University Studies Advisory Committee

Writing Intensive Course


This document provides a description of the Writing Intensive Course component of University Studies. In so doing, it differentiates between common component-level student learning outcomes and discipline-specific course-level learning outcomes, offering examples of both types. The goal is to encourage the development of challenging and varied University Studies courses that share common assessable student learning outcomes, and to outline a clear procedure by which these courses may be proposed and approved.


This component of the University Studies program is designed to help students to develop their writing skills throughout their college careers by taking upper-level, writing intensive courses in a range of disciplines, including their major fields of study. Writing and communication skills have been deemed centrally important for students and college graduates by members of the academy and community stakeholders. Participation in the courses in this component will help students to understand the importance of and the requirements for successful discourse in a variety of subject areas and recognize that written communication skills are universally important for excellence in all fields of study. Writing-intensive courses foster learning through writing, using written work to cultivate a complex and in-depth understanding of course concepts. Instructors of writing intensive courses must provide significant, constructive feedback on written work and incorporate a process-approach to writing that includes techniques such as invention/brainstorming, drafting, teacher conferences, peer review, and revision.


The following are the Common Student Learning Outcomes for Writing Intensive Courses. These are aligned with the UNCW Learning Goals. Each course in this category must address all of the Common Student Learning Outcomes for the category, and list these Common SLOs along with course-specific SLOs in the course syllabus. Proposals for inclusion in the category will describe the opportunities which will be provided for students to demonstrate the outcome, including especially the role that formative instructor feedback on student writing will play, and list the specific sources of evidence (specific writing tasks, papers, projects, etc.) that will be used to determine the level of student understanding.

The student will:

  • WI 1. Demonstrate an ability to produce written texts that reflect a knowledge and understanding of disciplinary conventions in terms of audience expectations, genre conventions, and/or citation practices. [Inquiry; Information Literacy; Critical Thinking; Thoughtful Expression]
  • WI 2. Demonstrate the ability to employ an iterative writing process that includes invention, drafting, and revision in response to instructor feedback to complete a major writing project or series of written assignments. [Critical Thinking; Thoughtful Expression]


Students are required to take six hours from this component, with at least three hours taken at UNCW and at least three hours in the major.


  • USAC recommends that departments develop more 300-level and below WI courses for their majors and for other students, to help students develop writing skills earlier in their academic careers.
  • Assignment Length: Although there is no set page length, the expectation is that a "major writing project" would be between 8 and 10 pages. Multiple shorter "written assignments" should be long enough across the assignments (2, 5 page papers; 3, 3 page papers) to allow students to gain comparable writing time and feedback and for all students across different courses to gain experience in writing according to genre conventions and citation practices, as well as how to formulate theses/arguments and support them with evidence.
  • Individual feedback for students: At least two of the multiple shorter written assignments (or two versions of the single major writing project) should be completed individually so that students receive individual feedback on their writing.
  • Peer review of written work is encouraged, but it should supplement rather than supplant instructor feedback.