Vanessa Hayden Phillips
Good College Writing
Writing plays a vital role in a college student’s life. Whether lecture-based or discussion-focused, every class work is reflected through a student’s written work. As students transition from high school to college, they are likely to transfer the high school writing rules to their college writing, which may be detrimental to their college writing. College writing differs from high school writing because it requires higher writing standards than high school writing. Good college writing involves arguments about what other people say about a given topic, supported by evidence from credible sources, and follows the stipulated writing variations.
Good college writing makes arguments about other people’s ideas to develop a position. According to Graff and Birkenstein, good college writing should engage the voice of the other to create an argument. College writing is like a conversation and needs to start by discussing or explaining what others have said to develop a position about a given topic (Graff and Birkenstein 18). Summarizing other people’s ideas shows that a student understands a given topic and is ready to explore or provide more details about the issue. Students should analyze, synthesize, and add to what others have said. An argument in college writing should be coherently arranged to show what others have said and the student’s position about the topic. For example, a student can write about conflict theory by noting that ‘According to sociologists Friedman and Erick Erickson, conflict theory has significant contributions to the study of human behavior’. This statement introduces what others have said about the topic and paves the way for the student’s position. A student can analyze what the sociologists have said about conflict theory. While summarizing other people’s work is paramount to college writing, educators should equip learners with the skills to refer to other people’s work without infringing copyright rights. These skills include paraphrasing and summarizing, which prevent students from using other people’s ideas as their own. Good college writing should summarize other people’s ideas, synthesize the information and include proper citations.
Arguments in college writing should be supported by evidence from credible sources. According to Thonney (357), college students read from textbooks and authentic academic texts such as journal articles and often reference them when writing college essays. Credible sources of evidence refer to reliable materials published within the last five years, academic databases, research articles written by well-known authors, and government websites. Writers should use credible sources to enhance their credibility. Williams and McEnerney stipulate that when reading college arguments, readers “expect to see evidence, reasons for your claim, evidence that would encourage them to agree with your claim or at least to think it plausible” (Williams and McEnerney 2). A reader can agree to a student’s argument based on the evidence provided. Students should back their claims with sufficient evidence to give their writing authority and enable students to evaluate the basis of their arguments. Students can paraphrase other people’s ideas, summarize various sources into one paragraph or cite directly from the original material. To provide credible evidence, students should read the relevant textbooks and secondary sources in the early stages of writing to inform their argument. The evidence should also be appropriately introduced and discussed to show the learner understands the information. Students should integrate quotes and paraphrases properly within their writing. For instance, to show a certain source fits into their argument, a student can include a phrase like ‘Recent findings by…’ to depict the source’s reliability; paraphrases should also be followed by explanations of what they mean and their contributions to the student’s claims. Along with introducing credible sources in the initial stages of a claim, students should critique sources to identify their strengths and weaknesses. College instructors should teach students how to identify credible sources of information and incorporate evidence into their writing.
Good college writing should adhere to the required writing variations. According to Williams and McEnerney (4), students should interpret assignments to understand the expectations they should meet for successful college writing. Same topics are written differently in different college classes, and it is the student’s responsibility to read and understand an assignment to ensure their responses meet the desired expectations. College writings have different characteristics, writing approaches and styles. For example, some projects may require students to analyze or summarize concepts in MLA formatting styles, while others require discussion of topic and APA formatting styles. A student should read and understand the keywords used to approach a given task. College educators should educate students about the stylistic conventions used in various disciplines. Educators should introduce students to different writing resources such as www.citationmachine.net to educate them on citation formats, including MLA, APA, and Chicago styles.
In conclusion, good college writing refers to what others say about a given topic to develop a claim, uses evidence from credible sources, and adheres to the writing variations required in each assignment. Students should pay close attention to assignment details, understand the required task, develop a position, incorporate reliable evidence, and cite appropriately. Educators should equip students with the proper writing skills to reference other people’s ideas and incorporate evidence according to discipline-specific writing conventions.
GRAFF, GERALD, and Cathy . BIRKENSTEIN. “THEY SAY. 1st ed., W W NORTON, 2008.
Thonney, Teresa. “Teaching the conventions of academic discourse.” Teaching English in the Two Year College 38.4 (2011): 347.
Williams, Joseph M., and Lawrence McEnerney. Writing in college: A short guide to college writing. University of Chicago Writing Program, 2008.