The University of Chicago

University of Chicago Writing Program

Writing Program courses

The Writing Program specializes in courses geared towards the needs of writers who are experts in scholarly, research, and professional fields. We also introduce first year students to the study and practice of expert writing, and we offer graduate students and advanced undergraduates courses in special writing topics such as argument, style, legal writing, and non-fiction narrative. Looking for courses in fiction and poetry? Visit the Creative Writing program. Looking for courses in academic and professional writing or the rhetoric of persuasion? That's us.

Academic and Professional Writing (The Little Red Schoolhouse)

Do you want to write clear, effective academic or professional prose? If so, the Writing Program has a course for you. Academic and Professional Writing (aka "The Little Red Schoolhouse," English 13000/33000) offers principles of clear writing that will allow you to anticipate and to change how readers respond to your work -- whether those readers are professors, professionals, or the general public.

Because different writers have different needs, we offer several versions of this course. For more information, please click on one of the following links. (Please note: if you are taking a course to train for a writing program or humanities division job, you need to take one of our pedagogy courses instead.)

All versions of the course meet twice a week: once in a plenary lecture session, and once in small writing seminars during which students exchange and critique papers. To ensure that students receive individualized attention to their writing, enrollment is strictly limited so that there are no more than seven students per writing seminar. No exceptions!

For information on how to register for English 13000/33000 this quarter, please go to the LRS registration information page. Please note: there are no books to buy for this course, but there is a twenty-five dollar materials fee for the lecture handouts that constitute our weekly in-class readings.

Special writing topics courses for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students

For upper-level undergraduates and graduate students interested in advanced writing topics, the Writing Program offers a cluster of advanced writing courses. To ensure that students receive individualized attention to their writing, enrollment in each course is strictly limited to twelve students. No exceptions!

Courses offered in 2015-16

Writing Persuasion: Environment (English 12704/32704; ENST 12704) (Winter, 2016) A writing-intensive course in persuasive techniques that influence opinions and attempt to change behavior. This year our focus will be on an issue that presents a challenge for persuasion theory: the environment. People are notoriously slow to change their beliefs and behavior on environmental issues, and persuasion theory suggests reasons why this might be the case. Environmental problems ask readers to weigh costs that affect one group against benefits that might accrue to someone else. They involve time frames ranging from moments (which are easy to think and write about) to millennia (not so easy) to geological epochs, a time scale so remote from our experience as to be opaque to the imagination. Environmental problems are complex in ways that make them difficult to capture in a coherent, emotionally compelling narrative. Many individually innocuous and seemingly unrelated environmental events can converge over time to produce consequences that are counter-intuitively larger and graver than their causes. This felt disparity between actions and outcomes can violate an audience's sense of fairness, biasing the audience against a persuasive appeal.

This course will examine how writers on environmental problems have tackled these persuasive challenges when writing for non-scientific audiences. The readings will be short pieces and that attempt either to explain environmental issues or to persuade readers to adopt a course of action. Half of the assignments will analyze rhetorical techniques used the readings; in the other half, students will put these techniques into practice in their own essays. Over the course of the quarter, each student will develop a portfolio of pieces on an environmental topic of his or her choice. Readings will include selections from Rachel Carson, Robert Cialdini, Amy Harmon, Elizabeth Kolbert, Aldo Leopold, George Marshall, Bill McKibbin, and Cass Sunstein. Faculty: Tracy Weiner

Writing Law (Spring 2016) At first glance the title of this course might suggest the study of how to write statutes (writing laws). This is a writing course, but it is concerned with "law" more broadly, and the ways in which law and writing are interrelated. After all, "law" is written in many ways: it is written down, but it is also written about, written to, written for. "The law" has specific effects on writing, and writing has its own effects on the law. We'll consider a range of ways in which writing informs the law or becomes the law. And we will ask two questions about the ways in which contemporary American law is written: ""How do you do it?"; and, "What difference does it make?" We hope that each question will inform the other.

