Course Descriptions and Learning Goals - Unified Writing Curriculum


Course Descriptions and Learning Goals

English Curriculum Review Committee and Writing Program Faculty, 2004

Revised by Writing Program Curriculum Committees, 2006; updated 2009



Welcome to this overview of writing courses at Rutgers University-Newark. The seriousness with which Rutgers faculty regard their students’ writing can be seen in the number of required writing courses, the kinds of support accompanying them, and the care with which they are sequenced to provide appropriate and manageable challenges at each level.

Writing courses at Rutgers University-Newark are designed to give students guidance and experience in the writing that will be asked of them throughout their college careers. That writing is largely based on academic reading. All Rutgers University-Newark writing courses engage students in the difficult and important work of writing accurately, analytically, and argumentatively about readings.

First-year students may be placed in Communication Skills 098, Communication Skills 099, or English Composition 101. Placement is determined by a combination of factors, including Verbal and Writing SAT scores; "Reading Comprehension," "Sentence Sense," and "WritePlacer" portions of the Accuplacer online placement exam; and students' first-day diagnostic exams. Students beginning with Communication Skills 098 usually proceed to Communication Skills 099, and students placed in Communication Skills 099 to English 101. All students must take English 101 and 102, or their equivalents.

Students successfully completing English 102 satisfy their composition requirement.  All students must also complete the Writing Across the Curriculum requirement by taking two upper-level courses Writing Intensive, at  least one of which must be in the student's major field of study.

All Rutgers writing courses are designed to help students build competence in five broad areas: critical thinking, close reading, analytical writing, grammatical control, and research ability. Specific competencies in each of these general areas are detailed in the Course Descriptions and Learning Goals below.


Communication Skills 098: Basic Writing and Reading Strategies


Course Description

This developmental course calls for intensive work in basic reading and writing, including systematic reviews of grammar. Students write and revise analytical, text-based essays, and emphasis is placed on effectively managing sentences, evaluating word choices, developing paragraphs, and maintaining coherence. The course also stresses reading with accuracy, recognizing main ideas, and drawing upon sources as a means of expressing and comprehending complex thinking.

Learning Goals

At the successful completion of Communication Skills 098, students should be able to comprehend abstract ideas; to identify underlying assumptions and generalizations in readings and discussions; to read short texts with comprehension; to maintain an independent voice while extracting, manipulating, summarizing, and citing information from primary texts; and to demonstrate increasing proficiency in their control of grammar, syntax, and paragraph construction.

In Communication Skills 098 students will be expected to demonstrate the following competencies:

A. Critical Thinking
  • Understand and apply ideas presented in class
  • Recognize and elaborate differing points of view
  • Connect course material to personal experience
  • Articulate both receptivity and resistance to arguments
  • Respond constructively to peers


B. Reading
  • Demonstrate the ability to read a short passage and to identify the author’s thesis or argument and explain how the parts contribute to the whole
  • Identify and define unfamiliar words in a text, including familiar words used in unfamiliar ways
  • Use a dictionary effectively
  • Monitor reactions as readers, noting how particular words alter general expectations
  • Explain how a writer keeps a text coherent, paying special attention to signal words
  • Recognize and comment upon the implications of particular word choices
  • Test generalizations about a text by close examination of that text
  • Find connections between current reading and personal experience, including previous reading experience
  • Distinguish narratives and exposition from arguments and recognize when narratives and exposition are being used in service of argument
  • Skim daily newspapers, choosing pieces to summarize


C. Writing
  • Develop coherent paragraphs that signal a main idea and support it with effective details and reasoning
  • Use appropriate transitions to effectively link sentences and paragraphs cohesively
  • Develop an awareness of audience, making word choices accordingly
  • Use effective sentence structures, including forms of parallelism and subordination
  • Develop a repertoire of revising strategies
  • Begin to develop a working vocabulary for analyzing writing (e.g., argument, summary, quotation, refutation, qualifiers, assumptions, implications, thesis, support)
  • Begin to find a comfortable voice for expressing complex ideas
  • Conduct, by mid-semester, a portfolio analysis (of the writing for the course to date)


