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

The Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication (HSJMC), located in the College of Liberal Arts, offers an undergraduate major in Journalism with three distinct emphases: Journalism, Strategic Communication (Advertising and PR), and Mass Communication. Although they are distributed into these three subfields, nearly 700 enrolled majors are keenly aware of the extent to which their writing—whether they are reporting news, designing ad campaigns, or devising public relations materials—has the power to shape audiences’ opinions and actions. And, although writing is a core competency in all three programs, faculty members are unevenly satisfied with the level of writing competency across the HSJMC curriculum.

Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication Writing Plan

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Writing in Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication

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

HSJMC’s curricula include three diverse tracks -- journalism, strategic communication (advertising and PR) and mass communication – that require a variety of different writing skills. The following characteristics, though broad, cover the range of writing that is required:

  • Clarity: Writing means what it says; lacks ambiguity.
  • Conciseness: Less is more; language quickly makes the point; is focused and efficient.
  • Active voice: Writing rests on verbs (but not “to be” or “to have.”) Writing in these fields primarily uses active case.
  • Sensitivity to channel: Effective writing varies based on channels of distribution, which may include, but are not limited to, radio, television, magazines, newspapers, web sites, blogs, tweets, academic papers, and presentations.
  • Sensitivity to audience: Effective writing accurately targets and addresses issues relevant to specific audiences, which may include business clients, mass news audiences, academic colleagues, instructors.
  • Precision: Writing should reflect precise word choice, avoid vague language, generalities, and made-up words.
  • Support: What is written should be tied to research and based on appropriately sourced evidence.
  • Persuasion: Writing, when appropriate, should make a case with evidence from a variety of effective sources; it should be influential and based in fact and evidence.
  • Energy: Writing should display care to communicate powerfully, which requires drafts, revision and editing for effective tone, pace, word choice, etc.
  • Engagement: Writing should use effective structure, tone and clarity in ways that draw readers’ interest and help them understand why they should care about the content.
  • Creativity: Writing should display originality, fresh ways of story-telling, break-through ideas, and a willingness to take risks.

Writing Abilities Expected of Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication Majors

The HSJMC 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:

Mass communication classes, for the most part, are context courses within which writing assignments are used to teach and evaluate students’ ability to conduct research and demonstrate understanding of various concepts, principles, and information related to the course material.

  • Use appropriate grammar, mechanics, spelling and style. Emphasize active construction.
  • Write concisely and clearly, using precise language.
  • Organize writing effectively (introduction, evidence, analysis, conclusion.)
  • Write with the expected elements, language and tone for a particular assignment (i.e. an explanatory paper, an analysis, a review, etc.)
  • Articulate valid arguments based on evidence or express an informed opinion leading to a clear point or conclusion.
  • Find, evaluate and properly attribute appropriate and credible sources of information to use in the assignment.
  • Synthesize information from a variety of sources and provide proper attribution.
  • Demonstrate an understanding that the writing process involves ongoing editing and revision, both individually generated and based on feedback.
  • When required, collaborate in a writing project with others.

Journalism skills courses teach professional skills for work in newspapers, broadcast and multi-media. Writing assignments are used to teach and evaluate students’ ability to deliver news and information that is appropriate to a given platform.

  • Demonstrate competence in grammar, mechanics, spelling and style.
  • Write concisely by choosing precise language and using active construction.
  • Write coherently, using logical and narrative flow.
  • Base writing in fact and evidence, with proper attribution to credible sources, to ensure accuracy and trust of readers.
  • Write consistently within the expected structure, language and tone of a particular assignment (efficient, inverted pyramid structure for breaking news; persuasion based on evidence for opinion writing; descriptive, colorful story-telling for features; active verbs and brevity for headlines; etc.)
  • Synthesize and explain information from a range of sources and perspectives to fully reflect the complexities and various points of view of issues and events.
  • Write in ways that are appropriate to channels of distribution (conversational, etc., for radio and TV; descriptive, longer form writing, etc., for magazine; efficient, objective tone, etc., for newspaper; abbreviated language for tweet; etc.).
  • Write in ways that are appropriate for the target audience.
  • Apply ethical and legal standards to ensure fairness and accuracy, avoid libel and unnecessary harm, etc.
  •  View writing as a process that requires routine revisions, updates and collaborations.
  • Experiment with story form structures to enhance the narrative’s power.

