OWL at Purdue Logo

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue (https://owl.english.purdue.edu/). When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice at bottom.

Contributors: Jaclyn Wells.

Provides an introduction to writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines, a list of links to Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines (WAC/WID) programs, and a selected bibliography for further reading.

Writing Across the Curriculum: An Introduction

For more information, please see the vidcast "An Introduction to Writing Across the Curriculum" on the Purdue OWL's YouTube Channel.

Writing across the curriculum is a pedagogical movement that began in the 1980s. Generally, writing across the curriculum programs share the philosophy that writing instruction should happen across the academic community and throughout a student's undergraduate education. Writing across the curriculum programs also value writing as a method of learning. Finally, writing across the curriculum acknowledges the differences in writing conventions across the disciplines, and believes that students can best learn to write in their areas by practicing those discipline-specific writing conventions. WAC-designated courses tend to apply one or both of the following approaches.

Writing to Learn (WTL)

This pedagogical approach values writing as a method of learning. When students write reactions to information received in class or in reading, they often comprehend and retain the information better. Writing can also help students work through confusing new ideas and apply what they learn to their own lives and interests. Also, because students write more frequently, they become more comfortable with writing and are able to maintain or even improve upon their writing skills. WTL assignments are typically short and informal and can be performed either in or out of class. Examples include writing and reading journals, summaries, response papers, learning logs, problem analyses, and more.

Writing in the Disciplines (WID)

This approach recognizes that each discipline has its own unique language conventions, format, and structure. In other words, the style, organization, and format that is acceptable in one discipline may not be at all acceptable in another. WID believes that to participate successfully in the academic discourse of their community, students must be taught discipline-specific conventions and should practice using these conventions. Some common WID assignments are reports, literature reviews, project proposals, and lab reports. WID assignments can also be combined with WTL activities to help students think through key concepts, ideas, and language of in their disciplines.

Contributors: Jaclyn Wells.

Provides an introduction to writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines, a list of links to Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines (WAC/WID) programs, and a selected bibliography for further reading.

Writing Across the Curriculum Programs

WAC at Purdue

Purdue University does not have a formal WAC or WID program. However, Purdue's Writing Lab serves as an informal WAC support facility because its purpose is to assist all Purdue students as they write papers and reports for any class on campus. Further, Purdue's Online Writing Lab offers many helpful resources for teachers who would like to incorporate writing into their curriculum and for students who are writing across the disciplines.

Helpful WAC sections of the Purdue OWL

Research and Documentation Across the Disciplines The following links direct students and teachers to Purdue OWL resources on research and documentation across the disciplines.

Discipline-Specific Resources

WAC Programs Nationally

Many colleges and universities have formal WAC or WID programs. Because of the national interest in WAC, some of these colleges and universities have sites for their programs that explain how writing across the curriculum works at their institution and that offer ideas and resources for teachers and administrators interested in WAC. Additionally, many sites include writing resources for students. A few of these prgrams are listed below:

Contributors: Jaclyn Wells.

Provides an introduction to writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines, a list of links to Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines (WAC/WID) programs, and a selected bibliography for further reading.

Further Reading and Resources

Selected Bibliography of WAC Books and Articles

Anson, Chris M., ed. The WAC Casebook: Scenes for Faculty Reflection and Program Development. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

—, et al. Writing Across the Curriculum: An Annotated Bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993.

Barnett, Robert W. and Jacob S. Blumner. Writing Centers and Writing Across the Curriculum Programs. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Bazerman, Charles and David R. Russell, eds. Landmark Essays on Writing Across the Curriculum. Davis, CA: Hermagoras Press, 1994.

Bean, John. Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2001.

—, Drenk, Dean, and F.D. Lee. "Microtheme Strategies for Developing Cognitive Skills." Teaching Writing in all the Disciplines. 27 - 38.

