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Articles on Writing Across the Curriculum—Social Sciences

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Beyer, Barry K., and Anita Brostoff. "The Time it Takes: Managing/Evaluating Writing and Social Studies." Social Education (March 1979): 194-197.

Discusses how writing assignments can be integrated into a crowded curriculum--how to make time for writing in a course (use writing to accomplish some other task in the course, or cover less of the content). Also discusses methods of responding to papers by teacher (use holistic methods, don't over-comment, use praise too, ask questions), by the student him/herself, and by peers.

Day, Susan. "Producing Better Writers in Sociology Classes: A Test of the Writing-Across-the-Curriculum Approach." Teaching Sociology 17 (October 1989): 458-64.

Examines effect of frequent writing assignments on students' writing abilities. Gave pretest writing assignment to 13 classes in sociology; then in 10 of those classes, gave frequent, little-commented on writing assignments; then gave all classes a writing assignment posttest. Results suggest that lots of writing assignments are not sufficient to improve student writing. What is important is rigorous grading of an entire written paper--this improves writing. Concludes that students' writing can be improved only with effort by professor as well as student.

Faigley, Lester, and Kristine Hansen. "Learning to Write in the Social Sciences." College Composition and Communication 36.2 (1985): 140- 149.

Presents two case studies of students writing papers for upper-division social science courses. Concludes that an English professor could not evaluate student papers in the same way as a person in the discipline. People in the discipline can spot disciplinary problems in papers that are mechanically perfect and follow the appropriate format; they can also see beyond mechanical problems to detect how much a student has learned about a discipline and how well a student can think like someone in the discipline. Concludes that upper-level writing in disciplines needs to be taught by professors in those disciplines.

Giroux, Henry. "Teaching Content and Thinking Through Writing." Social Education (March 1979): 190-193.

Outlines a lesson plan suitable for an 11th grade social studies classroom that incorporates write to learn assignments.

Hansen, Edmund J. and Richard S. Rubin. "Strategies for Teaching a Student-Centered Large Lecture Course in Public Affairs." Journal of Public Administration Education 3.3 (1997): 329-344.

Documents the effectiveness of various strategies used to teach an introductory course in public affairs to a large lecture class. In order to get students to become more engaged by the material, and in order to encourage active learning, multiple-choice tests were abandoned in favor of writing policy proposals arising from issues covered in a two-week instructional cycle on a specific policy area. Standard textbooks were abandoned in favor of trade books, and lectures were interspersed with videos as well as debates by local policy-makers. Discussion sessions made use of undergraduate teaching interns working with graduate teaching assistants in order to facilitate discussions. Student journals indicated that students felt more involved in the course, and more motivated to devote time to learning.

Hoffman, Eleanor M. "Writing for the Social Sciences." College Composition and Communication 28 (May 1977): 195-197.

Hoffman describes the structure of a course she designed, "Writing for the Social Sciences". It had five units: Exploring Form, Data Gathering, Writing and Revising, Making Messages (synthesis), and Finale (experiment or case study). Instead of a textbook, the course was based on readings from professional journals in the various disciplines, and focused on learning how to use a variety of resources to gather materials.

Jankiewicz, Henry. "The Dialogic Instructor: Co-Teaching across the Disciplines." ERIC document. ED 444 174. March 27, 1999.

Describes an inquiry-based course developed by a writing instructor and a psychology instructor. The course, about drug experience, was not meant to be a content-driven course in writing in a discipline but about how texts are used to negotiate interpretation of discipline-related knowledge. The dual instructorship helped to displace authority and make the class more student-centered. However, the experience helped show that the polarity of WAC discussions regarding writing-to-learn and writing-in-the-disciplines, dialogica and academic journals, as well as expressivist and disciplinary voices are unproductive and rooted in narrow definitions of real and textual selves and in the politics of these definitions among academic departments.

Jorgensen, Karen L., with James W. Venable. History Workshop: Reconstructing the Past with Elementary Students. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 1993.

