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Fall Academic Term 2003 Course Guide

First Year Writing Program

Beginning with your first year at the University of Michigan, writing will play a critical role in your thinking and learning. In some classes, your writing will be your most important tool for demonstrating that you understand course concepts. Your ability to write prose that, at its best, is characterized by intellectual force, clarity, appropriate organization and development of ideas, effective use of evidence, and stylistic control will be crucial to your success as a student here. Because writing plays such a vital role in all academic disciplines at Michigan, your first writing course must meet your actual needs as a writer so that you can successfully make the transition to college writing. All University of Michigan students must satisfy the First-Year Writing Requirement. The requirement should be completed within your first year.

First-Year Writing Requirement

1. Self-Assessment

All students entering the University must satisfy the first-year writing requirement. They may do so by taking Practicum followed by a first-year writing course, or by taking a first-year writing course alone. Rather than placing students in the writing course that Sweetland Writing Center judges most appropriate, students decide which of these alternatives is better for them on the basis of a self-assessment. Academic advisors and Sweetland Writing Center faculty are available to assist students in making the decision.

Practicum is the best placement for you if:

  • you learn best with one-on-one instructor support.
  • you have limited experience with writing.
  • you have limited experience with revision.
  • you typically wrote essays of under three pages in high school.
  • you wrote fewer than three essays a year in high school.
  • you do not often read for pleasure.
  • you have difficulty making your writing correct.

First-Year Writing is the best placement for you if:

  • you learn best from a combination of peer critiques and instructor feedback.
  • you anticipate needing some tutorial support but not frequent individual meetings with the instructor.
  • you have considerable experience with revision.
  • you have experience writing with a computer.
  • you typically wrote three-to-five-page essays in high school.
  • you wrote three to five essays a year in high school.
  • you regularly read for pleasure.

2. Writing Practicum (SWC 100-105)

Writing Practicum is an ungraded, two-credit course in which students develop writing skills that will enable them to take full advantage of their experiences in Michigan courses. Practicum is designed to support students who have limited experience writing the sorts of pieces often assigned and valued at the University. Practicum offers opportunities for students to improve their ability to organize, develop, and support ideas; analyze complex materials; and begin to use evidence and reasoning to support their own claims. Class enrollment is limited to 18 students. Classes meet two hours per week and each student receives an additional half-hour of individual instruction every other week with the instructor. This concentrated individual attention has proven crucial to the success of students with limited writing experience.

In Writing Practicum, students will gain practice in:

  • writing as a process of drafting and revising.
  • reading and writing analytically.
  • developing a writer's voice, which includes distinguishing between one's own ideas and those of others.
  • studying models of writing that students are expected to produce.
  • using a computer to draft and revise papers and to talk about writing.
  • attending to grammar and mechanics.

Many Practicum sections are taught in a computer-equipped classroom. Practicum instructors are especially trained to work with writers who need more detailed attention to their writing and who present a range of writing issues, some associated with English as a Second Language and some with less rigorous secondary preparation.

3. First-Year Writing Courses

First-Year Writing Courses are graded, four-credit courses with a wide range of topics. They serve to introduce students to the kinds of argumentative and analytical writing most often required in an advanced academic context. Class sessions are often devoted to workshops that focus on examples of student writing, and students typically receive responses from their peers to each essay they write. Students have one or more individual conferences with the instructor in the term, and instructors may require individual students to work with a Writing Workshop instructor on particular issues for all or part of the term.

First-Year Writing courses assign weekly writing and revising tasks designed to help students learn to:

  • summarize and characterize essays and state their claims in their own words.
  • evaluate an argument.
  • develop an argument, taking a position on an issue or proposing a solution to a problem.
  • support arguments using course readings and materials gathered through research.
  • learn proper methods to attribute ideas to their authors and to cite sources.
  • use group resources to work collaboratively and to revise extensively.

First-Year Writing courses focus on topics such as ethics and social justice, history and myth, autobiography and memoir. Readings may be from a variety of disciplines, such as philosophy, women's studies, history, anthropology, cultural studies, and art history.

First-Year Writing courses that fulfill the First-Year Writing Requirement:

  • Classical Civilization 101 (designated Honors sections for Honors Program students)
  • Classical Civilization 121
  • Comparative Literature 122
  • English 124
  • English 125
  • Great Books 191 (for Honors Program students)
  • History 195
  • Institute for the Humanities 104
  • Linguistics 104
  • Lloyd Hall Scholars 125
  • RC Core 100 (for Residential College students)
  • Slavic Survey 151
  • University Course 153

Student enrolled in any University of Michigan course can receive writing assistance from the Sweetland Writing Center's Writing Workshop. For information, contact the Sweetland Writing Center, 1139 Angell Hall, (734) 764-0429.

4. Transfer Courses

Transfer students who have completed a first-year writing course at another college or university may be able to use that course to satisfy the First-Year Writing Requirement. Transfer students should consult the list of approved courses at http://www.lsa.umich.edu/swc/requirements/firstyeartransf.html to see if their course meets the requirement. We do not consider Advanced Placement (AP) credit, Creative Writing courses, or Journalism courses as equivalent to our First-Year Writing courses. If your school or course is not listed on either the approved or not approved list, please provide a course description (from the college or university catalog), course guidelines, and the syllabus. Also, fill out a "Petition for Transfer Course Credit" form, available from the Sweetland Writing Center or online. Submit all materials to the Associate Director, Sweetland Writing Center, 1139 Angell Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1003.


The Introductory Composition Requirement should be completed in the first year.

Students enrolled in courses that meet the Introductory Composition requirement may receive concurrent writing assistance from the Writing Workshop. For information, contact the Sweetland Writing Center in 1139 Angell Hall, (734) 764-0429.

Upper-Level Writing Requirement

A student MUST have completed introductory composition before being eligible to meet the Upper-Level Writing Requirement.


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