, news coverage, and student work. GER: W, PH
 

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 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. 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 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. 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 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 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 0570 Topics in Black Rhetoric and Public Writing

The course will explore both rhetorical theory and rhetorical practice, and it will center Black criticism, rhetoric, public writing, and experiences. Students can expect to study different critical approaches to Black rhetoric. Topic for Spring Term 2020: Black Time What does it mean to center Blackness in nations that historically marginalize it? In institutions that seek to profit from it? When the criminal justice system keep on killing us? What does time as a construct mean in relation to Blackness in the wake of Trans*Atlantic slavery (Sharpe 2016)? In response to an activist Black past that white institutions co-opt for respectability politics? When measuring Blackness for racial legibility, to package it for sale, for academic consumption? In this course we survey a range of Black public writing to think through what publicness does to Blackness. We simultaneously think about how temporalities shape experiences of Blackness and the importance of history, context, and culture in fighting antiBlackness so inherent to the neoliberal/Western project. Our diasporic treatment of Black time samples artifacts from the North America, Africa, and the Caribbean broadly construed. GER: W, Diversity

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 1101 Language of Science and Technology

In this course students will learn about and practice skills essential to effective, responsible communication within and from scientific and technical disciplines/fields. Students will become familiar with best communication practices within their immediate fields and with effective practices for communicating to important constituencies outside of their immediate fields. Course work will involve hands-on practice in creating documents such as proposals, abstracts, executive summaries, instructions, and informational articles/brochures. Students will analyze, draft, and revise various types of reports--geared towards both scientific/technical and lay audiences--including progress reports, informational reports, assessment reports, and focused technical reports. User-friendly document and information design will be discussed and practiced. Students will learn about and compose multimedia documents and will organize and participate in professional communications via video and chat applications. This course is appropriate for students who have some experience with written professional communication, and who are interested in furthering the communication skills that are crucial to maximizing professionalism and impact within and surrounding scientific and technical writing. GER: W

ENGCMP 1102 Language of Medicine

This course will explore ways that language and communication patterns affect perceptions, dynamics, and outcomes in health and medical contexts. A blend of theory and narrative analysis, the course will review developments in the emerging field of medical rhetoric as the foundation for an interdisciplinary inquiry into the role of language in shaping our understandings of issues like health equity, pharmaceutical marketing, medical education and training, the “health care crisis,” patient-centered communication models, and the meanings of pain, death, illness and disability. The course will also provide an overview of how our linguistic models and arguments about health, illness, medicine, and the human body have changed over time, and we will explore some of the ways in which these arguments and models also vary by culture, ethnicity, gender, class and other social factors. Foundational terms of rhetorical analysis will be introduced—such as metaphors, terminisitic screens, constructed audiences, and transactional theories of persuasion—and a variety of theoretical essays, medical narratives, professional documents, and other relevant rhetorical artifacts will be read and discussed. Our discussions will also be informed by methods and reference points from some related disciplines, including linguistics, ethnography, and phenomenology. Several shorter writing assignments will be assigned, as well as a final paper investigating a medical rhetoric and health humanities question. Students intending to apply to health science graduate and professional schools will benefit from the course’s close attention to language, and its investigation of professional ethos will help them write better personal statements for application essays and become more effective communicators. Writing and communication majors will be able to add their projects to their professional portfolios to showcase familiarity with medical terms and issues, and to demonstrate sophisticated skills in research, analysis, and presentation. However, this course welcomes students from all majors and is appropriate for anyone who is interested in engaging with challenging readings about medical language and who is willing to develop informed, thoughtful views on the meanings and motives hidden in the ways we talk about health. GER: W

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. GER: W

ENGCMP 1104 Corporate Storytelling

Corporate writers play key roles in defining and developing the communications landscape for organizations and their audiences. But what exactly is corporate writing? How do we, as writers, ensure we are effectively advancing the goals of our companies and clients? In this course, students will explore the conventions of content marketing, search engine optimization, writing for the web, and the other forms of business writing in order to craft inventive and accessible messages. We will also examine corporate storytelling as a tool used to construct and maintain strong company personas. Assignments will incorporate written, visual, and oral components as students launch their own companies to simulate real world projects and dynamics. This course will help you strengthen and flex your creative communication skills to engage and influence readers in a variety of channels within the corporate setting. GER: W

ENGCMP 1112 Professional Uses of Social Media

Many college students use social media in their daily lives to connect with friends and family, get news, shop, document aspects of their lives, and follow activities of people and organizations that matter to them. This course explores what it means to use social media as a professional in support of your own career or in support of the goals of a business or organization for which you work. By the end of this course, students will be able to describe the evolution of digital communication, significant turns, and likely future directions; discuss a variety of social media platforms and their ideal functionalities; critically discuss the professional uses of social media; identify differences between personal and professional use of social media and digital communication; develop a unique, reliable, consistent voice across a variety of platforms; develop and sharpen writing skills in order to tell stories through the contemporary lens of social media; design and implement a social media strategy; develop the adaptivity and flexibility that will allow writers to engage with new platforms and new audiences; identify and explore the rhetorical dimensions of social media; and execute significant and purposeful revision in writing. GER: W, CW