D. Grammar
  • Be able to use a handbook, grammar-check, or other resources to help edit writing
  • Develop a working vocabulary for analyzing writing grammatically (e.g., subject, verb, phrase, clause, modifier, noun, preposition, possessive)
  • Demonstrate a full range of verb structures, including progressive and perfect tenses, passive voice, auxiliaries, infinitives, participles, and irregular verb forms
  • Show a recognition of subject/verb agreement errors, including the errors frequently associated with the –s form of subjects and verbs
  • Show an ability to correctly handle possessive forms
  • Develop a repertoire of editorial skills, practice that editing upon others’ writing as well as one’s own
  • Demonstrate an editorial awareness of conspicuous usage errors, including homophone mistakes (it’s/its, then/than, their/there)
  • Develop an awareness of how the initial words of a sentence forecast and limit the structure of what can follow, showing how grammar shapes readers’ expectations
  • Conduct a portfolio analysis of the course’s writing that includes particular attention to grammatical issues


E. Research
  • Review techniques for the presentation of information, including summaries, paraphrases, and quotations
  • Evaluate how course readings demonstrate the research that stands behind them
  • Show where course readings show the need for further research
  • Consider the interview as a research form
  • Show a general awareness of how to use the Rutgers Library system
  • Be ready to speak about the strengths and weaknesses of the Internet in research


Communication Skills 099: Academic Reading and Writing


Course Description

This course is designed to provide strong preparation for the work that will be expected of students in English Composition 101.  Emphasis is placed on the development of critical reading strategies and analytical writing skills, including the effective incorporation of sources, the systematic organization of ideas in analytical essays, and the effective presentation of complex ideas and information to a defined audience in precise language.  The course also stresses grammar and language skills.

Learning Goals

At the successful completion of Communication Skills 099, students should be able to actively grasp and engage the ideas that are being presented in class and in readings; to annotate and to comprehend readings of basic to moderate complexity; to identify the main points presented by a writer and the strategies used by the writer to support this position; to propose, develop, and support sustained, analytical essays; to maintain an independent voice while effectively quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing a primary text; to use correct Standard English, demonstrating increasing control of grammar and syntax. 

In Communication Skills 099 students will be expected to demonstrate the following competencies:

A. Critical Thinking
  • Demonstrate the ability to explain abstract ideas
  • Extract generalizations, assumptions, and implications from a reading
  • Formulate reasoned responses to questions
  • Recognize “loaded language,” word choices that are meant to slant the understanding of an issue
  • Show how the awareness of a particular audience—or the lack of such awareness—influences a presentation
  • On a given issue, imagine alternative points of view

B. Reading
  • Demonstrate the ability to effectively read a passage of moderate length
  • Explain how sections of a text contribute to a central purpose
  • Identify the thesis of a reading or where an explicit thesis is lacking, state the reading’s implicit thesis
  • Identify unfamiliar words and attempt to define what they mean in context
  • Tentatively identify a text’s key words, modifying your choices upon re-reading
  • Evaluate the coherence of a text, pointing out connections and gaps
  • Monitor readers’ expectations in moving through a reading
  • Comment upon a text’s implied audience
  • Note the strategies by which a writer seeks to establish credibility with readers
  • Skim daily newspapers with an eye toward summarizing them and commenting on the perspectives from which they were written

C. Writing
  • Establish a clear thought pattern that a reader can follow without difficulty both from sentence to sentence and throughout an essay
  • Provide effective transitions between and within paragraphs
  • Find a specific focus within a general topic
  • Choose accurate and specific vocabulary
  • Show a writer’s awareness of specific audiences
  • Effectively employ sentence patterns of parallelism and subordination
  • Effective edit for clarity and conciseness
  • Employ summary, paraphrase, and quotation
  • Experiment with a variety of strategies for opening and closing essays
  • Move persuasively between generalizations and support for those generalizations
  • Develop a good, working vocabulary for speaking about writing
  • Develop an effective set of editorial skills for working with the writing of peers
  • Develop a comfortable and appropriate academic voice
  • Conduct an analysis of a portfolio of writing

