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Writing 1E: "Approaches to University Writing for Engineers"

Students are placed in Writing 1E if they are declared engineering majors or pre-majors (excluding Computer Science majors) who have not satisfied the AWPE requirement.

Principles of critical reading, thinking, and writing in the university. Students analyze academic discourse, develop rhetorical strategies for exposition and argument, practice examination writing, write and revise source-based papers. Completion with a grade of C or better meets the AWPE requirement.


Like other sections of Writing 1, Writing 1E has as its goal to introduce students to the range of reading, critical thinking and writing tasks commonly required of members of the university community. Although Writing 1E focuses on those communication tasks that are frequently required of undergraduate and professional engineers, the course shares with all sections of Writing 1 an emphasis on helping students develop their writing fluency and critical engagement with the texts they read. Emphasizing the composition of formal source-based papers, the course is designed to help students write effectively in other university courses.

In addition to these shared goals, Writing 1E introduces students to principles of document design, guidelines for incorporating graphics into written text, memo and letter formats, and strategies for conducting and reporting original research. Some of the reading material is drawn from scientific and technological discourse. In terms of computer skills, students are asked to work with a word-processing program and with electronic mail/Internet.

AWPE competence, defined as the ability to use English "correctly, clearly, and pertinently on all the lines upon which . . . thought is exercised," has been a UC requirement since 1897. AWPE competence in incoming UC undergraduates has been determined through a systematized, statewide essay exam since May 1987.
In addition to passing the University of California system wide AWPE examination while in high school, students may (prior to their admission at UC) satisfy the AWPE requirement by (1) achieving a score of 660 or higher (or 680 or higher on tests taken since May 1998) on the SAT II Subject Test in Writing (formerly the College Board Achievement Test in English Composition); (2) achieving a score of 3 or higher on the College Board Advanced Placement (AP) exam in English Composition and Literature or English Language and Composition; (3) entering the university with transcripts showing the completion of an acceptable 3-semester-unit or 4-quarter-unit course in English composition equivalent to Writing 2 at UCSB with a grade of C or better.
Students who enter UCSB without having met the university's AWPE requirement and who do not achieve an appropriate score on the UCSB AWPE examination must enroll in Writing 1 (or equivalent) by their third quarter at UCSB. A grade of C or better is needed to meet the Subject A requirement. Students who have met the AWPE requirement by means (2) or (3) above may elect to take Writing 1.

Instructors assign a variety of article-length readings representative of those typically required in undergraduate work—that is, readings representative in content, form, style, and difficulty of those that students are being assigned in their other courses. Students may be asked to read and write about topics in engineering that have ethical and social implications (e.g., engineering and the environment, the impact of computer technology on culture).
The primary purpose of the readings is not for students to master the content of a given body of material, but rather to stimulate the development of their writing, critical reading, and critical thinking skills in a range of academic disciplines, especially in the field of engineering.
In recent year, instructors have used a several grammar handbooks (e.g., A Writer’s Reference by Diana Hacker). For textbooks, instructors have used the following: Beer and McMurrey, A Guide to Writing as an Engineer; Stevenson and Whitmore, Strategies for Engineering Communication; Gurak and Lannon, Concise Guide to Technical Communication; Alley, The Craft of Scientific Writing. Most instructors also put together a customized anthology with articles, assignments, and handouts.

Writing assignments provide students with opportunities to practice and develop the kind of prose expected in the rest of their university course work—prose that is insightful, focused, grounded in evidence, logical, coherent, clear, succinct. This prose should also adhere to the conventions of standard English and be couched in a voice appropriate to academic audiences.

In Writing 1E, students develop strategies for responding to the kinds of writing tasks typically assigned in college. Students should learn to identify and use various forms of evidence, including quotation, summary, and paraphrase. They should also practice all phases of the writing process, from drafting to revising and editing.
All Writing 1E students write, in the course of the quarter, approximately 18 to 20 pages (6,500 words) of prose. This requirement may be met through a combination of informal assignments (reading logs, journals, rough drafts, short in-class papers and exercises) and formal assignments (summary, exposition, argument, comparison/contrast, critical analysis, and synthesis papers). These formal assignments may take the form of reports, essays, or examinations. Individual papers may be relatively brief, but should display control of expository and rhetorical strategies, an appropriate awareness of audience, and an ability to develop ideas based on assigned readings. Some assignments are timed writings that allow students to gain facility with invention strategies, to select appropriate modes of organization, and to set response priorities.
At the conclusion of the course, students will write a common (that is, the exam is the same for every section of Writing 1 and is chosen by the Writing 1 committee) final examination, a timed essay in which students must respond to one or more readings that will be given to all students the last class period of the quarter. Students may be asked to synthesize two short readings or to analyze and respond to one longer reading. The essays will be scored holistically during a group session of instructors teaching Writing 1 and Writing 1E that quarter, using the same scoring guidelines as employed for the system wide Subject A exam. For the purpose of determining students' course grades, the Writing 1 common final shall be weighted as a graded paper; specifically, it should count no less than 15% and no more than 20% of the course grade.


