PWR Course Goals


Open to Juniors and Seniors in the College of Arts and Sciences, WRTG-3020 (Topics in Writing) sharpens critical thinking and critical writing skills. The course focuses upon rhetorical forms students will use in academia, in the workplace, and in the civic domain, across a full spectrum of persuasive strategies, including analysis and argument. This course reinforces skills taught in first-year writing classes and builds upon them, with a greater emphasis upon the situational quality of writing or upon rhetorical context: the relationship between writer, reader, subject, and purpose in the formation of a text.

Topics in Writing courses focus upon specific subjects; the topic serves as a means to an end—to create a knowledgeable audience and a context for discussion and writing: a discourse community. In a workshop setting, students engage in a dialogue with their audience, working out meaningful theses, testing rhetorical strategies, responding to objections and potential objections, and revising to meet the needs of their readers. Instructors expect a high level of student participation and emphasize each student’s role as both writer and as audience: observant, inquisitive readers of the writings of others. Students should leave a 3020 class as more sophisticated writers who understand that the rhetorical situation—rather than a rule book—will invite unique responses based upon their particular goals.

In addition to practicing insightful reading and critical thinking, students in this course will work toward analyzing discussing topics in cogent fashion; in written work, they will practice supporting insights and arguments with textual evidence, while avoiding summary and uncritical repetition of ideas. From our examining materials both collectively and individually, students will ultimately be able to discuss cultural forms and rhetorical issues with new understanding. While the course does not assume familiarity with the topic, engagement with new material at sophisticated levels is expected, working toward advanced content knowledge: as an examination of technology and culture, class objectives focus mainly on efforts to extend rhetorical and apply media-studies perspectives— practical application, engagement efforts, motivated attempts, and participation are key expectations for students’ work throughout the term.

COURSE OBJECTIVES (adapted from the Program for Writing and Rhetoric and CCHE)

Offered through the Program for Writing and Rhetoric, WRTG 3020 is designed to fulfill curricular requirements established by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The course is approved for College of Arts and Sciences core upper-division curriculum for written communication, building on skills practiced in the first-year writing core requirement by applying advanced understanding of rhetorical concepts to communication within specialized fields.

WRTG 3020 also meets The Colorado Commission on Higher Education (CCHE) criteria for an Advanced Writing Course (GT-CO3) in the Colorado system of higher education, with goals in four key areas related to PWR objectives:

Extend Rhetorical Knowledge // Rhetorical Situation

Rhetoric is the art of shaping words and images to move a particular audience to a specific purpose. An advanced knowledge of the rhetoric used within specialized disciplines sharpens the ability of a communicator to choose the most effective evidence, reasoning, and communication strategies for a professional audience and purpose. Readings will introduce the rhetorical concepts that serve as the framework for the course; articles and case studies will place networked communication about technology and culture into specific rhetorical contexts: discourse communities that involve positioning yourself within a particular context and addressing an imagined audience (readership).

Students should learn to exercise extended rhetorical skills:

  • Frame issues, define and defend theses, invent and arrange appeals, answer counterarguments, and contextualize conclusions.
  • Make decisions about form, argumentation, and style from the expectations of different audiences.  Value writing as a collaborative dialogue between authors and audiences, critics, and colleagues.
  • Develop topic-specific language that is appropriate for the defined audience while also intelligible to a non-expert audience.
  • Address an audience; anticipate the thinking, questions, and possible objections of readers in academic and public contexts.

Extend Experience in Writing Processes

Writing—including the writing involved in speaking—is an ongoing process that requires multiple drafts as well as a range of strategies for developing, revising, and editing texts. Advanced skill in engaging the writing process increases both efficiency and effectiveness in generating work for networked communication. The prevalence of participation online also requires advanced skill in reciprocal critique of compositions by classmates.

As writers, students should be able to:

  • Understand writing as an ongoing process that requires multiple drafts and various strategies for developing, revising and editing texts.
  • Understand that revision is informed by critical dialogue; see the critical analysis of others’ work as relevant to one’s own writing.  Develop skills in giving constructive feedback and incorporating feedback into your work, from workshops and online forums (D2L)  Practice effectively using composing technologies such as multimedia, research tools, networked communication, and online platforms.

Extend Mastery of Writing Conventions // Mechanics and Style

The sequence of assignments will give you practice in analyzing and developing several forms of online communication; in interpreting and using the language of several discourse communities; and in designing strategies that effectively meet the expectations of specialized readers.

Students in WRTG 3020 should learn to:

  • Convey meaning through concise, precise, highly readable language.
  • Apply the basics of grammar, sentence-structure, and other mechanics integral to analytical and persuasive writing.
  • Refine skills in editing and proofreading for presentation to audience.
  • Use paragraph structure and transitional devices to aid the reader in following even a complex train of thought.
  • Use voice, style, and diction appropriate to the discipline and rhetorical context, across varied writing forms.

Advance Content Knowledge // Critical Thinking and Its Written Application

The range of assignments as well as your examining the compositions of writers and your peers will heighten your awareness of the relationship between specialized content and various audiences, particularly those engaged with technology and culture. This awareness will aid your skillfully adapting content from readings and research to the expertise and expectations of a particular audience, through composition strategies that effectively communicate critical thinking about and knowledge of the course topic.

As writers and as readers, students should leave 3020 able to:

    • Pose and develop questions about issues studied in academic readings, example articles, and case studies.
    • Locate resources and use information for inquiry; critically evaluate sources for credibility, validity, timeliness, and relevance.  Draw inferences from evidence; distinguish flawed from sound reasoning and premise; recognize, challenge, and respond to claims.
  • Recognize a thesis and understand the relationship between thesis and support; distinguish description from analysis and argument.  Structure and develop points of argument in coherent order to build case; as readers, recognize this structure and development within texts.  See writing as form of personal engagement, demanding an awareness of inherent power of language and ability to bring about change.

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