Assignments in advertising skills courses are designed to teach and evaluate students’ ability to understand and use research to develop advertising strategies, and build effective advertising campaigns using various platforms. Writing can include research papers, print or multi-media advertisements, material to be used in oral presentations or other writing forms.

  • Use appropriate grammar, spelling, style and mechanics. This will vary with departmental discipline as writing an effective business letter is not the same as writing an interesting headline.
  • Consistently write in ways that display appropriate structure, language, tone, creativity and audience considerations for a particular assignment genre (e.g. academic paper, business letter, oral presentation).
  • Emphasize active construction.
  • Write in ways that are appropriate to channels of distribution (print, broadcast, blog, tweet, etc.).
  • Base writing in fact and evidence when applicable. Support advertising strategy with research. While such evidence and research may not always be included in the writing, it must be available as support if needed.
  • Apply legal and ethical standards.
  • Make clear recommendations based on solving a specific business problem. Support recommendations with conclusions based on an advertising strategy that was developed with an understanding of the business problem and the target consumer.

Assignments in public relations skills courses are designed to teach and evaluate students’ ability to understand and use research to develop public relations strategies and to craft strategic messages that may include biographies, press releases, fact sheets, brochures, speeches, broadcast messages and other forms of communication.

  • Use appropriate grammar, spelling, mechanics and style (AP style, Chicago style, etc.).
  • Consistently write in ways that display appropriate structure, language, tone and audience considerations for a particular assignment genre (academic paper, business letter, legislative testimony, position paper, oral presentation, collateral, etc.).
  • Emphasize active construction.
  • Write in ways that are appropriate to channels of distribution (print, broadcast, blog, tweet, etc.).
  • Engage writing processes: draft, revise and edit.
  • Tie writing to research: base writing in fact and evidence. Synthesize and explain information from a variety of sources and perspectives when applicable.
  • Apply legal and ethical standards.
  • Build facts and evidence into argumentation that can be persuasive within the organization being represented and with external constituencies.
  • Be able to experiment with a variety of writing forms and structures at appropriate times (narrative forms; innovative presentations; visual considerations, etc.).

Menu of Grading Criteria Used in Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication Courses

  1. Includes an introduction that effectively summarizes or focuses later points or defends a central argument.
  2. Articulates valid arguments that are based in evidence.
  3. Demonstrates analysis of source information in a way that substantiates or contributes to central point.
  4. Synthesizes information from a variety of sources in the writer’s own language.
  5. Concludes by summarizing or bringing added meaning to main points.
  6. Emphasizes active, rather than passive, sentence construction.
  7. Avoids unnecessary words, imprecise language and cliché.
  8. Consistently uses language and tone that are appropriate for the genre/audience.
  9. Uses information from credible sources.
  10. Properly attributes information to sources.
  11. Uses appropriate and consistent style (APA, Chicago, MLA, AP, etc.).
  12. Contains few if any grammatical errors.
  13. Uses correct spelling.
  14. Presents material in ways that both make a point and engage the reader.

Highlights from the Writing Plan

In Spring 2017, HSJMC successfully submitted its third-edition Writing Plan, identifying the following activities to deepen and sustain its WEC efforts: (1) conducting a series of workshops for faculty, graduate instructors and teaching assistants on methods for developing effective writing assignments; providing useful comments on student work; assigning ethical and constructive grades; and supporting multilingual writers; (2) developing an online teaching resource on assignment prompts and grading rubrics; (3) assessing its current admissions writing exam to consider common weaknesses, and to consider methods of early intervention.

In Fall 2021, HSJMC will begin work on a Legacy Writing Plan.