Writing Intensive Definitions & Guidelines

Written Communication Competencies:

All courses approved by the WI Committee must effectively address at least four of the following seven Written Communication Competencies as articulated in by the MnTC.

  • Understand/demonstrate the writing and speaking processes through invention, organization, drafting, revision, editing and presentation.
  • Participate effectively in groups with emphasis on listening, critical and reflective thinking, and responding.
  • Locate, evaluate, and synthesize in a responsible manner material from diverse sources and points of view.
  • Select appropriate communication choices for specific audiences.
  • Construct logical and coherent arguments.
  • Use authority, point-of-view, and individual voice and style in their writing and speaking.
  • Employ syntax and usage appropriate to academic disciplines and the professional world.


Writing intensive courses integrate writing with course content and provide a variety of both formal and informal occasions for students to write. Formal writing may include (but is not limited to) formats and genres characteristic of a particular field, such as a review of literature, a critical essay, an executive summary, or a laboratory report. The emphasis is on the final product as a demonstration of students’ understanding.

Informal writing may include (but is not limited to) project logs, recording personal observations, brainstorming, journals, e-mail, or short in-class writings. The emphasis is on students’ writing-to-learn, rather than on producing a polished product. Both formal writing and informal writing assignments are spaced reasonably across the semester, rather than being one long assignment at the close of the term.

In a writing intensive course, informal writing is generally unrehearsed. The professor uses the writing to gain an immediate sense of students’ understanding, to focus and facilitate class discussion, to help students learn the material, to facilitate the scaffolding from one assignment to the next, or to learn more about the students. Response to the writing is informal: it facilitates students’ understanding of content, rather than evaluating students’ performance. Response may be an oral response in class or answering questions revealed in in-class writing. Any written response is usually done quickly, a checking off that the writing has been completed, rather than the giving of a lengthy written response.


To meet the writing intensive course requirements, the application must explain how the course will meet WI competencies and must do the following:

  • Indicate how writing serves the goals of the course;
  • Indicate which written communication competencies of LASC are addressed and how they are developed; the course should develop at least four of those competencies;
  • Assign a minimum of 4800 to 5000 words per student of formal, polished writing in multiple assignments that span the semester, rather than one long paper handed in at the end of the term;
  • Include at least one assignment that requires drafting and revision;
  • Include informal writing-to-learn assignments or activities;
  • Indicate how the quality of student writing will affect the course grade;
  • Demonstrate how meeting the Writing Intensive requirements will be necessary to passing the course; this will be accomplished according to the faculty member's discretion, via, for instance, grading or course policies.

In a writing intensive course, formal writing assignments and evaluation criteria must be given to students in writing far enough ahead of time to facilitate thoughtful writing and students’ use of conferences with the instructor, a writing center tutor, or a peer response group before the paper is due if they choose. The professor will offer substantive response to the students’ writing, using the following criteria:

Focus — The paper addresses the assignment/answers the question? There is a thesis, main idea, or hypothesis that holds the paper together.

Organization — The paper is cohesively organized, making effective use of paragraphs and transitions, or other appropriate genre conventions.

Development — The paper provides sufficient evidence to support the over-all thesis, or answer the question. Topic sentences for each paragraph are adequately supported.

Clarity — Sentences are clear and effectively punctuated (appropriate diction, no run-ons, fragments, misspellings, or grammar errors).

Voice — The tone is professional and informative (not stuffy, preachy, whiny, or filled with slang).

The professor will also instruct students on writing conventions, formats, and styles appropriate to the discipline or the area, sharing examples when possible.

Writing intensive courses at the 200 level should extend the student learning outcomes of the foundation writing course, giving the students writing opportunities to practice those outcomes. The course syllabus will identify which learning outcomes the course extends and how. It will show that writing is an integral part of the course, giving students opportunity to convey their knowledge, comprehension, and application of course content.

Writing intensive courses at the 300/400 level should not only extend the student learning outcomes of the foundation writing course, but they should also give students opportunity to develop their competency in using diverse sources and points of view in their writing. Students should have opportunity to locate, use, and cite appropriately primary and secondary source materials from both print and electronic resources. They should also be introduced to writing conventions appropriate to the discipline of the course. The writing opportunities should give them opportunity to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate course content, not just repeat information.