Learning to write within a discipline requires examples, practice, feedback, and reflection. All disciplines have specialized conventions that reflect their respective values and goals. Students benefit—and write more effectively—if they are taught explicitly about those conventions, values, and goals.

Overview of Advanced Writing Best Practices

In the History department, the Advanced Writing requirement is fulfilled through HST 206: Introduction to Historical Inquiry (view the HST 206 syllabus). This course is designed to introduce History majors to inquiry and writing in the field. From the course syllabus, students know they will be exploring:

  • How historians read, think, and write.
  • How historians question the past.
  • How historians use evidence to construct an argument that speaks to the questions they ask.

This course meets the three major components of an Advanced Writing course and features exemplary strategies for supporting student learning:

  • Students write a lot and in a variety of genres. Across informal and formal writing assignments, students write 7500–8000 words. Assignments include short in-class reading reflections, comments on peer papers, three essays, a research proposal, and a research prospectus.
  • Students don’t just write—they reflect on what they are doing and why. The course asks students to reflect on what it means to write as a historian, with discussions based on texts such as A Pocket Guide to Writing in History.
  • Students receive significant feedback from the instructor and peers throughout the course. This feedback occurs at different stages of the writing process. For example, students engage in one-on-one conferences with the instructor in preparation for writing their research prospectus. Seven class meetings in the course schedule are dedicated to writing workshops in which students work together to improve initial drafts of their essays and prospectuses.
  • Revision is framed as an essential part of the writing process. Revision strategies are explicitly taught and revision is expected for each major piece of writing.