D. Grammar
  • Use a handbook, grammar-check, and other resources in editing writing
  • Develop and use an effective vocabulary for speaking about grammatical issues
  • Employ a full range of verb structures, including progressive and perfect tenses, passive forms, auxiliaries, participles, infinitives, and irregular verb forms
  • Demonstrate control of subject/verb agreement
  • Demonstrate control of pronoun reference and of possessive forms
  • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the use of commas and semicolons
  • Show an awareness of representative usage confusions in academic writing (e.g., affect/effect, imply/infer, compliment/complement, illusion/allusion, effect/affect)
  • Conduct a review of grammatical issues within the context of a portfolio analysis

E. Research
  • Write essays that blend the discussion of a primary source with a properly documented secondary source
  • Evaluate, or discuss the difficulty of evaluating, the research that stands behind readings
  • Demonstrate effective uses of summary, paraphrase, and quotation within arguments
  • Show how to acknowledge the work of others and how to manage citations;
  • Show an awareness of variations in documentation styles (the contrast betwen MLA and APA styles, for example)
  • Show familiarity with the Rutgers Library system
  • Show an awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of Internet research


English Composition 101: Analysis and Argument


Course Description

English Composition 101 is the first writing course required of all non-transfer students and is usually taken in a student’s first semester.  Designed to introduce students to academic discourse, this course provides instruction in reading and thinking critically and in writing analytically in response to primarily non-fiction readings.  Through a series of sequenced assignments, emphasis is placed on writing as a process, which includes drafting, revising, and editing writings.  Instruction is provided in recognizing and assessing the argumentative and rhetorical strategies of other writers and in students effectively constructing well-informed, sophisticated, and logical essays, while maintaining an individual voice and synthesizing increasingly complex academic essays.

Learning Goals

At the successful completion of English Composition 101, students should be able to recognize strategies of persuasion in their own and others’ texts; to critically analyze readings of intermediate to advanced complexity; to identify underlying assumptions, appeals to audience’s values, and rhetorical strategies; to construct and create analytical, argumentative essays that observe the basic conventions of academic writing, including proposing a thesis, organizing and analyzing main points, and supporting ideas with well-chosen textual evidence from multiple sources; to effectively differentiate between voices in texts, skillfully shifting between their own and sources’ voices and effectively attributing words and ideas when necessary; and to demonstrate control of grammar and syntax as well as to convey ideas in standard English.

In English Composition 101 students will be expected to demonstrate the following competencies:

A. Critical Thinking
  • Recognize explicit and implicit arguments
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of arguments
  • Recognize the persuasive appeals, such as appeals to emotion and the appeals to authority
  • Address underlying assumptions
  • Evaluate relationships between claims and support for claims
  • Understand the use of qualifiers
  • Learn to effectively manage the terminology of critical thinking, including, for example, the words used above: “implicit,” “appeal,” “assumption,” “claim,” “support,” and “qualifiers”


B. Reading

  • Demonstrate an ability to read texts of both moderate and extended length
  • Make claims about a text and support those claims with textual evidence
  • Evaluate the coherence of a text
  • Use dictionaries in service of critical reading
  • Monitor reader responses, the expectations a reader develops in the process of reading
  • Take into account the audience for which a text seems to be written
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in the writing of peers
  • Recognize how a writer’s word choices contribute to his or her argument
  • Recognize the operation of logical, emotional, and ethical appeals
  • Show an awareness of how non-verbal elements, such as pictures and graphs, contribute to the argument of a text and require close reading
  • Differentiate facts from opinions, but also show an awareness of how facts are almost always selectively presented and seldom neutral
  • Show an awareness of how to critically read statistics, alert to what they say and don’t say
  • Make judgments about writers’ tones of voice and how their tones contribute to their arguments
  • Demonstrate the ability to read the same text in different ways, commenting on why both readings are plausible if not equally persuasive
  • Recognize and comment upon a writer’s use of the passive voice
  • Show a critical awareness of writers’ uses of comparisons and analogies
  • Show the abilities to skim, summarize, and speak about newspaper articles written at the level of The New York Times
  • Develop the editorial ability to re-read writing with the needs of readers in mind


