There are four primary goals for students of English composition:
Engaged reading provides a launch point for the consideration, examination, and discussion of any subject. It enables you to identify topics for your written work, and to support those topics effectively.
So what kind of writing must you learn how to do? In this course, you will focus on academic writing. This kind of writing is often used to make assertions that are supported by research, and which contribute to the advance of knowledge in a particular area.
There are three main types of academic writing:
2a. Narrative Writing
Narrative writing often refers to personal narratives, which include memoirs, creative nonfiction, and other kinds writing about lives and experiences that convey information in the form of a story.
Following is the first paragraph of an essay about the writer's experiences while learning to ride a motorcycle. The only source of information for the essay is the narrator, since it is a story about her personal experience.
Last summer I bought a motorcycle, learned to ride it, and crashed, in that order. During the months of my rehabilitation, I had a lot of time to think. I began to do so during the Vicodin-induced haze in which I spent the first few days after the accident. But mostly, I watched Netflix, attempted to read, and tried to find a comfortable position in which I could both eat ice cream and not bleed on my bed sheets.
This excerpt demonstrates one way in which personal narrative can be used to establish the background for an argument that will follow.
2b. Expository Writing
The second type of academic writing you must learn is expository writing. Expository writing is informative: The writer explains her ideas in order to convey information. It is used to analyze processes, compare and contrast concepts and ideas, and to define terms.
Following is an informative section of the essay referenced above. This section cites some of the research that was performed to support the essay. In this section the subject of the essay has expanded beyond narration of the writer's story to a broad consideration of motorcycling. Do you see how the writer develops her argument using exposition?
The type of accident involving cars and motorcycles that occurs most frequently in England is called the SMIDSY (Sorry, Mate, I Didn't See You). In this type of accident, a car pulls into traffic and collides with a motorcycle because the driver of the car doesn't see the motorcycle approaching, or mistakes it for a car that's further away. In over 70% of accidents involving a car and a motorcycle in the U.S., the driver of the car was found to be at fault.
2c. Persuasive Writing
The third and perhaps most common type of academic writing is persuasive writing. This is writing meant to convince readers of something— to accept a proposal, take specific action, agree with the writer's interpretation of data or research, etc.
Here is the final paragraph of the motorcycling essay. In it, the writer presents her conclusion about who was to blame for the accident — and by implication, who is to blame in most motorcycle accidents. Note how the writer uses the personal narrative and exposition provided earlier in the essay to build an argument and convince readers to agree with the conclusion.
Before the accident, I didn't want to admit that I was willfully ignorant of the dangers of motorcycle riding. I still sometimes try to deny it, even now. I didn't think about the dangers, because I didn't want to. This means that I am to blame for everything that happened to me, regardless of the other driver's actions. This applies to all motorcyclists as well: It's their choice to ride and, therefore, their responsibility to accept, and guard against, the dangers of doing so.
While the knowledge you'll gain through reading and in this course will help you in your college career, it will also help you outside the classroom. Solid writing and critical-thinking skills are key to achieving your goals in life beyond school.
EXAMPLEAlmost all careers begin with written applications, resumes, and cover letters. An employer's first impressions of job-seekers are often the result of their writing ability (or lack of it). It's important to make a good first impression!
Many jobs require reading and writing ability to perform their basic functions. Furthermore, each field has its own set of assumptions about what is and is not acceptable communication.
EXAMPLEIf you can't tell the difference between a professional memo and an inappropriate email message, you may not be able to build or maintain professional relationships in a business setting. You may not even be taken seriously by your colleagues or boss.
As you work to achieve academic literacy in this course, don't forget that the skills you'll acquire will continue to serve you outside of your academic context.