ENGCMP 1151 Professional Editing in Context

This course focuses on editing as a professional activity. We will explore the whole range of editorial work, including developmental editing, substantive editing, copyediting, and proofreading. Special attention will be given to the editor as the person who mediates the relationship between author and reader. Students will learn about the editing process and will edit texts, reflect on the process, and hone their ability to work on language at the sentence level. The course will introduce students to the Chicago Manual of Style as well as other styles. Students will engage in research related to editing and their career plans and will assemble a portfolio for the class. This advanced course is intended for students who are pursuing the PPW certificate, as well as other students interested in careers in writing, editing, or publishing. GER: W

ENGCMP 1200 Advanced Topics on Composition

This course provides a space for faculty to identify a particular topic in composition on which to base a semester of inquiry for advanced students. Topic for Spring Term 2020: Fallacies and False Consciousness: Ethical Persuasion for a Post-Truth Age This course is an advanced introduction to techniques for persuasive writing in public spaces overrun by warring truth claims. Students will gain critical tools for analyzing writing and other composition forms that rely on fallacy claims: assertions that a competing stance is logically unsound, deceitful, or simply false. Specific topics may include writing about campus speech, global warming, affirmative action, gerrymandering, reproductive freedom, and LGBTQ* civil rights. Drawing on new work in political rhetoric, algorithmic communication, classics, digital activism, and racial publics—including Cloud’s Reality Bites, Jackson et al’s #HashtagActivism, and Mejia et al’s “White Lies,” as well as live presentations from guest experts at Pitt, other universities, and local activist and media organizations—we will explore some of the history of fallacies in political writing to learn how declarations from across the political spectrum of a new age of “post truth” work together to prop up old ideologies of economic and racial control. Students will use their analyses to design and publish miniature print and digital persuasion campaigns on matters of local concern. Rather than relying on fallacy claims, students will gain techniques for composing and demonstrating the moral grounds on which people and publics understand ideas to be true or imagine they might be possible. GER: W

ENGCP 1220 The Art of the Essay

Essay can be a noun or a verb. As a noun, an essay can be a short piece of writing; as a verb, to essay is to try, to weigh, to ascertain, to test the quality of. This semester we’ll explore the different ways people essay through their representations of the world through art, history, writing, music, film, and archives. We’ll examine how the creators of these works convey their individual perspectives and investigate how private or personal narratives can be used to reveal larger societal or cultural issues. Through reading and writing we’ll answer the following questions: How do essays differ from memoir? What role do individual voices play in shaping collective histories? How do our present desires sculpt stories of the past and future? Where do the truths you’ve been taught diverge from what you actually see? GER: W

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. GER: W

ENGCMP 1410 Advanced Research and Documentary Writing

This course will focus on research as it supports those who write professionally. In particular, we are going to explore long projects that take up a subject and study it in some depth using observation, interviews and surveys as well as online and library research. The term "research" refers to substantially different activities in different professional settings. We will spend time looking at three particular types of research: literary journalism devoted to creating social change; research-based projects that attempt to create change in corporate practices such as management, customer relationships, and ethics; and documentary work that is designed to raise awareness, provoke conversation, and honor human and humane activity. All three of these areas yield many long and short projects—books and articles and scripts—that are created in the hope that the final product will have a real impact in the world. You will study some examples of research as it plays out in several books, articles, and a film documentary, and you'll plan and carry out a research project of your own. GER: W

ENGCMP 1420 Writing Proposals for Business

Successful business proposals have great potential; they can jumpstart businesses, build a strong client base, create change in the workplace, foster professional relationships, and facilitate projects that meet the needs of specific audiences. But what is a business proposal? How does it differ from a grant proposal or a business plan? What should a business proposal look like? How do we make our proposals stand out from the rest? This course will enable students to understand the functions and conventions of business proposals, the types of research that they require, and the processes that generate them and lead to approval. Coursework will help students develop an understanding of business 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. Upon completion of this course, students will have acquired the research and writing skills necessary to write successful proposals for real-world for-profit contexts. 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 1552 Language, Literacy, and Learning

Most of us probably assume that literacy is necessary in order to live a productive and happy life in the modern world. Learning how to read and write is "basic," right? But what is meant by writing and reading? What behaviors, knowledges, technological know-how, or skills are or have been included within those terms? And in what sense "necessary"--for whom or in what ways? What use, in other words, has been made of literacy and what values have been assigned to such use in personal, social, political and historical terms? What's literacy good for? In this course we will consider multiple literacies as complex social practices that vary according to time and place-- contested literacies, only some of which are or have been typically acquired through formal schooling. Our aim will be to challenge commonplace assumptions about the "proper" uses and values of literacy in order to think creatively and productively about educational, political, and personal alternatives. This course is designed especially for students planning on careers in teaching-related fields. GER: W Watch a short video about this course.

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