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

The Department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch (GNSD), located in the College of Liberal Arts, has 5 tenured and 15 teaching faculty members and teaches more than 1,100 undergraduate students. GNSD is a community engaged in transnational cultural studies with a focus on the languages, literatures, and cultures of central and northern Europe and Russia.

German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch Writing Plan

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Writing in German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch

The GNSD faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “What characterizes academic and professional communication in this discipline?”

Writing in German, Nordic, Slavic and Dutch is grounded in research that works closely with primary and secondary literature.

Writing is analytical. Texts are explicated, not simply described.

Writing is evidence-driven. Arguments are supported by text-oriented readings. Texts comprise many forms—poems, fiction, non-fiction, drama, film, etc.

GNSD is discipline-conscious.

Writing is motivated, original, and purposeful. Authorship is valued for its responsiveness and engagement with other scholarship.

Writing is valued for its cohesive and coherent qualities, sensitivity to language, and an expressiveness attuned to syntactic and stylistic features.

Writing is attentive and responsive to audiences.

Writing Abilities Expected of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch Majors

The GNSD 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:

  • Formulate a feasible research question and a thesis in response to it, so that an argument’s line of reasoning is clear and focused
  • Develop arguments by having a clear plan for papers that includes identifying what the writer wants to prove, and what the writer needs to show in order to persuade
  • Use evidence to build and support an argument to a logical conclusion
  • Organize writing that is shaped by its argument, purpose, and genre, not a template
  • Balance exposition of the argument with the incorporation of textual evidence from primary and secondary sources
  • Summarize texts (novels, short stories, poems, movies, etc.) accurately by identifying main topics, main ideas, and the author’s point of view
  • Develop text-based analyses and interpretations that move beyond summary and explain meanings and their importance in particular contexts
  • Synthesize information in their own voice by identifying key ideas and articulating a perspective on them
  • Utilize multi-modal forms of communication such as PowerPoints, digital narratives, videos, etc.
  • Write in a range of voices and tones, including informal and formal registers
  • Express themselves coherently through the use of syntactic and stylistic features that include grammatically correct sentences, which are organized into paragraphs
  • Use language accurately and appropriately and strive for original and authentic expression
  • Use correct citational practices
  • Revise their own work, which entails critically rereading their own writing, restructuring ideas, identifying grammatical and syntactical concerns, and using reference materials and guides to correct errors
  • Write reflectively about their work by considering their expectations, how those expectations were met, and what they learned
  • Utilize writing strategies, including various forms of prewriting, invention and scaffolding strategies, to develop ideas
  • Invest themselves in the paper as an author, which involves being engaged in the topic, and going beyond treating the work as a mechanical exercise
  • Respond effectively to specific and skeptical audiences about specific situations that are connected to career-readiness themes
  • Identify work that has already been done on the topic
  • Substantiate claims with examples; distinguish between actual facts and opinions
  • Use and explain data and methods accurately
  • Use figures, tables, and charts to support argument, where applicable

Menu of Grading Criteria Used in German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch Courses

The GNSD faculty generated the following set of categorized grading criteria:


1a. Formulates a research question that can be adequately addressed in the scope of the


1b. Includes a debatable thesis statement in the opening paragraph.

2. 2a. Establishes a clear plan and structure that indicates what the writer wants to persuade readers of or prove.

3a. Integrates and cites evidence succinctly and appropriately in support of the thesis.

3b. Considers and responds to evidence that challenges the validity of the argument.

3c. Utilizes an effective balance of exposition and textual evidence to develop its line of reasoning.

3d. Organizes evidence so that it builds to a focused conclusion.

4. 4a. Is shaped by its rhetorical situation (i.e, argument, purpose, genre), not by a generic template.

5a. Paraphrases source materials and avoids excessive use of direct quotations.

5b. Identifies those parts of an argument that readily profit from direct citations and the use of secondary sources.

5c. Contextualizes and interprets direct quotations, such that the reader understands how they apply to the argument.

