• Course Introduction

        • Time: 32 hours
        • Free Certificate
        No matter what career you pursue, you must be able to communicate effectively and clearly if you want to be successful. This course will enhance your ability to do so by sharpening your critical thinking and writing skills. We will begin with a unit designed to change the way in which you think about writing. First, you will learn to think of writing not as a solitary act but as a conversation between yourself and an audience. In this light, writing becomes a dynamic, interactive, and creative practice rather than a rote one. You will also begin to value writing as a process – an admittedly difficult one – rather than a product. You will come to see that writing is an act of discovery rather than a recitation of prefabricated ideas.

        Because this course is designed specifically for students in a university setting, the second unit will focus on academic writing. We will learn how to respond to an assignment or test question by using the "PWR-Writing" or "Power-Writing" Method (PWR: prewrite, write, revise) while learning the ins and outs of building a solid thesis and supporting that thesis with evidence. The remaining units will focus on good writing practices, from style to proper citation.

        First, read the course syllabus. Then, enroll in the course by clicking "Enroll me in this course". Click Unit 1 to read its introduction and learning outcomes. You will then see the learning materials and instructions on how to use them.

      • Unit 1: What is College-Level Writing?

        We begin this course by refining our ideas about what we are doing when we write. Let's begin by acknowledging that writing is a difficult, complex process. It does not come easily; it takes quite a bit of work and thought. Writing is more than words on a page, but a way to communicate ideas.

        In college-level writing, we say written communication is rhetorical, which means our rhetorical situation (the purpose and audience of our writing) and our use of rhetorical appeals, such as ethos, logos, and pathos, determine our writing decisions. We define these terms in this unit, discuss how to identify them as you read, and discuss how to incorporate them into your own writing.

        Writing is a process, rather than a product. You often need to write your ideas down to organize and clarify what you think about a subject. We discuss ways to use this process to manage your writing, develop your ideas, and make the task of drafting an essay seem less overwhelming.

        Throughout Unit 1, we ask you to complete several activities that will culminate in an essay writing assignment. The topic for these activities and the essay is what it takes to succeed in an Internet-based college course. As you develop your response, come up with at least three activities you should do, or characteristics you should employ, to succeed in this and other courses.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 9 hours.

      • Unit 2: What Makes Academic Writing Unique?

        University students need to know how to write an effective academic essay. At its core, any academic essay is essentially an argument. This does not mean you are penning a series of aggressive verbal attacks; rather, you are using language to persuade someone to adopt a certain perspective.

        For example, you may be asked to write an essay on how the revolution changed the culture in your country. Your response is an argument, in which you try to persuade your audience that the war changed cultural norms in three or four specific ways. As you create your argument, think about your writing as a conversation between yourself and an audience.

        The way you choose to build and support your argument has a great deal to do with how you see yourself as part of the conversation. If you envision your work as a response to an existing prompt, the reader with whom you are "speaking" should shape the way you write.

        For example, imagine someone asks you why a politician acted in a certain way. You will probably respond in one way if the questioner is your five-year-old cousin, another way if they are a friend who is your same age, and yet another if they are your boss. You should approach every writing project with this same awareness of audience. Keep these ideas about argument and conversation in mind as we explore how to develop an academic essay.

        The rhetorical situation we discussed in Unit 1 should influence the argument you choose, the type of essay you write, and the way you organize your ideas. In Unit 2 we review these issues in detail and discuss a highly-structured approach to writing an argument. By the end of this unit, you should be ready to write an academic essay.

        Throughout Unit 2 we ask you to complete a number of activities which will culminate in writing an argumentative essay. Choose one point you promoted in your Unit 1 essay topic and develop it further. The assigned topic for the Unit 2 activities and the essay is how your selected activity or characteristic affects success in an Internet-based college course.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 11 hours.

      • Unit 3: How Do I Use Sources?

        A well-placed reference, quotation, or paraphrase from an outside expert can make all the difference when you are making an argument. In fact, many academic writing assignments require you to include these types of supporting arguments to support your case. These supporting arguments can convince your reader that other respected, intelligent individuals share your perspective; it can argue your point with winning style or rhetorical power; and it can prop up your argument where you may need help.

        In this unit, we explore how to leverage the work of others to strengthen your argument, while you ensure that you (and not the individual you reference) take the spotlight. We also address plagiarism and the steps you can take to avoid it.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.

      • Unit 4: Finishing Touches

        Your writing style refers to the way you write a sentence and how you assemble your arguments within a sequence of sentences so they make sense to your audience. A "sound" writing style is not a luxury; it is necessary to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively. For example, you may write with perfect grammar, but if your style needs work, your audience may not understand what you are trying to convey.

        While opinions on the best type of writing style is inherently subjective and may even be based on cultural standards or preferences, in this unit we provide you with some guidelines that are most academics generally agree upon. Our first goal is to learn how to write as clearly, persuasively, and elegantly as possible. Our second goal is to apply these skills and learn how to revise and edit our work. Revision and editing are important stages of the writing process. It allows you to fine-tune your ideas so your reader can easily follow your argument.

        Completing this unit should take you approximately 5 hours.

      • Course Feedback Survey

        Please take a few minutes to give us feedback about this course. We appreciate your feedback, whether you completed the whole course or even just a few resources. Your feedback will help us make our courses better, and we use your feedback each time we make updates to our courses.

        If you come across any urgent problems, email contact@saylor.org or post in our discussion forum.

      • Certificate Final Exam

        Take this exam if you want to earn a free Course Completion Certificate.

        To receive a free Course Completion Certificate, you will need to earn a grade of 70% or higher on this final exam. Your grade for the exam will be calculated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam on your first try, you can take it again as many times as you want, with a 7-day waiting period between each attempt.

        Once you pass this final exam, you will be awarded a free Course Completion Certificate.