What is College Writing?
College writing, also called academic writing, is assigned to teach students the critical thinking and critical writing skills needed to communicate. To acquire and practice these skills, students are asked to write several different types of assignments under different circumstances. Sometimes the professor will assign a topic and define the audience; sometimes students will be called on to define and limit the topic and audience. In any case, college writing instructs and enables students to forge the link between information and audience.
Why So Much Emphasis on Writing?
Writing is an active thinking process, a way to develop new knowledge. Professors create various occasions for learning new subject matter through writing. For example, students might be asked to keep a journal, write a financial analysis, present a formal argument, create a mission statement, perform a strategic analysis, or even write a case study. As students write about a subject—describing it from many angles, comparing it to other knowledge, tracing its history, and discovering its relationships to other subject matter—students are helping their mind work. As students write, they are recording how their minds work and stimulating thoughts and ideas. The written record of their thinking becomes part of their new knowledge.
In addition to creating new knowledge, writing helps students explore and discover problem-solving strategies. As students progress in their academic specialization, they are expected to address more complex problems associated with learning new subject matter. For example, professors might ask students to address the issue of whether global warming is actually occurring. Students could be asked to write a critical evaluation of the unemployment statistics posted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Students could also be asked to decide the feasibility of starting a new business in an international setting. Because these issues require complex reasoning, students discover that "thinking in writing" about these problems facilitates their efforts to find solutions.
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