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Assignments across the Curriculum

A National Study of College Writing


Publication Year: 2014

In Assignments across the Curriculum, Dan Melzer analyzes the rhetorical features and genres of writing assignments through the writing-to-learn and writing-in-the-disciplines perspectives. Presenting the results of his study of 2,101 writing assignments from undergraduate courses in the natural sciences, social sciences, business, and humanities in 100 postsecondary institutions in the United States, Assignments across the Curriculum is unique in its cross-institutional breadth and its focus on writing assignments.

The results provide a panoramic view of college writing in the United States. Melzer's framework begins with the rhetorical situations of the assignments—the purposes and audiences—and broadens to include the assignments' genres and discourse community contexts. Among his conclusions is that courses connected to a writing-across-the-curriculum (WAC) initiative ask students to write more often, in a greater variety of genres, and for a greater variety of purposes and audiences than non-WAC courses do, making a compelling case for the influence of the WAC movement.

Melzer's work also reveals patterns in the rhetorical situations, genres, and discourse communities of college writing in the United States. These larger patterns are of interest to WAC practitioners working with faculty across disciplines, to writing center coordinators and tutors working with students who bring assignments from a variety of fields, to composition program administrators, to first-year writing instructors interested in preparing students for college writing, and to high school teachers attempting to bridge the gap between high school and college writing.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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1. A Panoramic View of College Writing

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pp. 1-19

In “The Future of Writing Across the Curriculum: Consensus and Research,” Chris Anson (1993) traces the history of research in Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC), from early evidence of writing across disciplines that was mostly anecdotal...

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2. Limited Purposes, Narrow Audiences: The Rhetorical Situations of College Writing

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pp. 20-40

Stephen Wilhoit argues, “at the heart of every assignment is the rhetorical situation—someone writing to someone about something for some purpose” (Wilhoit 2002, 62). From Lloyd Bitzer to Wayne Booth to James Britton, compositionists have focused...

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3. Social Action, Social Inaction: The Genres of College Writing

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pp. 41-52

The discussion in chapter 2 of the rhetorical situations in the 2,101 writing assignments I collected provided a sense of the primary purposes and audiences students are asked to write for in academic discourse. I discussed the ways instructors in my...

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4. Each Course Is a Community: The Discourse Communities of College Writing

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pp. 53-70

In the discussion of genre in chapter 3, I expanded my analysis of the writing assignments in my study beyond just the rhetorical situation of purpose and audience, and considered the social action of typified rhetorical situations—the genres of...

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5. The Power of Writing across the Curriculum: Writing Assignments in WAC Courses

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pp. 71-100

Thus far the story of my research into writing assignments across the curriculum has been, for the most part, a story dominated by informative writing to the teacher-as-examiner, in the form of the short-answer exam. Although I’ve discussed some...

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6. Implications for Teachers, Tutors, and WAC Practitioners

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pp. 101-132

This book has aimed to begin to address Chris Anson’s call for more large-scale research into writing across the curriculum: research focused on “larger scale measures of belief and practice” (24) that will explore such questions as, “What does...

Appendix A: Institutions Surveyed

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pp. 133-136

Appendix B: Sample Coded Assignments

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pp. 137-140


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pp. 141-146


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pp. 147-148

E-ISBN-13: 9780874219401
E-ISBN-10: 087421940X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874219395
Print-ISBN-10: 0874219396

Page Count: 160
Illustrations: 1
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 883568831
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Assignments across the Curriculum

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Study and teaching.
  • Report writing -- Study and teaching.
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