In this chapter, the strategy of using micro-themes or short essays within either large or small classroom contexts is explored. The authors give examples of several different genres of micro-themes including: the summary, argumentation and thesis support, inductive reasoning from data, and quandary posing. The chapter concludes with an examination of the pedagogical validity of the use of micro-themes and suggestions for implementing their use.

Brenson, Sarah and Glenda S. Carter. "Changing Assessment Practices in Science and Mathematics." School Science and Mathematics. 95.4 (April 1995) 182 - 186.

This article examines a variety of different assessment methods within the math and natural science classrooms. The suggested methods include journal writing, open-ended problems and portfolios. Journals and open-ended problems are intended to give teachers insight into the conceptual understanding of their students. Portfolios give the students opportunity for self-evaluation and provide documentation of progress over a period of time. The article also includes the objectives each type of assessment can address, hints for their use, and samples.

Day, Robert, Scientific English: A Guide for Scientists and Other Professionals. 2nd ed. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx P, 1995.

Day has designed a guide to general scientific style, grammar, and usage. He also includes a list of the style manuals that are appropriate to the various disciplines and a chapter on sensitivity to certain language usage. The appendixes contain lists of words to avoid, and problem words and expressions.

—. How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper. 5th ed. Phoenix, AZ: Oryx P, 1998.

Robert Day designed this book primarily to assist graduate students and people wanting to publish in the sciences who needed advice about the conventions of scientific writing. The book includes a discussion on what separates scientific writing from other writing, formatting a section by section analysis of the elements of the scientific paper, a discussion on different genres of science writing, and a number of appendixes that cover technical terms, sample submissions, and a glossary of jargon and preferred usages.

Emig, Janet. "Writing as a Mode of Learning." The Writing Teacher's Source Book. 2nd ed. Ed. Gary Tate and Edward P.J. Corbett. New York: Oxford U P , 1988. 85-93

In this highly influential essay, Emig argues that writing is one of the best tools for learning as it involves the whole brain in all the processes: doing, depicting, and symbolizing (wording). This essay is the corner stone for many WAC and WID initiatives and the pedagogical theory they are based upon.

"Engineering Students Write Science Books for Children." The Bulletin of the Association for Business Communication. 55.4 (Dec 92) 49 - 50.

This article describes the success of a writing task set by a technical writing teacher for his class. Each student was to take a subject that they were both familiar and enthusiastic about and write a book whose target audience was elementary school children. To prepare for the task, the students read ten professionally written books and examine such things as content, format, and style. The article ends by citing the students' enthusiasm for the challenge.

English, Tom. "Writing to Learn and Journal Applications in the Introductory Astronomy Course." Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 2.2 (1997): 18 — 27.

In this introductory course, the traditional lab assignments were reworked into observation journals. English describes the journals as being of particular benefit both to the students in requiring them to write about what they have learned and for the instructor as a measure of student understanding and progress. Examples of student logs are included as evidence for the development of students' observation and writing skills. Additionally, the value of the questions and response type of journal entry is discussed.

Fulwiler, Toby and Art Young, eds. Programs That Work: Models and Methods for Writing Across the Curriculum. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1990.

—, ed. The Journal Book. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1987.

This book was pivotal in the movement to introduce journal writing to a variety of classroom settings. The introduction of the book provides guidelines for the use of journals in the classroom. The third section of the book focuses on the use of journals in the quantitative and qualitative classrooms. The articles are written by a variety of teachers who successfully used journals in their various disciplinary classrooms from elementary through the collegiate level.

Goodman, Daniel and John Bean. "Chemistry Laboratory Project to Develop Thinking and Writing Skills." Journal of Chemical Education 60.6 (June 1983): 483 - 485.

This article outlines the method used to produce professional level reports for an undergraduate organic chemistry course. The students are encouraged to use models from professional journals, are involved in the determination of the criteria to be used to judge the most effective reports, and are engaged in selecting the best reports for an in-house publication. After three years of use in the classroom, the authors conclude that the writing task was very effective in teaching students both the rhetorical strategies appropriate to writing reports and in improving their scientific thinking.

