Writing Plan Phases
Collecting Baseline Data
First Edition Writing Plan
Second Edition Writing Plan
Third 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?”

We encourage students to …

1. Compose works in a variety of modes (PowerPoint, digital narratives, videos, etc.) pertaining to the discipline.
2. Show evidence of critical thinking and analytical skills through strong engagement with the topic and depth of reflection.

Students should be able to…

3. Approach a writing project with confidence and the determination to complete it successfully
4. Demonstrate project management skills: reduce a topic down to a manageable paper, define a timeline, meet deadlines, complete stages of a project
5. Revise their paper as needed by responding to feedback from their peers and instructors, in addition to rereading it critically and strengthening their arguments

6. Engage with relevant research by working with a variety of primary or secondary sources and successfully integrating them through use of paraphrases, summaries, citations, and references
7. Make information accessible/understandable for the audience by meaningfully integrating diagrams (visuals) and text

8. Craft an introduction that presents a specific argument concisely and orients the reader
9. Work with sources to support your argument clearly and persuasively
10. Take an original, identifiable position
11. Use a structure that flows logically from one idea to the next by utilizing strong transitions and is pertinent to the structure needed for said assignment
12. Craft a strong conclusion that brings together the main arguments

13. Use a consistent voice/tone appropriate to the assignment type and genre
14. Express ideas with their own voice revealing a sense of passion for the topic rather than treating the assignment as a mechanical exercise
15. Use varied and appropriate vocabulary and avoid word repetition
16. Write concisely and clearly, using precise sentence structure (syntax) and avoiding excessive use of passive or convoluted sentences

17. Respond to and write for a variety of audiences
18. Make clear to the reader what the stakes of this project/topic are and spark their interest

19. Include footnotes that are clear and concise and use complete sentences
20. Use consistent formatting
21. Use correct American grammar, spelling (orthography), and punctuation intentionally

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. This work will continue to inform how the department works with and supports writing in its other languages, including, German, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.

For its second-edition Writing Plan, GNSD focused on implementing the changes made to the capstone seminar and hosting an annual capstone presentation. It has now hosted two successful celebration events and initiated a capstone writing award. The department has also established a cohort of writing-intensive instructors who meet twice a semester to consider ways to integrate more explicit writing instruction into courses.

For its third-edition Writing Plan, approved by the Campus Writing Board in June 2022, GNSD will sustain its earlier initiatives along with developing a departmental-wide WEC Canvas site that includes mini-lessons and other writing resources. The department has also recently revised its desired writing abilities, and will focus on aligning them to grading criteria.