Online Guide to Writing and Research

Chapter 1: College Writing

What is College Writing?

College courses demand many different kinds of writing that employ a variety of strategies for different audiences. You may be required to write long essays or short answers in response to examination questions. You may be asked to keep a journal, write a lab report, and document the process you use to perform research. You may be called upon to create a design document, write a business report or plan, and report on the results of research. These are only some of the many types of writing you may engage in throughout your college career.

College writing, also called academic writing, is assigned to teach you the critical thinking and writing skills needed to communicate in classes and in the workplace. To acquire and practice these skills, you are asked to write many different types of assignments under different circumstances. Sometimes your teacher will assign a topic and define the audience; sometimes you will be called on to define and limit the topic and audience yourself. In any case, college writing teaches you about the series of decisions you must make as you forge the link between your information and your audience.

For example, you must decide what sources of information you will use, how you will interpret this information, how you will organize your ideas, and what words and strategies you will use to explain your ideas. Your college writing experience will teach you about the writing process and about writing for particular disciplines, such as those in the liberal arts and business management specializations. College writing offers the opportunity for you to learn many different strategies for approaching writing tasks so that you may communicate how much you know and understand about a subject to a particular audience, usually your classmates or your teacher.

The expository nature of college writing, with its emphasis on the knowledge you gain in your college courses and through research, makes such writing different from your previous writing and perhaps more challenging. Teachers may expect your essays to contain more research, show more awareness of differing points of view, and even reflect more sophisticated expository techniques, such as argument and persuasion. The main source of the content of your college writing will be assigned textbook readings, library books and articles, your experience, and even field studies you may have designed. You will often use the skills you learn in college writing throughout your career.