Gratz, Ronald K. "Improving Lab Report Quality by Model Anaylsis, Peer Review, and Revision." Journal of College Science Teaching 19.5 (Mar/Apr 1990): 292 - 295.

Gratz argues that the quality of biology lab reports can be improved by choosing models of scientific writing from professional journals for the students to analyze. He then allows students to peer review their classmates’ lab reports. Based upon this review, the students are encouraged to revise their reports before submitting them. Gratz provides guidelines for the peer review with the understanding that it is his responsibility as a teacher to instruct the students on the principles of good, well-organized scientific writing.

Hamilton, David. "Interdisciplinary Writing." College English 41.7 (Mar 1980): 780 — 796.

Hamilton uses his experiences in teaching a course on writing in the sciences to argue for an approach to using writing in the classroom that stresses writing for an audience and, by implication, the students’ coming to terms with their own comprehension of the material. He bases his argument in principles from classical rhetoric and illustrates it with examples from his students.

Herrington, Anne and Charles Moran, eds. Writing, Teaching, and Learning in the Disciplines. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1992.

Hillocks, George Jr. Teaching Writing as Reflective Practice. New York: Teachers College Press, 1995.

Klein, Bill and Besty M. Aller. "Writing Across the Curriculum in College Chemistry: A Practical Bibliography." Language and Learning Across the Disciplines 2.3 (1998): 25-35.

This article contains not only a comprehensive bibliography oriented specifically toward teaching chemistry at the collegiate level, but also makes recommendations on ways to implement WAC and writing in the chemistry classroom based upon a review of the bibliography’s literature.

Laszlo, Pierre. "Science as Writing, of Science as Reading?" Substance. 23.74 99-106.

Lazlo argues that science writing bears a closer resemblance to other forms of writing, in particular literary writing, than might be at first evident. He draws comparisons between the uses of observation, the requirements for an ordered sequence of the elements of the observation, and the reliance upon rhetorical strategies. He concludes that the accounts of the advancements of learning in science should be judged upon criteria drawn from more traditionally literary endeavors.

LeCourt, Donna. "WAC as Critical Pedagogy: The Third Stage?" JAC: Journal of Composition Theory 16.3 (1996): 389-405.

Locke, David. Science as Writing. New Haven: Yale UP, 1992.

The principle argument of the chemist David Lockeés book is that "every scientific text must be read, that it is writing, not some privileged verbal shorthand that conveys a pure and unvarnished scientific truth" (ix). Within this text, he looks at the history of science writing and its development and through this examination problematizes the use of language in scientific discourse. His argument implies a need for critical attention to the rhetorical uses of language in scientific literature and the ways in which this language creates accepted knowledge.

Lutzker, Marilyn. Research Projects for College Students: What to Write Across the Curriculum. NY: Greenwood P, 1988.

This book, written by a reference librarian, explores the creation of writing assignments for all the disciplines. The first section discusses the design of meaningful and pedagogically useful assignments that take into account the relationship between content and writing and research skills. The second section looks at the variety of ways that research findings are reported which can provide assignments that differ from the traditional term paper. The third section concerns advice on the imaginative use of library materials to construct assignments that are interesting to the students and still achieve the goals of the course.

Mahala, Daniel. "Writing Utopias: Writing Across the Curriculum and the Promise of Reform." College English 53.7 (Nov. 1991): 773-89.

Maimon, Elaine, et al. Writings in the Arts and Sciences. Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1981.

This book was one of the first of its kind: an introduction to writing for the academy for incoming college students. It includes sections on all the broader disciplines including a section on general principles for writing in the natural sciences. This work includes close text analysis of and commentary on student lab reports, field notebooks, reviews, and questions and exercises on these genres.

McLeod, Susan H. Strengthening Programs for Writing Across the Curriculum. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1988.