Part of our project will be to identify key features of some types of legal texts, for instance, statutes, decisions, memos, briefs and opinions. Students will then study the writing of law by practicing it: they will complete weekly exercises in which they write all or parts of such texts, for different readers. Throughout the course, we'll ask: if legal writing has these features and not others, what difference does it make in how we think of law? What difference does it make in how we create law? What difference does it make in how the law operates? What difference does it make in what the law is? Faculty: Larry McEnerney and Kathryn Cochran

Composing Composition (English 32705) (Spring 2016; prerequisite is Academic and Professional Writing [English 13000/33000] or one of our pedagogy courses for Lectors and Interns.) Many academic teaching positions in a wide variety of fields now require instructors to include a writing component in their courses. Whether you're in the humanities, the social sciences, or the sciences, some teaching of writing may lie in your future, and preparation for this eventuality can be an important part of your job application process. This class is intended for graduate students who plan to work as teachers or who are entering the academic job market. Our goal is to give you scholarly context and practical exercises that will help prepare you for the challenges of writing-related jobs in institutional contexts ranging from large research universities to community colleges to small liberal arts schools.

In this course we'll study some of the most widespread and influential methods of teaching writing in use at such institutions. We will have two goals. First, you will have the opportunity to practice integrating the findings of writing scholarship into the syllabi, assignments, and classroom techniques that you'd use both here and at other institutions. Second, we will help you prepare to discuss the teaching of writing in applications to and interviews for academic jobs and fellowships. To these ends, we will use as taking-off points for discussion influential scholarly work on the teaching of writing. The anticipated reading load will be two or three articles per week. In weekly practicum seminars, you'll develop over the course of the quarter a writing assignment sequences and a sample syllabus for a projected writing-intensive course in your field. At the end of the quarter, you'll discuss your syllabus in a mock interview and prepare a teaching statement for use in job interviews.

Please note: this course is NOT required for teaching positions in either the Writing Program or the English Department. It is intended to assist students who face the challenge of using teaching and classroom experiences here as a basis for teaching writing at other institutions with varying institutional structures, student demographics, and theoretical commitments. Potential topics will include: writing across the curriculum, writing in the disciplines, technical writing, multilingual writers, developmental writing, digital rhetoric, online instruction, writing assessment, visual rhetoric, multiple literacies, service learning, and community engagement projects. Faculty: Tracy Weiner, Linda Smith, Kathy Cochran


For first-year undergraduates: required writing sequence

Humanities 19100 Humanities Core Writing Seminars. These seminars are available in combination with either a two-quarter or a three-quarter general education sequence in the Humanities. They introduce students to the analysis and practice of expert academic writing. The seminars do not repeat or extend the substantive discussion of the Humanities class; they use the discussions and assignments from those classes as a tool for the advanced study of writing. We study various methods for the construction of sophisticated and well-structured arguments, but also for understanding the complications and limits of those arguments. We also address issues of readership and communication within expert communities. As students present papers in the seminars, we use the reactions of the audience to introduce techniques that expert writers can use to transform a text from one that serves the writer to one that serves readers. All University of Chicago undergraduate students must complete two quarters of this course for graduation; students do not register for the course directly, but are registered automatically when they register for a Humanities Core course. (Available every year, Autumn, Winter, Spring).

Pedagogy courses for graduate student instructors

The Writing Program offers two courses in writing pedagogy for graduate students who have been hired to teach for the Writing Program or who are training to teach within their own department or program. Pedagogies of Writing (Humanities 50000, offered in Spring and Summer quarters), is for graduate students who will be working as Writing Interns in the Humanities Common Core and for students who plan to work as CAs in Humanities Division courses. Principles of Teaching Writing (English 50300, offered in Autumn only) is for graduate students who have been hired to teach The Little Red Schoolhouse. Contact your division administrator to see if you are eligible for payment or teaching credit for taking these courses.

Fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction

Fiction and poetry courses are available through the Creative Writing Program. For further information, contact Kate Soto in Walker 411: (773) 834-8524 and