C. Writing
  • Produce essays that make clear and continuous arguments, with appropriate assertions, transitions, and support
  • Employ a well-developed vocabulary for analyzing writing
  • Observe the conventions of academic writing
  • Demonstrate the effective use of summary, paraphrase, and quotation without letting any of these elements submerge a writer’s own controlling voice
  • Avoid all forms of plagiarism
  • Show an understanding of the ethical and rhetorical issues of plagiarism
  • Demonstrate, through the careful use of textual evidence, the ability to support, refute, or modify another reader’s claim about a reading
  • Bring one text effectively to bear upon another, using the one to frame or illustrate or complicate the other
  • Demonstrate the ability to subordinate narration and exposition to argument
  • Develop a clear and comfortable academic voice
  • Show the ability to offer editorial help to other writers
  • Be able to conduct an analysis of a portfolio of one’s own writing


D. Grammar
  • Be able to use a handbook, grammar-check, and other resources in effectively editing writing
  • Develop a useful, working vocabulary for speaking about grammatical issues
  • Review one’s own writing in relation to grammatical issues
  • Effectively employ a full range of verb structures, including progressive and perfect tenses, auxiliaries, infinitives, participles, and irregular verb forms
  • Show control of subject/verb agreement
  • Show control of pronoun reference and of possessive forms
  • Effectively manage compound and complex sentence structures, including parallelism and subordination
  • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of punctuation, including commas, semicolons, and colons
  • Show a solid sense of sentence boundaries, being able to avoid run-on sentences, comma splices, and fragments
  • Show an understanding of the grammatical conventions of quotation, including quotations embedded in one’s own sentences
  • Demonstrate an awareness of how to handle citations within a text
  • Show an ability to transform passive voice to active voice and, where appropriate, active to passive
  • Gradually learn to employ a wider vocabulary in the service of precision and persuasiveness

E. Research
  • Write essays that analyze a primary source while drawing upon one or more secondary sources
  • Demonstrate the use of effective paraphrase, summary, and quotation in the use of outside sources
  • Learn to use a handbook as a tool for research questions
  • Demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate sources
  • Evaluate the usefulness, authority, and limitations of sources
  • Show a reader’s awareness of how a writer has used the research of others and of where such research seems lacking



English Composition 102: Interpretation, Synthesis, and Research


Course Description

English Composition 102 is the second course in the sequence of writing courses required of non-transfer students and must be taken immediately following the successful completion of English Composition 101.  This course builds on the critical reading, thinking, and writing skills developed in 101 and further prepares students for the types of intellectual inquiry as well as critical analysis and writing required in upper-lever courses offered at the university.   Students engage increasingly complex texts of different genres and from a variety of disciplinary orientations.   Emphasis continues to be placed on writing as a process as students are required to conduct and to critically evaluate research as well as to maintain an independent voice as they negotiate multiple primary and secondary sources. 

Learning Goals

At the successful completion of English Composition 102, students should be able to identify the nuanced ways in which texts of different genres and media act upon readers/viewers; to engage and analyze increasingly complex and ambiguous ideas and readings of various academic disciplines through close textual analysis; to create and construct sustained, analytical, argumentative essays that intellectually synthesize complex ideas and draw on multiple sources for support; to conduct, evaluate, and incorporate research in support of independent interpretations; to attribute and cite words and ideas from primary and secondary sources; and to demonstrate control of grammar and syntax as well as to clearly and effectively convey ideas in standard English.

