III. Types of Writing/Writing Assignments

An ABSTRACT is a synopsis or summary, often used in scientific reports. An abstract can also be a preface, introduction, or summary explaining the author's focus in a journal article, book, or thesis/dissertation. Abstracts are the annotations in Annotated Bibliographies, which are organized in alphabetical order with the work cited as a heading, followed by the annotation. A less formal annotated bibliography for the sciences is a Literature Review, written in paragraph form with summaries of books, articles, and studies and their authors upon which the current book, article, or study is grounded.

ACADEMIC DISCOURSE—Communication with an academic audience for the purpose of furthering knowledge, interpretation, and understanding in the field; the genre of writing that college students and professors use to learn, share, and challenge knowledge, and to expand their understanding fields of study; i.e., expository, persuasive, and argumentative essays, critical reviews, monographs such as theses and dissertations.

ANALYSIS is the identification or separation of the essential elements of a reading or issue. Often analysis helps someone understand abstract texts that when read as a continuous stream of words makes little sense until broken down. Analysis can also show the relationship between smaller particles within a larger, more complex thing. (See RHETORICAL ANALYSIS handouts - 1, 2.) In argument, analysis means taking a piece of work apart to see the connections between claim, grounds, warrants, support, qualifiers, and rebuttals (Toulmin); identifying the ethos, pathos, and logos of a work (Aristotle).

An ARGUMENT is an explanation or support of a position or point of view on an issue. It can also be a text crafted to persuade an audience. See Analysis for Toulmin and Aristotelian terms.

An ARTIFACT is a piece of evidence used to represent findings. Artifacts may include a novel or poem in an English class; a piece of pottery in Anthropology; a portfolio in Assessment or Education; or a sculpture or painting in an Art class. (Compare to TEXT.)

In assessment, an artifact is any work which may be evaluated to determine the extent a student has achieved a learning outcome. In composition, artifacts are selections of writing which may be compiled into a portfolio of a semester’s work. Collective artifacts may be evaluated to assess an entire course or program.

COLLABORATIVE WRITING involves writing a paper as a group or team where the learning and writing processes are emphasized along with the final product. 

A COMPARISON is a discovery of similarities or perspectives between two or more texts or issues, usually on the basis of a particular theme or issue. Summary is usually a part of comparison, while summary and comparison often provide a basis for argument. 

CRITICAL THINKING/ CRITICAL READING is the ability to question rigorously, to synthesize what is known with what is new, and to draw new understanding from the process. (See www.criticalthinking.org/ .)

CRITICISM can be the weighing of strengths and weaknesses or the judging of an issue according to the issue’s merits and faults. Criticism in academic writing should not be seen only as negative and adversarial as novice writers may think. Criticism, both positive and negative, is imperative to the act of evaluating a text or issue. Criticism is also a helpful tool when writing so that the writer will know what the audience sees and hears.

DRAFTS are texts that are not in a final form and need to be revised and/or edited; generally multiple drafts are accepted as part of the development of students’ writing in process-writing classes. The first draft of the written paper is often used to discover the writer’s ideas and direction while later drafts provide opportunities for development. The final draft is generally turned in for a grade or other evaluation. Most composition classes at ASU are process-oriented and require multiple drafts of papers.

EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE is proof for an outcome that withstands challenge; in the sciences and mathematics, following a hypothesis through stages of inquiry, whether in a laboratory of physical testing or a logical train of thought, to a conclusion either confirming the hypothesis or rejecting it to develop a new hypothesis.

EXPOSITORY WRITING (the course title of English 1000) relates to explanatory, informative, or scientific speech or writing, and is often nonfiction prose focused on a single topic and developed through example, incident, etc. Its purpose might be to inform, persuade, provoke, or entertain a reader. Some examples include the narrative, how to, cause and effect, classification, comparison/contrast, or definition essays.

HIGH-STAKES WRITING assignments are expected to be completed according to formal academic and disciplinary conventions and often count for a significant part of a student’s grade. Examples include essays, research papers, lab reports, essay exams and critical response papers. This term is generally paired with the term low-stakes writing and is distinguished from informal writing that is often exploratory and non-graded. (See also SUMMATIVE EVAULATION and LOW-STAKES WRITING.)

INTERPRETATION is an explanation or presentation of the meaning of something in understandable terms and a way to give the reader some new, deeper way of understanding a text, performance, event, or issue.

