Reading to Write

One of the goals of a Writing Skills course is to help students become more sophisticated writers. The best way to support them on this journey is to provide a reading list full of sophisticated writing. While not everything you assign will fall into this category, it helps students set their own writing goals when it’s made clear to them what you think qualifies as good writing.

You likely already do a fair amount of meta-teaching—or stepping back to name the work being performed—when you discuss a painting, case study, novel, scientific experiment, or other object as characteristic of the work done in your field. Aim to do the same with good writing when you read it; call out how the writer, for example, asserts a challenge to the status quo in the introduction, or establishes an argument that will look critically at something often taken as a given, or supports their argument with solid evidence and analysis.

Consider using this series of questions throughout the semester to help students see the way good writing works. These questions can be part of your low-stakes writing assignments, as discussed in Writing to Learn:

  • How do the introduction and conclusion of this article differ? How are they similar?
  • Who is the intended audience for this piece of writing? What are some specific examples that help you know?
  • How does the writer back up their argument? Which evidence most persuaded your thinking on the topic?
  • How does this writer cite their sources? Do you find their method effective?