Writing Intensive (W) Courses

Writing Intensive (W) courses provide the opportunity to teach writing practices specific to a discipline or field. Queens College students must complete two W courses in order to graduate.

In these classes, students will:

  • Gain experience writing in a variety of rhetorical situations within a given discipline
  • Become fluent in the conventions and linguistic expectations governing different discipline-specific genres
  • Build confidence as writers responding to or intervening in the conversations and/or debates within a discipline or field of inquiry
  • Engage disciplinarily-appropriate rhetorical and investigative processes and methods
  • Take ownership of the language and rhetorical strategies they use in their writing


Steps to the “W” Designation

“W” designations for new courses need to be approved by both the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) and the Writing Intensive Subcommittee (WSC). “W” designations for courses already on the books require WSC approval only.

Departments interested in developing new W courses or converting existing courses to Writing-Intensive classes should review the template for W course proposals and submit proposals to the Writing Intensive Subcommittee (WSC) for approval. Esther Muehlbauer and Sue Goldhaber are currently serving as WSC co-chairs.

Proposals must include:

  1. The W course proposal
  2. A sample syllabus that demonstrates how the course meets the Writing Intensive course requirements. Examples below:

Departments may also seek guidance from Amy Wan, Special Assistant to the Provost on Writing.

Once WSC approval is obtained, proposals are submitted to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee (UCC) and Academic Senate.

W Course Requirements

Writing Intensive classes at Queens College are designated with a W after the course number (e.g., ENGL 170W, SOC 210W, PSYCH 211W). The Academic Senate has determined that W classes must meet the following criteria:

  • Syllabi must include this statement: “This course is a Writing Intensive (W) course and fulfills one Writing Intensive requirement. W classes include a significant portion of time devoted to writing instruction. This may include things such as revision workshops, discussions of rhetorical strategies, or reflective writing about writing assignments.”
  • At least 5000 words (15 pages) of evaluated writing in three or more assignments (either separate papers or one term paper done in stages) so that the students have the opportunity to develop and improve. At least one assignment (graded or ungraded) must require student revision in response to instructor feedback.
  • At least three separate class hours (either one hour in three class sessions or shorter time periods over multiple sessions) devoted to explicit writing instruction, including such things as peer review, revision strategies, disciplinary concerns, proper attribution, the writing process, research, rhetorical strategies, or writing in online environments.
  • If exams are given, they must include essay questions.
  • Maximum class-size of 25 students (as of Spring 2010).
Types of INFORMAL Writing Activities you can include:


  • Discussion boards / Blog posts: Get a head start on class discussion by having students react to an assigned reading (or video, recorded lecture, etc.) and respond to other students’ reactions.
  • Journals / Reading logs: Students write a certain number of pages or for a certain length of time per week about the course material—this can be completely open-ended or something more structured.


  • In-class writing: Ask students to explore a given topic or question, articulate areas of confusion, or sum up a lecture or discussion. In-class writing can also be an opportunity to allow students to get started on drafts or other larger assignments.
  • Writing workshops: When peer workshopping, ask students to write letters to their readers in which they discuss their draft and what they’d like feedback on, then have students write letters back to the writer after they’ve read the draft. (Can also be done asynchronously.)
Types of FORMAL Writing Activities you can include:
  • Scaffolded formal writing assignments: A proposal or abstract, annotated bibliography, lit review, etc.
  • Write (and take) your own exam: Give students the option to write their own exam (ideally an exam that is mostly short answers and essay questions). Grade students on both their questions and their answers.
  • An introduction or “artist’s statement” to a creative project: If you assign creative work, ask students to write an introduction explaining what their project is and why they made the creative or artistic choices they did.
  • Revision statements or “process letters”: When submitting formal work, have students write a prefatory statement or letter describing their writing and/or revision process, concerns they have about their work, what they’re most satisfied with, etc.
  • Portfolio assignments: Students collect, reflect on, and write about the work they’ve done in the class and the progress they’ve made.
  • Use a “Rhetorical Genre Chart” (RGC) to come up with other assignments that engage real rhetorical practices used in your discipline (example on next slide).
Prerequisites for W Courses

All W courses have a prerequisite of ENGL 110, which means all students in W classes have passed English 110 at Queens College or completed an equivalent course at another school. Hence, the learning goals for ENGL 110 can provide some idea of students’ prior experience with academic writing.

By the end of ENGL 110, students will have been introduced to:


  1. Writing that responds appropriately to a variety of rhetorical situations with a particular focus on academic argumentation.
  2. Reading strategies to summarize, synthesize, analyze, and critique other people’s arguments and ideas fairly.
  3. Research practices that will help strengthen their writing and thinking.
  4. Writing that shows how writers may navigate the diverse processes of composing including revision and collaboration.
  5. Writing that strategically employs appropriate language conventions in different writing situations.
  6. Taking ownership of their work and gain an understanding of their own voice, style, and strengths.

ENGL 110 (EC1) and College Writing 2 (EC2) courses are intended to provide a foundation for students’ writing practices—a foundation that Writing Intensive classes then build upon. Because writing practices can take time to develop, the sequence of writing classes—ENGL 110 (EC1), College Writing 2 (EC2) and Writing Intensive—provide multiple opportunities for writing instruction throughout a student’s college career.