First-Year Writing-Department of English - Carnegie Mellon University

First-Year Writing

Mission Statement

Carnegie Mellon's First-Year Writing Program offers two courses for undergraduates, 76-100 Reading and Writing in an Academic Context and 76-101 Interpretation and Argument. 76-101 is required for all students. These courses are designed to help first year students improve their writing and analytical skills.  Students will learn how to research, edit, and write effective arguments among other things. The skills you learn in these courses will be carried over to your upper level courses.  Whatever your major ends up being, you will need to know how to write. If you are an international student, Reading and Writing in an Academic Context will be especially useful.

You can find a pdf version of the course descriptions by clicking on the link:

Course Descriptions for First Year Writing - Fall 2014 [pdf]. 

76-100 Reading and Writing in an Academic Context

This course is required for students (1) who identify themselves as nonnative English speakers and (2) who qualify for the course through an online placement test. For the 2006-2007 school year, the university adopted 76-100 for the first time as a mandatory course for those students assessed to take it. The course is aimed toward highly proficient English learners who still need instruction about the rhetorical and linguistic demands for academic reading and writing in an American university. 

The stated course objectives are that students will be able to

  • Draw on both discourse analytical and metacognitive strategies for reading in academic English.
  • Summarize, compare, and analyze texts.
  • Draw on genre conventions for writing academic essays in English, especially from a functional and rhetorical perspective.

76-101, Interpretation and Argument

This course is required of all undergraduate students—the English department no longer accepts any Advanced Placement exemptions. All sections of Interpretation and Argument are modeled after the attached core syllabus, which is designed each year for new teachers in the program. 

Each section of 76-101 requires three core written assignments: 

  • Argument Summary
  • Argument Synthesis
  • Argument Contribution

Interpretation and Argument is a research-based course that assumes reading and writing are inseparable practices for responsible academic authoring. It introduces students to a systematic, inductive process for writing an argument from sources. In the course, students are exposed to a variety of different texts (mostly academic essays), so that they can explore and critically evaluate a single issue from multiple perspectives to eventually contribute an argument of their own. Students present their final contribution arguments in both oral and written forms.

Students learn that it takes time to plan, write, and critically revise their own texts. They also learn that the concept of audience is key for understanding communication tasks. For Interpretation and Argument, the rhetorical needs of an academic audience are emphasized for planning and writing effective arguments. Ultimately, the course provides opportunities for students to develop critical thinking skills and strategic methods for analyzing and producing texts within the context of an academic community.

To learn more about the First-Year Writing Program, contact  Dr. Danielle Wetzel, Program Director, or Beth Oberleiter, Coordinator of the First-Year Writing Program.

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