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Writing Across the Curriculum

SWK 306: Human Behavior in the Social Environment
Writing in the Majors Guidelines
Professor Marie McCormick

Role of Writing

Writing is an essential part of social work. As direct practitioners, social workers write biopsychosocial assessments, research mental-health issues relevant to clients, write diagnostic reports, and document their work with clients through chart notes. As policy practitioners, social workers research and analyze social-welfare policies and advocate for social change through policy briefs and reports that recommend the design and implementation of programs and interventions. The National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics charges social workers to be lifelong learners. Ethical social work practice is supported by social workers’ ability to locate and critically appraise evidence-based interventions in order to deliver the highest quality services and programming to their clients.

In support of these disciplinary requirements in the first semester of this year-long course (SWK 305), students read and critically appraise readings from the textbook and from journal articles that introduce them to the person-in-environment perspective and the ecological approach to human development. They write analyses of case vignettes that focus on the stages of human development, and conclude the semester by formulating questions in order to interview an older adult about her development through the life cycle, and then synthesizing information from and writing a descriptive analysis of the interview.

In the second semester of this course (SWK 306) students focus on cultural competence in social work practice that is rooted in knowledge of the diversity of the human community, and grounded in social work’s mission to advocate for the most vulnerable in our society. A large part of the semester is spent exploring and defining the different faces of diversity including age, sexuality, gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and socioeconomic status; the role of these groups in society; society’s attitudes towards diversity and toward specific diverse groups; and the intersection of multiple diversities like race, class and gender or age, race and disability. Writing in SWK 306 challenges students to explore, analyze, research, and take positions on issues related to the themes of the course.

Disciplinary Writing

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

  • Analytic reading journals, written weekly, in which students critically appraise information from scholarly journal articles about diverse populations.
  • Informational/descriptive papers about the strengths and challenges of diverse populations.
  • Argument-based/persuasive papers about the societal attitudes that support these strengths or contribute to the challenges, and about the role of social-work practice in confronting risk and empowering individuals across the continuum of human diversity.
  • Brief, in-class writing assignments to support student learning and discussion.

Expectations of Students in a WIM Course

In this course students will:

  • Build capacity to engage actively and critically with course content through:
    • completing weekly reading assignments.
    • writing weekly double-entry journals (based on assigned readings).
    • participating in weekly structured classroom discussions about readings.
  • Develop an active learning stance through critical analysis of ideas presented in reading and lecture through:
    • participation in classroom discussion and activities.
    • dialogue with professor through drafts of assignments.
    • peer exchange through workshopping assignment drafts in class in small groups.
  • Become familiar with and able to apply writing conventions that demonstrate effective writing skills in general and particularly in the discipline through:
    • participating in in-class discussions of writing skills including identifying types of writing, academic style, basic writing skills (grammar, punctuation, sentence construction), and APA formatting in preparation of written assignments.
    • submitting drafts of assignments and receiving constructive, detailed feedback on content, style and formatting.
  • Build capacity to draft and revise descriptive and persuasive academic papers, both low-stakes (3) and higher stakes (1), that are:
    • cohesive, coherent, topic-focused.
    • supported by research-based information and perspectives.
    • demonstrate basic writing skills.

Expectations of Faculty in a WIM Course

In order to support the learning goals of this course faculty will:

  • Provide opportunities in class for students to understand and critically analyze course readings, i.e. identify main points and a writer’s stance or perspective; formulate impressions and/or interpretations; and articulate and support a position.
  • Provide opportunities to better understand assigned readings through classroom discussion, weekly reading journals, and brief in-class writing assignments.
  • Scaffold writing assignments in order to support students’ capacity to maintain focus on a particular topic, conduct literature searches and find relevant information, use information to formulate and express topic/assignment-related ideas, describe a topic; and support a position on the topic.
  • Require drafts that provide students with the opportunity to revise their work based on feedback on content and use of APA style/formatting.
  • Provide in-class “tutorials” that support student research and writing, e.g.:  using library databases for research, locating scholarly journal articles, using APA style for references and in-text citations.
  • Guide students to formulate ideas based on readings and articulate informed positions on social issues and social work practice topics through classroom activities that include writing, group discussion, debate, and case presentations.

Criteria for Assessing Student Writing

The following describes an “A” paper. The grade will be lower for difficulties in any of the areas below.


  • Each aspect of paper as specified in assignment is thoroughly discussed.
  • Clear identification of topic/focus of paper.
  • Sustained focus on this topic throughout the paper.
  • Appropriate use of readings from the syllabus to support discussion, description, analysis, and argument.
  • Use of text, readings from syllabus, and other scholarly articles and Internet-based information to support assertions.


  • Clearly written in complete sentences.
  • Smooth transitions from sentence-to-sentence and paragraph-to-paragraph.
  • Coherent organization, i.e. logical flow of ideas throughout the paper.
  • Use of paraphrases from text that are attributed (cited) to their source—letting the reader know from where you got your information.
  • Use of direct quotes for emphasis only, not as a substitute for content.
  • Introduction paragraph: introduces topic and states what you are going to do in the paper.
  • Conclusion paragraph: summarizes the points you have made in the paper and concludes your narrative or argument.


  • APA Style: one-inch margins; double spaced, title page; separate reference page; page numbers.
  • Standard grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Standard APA formatting of in-text citations.
  • Standard APA formatting of references on Reference Page.