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Guidelines for Writing-Intensive Courses

Applicants may fill out the online submittal form (below), or print out this PDF submittal form and send to Amy Burtner, 5-535

Writing-Intensive Courses

Writing Intensive (WR) courses require both formal and informal writing. Formal writing is written to communicate ideas to another reader, while informal writing is written for the author. The distinction between these two types of writing lies in the intended audience. Generally, formal writing is evaluated for how well it communicates ideas within a discipline and for style elements consistent with the standards of that discipline. On the other hand, informal writing is used as a learning tool written by the student for the student. Informal writing is generally not evaluated, though it may be given a grade for completeness.

Formal Writing

It is writing for an identified reader or readers; therefore, formal writing needs to be organized and edited. Additionally, it has to meet the minimum proficiency standards as defined by the discipline. (The total of formal written assignments per semester should include at least 2,000-2,500 words, the equivalent of 8-10 typewritten double-spaced pages). Research indicates that shorter formal assignments help students more than simply assigning one long paper. Many kinds of writing satisfy the formal writing requirement. These may include essay and short answer exam questions, research papers, essays, reviews, letters, memos, evaluation reports, critiques, case studies, lab reports, annotated bibliographies, and other discipline-specific writings.

Informal Writing

It is writing for oneself. Informal writing helps the student to think on paper; it helps the student to learn in active and reflective ways. This type of writing can take the form of a variety of short in-class or out-of-class activities such as recalling on paper the subject of a previous class, clarifying an important idea during a lecture, brainstorming, speculating, journal writing, and listing. Informal writing can be considered as notes and rough drafts that will later be re-worked into formal writing that is organized and edited for a reader. Informal writing also promotes learning by encouraging students to actively engage in the subject matter through writing without worrying about being penalized for errors in grammar, content, style, or organization. In this way, students may think and discover through the writing process. Although informal writing is not generally evaluated, it may (if collected) be graded for completeness.


The writing assignments required by WR course instructors will stimulate the development of analytical and critical thinking skills and will improve both teaching and learning. Each perceived idea is, most often, only vaguely recorded in one's consciousness. When the mind begins to organize an idea for verbal expression, it is perceived more clearly and recorded into consciousness more permanently. Writing is the process that calls for such an involvement of the mind. Students who write have an opportunity to cultivate their thinking skills and to verbalize the content of their disciplines to themselves, their classmates and instructors, and, ultimately, others in their field of study and employment.


The focus of evaluation of writing in a discipline should be on clarity, completeness, and organization. WR course instructors need not feel responsible for teaching the more technical aspects of writing. However, instructors may refuse to accept papers with numerous grammatical and mechanical errors and encourage students to edit and resubmit the work. Additionally, instructors may encourage students to seek help in the College’s Writing Center.

Various types of formal writing that you may use in your course

Annotated Bibliographies Essays Memos
Case Studies Journals Research Papers
Critiques / Reviews Lab Reports Written Exams
Discipline-Specific Writing Letters Other types

Various types of informal writing that you may use in your course

Brain Storming Journals Problems / Questions
Class Notes Learning Logs SLN Discussion Postings
Class Reflections Observation Notes Writing Prompt Responses
Drafts for Papers Paraphrases Other types

The Writing Across the Curriculum Committee

Amy Burtner (English/Philosophy), Interim WAC Coordinator
Jason Anderson (Chemistry)
Kathleen Borbee (Business Administration and Economics)
Pam Fornieri (ESOL)
Mark Ricci (Visual and Performing Arts)
Verdis Robinson (History), DCC Liaison
Mark Sample (History)
Vestina Turner (Nursing)
Karen Wells (Mathematics)


Writing-Intensive (WR) Course Proposal

Submitted by * required
           email: * required

Please contact AMY BURTNER for deadline information

  1. Course number and title * required

  2. Number of sections * required

  3. Department Name * required

  4. Academic Division * required

  5. Describe your proposed course. Please include the following information: number of words of formal writing, types of assignments, number and frequency of assignments. Please be thorough and specific.
    * required

  6. What kinds of informal writing assignments will you require?
    * required

  7. How will you evaluate the writing assignments? What type of feedback will you give to your students? Describe the form and frequency of feedback.
    * required

  8. Would you be willing to share your course syllabus with the WAC Committee?

  9. Will you be willing to participate in an evaluation of the WAC Program?

  10. Have you informed your chairperson that you are intending to teach this course using a writing-intensive approach?
    yes    no

P.S. We encourage you to do classroom research as you teach a writing-intensive course(s) and write about it for WAC Notes. We promise to make you famous!

Please submit the completed form to Amy Burtner (English/Philosophy), Interim WAC Coordinator: