W Course Information

W [writing-intensive] courses are approved and governed by the University Senate, not the Writing Center. Our role is to support both students and instructors, which we are happy to do.

For W course expectations, please see the website of the General Education Oversight Committee, the University Senate committee responsible for such policies (W and Q fall under General Education, and what will soon become the Common Core).

FAQs about W Course Teaching

Are guidelines for W courses different at regional campuses?
No. W courses, regardless of location or level, should meet the same criteria. For those core requirements, please see the information posted above. Storrs and the regional campuses have writing specialists to assist faculty, plus writing centers that offer tutoring.

Can I enroll beyond the 19 cap by giving out permission numbers?
Please don’t. The cap is in place to ensure close student/faculty interaction. Enrolling beyond 19 requires approval from the General Education Oversight Committee.

Can I enroll some students for W credit and others not for W credit in the same course?
No. This is explicitly banned.

Does any kind of writing count toward the 15 page minimum?
No. Only writing that moves through a revision process counts. This does not mean that all writing in a W course must be revised—after all, many kinds of exploratory writing are valuable for student learning. Such “write to learn” activities (journals, in-class writing, on-line postings, short response papers, etc.) are strongly encouraged, but at least 15 pages of revised and edited text must still be assigned.

What kinds of revision should be built into my W course?
You decide how to best organize the revising process. Most instructors assign drafts in advance of the final submission and comment on them, or they conference with students about them. Other options include having students critique each others’ drafts (be sure to structure and supervise such peer review), recording audio responses to drafts, or holding small group tutorials. Often a mix of these methods works well.

Should I grade drafts?
That is your choice. Some opt to grade them; some deliver a tentative grade; some defer grading to encourage exploratory thinking and risk-taking in drafts. In any case, when responding to drafts your focus should be on formative comments: that is, posing questions, affirming what is working, and pointing out problems so that students can put your comments to use as they return to the draft to revise. In general, we recommend delivering a rigorous evaluation and formative comments for a draft, but not a grade.

Do I need to include anything special on the syllabus for a W course?
Yes.  At minimum include the “F Clause”: “According to university-wide policies for W courses, you cannot pass this course unless you receive a passing grade for its writing components.” We also recommend that you include statements on academic honesty, students with disabilities, and the availability of Writing Center tutorials. Sample language for those items can be found lower on this page.

Does the W requirement dictate that any specific genres must be assigned?
No. Those will depend on your discipline and course. Some W courses feature one 20-page research project (usually composed in stages), some three or four essays, some specialized genres (policy briefs, lab reports, proposals, abstracts, case study analyses, etc.), and some a mix of genres.

Do I need to assign a research paper?
No, but most W courses include some research and address how to evaluate, incorporate, and document sources. When assigning research projects, many faculty opt to divide them into smaller, progressive components (proposal, annotated bibliography or literature review, section drafts, whole draft). Each stage of the process occasions response.

Can a portfolio or a major final paper serve as the final exam?
Yes. Sit-down final exams at the officially scheduled times are not required; however, instructors do need to have a substantial final assessment (like a portfolio, a major project, or a paper) for each course.

Exactly how much writing instruction do I need to include, and how can I balance it with other course content?
This will vary and is left to the wisdom of each instructor. Note that “writing instruction” means more than imparting rules for grammar, usage, and documentation; it also involves teaching students to explore and shape their ideas, analyze their audiences, frame arguments, gather evidence effectively and ethically, understand genre conventions, and attend to style. Many faculty reserve writing instruction for their comments on drafts or their individual conferences with students. Many build it into lectures and discussions, showcase models of successful and unsuccessful writing, introduce mini-lessons on key stylistic points, and hold writing workshops on days when drafts are due. Writing instruction should complement rather than compete with course content: learning to write in a discipline means learning to think, argue, research and communicate with the community of scholars in a given field.

Are there UConn-wide standards for evaluating student writing?
No. You set the criteria appropriate for your course and discipline.  We recommend that you distribute your expectations for writing and your grading policy early in the semester. If interested, you can click here to find discussions of evaluating college writing and samples of discipline-specific grading rubrics in reports on the writing assessment project sponsored by GEOC and the University Writing Center.

How should I respond to sentence-level errors in student writing?
What counts as an error is deeply contextual, and conventions for writing differ across disciplines, which means you should discuss editing expectations for your particular course with your students. In the Writing Center, we adopt an approach to linguistic justice that challenges traditional ways of thinking about error, but we also understand that others may hold different perspectives. As a general rule, avoid line editing an entire student draft, as that tips toward editing for students more than teaching them to edit (and research suggests that correcting everthing generally does not result in much long-term learning). For all kinds of courses, we should expect more frequent sentence-level issues in drafts because in those writers are (we hope) focusing on finding their purpose, shaping their ideas, gathering evidence, and organizing the material. Some faculty address sentence-level concerns by working with students individually; some introduce occasional in-class lessons on key usage, style or documentation matters; some require a writing handbook. Another option is referring (but not requiring) students to come to the Writing Center, where we often help students work toward their goals as editors.

