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Writing Across the Curriculum

ENW 317: Report Writing
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor Rachel Shields

(written in collaboration with Professor Amod Choudhary, Economics and Business and Professor Salita Bryant, English)

Role of Writing

Writing within the discipline of business means two things. First there is the "academic" writing that students do as part of their undergraduate education. Second is the more "practical" writing that they do for their prospective careers in business and management. Sometimes the two types end up blending into each other. Both types of writing require a writer to address an issue, present its many facets, and then conclude with a recommendation/summary with supporting statements. The first type of writing, however, often deals with theoretical issues, while the second is more hands-on, day-to-day business writing. 

Students will practice a range of academic writing relevant to business professions. Students will, for example, read in-depth articles related to strategic management, and then write summaries and responses to questions that the professor has assigned. Students will be expected to use additional sources such electronic databases and other business periodicals to answer the questions. This writing is reflective, informational and analytical. Using the genre of a memorandum, students will apply information from the textbook, lectures, and research to real-life problems. They might, for example, describe the benefits or harm of a business decision (e.g., hiring of new workers when the company is not doing well financially). Through this assignment students will demonstrate knowledge of the field of business and the ability to put business theory into practice.

Students will also practice a range of real-world business-writing tasks. This writing requires that students understand basic day-to-day business communication. The focus here is less on theories of business (problem solving, management style, etc.) and more on communicating in a simple, clear, and straightforward manner. The emphasis for this writing is appropriate business-like format and language as well as factors such as audience awareness and self-presentation. Examples of assignments that support this kind of writing are cover letters, product descriptions, and memos about office issues. Students learn to read materials like job postings carefully so that they can direct written responses to the appropriate audience and, at the same time, show themselves in the best light.  

The skills necessary for this discipline-specific writing are supported by: (i) speaking in classroom discussions in order to get feedback from classmates and the instructor, (ii) reading topics in the course textbook, (iii) writing high and low-stakes assignments in and outside of class, and (iv) responding to oral and written feedback from the instructor. These skills are built over a semester by giving students a range of assignments that build on each other to scaffold or support larger projects.  

Disciplinary Writing

In this course students will gain facility with the following genres or types of writing:

  • Business communication genres: memos, business letters, workplace emails, resumes.
  • Analytical writing: responses to class texts, analyses of business-related media, graphs, tables, background reports, quantitative reports.
  • Persuasive writing: reports (sales, marketing, summary), report abstracts, cover letters, pitch presentations, self-presentations.

Expectations of Students in a WIM Course

In this course you will:

  • Learn how to write business communications in preparation for employment.
  • Test business communication skills through peer and instructor response.
  • Learn how to write in a variety of formal business genres (proposals, abstracts, resumes, cover letters, reports, etc).
  • Develop better writing techniques (increased clarity, well-supported and organized arguments, professional vocabulary and tone).
  • Improve research skills (i.e. finding supporting evidence for all claims, learning to filter out unnecessary data, awareness of source quality and appropriateness).
  • Revise and edit writing so that it is properly formatted, error-free, and representative of your critical thinking skills.

Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course

In this course I will:

  • Provide opportunities for close reading and critical thinking.
  • Provide opportunities for students to practices their own professional tone in workplace writing (for example, writing professional emails using a drafting protocol).
  • Develop class activities that train students in standards of conventional business writing and practices (i.e. scaffolded exercises on audience identification, pitch presentations, quantitative reports, memos, etc.).
  • Require and guide students in pre-writing research (primary and secondary research skills) and brainstorming activities.
  • Require scaffolded (composed in stages) writing assignments.
  • Structure writing assignments so that students can practice developing a logical line of thought, paragraph transitions and proofreading skills.
  • Structure assignments so that faculty and peers can provide feedback and students can self-reflect in writing on their writing.
  • Provide time and support for student feedback and questions.
  • Provide clear course goals and instructions to help students invest appropriate effort.

Criteria for Assessing Student Writing

Writing will be assessed according the following criteria, as appropriate to the assignment:

  • Self-presentation: Does the writer present him or herself both knowledgeably and professionally?
  • Audience awareness: Does the writing sound professional? Is it geared to a specific audience as well as clear to any audience?
  • Solutions: Are the solutions presented in the writing clear and realistic?
  • Evidence/research: Are problems and proposed solutions supported by research? Is the research properly cited?
  • Spelling and grammar: Does the writing show evidence of proofreading and attention to correctness?