One of the most valuable skills you will develop at the University is the ability to communicate effectively through writing. It is a skill universally valued by employers and graduate and professional programs, not to mention the instructors of your undergraduate courses. To that end, you must complete at least ten credits of writing-intensive (“W”) courses.This is in addition to the 5-credit English composition requirement.
In college courses, your papers will not normally be summaries of what you have learned in class but in-depth exploration and investigation of aspects of topics discussed in lecture. In your papers you will have the opportunity to develop your own ideas and interpretations concerning what you are learning in class. In fact, much of your university education will occur not in the classroom, but in the research and writing of papers required by your courses.
As you write, you will practice organizing your thoughts into logical, persuasive arguments. Allow time to rewrite and revise your writing. Review the comments instructors write on your papers and use what you’ve learned in your next paper. Work at improving your writing, and you will notice that your analytical and verbal communication skills also improve.
Where to find W courses
Courses that count toward the additional writing requirement are available in a range of subject areas. Although you shouldn’t wait until the last minute to meet the W-course requirement, it was originally intended that at least some of your writing-intensive courses should be courses in your major, providing you with writing instruction and practice in your chosen area of study.
For most majors (including those in the the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences), writing courses may be additional courses from the English Composition list, or any courses designated in the quarterly Time Schedule with the comment “Writing.”
The easiest way to look for W courses is to use the General Education Requirement Course Search offered by the Office of the Registrar.
Any passing grade (0.7 or higher) is acceptable for the “W” requirement. Courses may not be taken on the satisfactory/not satisfactory (S/NS) grading option.
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Overlap with other requirements
W courses may overlap with any other requirement except the 5-credit English composition course. The courses you use to satisfy the W-course requirement may also count toward your major, a minor, the Areas of Inquiry requirement, and/or the RSN requirement.
For transfer students
Many students transfer courses which required enough writing to qualify as W courses. A “W” usually means that a course requires either several short papers or a term paper with a required revision. If you think you have transferred a course that should count as a W course, consult your advisor.
For postbaccalaureate students
Postbaccalaureate students are not required to complete the additional writing requirement.
W by special arrangement
Many students make special arrangements to have a UW course count toward the W course requirement, even though it is not designated as a W course in the Time Schedule.
If you are taking a course that requires extensive writing, you can discuss with the professor the possibility of earning a W for the course. Some professors are not familiar with the W-course criteria; it is a good idea to print out the criteria below and take the list with you.
It is also possible for you and the professor to make an arrangement in which you alone will complete the extra work required to meet the W-course criteria. For example, a 10-page paper is not sufficient to meet the W-course criteria; but a 10-page paper which is graded by the professor and then rewritten by you and resubmitted does meet the W criteria. Professors can award Ws to individual students in a course; there is a place to mark Ws on the grade sheet they submit for the class at the end of the quarter. Any course which is posted with a W on your transcript can count toward the additional writing requirement.
Registering for W courses
Whether or not a course qualifies as a W course depends on how the course is taught that particular quarter, so there is no permanent list of W courses, and W courses are not indicated in the General Catalog. Each W course is indicated in the quarterly Time Schedule with the notation “Writing” or “Optional Writing Course.”
You can generate a complete list of W courses on MyPlan.
A W course must require 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, in the form of a longer paper plus a revision or two or more short papers.
- Papers may be graded by professors, instructors, TAs, and/or readers.
- Students should receive some feedback on their writing; that is, comments on papers should not be restricted to content only.
- Revisions do not count in the total number of pages of writing.
- Typical writing assignments are one 10-15 page paper with a revision, two similar 5-page papers, or two short book reviews and one longer paper.
- Take-home exams do not count toward the 10-15 page total, unless students are given ample time for thoughtful writing and revision, and exams are graded for writing (organization, clarity of expression) as well as content.
- Creative writing and verse writing do not count toward the 10-15 page total.
- Journals and annotated bibliographies do not count toward the 10-15 page total.
- The amount of writing required for a W is not determined by the number of credits assigned to the course. These criteria apply to all courses, even those earning only one or two credits.
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