--- and Margot Iris Soven, eds. Composing a Community: A History of Writing Across the Curriculum. West Lafayette, IN: Parlor Press, 2006.

---, et al. WAC for the New Millennium: Strategies for Continuing Writing Across the Curriculum Programs. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 2001.

Miraglia, Eric and Susan H. McLeod. "Whither WAC? Interpreting the Stories/Histories of Enduring WAC Programs." WPA: The Writing Program Administrator 20.3 (1997): 46-64.

Monroe, Jonathon, ed. Writing and Revising the Disciplines. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002.

Moore, Randy. "Does Writing About Science Improve Learning About Science?" Journal of College Science Teaching 12.4 (Feb 1993): 212-217.

Moore experimented with "writing to learn" in four sections of his biology class. Each section had a different amount of writing assigned and differing levels of feedback on assignments. Moore concludes that merely writing without guidance and instruction on the principles of writing in the discipline only reinforces poor writing skills. He makes a convincing argument that only the students provided with such guidance improved significantly in their writing and testing.

Pechenick, Jan. A. A Short Guide to Writing About Biology. 2nd ed. NY: HarperCollins, 1993.

Pechenick has written a handbook designed to be used by undergraduate students in the biological sciences. The book contains chapters on what biologists write about, an annotated list of key principles of science writing, advice on reading and note-taking, and writing lab reports, essays and term papers, research proposals, summaries, letters of application, and several chapters on revision strategies.

Porush, David. A Short Guide to Writing About Science. NY: HarperCollins, 1995.

This handbook is directed toward writing in for all the natural sciences rather than being discipline specific. The book is divided up into sections on science and the imagination, science and critical thinking, writing in the lab and field notebooks, moving from the notebook to the report, and chapters on writing, papers, titles, abstracts, introductions, hypotheses, materials and methods, and presentation of results, visual materials, and interpretations. It includes an essay on the relationship between science and writing, illustrations from professional journals, and appendixes on using numbers, formulas and symbols.

Russell, David. Writing in the Academic Disciplines: A Curricular History. 2nd ed. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002.

Steiner, Richard. "Chemistry and the Written Word." Journal of Chemical Education 59.12 (Dec 1982): 1044.

Steiner describes his experiment within his chemistry lecture to see if the ability of students to produce well-constructed written summaries of his work correlated with their test scores. He concluded that this was true; he also noted the additional benefit of his experiment: by reading the students’ writing he was able to identify what the students believed was important and, consequently, what he must reemphasize as an instructor.

Townsend, Martha A. "Writing Across the Curriculum." The Allyn & Bacon Sourcebook for Writing Program Administrators. Ed. Irene Ward and William J. Carpenter. New York: Longman, 2002. 264-274.

Walvoord, Barbara E., et al. In the Long Run: A Study of Faculty in Three Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Programs. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English, 1997.

Wilkinson, A.M. "A Freshman Writing Course in Parallel with a Science Course." College Composition and Communication 36.2 (May 1985): 160-165.

This article describes a biology course taught with a parallel freshman writing course. The intention was to allow students to write for their colleagues and draw upon the subject matter of the biology class while permitting both courses to focus on their core content as much as possible. The advantages and disadvantages of this approach are detailed and the conclusion reached is that the benefits of such a collaboration seem to outweigh the disadvantages.

Yancey, Kathleen Blake and Brian A. Huot, eds. Assessing Writing Across the Curriculum: Diverse Approaches and Practices. Greenwich, CT: Ablex Publishing Company, 1997.

Young, Art. "Writing Across and Against the Curriculum." CCC 54.3 (February 2003): 472-485.

Woodford, F. Peter, "Sounder Thinking through Clearer Writing." Readings in the Arts and Sciences. Ed. Maimon, Elaine, et al Boston: Little, Brown, and Co, 1984. 321 ­ 329.

