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University Writing

Course Information

WRIT 1301 involves critical reading, writing, and thinking as students practice the types of academic writing they may expect in their college careers, such as summaries, essays, academic arguments, bibliographies, and research papers. The course is designed to help students develop a clear thesis in a written paper and support that thesis with appropriate sources, evidence, and documentation.

Time is spent discussing rhetorical elements of writing such as audience, purpose, and argumentative structure. In addition, students practice steps in the writing process such as invention, research, organization, drafting, revision, and editing. Students report, synthesize, and draw conclusions regarding the significance of what they read. Students become aware of the linguistic and rhetorical choices they can make in their writing.

Class size limit: 24

Sample Syllabus 1
Sample syllabus 2

U of M Catalog Description

Drafting, revising, editing. Academic genres. Critical reading, rhetorical analysis for principles of audience, purpose, and argumentative strategies. Emphasizes electronic/print library. Critical analysis, annotated bibliography, research paper.

Student Qualifications

Students enrolling in WRIT 1301 must be seniors in high school and in the top 20 percent of their class, or have instructor approval, to participate.

Instructor Qualifications

Instructors apply and are selected by faculty in accordance with the U of M policy governing Academic Appointments with Teaching Functions. Once approved, an instructor is appointed as a Teaching Specialist 9754 (University Job Title and Code) in the College of Continuing and Professional Studies. Instructor qualifications are determined by the sponsoring University department.

View the Instructor Applicant Handbook for course-specific qualifications and application steps. 


  • Rackham and Bertagnolli. From Sight to Insight. 7th ed. Harcourt Brace Publishing. (ISBN: 0838407005) (Approximately $250 new on Amazon.com in 2012.)
  • Axelrod and Cooper. The St. Martin's Guide to Writing. St. Martin's Press. (ISBN: 0312240597) (Amazon.com price approximately $78.00 for 9th edition in 2012.)
  • McCurdy, David W., Spradley, James P., and Shandy, Dianna. The Cultural Experience: Ethnography in Complex Society. Waveland Press, Inc. (ISBN: 1-57766-364-0). (Amazon.com price approximately $25.00 in 2012.)
  • Optional handbook: Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual. (Amazon.com price approximately $25.00 in 2012.)

High schools are not required to purchase the most current editions of these texts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are all of the readings specified or mandated by the University of Minnesota? If not, what are some of the choices?
No. However, texts are recommended and periodically reviewed by University faculty. Teachers must choose at least one text from the faculty-approved list and may also use other approved rhetoric textbooks or handbooks.

Do teachers have a choice in assignments? Are there required assignments?
Somewhat—teachers and faculty discuss assignments and best practices during workshops. It is essential that the rigor be consistent with the expectations at the University Honors level. Assignments are required but vary depending on the length of the course. In addition to an ongoing writing portfolio, students are generally asked to write four major pieces. These projects can include a narrative, trend analysis, literary analysis, research paper, ethnography, or review.

The course curriculum is not consumed by preparation for a standardized examination. As a result, the content of the course is much more comprehensive than your typical AP course. Also, because a standardized test is not involved, this course offers instructors a higher level of flexibility in curriculum development and individual attention to students.

Who creates the exams?
There are generally no exams. However, a writing portfolio is often required, which includes a reflective essay on the student’s writing strengths and weaknesses.

Is there a training and mentoring system for new WRIT 1301 teachers?
Yes. Veteran CIS teachers form a close-knit group that immediately provides new teachers with a resource for support and ideas. These ideas are most often shared at workshops and via continuous email. New teachers also attend two new teacher workshops—the first concentrates on course content and pedagogy, while the second introduces teachers to University processes and resources. New teachers also benefit from an orientation to College in the Schools that will familiarize them with the support available through CIS as well as prepare them for administrative tasks such as registering students and posting grades. Beyond the new teacher workshops, all teachers attend a fall, spring, and summer professional development workshop each year.

What happens at typical teacher workshops?
Typical activities at CIS workshops include meeting University faculty and hearing about their recent research in the discipline; reviewing and/or developing student assessment tools; sharing instructional materials; discussing particular content, pedagogy, or assessment of the University course; and receiving updates on CIS program policies and practices.

High school class schedules vary: can a teacher in the block system teach the U of M University Writing course?
All courses offered through CIS have the same minimum number of contact hours as the on-campus sections. Teachers wishing to teach a U of M University Writing course on the block schedule should consult with the faculty coordinator (contact information above) to make sure this arrangement will work.

What happens at typical student field days?
Student field days provide an opportunity for CIS students to meet their peers, practice skills they have learned in class, and explore the Twin Cities campus. Near the beginning of each course, WRIT 1301 students spend a day at the University. During this visit, they attend a presentation explaining the expectations of the ethnography assignment and can also explore campus. The presenter is generally an accomplished field ethnographer.

High Schools Offering This Course

Academy for Sciences and Agriculture
Anoka High School
Belle Plaine Senior High School
Blaine High School
Braham Area Schools
Buffalo High School
Burnsville High School
Central High School
Champlin Park High School
Como Park Senior High School
Coon Rapids High School
Delano High School
Eagan High School
Eastview High School
Eden Valley-Watkins High School
Farmington High School
Forest Lake Area High School
Humboldt Senior High School
Irondale High School
Johnson Senior High School
Litchfield High School
Milaca High School
Monticello High School
Mora High School
Mounds View High School
New Prague High School
North Community High School
North High School (North St. Paul/Maplewood/Oakdale District)
North Lakes Academy
Pine City High School
Rosemount High School
Shakopee High School
South High School
St. Clair High School
Tri-City United High School
Washington Technology Magnet School
Watertown-Mayer High School
White Bear Lake Area High School