Outcomes Statement for the Writing Seminar

The following Outcomes Statement describes the knowledge, skills, and strategies that faculty in the Princeton Writing Program expect student writers to acquire by the end of the Writing Seminar. This document is informed by the “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition,” which establishes expectations for first-year composition courses across the country.1 Like the framers of the WPA Outcomes Statement, we have chosen here to describe outcomes—the achievements expected of all student writers by the end of the course—rather than standards, or gradations of achievement.

As our Outcomes Statement makes clear, we define writing broadly—as critical thinking that can be enriched and clarified through revision, which takes place in response to self-critique and critique from others. We have divided the outcomes into three categories: Writing as an Intellectual Practice (our philosophy of writing); Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing (the skills and strategies we deem vital to effective intellectual inquiry); and Conventions of Writing (essential knowledge regarding the conventions of writing). Our ambitious goal is for every Princeton freshman to demonstrate the outcomes in each of these categories.

Writing as an Intellectual Practice

By the end of the Writing Seminar, students should …

  • Regard writing as a form of critical thinking rather than merely the achievement of sentence-level correctness.
  • Understand writing to be a complex social interaction between writer and reader, and participate in local communities formed by particular writers and readers in which writing is exchanged and critiqued.
  • Practice writing as a recursive process that involves drafting, revising, and getting feedback from readers at any and every point along the way.
  • Cultivate other beneficial practices and habits of research, reading, and writing, such as planning the steps or stages of a writing project, taking careful notes, and keeping track of source citations.
  • Recognize and value the creativity, independent thinking, and intellectual risk-taking involved in effective academic writing.
  • Regard learning to write well as a life-long pursuit, not the accomplishment of a single semester or even an entire undergraduate career.

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Writing

By the end of the Writing Seminar, students should know how to …

  • Define a compelling and viable problem, question, or project.
  • Formulate an arguable thesis in response to the problem, question, or project.
  • Use library and other research tools to locate sources, and manage searches efficiently and ethically.
  • Actively engage sources in an intellectual dialogue, always distinguishing one’s own ideas from those of others.
  • Substantiate and develop ideas through the analysis of evidence and the critical use of sources.
  • Recognize and contend with counter-arguments and other possible objections.
  • Organize ideas coherently and compellingly.
  • Express ideas in clear, cogent sentences.
  • Insightfully critique their own writing and the writing of others.
  • Revise for clarity and cogency at every level, based on self-critique and critique from others.

Conventions of Writing

By the end of the Writing Seminar, students should know how to …

  • Recognize or infer the conventions of writing that are distinctive to specific disciplines.
  • Use the conventions of format, voice, tone, and diction that are appropriate for specific audiences, genres, and situations.
  • Properly incorporate, cite, and document sources.
  • Control the mechanics of writing, such as grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

1 The “WPA Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition,” which was adopted by the Council of Writing Program Administrators (WPA) in July 2014, is available at <http://wpacouncil.org/positions/outcomes.html>.