Peter Woodford's article is reprinted in one of the first books dedicated toward teaching undergraduates to write in various disciplines. This article is a critique of the tendency of professional scientists to write in an inflated prose style which, thorough examples drawn from his teaching, he maintains leads to misunderstanding on the part of the reader. He calls for more attention to be paid to writing at all stages of the research process and paid to the ways in which graduate students are receive their indoctrination into the writing conventions of their discipline.

Zinsser, William. Writing To Learn. New York: Harper and Row, 1988.

Zinsser has put together an anthology of professional writings from a variety of disciplines including mathematics and the natural sciences. In this anthology, he does close-textural analysis of the styles used in the various disciplines and some of the chapters include discussions with teachers who use writing to learn in their classrooms (most notably the interview with Joan Countryman included in the mathematics chapter.

The following criteria were used to create the content of this bibliography: Handbooks were considered for:

Exercises were chosen for either:

The discussions of writing in the classroom were chosen based upon:

The books and articles on science writing were chosen to represent a variety of perspectives on the relationship of science and writing from both scientist and rhetoric/composition scholars.

Online WAC Resources

For Teachers and Administrators

National Writing Project

The WAC Clearinghouse, Colorado State University

For Students

George Mason University Guides to Writing in the Disciplines

Oregon State University Writing Guides

University of Toronto's Health Sciences Writing Centre

Contributors: Jaclyn Wells.

Provides an introduction to writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines, a list of links to Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines (WAC/WID) programs, and a selected bibliography for further reading.

Writing in Nursing Bibliography

Writing is integral to nursing for a number of different reasons. Patient care, issues of nursing liability, and the learning of different nursing skills are all reliant upon writing as a tool and source of communication. Writing occurs in the forms of nurses' notes, clinical studies, and scholarly research.

Much has been written about the role the writing plays in the development of student nurses into professionals. This bibliography is intended to be a starting place for persons interested in using writing in their courses or as a resource for those who are already using writing in their courses but are looking for new ways to implement its use. (This resource was originally written by Created by Julia Romberger, 2000.)

If you are looking for resources that will help you with writing in nursing, please visit the OWL's Writing in Nursing material.

Writing in the Nursing Classroom: Experiences, Strategies, and Assignments

Bean, John C. Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.

John Bean"s intent in this work is to present a "nuts and bolts guide" to assist teachers in all the disciplines to design and integrate writing assignments into their classrooms. The book discuss the theoretical foundations for such practices, gives detailed advice on constructing a variety of different assignments, and attempts to provide options for using writing to promote thinking. The book does not presume previous familiarity with either composition or pedagogical theory and is written in a direct and accessible style.

Bean, John. Drenk, Dean, and F.D. Lee. "Microtheme Strategies for Developing Cognitive Skills." Teaching Writing in all the Disciplines. 27 - 38.

In this chapter, the strategy of using micro-themes or short essays within either large or small classroom contexts is explored. The authors give examples of several different genres of micro-themes including: the summary, argumentation and thesis support, inductive reasoning from data,and quandary posing. The chapter concludes with an examination of the pedagogical validity of the use of micro-themes and suggestions for implementing their use.

Boyd, Laurel "Involvement? Write a letter: One Curriculum Strategy" Nurse Educator. 10.6 (Nov/Dec 1985) 26 - 8.

The assignment idea outlined and utilized by Professor Boyd incorporates basic principles of both WAC and Cultural Studies and suggests several real-world forums in which students can participate. This assignment engages them in relevant audience and social issues as well as giving added import to writing assignments.

Brown, Hazel and Jeanne Sorrell. "Use of Clinical Journals to Enhance Critical Thinking" Nurse Educator. 18.5 (Sept/Oct. 1993) 16-19.

Critical thinking skills can be enhanced by giving students structured writing assignments. Suggestions are given for different assignment focuses (objective writing, summary writing, argument writing) that specifically target certain skills. Additionally, pitfalls to be avoided in grading and assignment design are listed.

