This class asks you to practice studying writing from a variety of perspectives. You’ll read scholars, professionals, and career authors over the course of the semester. More importantly, you’ll develop your own thinking and create documents that allow you to join the discussion about how writing works. The assignments listed below align with our major units of study, which are listed in greater detail in the course calendar.
In response to your regular reading assignments, you will create weekly blog posts. These posts serve as conversation starters, sharing your thinking with the class. Additionally, these posts give you experience creating content for the Web. We’ll use WordPress, which runs about one-third of the world’s websites, to host our blog. Getting experience writing in WordPress is a useful and transferrable professional skill.
Because your work will be publicly visible, you’ll need to think carefully about audience. Though you’ll write these posts primarily for an audience of your colleagues, anyone on the Internet can access your work. We’ll talk about who is and is not likely to see your ideas, and that awareness will help you tailor your writing.
Speaking of tailoring your writing, each blog post must meet basic content requirements within WordPress. For example, any images included in a post must include alt text for accessibility, or else the post can’t be published. At first, some of these requirements might cause a little frustration. Mostly, though, the requirements work to ensure consistency and functionality on our blog.
All told, these are the requirements each blog post must meet:
- Title must be ≥ 10 characters long
- Content must be ≥ 250 words
- Post must be assigned to 1 category, filing it with the right homework assignment
- The post’s excerpt must be 120–155 characters long
- Any links used must be valid (no broken/dead links)
- Any images used must include alt text for accessibility
Search Engine Optimization (Optional)
WordPress is a popular, powerful platform for hosting blogs about anything, up to and including those dreadful recipe websites we’ve all seen. Successful blogs use Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to improve the likelihood that they’ll appear near the top of search results when people look for the content on the blog.
Our class blog is no different—we want to be relevant to the discussion of writing studies—so I’ve added a behind-the-scenes tool to help keep SEO in mind. When you respond to homework with a blog post, you can see how good your post looks to search engines. The Yoast plugin we’ll use checks each post for readability and SEO. The plugin assesses your post as you write, so you can see your score as you go. Getting good SEO or readability scores are completely optional in this class, but they’re a clear way to learn how writing for the web is different from writing for a classroom.
Each unit of study ends with a peer-reviewed major assignment. No two are alike, so you’ll avoid the monotony of always writing essays. But because the assignments are diverse, you’ll need to pay careful attention to what’s expected for each one.
Identify a form of literacy you have, then tell the story of how you developed that literacy. If your skills improved to the point of fluency, explain how and when that happened, as well as how you knew you’d achieved that level of skill. Example literacy narratives are available at the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives.
Select a discourse community in which you are/were a member. Identify how that group meets John Swales’ (1990) six defining characteristics of discourse communities. Then, report on an insight you gained by analyzing the group. (See the assignment sheet in Canvas > Files for more details.)
Process Theory Paper
After reading selected studies on how people write, conduct a study of your own writing process. Then, use the CARS model and the IMRD format to report what you concluded about the writing process. Part of the challenge with this assignment is practicing your sense of authority as a scholarly writer.
Select an essay you wrote for another class. Re-imagine that essay in a non-essay format, intended for a different audience. Create the remixed version for this class. Through this process, you will learn how technology and audience shape the expectations and possibilities of writing.
Résumé & Cover Letter
After creating an exhaustive résumé, you’ll find a specific, writing-related job ad that you could imagine yourself applying for. Using that ad as your guide, create a targeted résumé and cover letter you could send in if you wanted to really apply for the position.
The last of the semester’s assignments reviews your work and argues for your success in the class. This assignment is essentially a final portfolio for the class, but simplified for practicality. In short, you will write a letter to your instructor explaining how you know you’ve achieved each of the student learning outcomes listed in the course syllabus.
Your letter to the instructor serves to audit the content of the course by identifying what does and does not directly apply to the goals stated at the outset of the semester. You will explain how the assignments you completed helped you achieve the results expected in the syllabus.