JOURNALS are tools used by writing teachers in a variety of ways, often as INVENTION techniques (see the WAC handout on INVENTION) or to generate ideas for class discussion. Individual teachers will use journals in different ways and have different “rules” governing them. One usual component is that journals are low-stakes writing and writing to discover. The teacher does not “grade” the journal according to grammar, punctuation, or any stylistic criteria: the journal is assessed according to whether the writer has completed the required number of journals. Some teachers use them as practice writing: that is, as a means of exploring what a writer thinks. A writer improves by writing, and journals are practice at writing, trying out ideas, exploring possibilities, etc. (See the WAC handout on JOURNALS for more information.)

A LANDMARK TEXT is a text or piece of writing that marks an important period or turning point in the history of a field. 

LITERACY is defined as the ability to read and write, but also to be fluent in a certain area or field.  This fluency entails understanding a certain area of knowledge and using that knowledge for a specific purpose.  This generally involves some sort of “reading” which includes gathering information.  Literate persons often have sponsors to help them become literate in a certain topic.  For more information on this intricate process see Deborah Brandt’s “Sponsors of Literacy.” Recently, this definition has also entailed sociological studies of certain populations and their understanding of not only oral and written language, but also technology, mathematics and economics, among other topics.

LOW-STAKES WRITING activities provide students with opportunities to experiment with ideas, form, and style without the pressure associated with correctness. The term “low-stakes” represents the level of expectation that a student and instructor bring to a particular assignment, meaning that low-stakes writing should count very little (if at all) toward the student’s final grade, while high-stakes writing is presumably graded. Examples of low-stakes writing include journals, reflective responses, creative drafting and free-writing. Some argue that the more frequently students engage in low-stakes writing, the more confidence and expertise they will apply to formal, high-stakes assignments. (Compare to HIGH-STAKES WRITING above.)

MEMOIR is a form of autobiography that generally recounts the writer’s personal experience.  Memoirs usually entail incorporation of the writer’s career rather than private life.

PEDAGOGY is the study, method and practice of teaching

PERSONAL NARRATIVE is an autobiographical document that is often written in English 1000 courses that revolves around a writer's personal experience, often about a significant life event.  Some of the most successful examples of this document involve seeing instead of telling about the experience. (See handout about "Seeing the Moment." Also see a sample assignment for personal narratives here.

PERSUASION is the act of seeking to change someone else’s point of view.

A PORTFOLIO is a collection of student artifacts on various topics. These pieces are revised and polished throughout the semester, and the portfolio is collected at the end of the semester. (A portfolio is not simply a collection of products amassed during a semester or year.) An e-PORTFOLIO is a portfolio that is collected electronically.

A PRECIS is a concise summary written in one’s own words. The term is often used in history courses. (See also ABSTRACT and SUMMARY. Contrast with ANALYSIS.)

A SUMMARY is a short restatement of the major points of a work, often used in research papers. A student will summarize or paraphrase articles to use in the research paper. A key element about both summaries and paraphrases is that in MLA documentation styles, both must be cited directly with page numbers. In APA style documentation, the source must be identified, but the page number is not always required for paraphrases or summaries. In history classes, the term PRÉCIS may be used to mean summary; other disciplines may refer to an ABSTRACT to mean the same concept. (Contrast with ANALYSIS.)

SYNTHESIS is the combination of separate parts to create a whole. Synthesis could be an identification of common, connecting themes among different texts. Synthesis can also be the creation of a substance by combining smaller, simpler, sometimes diverse elements into more complex, unified ones. (Compare to THESIS and HYPOTHESIS under RESEARCH in the Glossary.)

TEXT commonly refers to written, printed words, such as literary texts, textbooks, or even text messages. The term is growing in use as any material studied in a discipline such as a painting or sculpture in an Art class; a movie in Film Studies; or a brochure in a Computer Graphics class. (Compare with ARTIFACT.)

Contact Us

For information about the Writing Across the Curriculum Program please contact Director Georgia Rhoades at (828) 262-2075 or e-mail at rhoadesgd@appstate.edu

Writing Across the Curriculum Program
Appalachian State University
253 Anne Belk Hall
ASU Box 32033
Boone, NC 28608-2033

(828) 262-2075 (office)
(828) 262-2032 (fax)

For more information about WAC

Vertical Writing Model

WAC Film

Community College Support

Web Resources

QEP Global Learning