UCC Writing Survey of Students

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1 UCC Writing Survey of Students In November of 2014, over 750 undergraduates completed a short online survey about undergraduate writing. Respondents were almost evenly divided among all four classes, with a representative distribution of declared majors. As evidenced in the following report, which includes representative comments and reordered questions, 80% of participating students evaluate their own writing skills as good or excellent, and 79% think their writing skills have improved while at Brandeis. Students report that comments on graded papers and opportunities for revision most contribute to improving their writing skills. They also provide suggestions to students and faculty on how to develop undergraduate writing skills. Do you think your writing skills have improved while at Brandeis? 1 Yes % 2 No % Total % How would you evaluate your own writing skills? 1 Excellent % 2 Good % 3 Acceptable % 4 Poor 13 2% Total % At Brandeis, what has contributed the most to improving your writing skills? Check all that apply.

2 1 University Writing Seminar % 2 Writing- Intensive % courses 3 Creative Arts 60 8% 4 Humanities % 5 Social Science % 6 Science 72 10% 7 Writing Center staff % 8 *Other 72 10% *Under Other, students most frequently mentioned the Composition course, specific professors and courses, and writing for the student newspapers.

3 Which of the following kinds of writing instruction most contribute to improving your writing skills? Check all that apply. 1 Opportunities to revise my % papers 2 Required revision of % papers 3 Peer Review % 4 Feedback on sections of a longer % assignment 5 Classroom instruction on specific aspects % of good writing 6 Comments on graded papers % 7 *Other 46 6% 8 None of the above 12 2% *Under Other, students most frequently mentioned meeting or conferencing with professors. What is the total number of pages assigned in your average course? % pages % pages % pages % 5 21 or more pages 81 11% Total %

4 What suggestions do you have to assist students in developing their writing skills? Representative comments from the approximately 300 student responses include: Practice practice practice. Start writing your essay early then revise revise revise! Take time to reread and revise. Take other people's advice especially if it's from a professor. Use the writing center and talk to professors. They're there to help! Read good writing. When you read good pieces of writing (or written works in the style that you wish to write in), you are teaching yourself how to write. Good readers become good writers. Read more. Read the well-written articles that are assigned to you and try to understand how they are constructed and the ways in which you can take some of the general methods and principles that these great authors use. Write about things that are actually interesting to you!!!!!!! Practice writing in stages, create an outline and allow for sufficient time for a draft and revision. Focus on a development of ideas from start to finish, with a clear direction, returning to an original goal or idea without tangent. The most important part of writing is having a clear understanding of what you are trying to communicate. Having a clear thesis and outline are essential. Once you fully grasp the ideas you are presenting and their relation to each other--the relationship should be clear in the structure of the outline--it is merely a matter of writing. Writing with a purpose is easy. Writing as you attempt to understand your topic is hard. Set time apart every day to formulate ideas, outline, draft, revise, and finalize (whether alone or with the help of someone else or the Writing Center). Start right when you get the assignment, type a page every day, edit what you have, and then when it comes to the night before the paper is due, you don't have to stress as much!

5 Experiment with different brainstorming and editing techniques, like writing ideas and breaking down the paper on a whiteboard. Print out a draft of a longer paper that needs to be rearranged and cut and tape it to physically see how to arrange it. Edit, proofread, re-write, and talk to professors about your papers during the writing process. Get started early and make sure you have plenty of time. Outline and think out your organization and the logic behind your ideas before you start writing. Don't be afraid to go to professors for help, even if you don't have an idea for a thesis. Sometimes that's even the best time to go. The farther in advance you go, the more they'll be able to help you, so don't wait until the last minute. Also, bookmark all your favorite websites and save all the notes you have on formatting and citations. Make sure to read what you write out loud - it helps catch a lot of grammar mistakes and wordy sentences. Have someone peer edit the paper while pointing out what they think you need to work on. So many people are unable to really come up with a meaningful thesis; this needs some serious focus. Be open to criticism. Writing can be personal, so make sure you don't take criticism personally. People just want to help you. Also, do not attempt to "sound smart" in your writing, as I've noticed many people here try to do. It WILL sound bad if you try to do this. Let your natural voice come through. Students also shared suggestions for the institution and the faculty: Science students (unless they actively choose to cross-list in humanities/social science classes) rarely have the chance to improve their writing. Many science students are under the impression that being in the sciences does not necessitate extensive writing skills. I would suggest that courses in the sciences require more literature reading to be familiarized with good scientific writing and students be given more writing opportunities to respond critically and to experience a thorough writing process. As a student of Business and Economics, I wish we had been required to write more papers throughout these classes. Although they are not typical writing intensive courses, writing for business and economics is an important skill which is different from writing papers in other courses.

6 Students need to be exposed to many forms of writing to get better--too often classes teach only writing for one specific discipline, which makes it harder to generalize those skills into other forms of writing, be it creative, argumentative or didactic. Have professors require conferences with students about their paper. I have learned a lot about writing style from meeting with my professors. Getting feedback from professors or TAs on papers that one wrote is the best way (in my opinion) to improve one s writing skills. Have teachers be very honest in their grading. I have often had very thoughtful and great professors who I don't feel have a very high bar for the quality of writing that should be produced, so I turn in work that could be much better grammatically and that has been written in short time, and it is partly because I do not have extrinsic motivation to write the paper sooner and re-read because I know I can get away with it. More classes should be classified as WI. The current offerings are very limited. Students should have the opportunity to submit drafts for constructive, detailed feedback. In general, more feedback should be given on papers.

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