Cameron, Brenda L. and Agnes M Mitchell. "Reflective Peer Journals: Developing Authentic Nurses" Journal of Advanced Nursing. 18.2 (Feb 1993) 290-97.

Drawing from literature in the composition and nursing fields, Cameron and Mitchell propose a theoretical framework for the use of journals in nursing courses. The problems of the log format are discussed using the peer journal format, which is endorsed by the authors. Guidelines for peer journals are developed based on the theory the article explores.

Fulwiler, Toby, ed. The Journal Book. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1987.

This book was pivotal in the movement to introduce journal writing to a variety of classroom settings. The introduction of the book provides guidelines for the use of journals in the classroom. The third section of the book focuses on the use of journals in the quantitative and qualitative classrooms. The articles are written by a variety of teachers who successfully used journals in their various disciplinary classrooms from elementary through the collegiate level.

Heinrich, Kathleen T. "Intimate Dialogue: Journal Writing by Students"" Nurse Educator. 17.6 (Nov/Dec 1992) 17-21.

Professor Heinrich gives a critical examination of the uses and potential misuse of journaling within a nursing course. Specific recommendations for journal assignments are given based upon experiences with various course sizes and learning styles. The author draws the theoretical and pedagogical basis for these suggestions from literature in the fields of composition studies, nursing, and education.

Hurtig, Wendy Olive Younge, Danin Bodnar and Marilyn Berg. "Interactive Journal: A Clinical Teaching Tool" Nurse Educator. 14.6 (Nov/Dec 1989) 17, 31, 35.

This article looks at journal writing from another perspective, that of a valuable tool for opening up communication between students and faculty. It discusses the use of journaling within a specific context (psychiatric clinical experience) and how it operated for the participants.

McCarthy, Donna O. and Barbara J. Bowers. "Implementation of Writing to Learn in a Program of Nursing" Nurse Educator. 19.3 (May/June 1994) 32-5.

In this article, the issue of introducing Writing to Learn into a nursing curriculum is addressed. The authors draw upon both composition and nursing pedagogy to suggest strategies and assignments. The article ends with a discussion of faculty experience with implementing these strategies.

Implementation of WID, WAC, and Writing to Learn in Nursing Curricula

Allen, David G., Barbara Bowers and Nancy Diekelmann. "Writing to Learn: A Reconceptualization of Thinking and Writing in the Nursing Curriculum" Journal of Nursing Education. v. 28.1 (Jan 1989) 6-11.

This piece gives a clear demonstration of the differences between learning to write and Writing to Learn. The authors explore the ways that Writing to Learn can be integrated into a nursing curricula and discuss the benefits to instructors and students.

Lashley, Mary and Rosemary Wittstadt. "Writing Across the Curriculum: An Integrated Curricular Approach to Developing Critical Thinking Through Writing." Journal of Nursing Eduction. 32. 9 (Nov 1993) 422-4.

Lashley and Wittstadt explain how one school implemented WAC throughout a nursing curriculum. They describe the steps of reviewing the literature, selecting types of assignments, surveying faculty on existing writing requirements, and making recommendations, which they include, for creating writing requirements in courses that build upon previous course experiences.

Megel, Mary. "Nursing Scholars, Writing Dimensions and Productivity" Research in Higher Education. 27.3 (1987) 226 - 43.

The study builds on initial research in composition studies by specifically examining the difficulties of nursing scholars at the doctoral level. After conducting observations and collecting the data presented in the article, the author comes to a position relevant to proponents of WAC. Scholarly productivity was related directly to the amount of writing engaged in each week. Additionally, the author recommends that faculty develop strategies for fostering better writing skills and positive attitudes toward writing.

Pinkava, Barbara and Carol Haviland. "Teaching Writing and Thinking Skills" Nursing Outlook. 32.5 (Sept/Oct 1984) 270-72.

The authors discuss the successful experience of implementing Writing to Learn pedagogy into a nursing program through coordination between nursing faculty and writing center staff both within and without the classroom.

