Writing Plan Phases
Collecting Baseline Data
First Edition Writing Plan
Second Edition Writing Plan
Third Edition Writing Plan
  • phase completed
  • phase in-progress

Communication Studies, in the College of Liberal Arts, with 13 faculty members and over 600 undergraduate majors, examines human communication using both humanistic and social scientific approaches. Fields of study include rhetoric (e.g., public speaking, public address, rhetorical criticism, & ethics); interpersonal communication (e.g., small group, organizational, intercultural, & family communication); critical media studies (e.g., reality TV, environmental communication, & digital literacy); and media production.

Communication Studies Writing Plan

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Writing in Communication Studies

The Communication Studies faculty generated the following description in response to the question, “What characterizes academic and professional communication in this discipline?"

Communication Studies is a discipline firmly anchored within the liberal arts that ranges from social science to critical theory. As such, making arguments is central to all writing that is done in the discipline. Argument-based writing generally entails making claims about messages, media, and human communication behaviors and supporting these claims coherently and with appropriate evidence, usually in the form of longer essays. Different areas of the discipline, however, are committed to different epistemologies, from scientific realism to hermeneutics. Thus, how arguments are crafted and what counts as evidence varies greatly between different areas, as do certain conventions regarding style, the most typical being APA, MLA, and Chicago.

In addition to the argumentative essay, students routinely produce a number of other documents, including informal writings such as reflection papers or blog posts; technical reports and summaries of articles and other texts; and some specific genres of writing, such as storyboards, campaign messages, survey questions, etc.

Writing Abilities Expected of Communication Studies Majors

The Communication Studies faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “With which writing abilities should students in this unit’s major(s) graduate?”

Minimum Requirements for Writing in the Major:

1. Articulate and develop a clear argument based on a thesis statement.

2. Demonstrate understanding of the relationships between claim and evidence (considered broadly, as well as specifically in the context of argumentation).

3. Build upon an understanding of claims and evidence to interpret and evaluate arguments (to consider the meaning and value of claims in context).

4. Show awareness of and adaptation to purpose and audience.

5. Explicitly recognize the constraints and possibilities offered by the subject, the audience, and other contextual factors and adapts writing in light of these factors.

6. Recognize the expectations of genres, both as conventional modes of written expression and as elements of document design and organization, and possibly intentionally interrupt those expectations.

7. Capably communicate theoretical and abstract notions, with attention to their larger implications to society and politics.

8. Demonstrate processes of reasoning as appropriate to the analytical moves of the document (inductive and deductive specifically, but also broadly considered).

9. Address theories and concepts in ways that move beyond textbook definitions to application, synthesis, and critique.

10. Produce writing that is grammatically and mechanically proficient.

11. Display creativity and originality.

Menu of Grading Criteria Used in Communication Studies Courses

The Communication Studies faculty have generated a set of grading criteria.

The text...

1a. offers an explicit thesis statement based on a debatable proposition.
1b. sets up the topic and introduces the writer’s position- which is followed through in the document.

2. has a coherent structure, including elements typical of the genre (reading response, research paper, storyboard, etc.).

3a. makes a claim, uses evidence, and explicates how/why the evidence proves the claim.
3b. incorporates paragraph structures that allow distinction between claims and evidence (i.e. topic sentences, internal summaries).
3c. uses explicit language regarding conclusions (thus, therefore, because, etc.) and evidence (example, anecdote, empirical).

4. contextualizes evidence within the broader argument/paper or issue.

5. selects evidence suitable to the claim advanced.

6. identifies strong and weak arguments and articulates an explanation as to why.

7. addresses validity on epistemological grounds; recognizes in what framework other arguments make sense and compares the relative merit of those frameworks.

8. demonstrates attention to audience and purpose in the selection of genre and medium and offers specific appeals to audience needs and expectations.

9a. accurately uses the terms from the text and the field to explain their object of analysis.
9b. articulates an argument in relationship to a theoretical position.

10. answers the “so what?” question, explicitly addresses the implications of thesis/research/paper beyond the immediate assignment.

11. is committed to particular epistemology and is coherent in that context (i.e. follows a logical pattern or a coherent system of values or reasoning).

12. connects theory to application or critique.

13. connects theories to real world examples or media texts.

14. generates arguments that have not already made in sources (makes inferences or offers extensions).

15. is spell-checked, grammatically correct, proofread, and formatted correctly.

16. is organized and formatted to promote readability.

17. uses peer reviewed, recognizable resources and explains their relationship to the argument when incorporating documentary evidence.

18. adheres to MLA, APA, or Chicago style, as instructed.

Highlights from the Writing Plan

In its first-edition Writing Plan, Communication Studies developed a comprehensive map of the curriculum and assignments to identify and better understand students’ pathways to graduation. The mapping project provided insights on how to better integrate and sequence writing-intensive assignments. For its second-edition Writing Plan, Communication Studies began the redesign of COMM 1313W, its gateway course to the major. A cohort of teaching faculty and graduate instructors reviewed the course syllabus, key assignments, and grading criteria in an effort to emphasize five core writing abilities. 

During its third-edition Writing Plan—approved by the Campus Writing Board in November 2019—Communication Studies will continue to refine its 1313W gateway course by developing a signature assignment (.pdf download) along with rubrics that give instructors a degree of uniformity and standardization with both their teaching and evaluating of student writing. Building on the Community of Practice (CoP) model developed for 1313 instructors, the department will also establish a CoP for faculty teaching 3000-level courses. Ultimately, the department’s focus on its 1313W and 3000-level courses will inform its development of a Canvas-based resource for all faculty that includes pedagogical activities and writing assignments. 

In its current implementation phase, Communication Studies will also update the capstone resources and guidelines on its undergraduate website to make them more user friendly, easier to find and navigate, and even better aligned with the abilities and criteria the department has developed through its work with the Writing-Enriched Curriculum Program.