FAQ on Teaching Disciplinary Writing

Response journals, micro-themes, write-and-pass exercises, impromptu in-class writing (example: Write down three things you understand so far in this lecture and one thing you don't understand). You can learn about other techniques by attending the WIC Faculty Seminar, by reading the quarterly WIC newsletter Teaching With Writing, by attending WIC workshops and talks, and by viewing model writing assignments designed by OSU WIC faculty. 

Yes. Each WIC course must require at least one paper using outside sources and appropriate documentation. Teachers can arrange for library instruction by contacting their subject area librarian. Also check out the library's research guides, which take students through the research process.

No. A study of nearly 500 OSU students showed that very few have any training in finding, evaluating, and using online sources. They are especially inexperienced in evaluating the quality of what their search turns up. WIC teachers need to address this problem explicitly. You may want to check the library's website on Instructor Support, and/or ask your subject librarian for help.

No. Research shows that line editing, which is very time consuming for the teacher, does not improve students' writing. Teachers should look first at global issues:

  1. Does the paper adequately address the assignment and make a clear point or points?
  2. How could the organization be improved?
  3. Where is further development/proof/content needed?
  4. Has the student used appropriate and sufficient sources and documented accurately for the discipline?
  5. Where could transitions and coherence be improved? Only when the student has successfully addressed these issues should attention turn to grammar and mechanics. Rather than marking every error, the teacher might identify typical errors or place a check next to each line that contains an error. Consider also rhetorical approaches to addressing grammar in context. 

As an experienced writer in your discipline, you can help students improve many elements of their writing especially as these things apply to your field. Students benefit more from feedback that focuses on global concerns (fulfilling the prompt, making and supporting an argument, organization, etc.) than feedback that corrects grammar and usage at the sentence level. 

Yes. By the time they are junior and seniors, most OSU students have some experience with peer review of other students' writing. Peer review works best when the teacher designs a feedback sheet identifying the elements of writing to focus on and when students have several opportunities to practice peer review during the quarter. See strategies for designing effective peer response activities in this recent WIC workshop

The Undergraduate Research and Writing Studio offers writers individual appointments to work on developing papers, revising drafts, and polishing papers. Graduate students can visit the Graduate Writing Center. 

Class size is limited so that teachers can assign lots of writing, provide students with instruction in writing in the discipline, and give individual attention and feedback on students' writing. Our experience (and research on the teaching of writing) shows that larger classes reduce the amount of writing assigned, the quality of writing instruction, and the quality of feedback students receive.