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Proposing a Writing-Intensive Course

All writing-intensive (WI) or writing-enhanced (WE) courses must be approved by the University Writing Board, a cross-disciplinary committee of the University Senate. The Writing Program director, Dr. Rita Malenczyk, also serves ex officio on the committee. All courses proposed for WI or WE designation must then be approved by the University Curriculum Committee, even existing courses (because the new designation is considered a course modification).

Minimum requirements for writing-intensive courses are:

  • Class size of no higher than 20
  • Completion of between 20-25 total pages of finished work (but appropriateness of the field is also considered--see below)
  • Drafts reviewed, and written or oral feedback given to students, by the course instructor

The Writing Board also looks to see that writing is integrated throughout the course during the semester. This means that if students are asked only to complete one 20-25 page paper in the last few weeks of the semester, and no writing occurs up until that point, the course might not qualify as writing-intensive. There is a variety of ways to integrate writing throughout your course. For example, writing-intensive courses in the social sciences (e.g., PSY 327, Research Methods II) ask students to complete written research projects in stages throughout the term. Some courses (e.g., ENG 203, Introduction to Writing Literary Criticism or ENG 204, Introduction to Writing Studies) might require that students complete several smaller papers due at various times throughout the semester.

The level of the course is also important. Writing assignments should be appropriate to the discipline and the goals of the course (for example, EES or BIO writing-intensive courses ask students to do scientific writing, not necessarily essays). They should also encourage students to engage in the kind of intellectual inquiry appropriate to the course level.

Minimum requirements for writing-enhanced courses are the same as above, with the following exceptions (class size for writing-enhanced courses is not reduced to 20):

  • Completion of between 10-15 total pages of finished work (again, appropriateness of the field is important)
  • Some type of feedback given to the students about their writing, but not necessarily by the instructor. Because class size for writing-enhanced courses is not reduced, instructors may find alternate ways to get students feedback on their work. Guided peer review is recommended as a way of accomplishing this goal; please do not require that students visit the Writing Center, as the Writing Center may not be able to accommodate them all. It's fine to recommend that students visit or award extra credit for visiting the Center.

The WAC Clearinghouse has great, detailed suggestions for how to structure, model, and get the most out of peer review. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) also has a Power Point presentation about peer review that is less detailed but may suit your needs.

To get a course approved for writing-intensive or writing-enhanced status:

Get the approval of your department or, in the case of interdisciplinary majors, the other faculty who oversee the major.

If class size needs to be lowered to 20, get the permission of your dean. (Again, this applies only to writing-intensive courses.)

Once these two steps have been completed, the course should be prepared for submission to the Writing Board. You will need to complete the appropriate University Curriculum Committee forms, either the new course proposal form or the "modification of an existing course" form. Please be sure that the form contains sufficient explanation of why and how the course meets writing-intensive or writing-enhanced requirements. Please include a syllabus that shows how the writing assignments/revisions are distributed throughout the semester--for the Writing Board, you may want to include a cover letter drawing the Board's attention to the aspects of the syllabus or course that make it writing-intensive or writing-enhanced. For example, some faculty don't like to include page numbers on the syllabus because then the students decide not to exceed that limit, even if more is allowed and might be better; it should, however, be clear to the Board how much writing they're doing.

Once the Writing Board has approved the course, Dr. Malenczyk will notify you and the department, and see that the course forms are forwarded to the Curriculum Committee (unless they need to go elsewhere first).The Curriculum Committee will then forward the appropriate information to the Registrar's Office upon approval.

Rita Malenczyk ( is also happy to consult with faculty or departments who are in the process of developing writing-intensive or writing-enhanced courses, changing their required writing courses, or anything else related to the writing requirements. She can also provide discipline-specific workshops for departments upon request.