Post-secondary educators generally agree that strong writing skills are fundamental to succeeding in university and college. Although writing isn't quite a universal requirement at this level, students quickly discover that research, reading, and writing are among the most highly valued and useful skills in an educational context. It follows logically that if you want to achieve your academic goals, then, you will have to learn how to write. This course introduces some effective strategies for approaching the writing required of you in university, but your broader goal should be learning how to think.

It's important to be aware that "writing" should be thought of in two separate ways. On the one hand, "writing" is about having something to say. What this means is that you can think of writing as an abstract process of having ideas about subjects that you want to discuss. "Ideas" are the why of writing. Thinking is the mechanism that makes writing possible. The second way you can think of "writing" is the how. The physical act of putting words together to express your ideas is the act of writing. When you think about how much you dread writing, you probably think of the act. Part of why writing is so feared, though, is because not enough work and attention is invested into the why. Having something to say comes from a variety of sources, from research and thinking to life experiences, but it is nonetheless a prerequisite for any writing you undertake.

University Writing as "Literacy Tasks"

In L. Lennie Irvine's "What is Academic Writing?," Lee Ann Carroll describes academic writing assignments in a helpful way:

What are usually called ‘writing assignments’ in college might more accurately be called ‘literacy tasks’ because they require much more than the ability to construct correct sentences or compose neatly organized paragraphs with topic sentences. . . . Projects calling for high levels of critical literacy in college typically require knowledge of research skills, ability to read complex texts, understanding of key disciplinary concepts, and strategies for synthesizing, analyzing, and responding critically to new information, usually within a limited time frame.

Online Resources

Please ensure that you think critically about the information you find online. These resources do not constitute an authorative guide for online writing assistance. However, I've curated these links to help you negotiate the overwhelming tide of online resources geared towards helping students write in university.

You'll notice that most of these texts are affiliated with post-secondary institutions. This affiliation usually means that the information can be trusted, but nonetheless, you should verify and corroborate anything specific that has to do with citing or formatting an academic essay. The most current guides from MLA, APA, and Chicago apply to your work.

Open Textbooks

Online Writing Labs

Formatting and Style Guides


Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty

The University imposes serious penalties on students whose assignments and tests contain evidence of dishonesty or misconduct (see Section 4.2.2 of the General Calendar). Plagiarism in any form will not be tolerated, and it is an offense that I take very seriously. Your essays are subject to scrutiny in many aspects, and I consider carelessness in citation or misrepresenting another's ideas as your own to be inexcusable. Although we will discuss plagiarism in class, you should still be familiar with the University's policy on academic dishonesty. If you use the ideas or words of another source, please clearly cite and attribute using the techniques I discuss in class.