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English Composition

English Composition

Author: Gavin McCall
Description:

This lesson provides an overview of the purpose of English Composition, including the reading-writing connection.

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Tutorial

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Hi. Welcome to English Composition. My name is Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. So what are we going to learn today? Today we're going to discuss the goals of English Composition, the skills and competencies you'll gain throughout the class. Then we'll talk about the importance of engaged reading and how it connects to writing. Then we'll cover the three main types of academic writing from personal narratives, informative or expository writing, and persuasive or argumentative writing. And finally, we'll talk about how writing skills can help you outside of college.

There are four primary goals for students of English Composition. The class will give you a chance to develop writing skills, including the process of developing an essay through brainstorming, research, drafting, revision, and proofreading. It'll help you read and write in an academic context, including ways to become a more engaged reader. And finally, it'll help you build critical thinking skills. Basically, this class is meant to prepare you for year college career.

But really, there's more to these goals. Since just about every profession that a college can prepare you for require some kind of reading and writing ability, English Composition is really training for all that, too. For example, anyone looking to get into marketing or human resource management is going to need to know his or her way around a business memo. And almost all careers require applications, resumes, and cover letters, so that the first thing a potential employer sees of you is your writing. And you know what they say about making a good first impression.

The first thing you need to be able to do in order to succeed in any writing course is read effectively. We'll call this engaged reading, and it can help you in many ways. It'll give you a launching point for discussion and thinking about any subject you're interested in or assigned, and it can help you find writing topics as well as providing support for those topics and the arguments and essays you make about them.

So this begs the question, what kind of writing will you have to be able to do? Academic writing, which we'll define as writing that's driven by research-based argument that expands human knowledge, has three main types, personal narrative, informative or expository writing, and persuasive or argumentative writing. Personal narratives, which include the genres of memoir, creative nonfiction, and other kinds of life writing, is writing that's driven by story. As an example of personal narrative, I've chosen the first paragraphs of an essay I wrote about my experiences learning to ride a motorcycle. As you can see, in this passage the only source of information I needed was me, since this was my story.

I'm not going to go into too much detail about the text. But if you're interested, feel free to pause the video and read it. This'll give you an idea of one way personal narratives can be used to establish the background for an argument that's about to be made.

The second type of academic writing you'll need to be able to perform as expository writing. This writing is informative where the writer explains ideas and conveys information. This is the place for process analysis, comparison and contrast, and defining terms.

As an example, I found a more purely informative section of that same essay, in which I bring in some of the research I did for the essay. As you can see, the subject of the essay has expanded. It's no longer just my story, but a discussion of the broader world of motorcycling. Also feel free to pause the video here and see how my argument is developing with exposition.

The third, and probably most common type of academic writing, is persuasive or argumentative writing. This is writing meant to convince its readers of something, whether to accept a proposal or take a specific action or to simply agree with the writer's interpretation of date or research. My example is the last paragraph of my motorcycling essay in which I state my conclusion about who was really to blame for my accident, and by implication, other motorcycle accidents as well. Here I'm using the bits of personal narrative and exposition I already wrote to build my argument and to try to convince my readers to think as I do.

The knowledge and competencies you'll gain while reading and writing these kinds of academic projects will help you throughout your college career, but they can also be of use outside the classroom. Having solid writing and critical thinking skills will have broad application in your life beyond school. For example, newspapers and online media sources require a certain degree of literacy and critical thinking of the readers without which you'll be less informed, or misinformed, about what's going on in the world around you.

And no matter what field you're looking to get into, there'll be a specific set of assumptions about what is and is not acceptable communication within that field. And if, for example, you aren't able to tell the difference between a professional memo and an inappropriate email in the business world, you'll be at a severe disadvantage when trying to build and maintain professional relationships and to be taken seriously. As you learn in this class to navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of academic literacy, remember, the skills you'll pick up along the way will make sure you're prepared for the next time, beyond the academy.

What did we learn today? We discussed the goals of English composition as well as the connection between writing and engaged reading. And we looked at three different types of academic writing, narrative, expository, and persuasive writing. Finally, we talked about how writing skills can help you outside of school. My name is Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Persuasive Writing

    Writing designed to sway its audience to accept a specific proposition or take an action.

  • Narrative Writing

    Writing that is driven by story.

  • Expository Writing

    Writing designed to explain, define, or describe.

  • Academic Writing

    Writing driven by research-based argument that expands human knowledge.