Provides an introduction of how to teach history to elementary school children using a workshop approach. In order to engage students, Jorgensen incorporates a variety of writing, interviewing, and drawing activities into the workshop.

Law, Joe. "Critical Thinking and Computer-aided Instruction in Sociology 200."Writing Across the Curriculum. 8 (March, 1998): 1,3.

Instructors of large classes often have difficulty in knowing whether the students have read and understood the text. One instructor requires her students to take weekly computerized tests over the reading. Outside of the tests, the instructor also requires a research project in which students must keep field notes of their observations of a sociological concept in process.

Odell, Lee, Dixie Goswami, and Doris Quick. "Writing Outside the English Composition Class: Implications for Teaching and for Learning." Literacy for Life: The Demand for Reading and Writing. Eds. Richard W. Bailey and Robin Melanie Fosheim. New York: Modern Language Association, 1983. 175- 194.

Analyzes writing of undergrad political science and economics majors, and legislative analysts; interviews participants; and reviews instructors' comments on the undergraduates' writing. Analysts have a more concrete idea of audience and make more complex connections between a piece of writing and its context or the circumstances (prior history of an idea, etc.). Analysts also have a specific set of strategies that they consciously use when analyzing legislation. The article suggests that students in this discipline might be taught about the use of these strategies.

Richlin-Klonsky, J., E. Strenski, and the Sociology Writing Group, eds. "The Textual Analysis Paper." A Guide to Writing Sociology Papers. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991. 51-73.

Describes how to write a textual analysis or compare/contrast paper for a sociology course. Discusses what goes into each of the main parts of the paper--summary, analysis, evaluation. Goes through the steps of reading the text, taking notes, organizing the paper, and writing it.

Shamoon, Linda K., and Robert A. Schwegler. "Sociologists Reading Student Texts: Expectations and Perceptions." The Writing Instructor (Winter 1988): 71-81.

An instructor's discipline-specific expectations for student writing might influence their perceptions of student writing. To examine this, authors took student papers written for an introductory sociology course and altered them to make them sound less sociological (less jargon, fewer cues to sociological line of reasoning) but still coherent, grammatically correct and logically clear. Then had sociology professors read the papers and talk as they read about their expectations for student papers and whether the original or alter version fulfilled those expectations. Found that when you delete or change the sentences that mark the sociological structure of the argument, the professors think the writing is poor.

Smith, Douglas Bradley. "Teaching Anthropology Is a Good Way to Teach Writing" College Composition and Communication 28 (October 1977): 251-256.

Smith explains how teaches students "epistemic rhetoric" instead of the traditional philosophy of rhetoric course that most composition teachers use. He defines epistemic rhetoric as "writing to share in the creation of a social reality," and explains how it grows out of social psychology, sociology of knowledge, and the philosophy of science. Smith claims that using anthropological writings for his texts enables students to see writing rules as a product of a specific culture and to distance themselves from the writing process.

Van Nostrand, A.D. "Writing and the Generation of Knowledge." Social Education (March 1979): 178-180.

Argues that the act of writing actually engenders new information, typically inferences connecting bits of information, that the writer did not have before beginning to write. This new information depends on how the bits of information are connected in the writer's mind.

Voss, James F., Terry R. Greene, Timothy A. Post, and Barbara Penner. "Problem-Solving Skill in the Social Sciences." No citation. 165-213.

Within an information-processing framework, presents a model of problem-solving specific to problems in the social sciences--ill structured political science/economics problems particularly. Uses analysis of think- aloud protocols with experts and novices to define steps in solving the problems--definition of subproblems, etc.

Walzer, Arthur E. "Articles from the 'California Divorce Project': A Case Study of the Concept of Audience." College Composition and Communication 36.2 (May 1985): 150-159.

Studies the notion of audience among social scientists (psychologists) by examining two scientific papers, reports of a study of the effects of divorce on children. One article was written for Psychology Today, the other for a professional journal. Discovered that even within a discipline, in two articles describing the same research, the authors had different notions of audience. These differing notions were revealed in the differences in their writing in the two contexts. Authors discuss implications for teaching and WAC.

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