At the end of Writing 1E students should be able to:

  • Read and analyze university-level texts, identifying underlying assumptions and points of view, distinguishing fact from opinion, drawing inferences, and reaching independent conclusions;

  • Use strategies to continue developing appropriate vocabulary for academic reading and writing;

  • Appreciate the close connection between reading and their consequent writing, with particular attention to the importance of precision in word choice, the ability to control an audience through language, and how words are tied to argument;

  • Grasp the concepts of composing as a process and of academic writing as a collaborative effort that requires actively engaging not only with the texts of others but also within a community of writers;

  • Employ the stages of the composing process: inventing, planning, focusing, drafting, organizing, revising, editing, and proofreading;

  • Understand rhetorical concerns (audience, purpose, tone, organization, development, coherence) and shape their writing with these concerns in mind;

  • Display a degree of competence in assessing their own writing in order to recognize errors made in early drafts;

  • Respond critically as readers able to identify specific areas of miscommunication, faulty reasoning, inadequate evidence, or unexamined assumptions in the work of others;

  • Employ grammatical principles (punctuation, mechanics, usage) in order to write grammatically correct sentences, with an understanding that the role and function of grammar is not "punitive" but a vital function in clear and effective writing;

  • Write competently in timed writing and essay examinations.

In addition to the curricular goals listed above, Writing 1E students should be able to:

  • Broaden their familiarity with the field of engineering, including professional, social, and ethical issues;

  • Evaluate and articulate the unique role that science and engineering play in the humanities and social sciences, including history, philosophy, psychology and current global issues;

  • Recognize, extend and articulate classical rhetorical forms to the engineering realm, including critical consideration of the engineer's specialized role in academia, business and government, resource management, and democratic institutions.

Individual faculty have opportunities to assess their effectiveness in achieving course goals and to revise the design of their courses based on feedback from students, colleagues, and supervisors.
Students provide both informal and formal feedback. Informally, it is a common practice in Writing 1 and Writing 1E courses to have several conferences with students during the quarter; at these conferences, teachers can assess students’ understanding of course content and the effectiveness of their progress toward curricular goals. Formally, ESCI scores for each course provide evidence of students’ overall satisfaction with the course and the quality of instruction; narrative evaluations provide more detailed feedback to teachers regarding the value of specific readings, assignments, and class activities.
The Writing 1 Common Final in particular enables Writing 1E instructors to assess how well their students perform in comparison with Writing 1 students. This provides an important measure to determine if the differences in the curriculum of Writing 1E have an adverse (or advantageous) effect on students’ writing, particularly on their ability to synthesize readings and to write effectively within time constraints. Discussions at the Common Final grading session establish common values for good student writing expected at this level.
The goals and curriculum of Writing 1E are also assessed in the context of regular meetings of the Engineering Writing Committee, which is composed of all faculty and Teaching Assistants teaching Writing 1E, Writing 2E, and Writing 50E during a given academic year. At Committee meetings, Writing 1E teachers can discuss course goals and share assignments and reading materials to meet those goals. Moreover, Writing 1E teachers benefit from hearing discussions of the curriculum of Writing 2E and Writing 50E, since these are courses for which Writing 1E must prepare its students. In general, Engineering Writing Committee meetings serve to establish consistency across sections and coherence across courses in the sequence.
Colleagues provide assessment feedback in regular departmental and committee meetings. Within the Writing Program, a Writing 1 Committee is formed each year, consisting of experienced and new teachers; this committee meets regularly to discuss curriculum and plan the Common Final. Any significant changes to the curriculum are discussed and approved by this committee.
Feedback assessing the effectiveness of the curriculum and the teaching practice of individual faculty also comes from supervisors. For Teaching Assistants, these supervisors (who are Lecturers in the Writing Program) regularly visit class sessions, review graded papers, and consult with TAs throughout the quarter. TA supervisors also review ESCI and narrative evaluations for each course and suggest improvements and revisions where appropriate. For Lecturers, review from superiors comes annually or bi-annually in the form of contract renewal reviews. Lecturers are asked to provide syllabi, assignments, and sample student papers for courses they teach, and these materials are reviewed by a committee of Continuing Appointment Lecturers and the Writing Program Director.

Writing 1E Overview

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