Poirrier, Gail. Writing to Learn: Curricular Strategies for Nursing and other Disciplines. New York: NLN Press, 1997.

This collection of essays covers a wide range of topics including a basic introduction to the principles of WAC and the theoretical basis for using Writing to Learn in a nursing curriculum, a variety of assignments, projects, and classroom experiences with them, and useful discussions on designing curriculum that incorporates Writing to Learn pedagogy.

Sorrell, Jeanne. "The Composing Process of Nursing Students in Writing Nurses" Notes" Journal of Nursing Education. 30.4 (April 1991) 162-7.

This study of the composition process of 62 nursing students in lab and the hospital is valuable for locating the difficulties students have in making the transition from one environment to the next. The article stresses that these difficulties must be examined carefully and taken into consideration by teachers and strategies developed to ease the transition.

Sorrell, Jeanne M. and James Metcalf. "Nurses as Writers" Nursing Connections. 11.2 (Summer 1998) 24-32.

This article provides a well-grounded practical argument for the use of Writing in the Disciplines within a nursing curriculum. It outlines a course, Nurses as Writers, specifically designed to teach the various types of writing required in the nursing profession, and discusses the experiences of students and their reactions to the class.

Rationale for the WAC, WID, and Writing to Learn: An Annotated Bibliography for Nursing Curricula

Content for this bibliography was chosen for its relevancy to the following:

Contributors: Jaclyn Wells.

Provides an introduction to writing across the curriculum and writing in the disciplines, a list of links to Writing Across the Curriculum/Writing in the Disciplines (WAC/WID) programs, and a selected bibliography for further reading.

Science Writing Bibliography Essay

Teaching Scientific Writing Conventions: Learning to Write is an Integral Part of Writing to Learn in the Sciences by Julia Romberger, 2000

There has been a great deal written about both positive and negative experiences with teaching writing in non-English classrooms and the overall effect on student learning. Randy Moore's article “Does Writing About Science Improve Learning About Science?” opens with a critique of many of the commonly held assumptions that increased writing in the science classroom will automatically lead to improved writing and comprehension by students. He charges that many “faculty do not understand its [Writing Across the Curriculum's] tenets, strengths, or limitations, nor do they grasp the way in which these features affect writing-to-learn in science.” (Moore 212). After conducting a study utilizing varying amounts of writing and direction in four sections of the same biology class, he concludes that “learning-by-writing occurs only when students know how to use writing to learn” (Moore 214). Moore believes that not explicitly teaching students the principles of effective writing in the sciences will only handicap them in their future.

This understanding of the complexity of teaching students to write in the sciences is not new. Nearly twenty years ago, Brillhart and Debs's article came to similar conclusions about the link between instruction and improved writing in the sciences. In their article “Teaching Writing — A Scientist's Responsibility,” they contend that because it is “unlikely that students can write successfully about a concept they do not understand, science teachers should demand good writing” (303). However, they do not believe that good science writing will develop on its own through simple practice. Instead, they lay out a concise method for introducing concepts and emphasizing different critical portions of lab reports over a series of assignments.

The necessity for teaching students what constitutes good writing in a particular discipline is not limited to the natural sciences. Sociologist Susan Day reports in her article “Producing Better Writers in Sociology Classes” that “requiring a number of writing assignments is not sufficient in itself to produce a measurable positive change” (462). Her study, which did not report instruction in the principles of writing in sociology, comes to very similar conclusions to the work of Moore, Brillhart, and Debs.

There are examples of these types of conclusions that can be drawn from nearly all branches of the academy. What is to be understood from them is that students are engaging upon a far more complex task then simply putting words to their thoughts. They are entering into what are termed in rhetorical studies “discourse communities.” A discourse community is defined in this way:

It shares assumptions about what objects are appropriate for examination and discussion, what operating functions are performed on those objects, what constitutes “evidence' and “validity,” and what formal conventions are followed. A discourse community may have a well-established ethos; or it may have competing factions and indefinite boundaries (Porter 39).