How do I deal with potential cases of plagiarism?
When planning your course, consider ways to promote academic integrity: on your syllabus include a plagiarism policy and your expectations for intellectual work (you can find sample academic integrity statements on the Writing Center website); in class discuss the ethical standards and documentation conventions for your discipline; create detailed assignments tailored to your course; require students to complete the on-line plagiarism module in HuskyCT; alert students to potential problems in early drafts; and never accept final papers for which you haven’t seen the required drafts. If you discover plagiarism, inform your home department and the Office of Community Standards. On the Community Standards website, you can find information to guide you through the process

Shouldn’t my students have learned to write and document sources in First-Year Writing?
In First-Year Writing students compose in multiple modes and gain valuable experience in writing. Still, because academic writing is a deeply contextual activity, and because writing development is not linear, no single course can prepare students for the range of writing they will encounter across a college curriculum, nor can any single course inoculate students from making sentence-level mistakes in other contexts. When students receive consistent and thoughtful responses to their writing across courses and over a number of years, they usually develop into skilled and versatile writers.

Where can I get more information about the W requirement or get assistance with my course planning?
The General Education Oversight Committee sets W policy and oversees W courses. The University Writing Center offers faculty and teaching assistants workshops, online resources, and individualized consultations. We also make one-on-one tutorials in writing available to all UConn students.

Syllabus Text Add-Ins For W Course:
Failure Clause, Writing Center Description, Academic Integrity, Students With Disabilities

Please Include the Following Statement on All W Course Syllabi
According to university-wide policies for W courses, you cannot pass this course unless you receive a passing grade for its writing components.

Optional Add-Ins for Your W Course Syllabus
***Please note that the following are not official UConn statements, but feel free to use or adapt them as you wish***

University Writing Center

All UConn students are invited to visit the University Writing Center for individualized tutorials. The Writing Center staff includes talented and welcoming graduate and undergraduate students from across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. They work with writers at any stage of the writing process, from exploring ideas to polishing final drafts. Their first priority is guiding each student’s revisions, so they frequently provide a sounding board for a writer’s ideas, arguments, analytical moves, and uses of evidence. They can also work with you on sentence-level concerns, but please note that they will not proofread for you; instead, they will help you become a better editor of your own work. You should come with a copy of the assignment you are working on, a current draft (or notes if you are not yet at the draft stage), and ideas about what you want out of a session. Tutorials run 45 minutes and are free. You can drop in or make an appointment. For hours, locations, and more information, please go to writingcenter.uconn.edu.

Academic Integrity

In this course we aim to conduct ourselves as a community of scholars, recognizing that academic study is both an intellectual and ethical enterprise. You are encouraged to build on the ideas and texts of others; that is a vital part of academic life. You are also obligated to document every occasion when you use another’s ideas, language, or syntax. You are encouraged to study together, discuss readings outside of class, share your drafts during peer review and outside of class, and go to the Writing Center with your drafts. In this course, those activities are well within the bounds of academic honesty. However, when you use another’s ideas or language—whether through direct quotation, summary, or paraphrase—you must formally acknowledge that debt by signaling it with a standard form of academic citation. Even one occasion of academic dishonesty, large or small, on any assignment, large or small, will result in failure for the entire course and referral to Student Judicial Affairs. For University policies on academic honesty, please see UConn’s Responsibilities of Community Life: The Student Code and the Office of Community Standards: http://www.community.uconn.edu

Students With Disabilities

Students who think that they may need accommodations because of a disability are encouraged to meet with me privately early in the semester. Students should also contact the Center for Students with Disabilities as soon as possible to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations.  For more information, please go to http://www.csd.uconn.edu/.

We also recommend that you include syllabus language that explains your expectations for revision, your late draft and paper policy, and your grading criteria.

Policy on Graduate Students Teaching W Courses

According to the General Education Oversight Committee of the University Senate, “W courses normally will be taught by University of Connecticut faculty. When that is not possible, then qualified graduate students may be used to assist faculty in 2000+level W courses or, with faculty supervision, to teach a 1000-level W course. All new instructors of W courses will be provided with a W course orientation. This orientation will be required of all teaching assistants assigned to assist in a 2000+level or to instruct a 1000-level W course.


The University Writing Center offers this W orientation each August and January, right before the semester begins. Registration forms for these orientations will be posted online well in advance of each orientation. To register for the  W Teaching Orientation, please click here.

The orientations outline best practices for teaching writing in the disciplines. They feature interactive workshops on building robust revision processes into W courses, designing effective assignments, responding to student writing, and handling the paper load. Our aim is not only to enhance the quality of student learning in W courses but also to explore strategies that can make each instructor’s writing-intensive teaching more effective and rewarding.

Graduate students involved in W instruction need attend the W orientation only once during their time at UConn.

The University Writing Center is happy to work with both faculty and graduate instructors as they plan and teach their W courses.  Beyond offering the W orientation and regular-year workshops, we invite you to meet with us individually to discuss your teaching of writing in the disciplines.