Writing - Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Incorporating Writing into Your Course

Lev Vygotsky once said: “The relationship between thought and word is a living process; thought is born through words. A word devoid of thought is a dead thing, and a thought unembodied in words remains a shadow.” Along the same lines, E.M. Forester asked: “How do I know what I think, until I see what I say?”  

What is the value of students learning to write in our discipline?

Students may have reasonably good writing skills overall yet not be conversant with the writing conventions in your discipline...

Why are students coming into college poorly prepared to write?

Writing is a complex intellectual task involving many component skills, some of which students may lack completely, some of which they may have only partially mastered... 

How do Carnegie Mellon’s first-year writing courses prepare students for academic writing?

Currently the Department of English at Carnegie Mellon has two courses that introduce students to writing at the college level. As one might expect, these courses cannot provide students instruction and practice in all genres of writing... 

How can I initially gauge students’ writing proficiency?

You may want to consider using a diagnostic pre-assessment to identify common writing problems among your students...

How can I help students become better writers in the discipline when I am not a writing teacher?

There are a variety of things you can do that do not require expertise as a writing teacher, as well as ways of creating assignments and assessments that will aid students in this academic endeavor...

How do I design effective writing assignments?

A key challenge in helping students learn basic writing skills is doing so without overwhelming the students or overburdening yourself...

How can I determine the types of writing tasks that I might assign?

The decision might be based on the types of writing you know students will be doing in the future or it might be based on the objectives you have for students in the course...

How do I incorporate writing into my course without being overwhelmed?

In order for students to learn to write well, we must increase the amount and frequency of writing they do, vary the types of writing, and provide feedback on their performance... 

How can I effectively and efficiently respond to student writing?

Even for faculty who do not consider themselves well prepared for this task or who do not have much time to spend on it, there are several options for responding to student writing... 

How can I prevent plagiarism?

Written resources have become more easily available on the internet, and students may not have a clear understanding of what constitutes plagiarism in each of their courses... 

How can I detect and address plagiarism?

There are several warning signs that may be clues to plagiarized material in students’ writing...