To participate effectively in the community, a speaker must possess a particular body of knowledge and be recognized as a member of the community (Porter 39). Students in a university, and especially undergraduates, are not in a position to know either what objects are worthwhile for examining, nor have they been taught the conventions that vary between the natural sciences and the humanities and even between the specific disciplines.

Along with their ignorance of disciplinary conventions, students also frequently have difficulty drawing analogies between writing tasks and applying the strategies taught to them in their high school or freshman year composition classes. The article “A Stranger in Strange Lands” by Lucille Parkinson McCarthy follows a student, Dave, though his academic writing career. McCarthy discovered that despite some obvious commonalities between the writing assignments in his composition class, his Cell Biology class, and his Poetry class, Dave was often unable to draw upon his previous experiences to assist him with new work. McCarthy discovered that “Dave's attention was occupied by the new conventions of interpretation and language use in each community” (246). Her study reinforces the position that “school writing is not a monolithic activity or a global skill” (260). The article suggests that instructors “in the disciplines must then provide student newcomers with assignments and instructional supports which are appropriate for first steps in using the language of their community” (McCarthy 262). Therefore assignments in writing should not be adopted uncritically. The principles of the conventions should be taught to them before they can be expected to write effectively within a discipline.

These negative faculty experiences with writing in the classroom often arise from the misunderstandings that Moore mentions. Some of this can be traced to the adoption of the traditional writing-to-learn assignments such as journaling and micro-themes stems without investigation of the purposes and limits of these types of writing or perhaps an unfamiliarity with the original works written on their use. "The Journal Book" edited by Toby Fulwiler is the primary source for many advocates of the use of journals in the classroom. This collection, far from merely advocating that students simply write at random in their journal, contains a number of essays that discuss particular types of journal writing, provides suggestions for guidelines and prompts, and generalizes on what an instructor should expect in terms of content and efficacy. The work on micro-themes by John Bean, Dean Drenk, and F.D. Lee contained in "Teaching Writing in All Disciplines" is similar in that it advocates particular strategies for adopting the use of micro-themes in classrooms and gives guidance on grading and samples of micro-themes designed to elicit specific cognitive strategies in the writer.

In addition to the works on specific strategies for incorporating more writing in classrooms that traditionally do not focus on writing, the general literature on writing in the disciplines seldom suggests that writing be introduced into a classroom without the students being given critical strategies. There have been many handbooks, designed toward either specific disciplinary audiences or for the sciences in general, that address specific style and organizational concerns in the writing of a variety of genres such as reports, proposals, and critiques. The analyses contained in these books of the conventions of genre and language can provide a very good model for developing the tools and skills for understanding the conventions of each discipline in particular and then passing this information along to students.

The bibliographies included on these OWL pages hope to bring resources to light for teachers both in the sciences or in research-based writing classes. Through the use of these resources, assignments valuable for student learning can be adopted, ways in which to teach students the principles of good scientific writing can be developed, and some of the negative experiences with writing in non-English classrooms can be mitigated.

Works Cited

Brillhart, L.V. and M.B. Debs. “Teaching Writing — A Scientist's Responsibility.” Journal of College Science Teaching 10.5 (Mar 1981): 303 – 304.

Day, Susan. “Producing Better Writers in Sociology Classes: A Test of the Writing-Across-The-Curriculum Approach.” Teaching Sociology 17 (Oct 1989): 458-464.

McCarthy, Lucille. “A Stranger in Strange Lands: A College Student Writing Across the Curriculum.” Research in the Teaching of English 21.3 (Oct 1987): 233 – 265.

Moore, Randy. “Does Writing About Science Improve Learning About Science?” Journal of College Science Teaching. (Feb 1991): 212- 217.

Porter, James E. “Intertextuality and the Discourse Community.” Rhetoric Review 5.1 (Fall 1986) 34 – 47.