6. 6a. Summarizes the main features of a work (main topic, ideas, point of view, etc.) such that the reader understands their importance to the writing.
7. 7a. Provides concrete examples (literary, filmic, linguistic, etc.) of style, technique, and form and explains their connection to the text as a whole and/or to broader aesthetic, cultural and political contexts.

8a. Synthesizes information and key ideas, such that the reader can see a logical and plausible relationship among the sources used by the writer.

8b. Provides a synthesis of sources that still maintains the writer’s voice and perspective.


9a. Utilizes and balances modes of communication (word, image and sound) effectively to convey intended meaning and purpose of communication.

9b. Combines modes of communication to engage the audience’s interest.

9c. Runs smoothly without tech glitches that distract from communication.

10. 10a. Uses effective word choice and correct pronouns appropriate for formal and informal writing.

11a. Utilizes effective syntactical variation and stylistic features to communicate persuasively.

11b. Includes grammatically correct sentences that do not interfere with the transmission of meaning (or distract the reader).

11c. Is organized into cohesive sentences that clearly indicate the relationship between one idea and the next.

11d. Is organized into coherent paragraphs linked with clear transitions such that the reader is able to follow the writer’s reasoning.

11e. Expresses the student’s ideas through the appropriate genres, models and examples encountered in class.


12a. Uses language structures, vocabulary, and phrases proficiently at the appropriate course level.

12b. Uses accurate vocabulary for the topic (e.g., literary, linguistic, filmic, sociological etc.) and, when appropriate, defines terms.


13a. Includes parenthetical, in-text references that correspond to sources given in the works cited page.

13b. Uses a style guide appropriate to the discipline.

14. 14a. When compared with previous drafts exhibits signs of careful revision, including the restructuring of ideas and the improvement of stylistic, syntactical and mechanical features.

15a. Reflects on the student’s work by identifying the expectations (i.e., learning objectives, key questions) for the project.

15b. Reflects on the student’s work by analyzing whether the project’s expectations were met.

15c. Reflects on the student’s work by articulating what the student learned.

16. 16a. When viewed in the context of the writing process exhibits evidence of having effectively used invention and planning strategies to develop ideas.

17a. Develops an argument that is driven by an aspect of the text that is of interest to the writer, so that the writer’s engagement is clear to the reader.

17b. Conveys the clear interest and engagement of the writer in the topic and purpose of the writing.

17c. When possible, takes innovative approaches to developing the line of reasoning.

18. 18a.Considers the specific needs and circumstances of the audience.
19. 19a. Provides sufficient background and context by summarizing previous work on the topic such that the reader can understand the impact of the present argument without referring to texts.
20. 20a. Provides factual basis for all claims by citing adequate examples, previous literature and/or statistically significant results.
21. 21a. Cites and explains data and methods accurately to develop the argument.
22. 22a. Integrates and cites relevant figures, tables and/or charts to support the argument.

Highlights from the Writing Plan

For its first-edition Writing Plan, the department identified several key activities involving curricular, programmatic, and pedagogical features: (1) re-examining the current structure, purpose, and design for the capstone project; (2) extending the curricular mapping and analysis that began during the WEC-facilitated faculty meetings; (3)  providing a Fall 2019 Orientation Week that brought together the faculty, P&A, and graduate instructors to discuss ways critical reasoning is relayed through writing instruction; (4) conducting two faculty workshops on “Designing Effective Writing Assignments” and “Utilizing Writing Strategies, Prewriting and Scaffolding.”

During its first year of WEC implementation, the department also worked closely with the Russian program—which merged with German, Scandinavian and Dutch in 2018—to develop a clear set of objectives and writing goals for the four-year Russian curriculum in the target language.

For its second-edition Writing Plan, approved by the Campus Writing Board in Summer 2020, GNSD is focusing on the following core activities in AY 2020–2022: (1) implementing the changes made to the capstone seminar and hosting an annual capstone presentation event in person or via Zoom; (2) establishing a cohort of writing-intensive instructors who will meet twice a semester to consider ways to integrate more explicit writing instruction into courses; (3) developing a departmental-wide WEC Canvas site that includes mini-lessons and other writing resources; (4) conducting departmental workshops focused on writing-related matters once a semester.