In English Composition 102 students will be expected to demonstrate the following competencies.

A. Critical Thinking
  • Demonstrate the critical thinking skills called upon in English 101
  • Propose and effectively sustain a unified argument
  • Recognize ineffective arguments, including arguments that oversimplify readings
  • Evaluate conflicting interpretations of a reading
  • Demonstrate the effective use of textual evidence in support of claims
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses in the arguments of peers
  • Address the implications of particular word choices and of word choices used systematically
  • Offer independently developed analytical arguments about a reading
  • Raise questions about a text, and distinguish the questions that may lead to fuller exploration of that text
  • Evaluate the usefulness of secondary sources
  • Learn to make the historical biographical context of a reading bear upon, without over-determining, the interpretation of that reading
  • Synthesize a number of secondary sources in support of an argument

B. Reading
  • Demonstrate the reading competencies called upon in English 101
  • Read thematically, not so much extracting the theme from a reading as being able to work systematically with a theme, while noticing the analytical implications of highlighting one theme over others
  • Show stylistic awareness of a writer’s word choices, sentence structures, and tone of voice
  • Read multiple texts in relation to one another, alert to opportunities for comparison and synthesis, looking for ways how one text may frame, illustrate, or complicate another
  • Conduct research as critical readers—skimming, evaluating, discarding, selecting—so as to focus on a relatively few sources appropriate to a particular research project
  • Learn to evaluate Internet resources receptively but skeptically, alert to issues of responsibility, authority, and documentation
  • Demonstrate effective reading as an editor of one’s own writing and the writing of peers
  • Show an ability to re-read one’s own writing with attention to the interaction of a primary text, scholarly voice, and the writer’s own controlling voice

C. Writing
  • Demonstrate the writing competencies called upon in English 101
  • Recognize and avoid plagiarism
  • Distinguish interpretation and analysis from summary
  • Develop sustained and unified interpretations of single readings
  • Write interpretive essays that work with more than one text
  • Effectively support claims with textual evidence
  • Show awareness that interpretations of a reading need to take into account the reading as a whole
  • Draw upon secondary sources in service of a central argument
  • Appropriately employ summary, paraphrase, quotation, and citation
  • Show an awareness of multiple interpretations and the possibilities of negotiating among them
  • Revise essays stylistically

D. Grammar
  • Demonstrate the grammatical competencies called upon in English 101
  • Use and extend the vocabulary for speaking about grammatical issues
  • Extend the repertoire of available sentence structures, making more deliberate use of structures like apposition and parallelism
  • Demonstrate control of the grammar of quotations
  • Recognize the rhetorical use of ungrammatical elements in readings
  • Learn to think of grammar analytically stylistically, that is, in terms of understanding and marshalling the power of sentence structures rather than merely avoiding grammatical errors


E. Research
  • Demonstrate the research competencies called upon in English 101
  • Participate in a librarian’s tour of the Rutgers Library system, and produce at least one piece of writing that draws upon Rutgers Library resources
  • Learn how to avoid all forms of plagiarism
  • Consider both the ethical and rhetorical dimensions of plagiarism
  • Write essays that coordinate the analysis of a primary source with the synthesis of several secondary sources
  • Show awareness of the ways in which readings have used and not used research
  • Show an awareness of the relevance of historical and biographical research in the interpretation of literary texts
  • Show an awareness of the variations in research formats among disciplines
  • Learn to critically evaluate Internet resources


Honors Composition: English 103 and English 104

These courses are offered to students who have been admitted to the Honors College as well as to students on the basis of their SAT scores and previous academic records.  Students can also be recommended by their 101 instructors.  These courses have the same goals as English Composition 101 and 102, but they are more rigorous and expect a higher level of sophistication in the thinking, reading, and writing skills and in the overall academic performance of students.

Writing Across the Curriculum

After completing English Composition, students are required to take at least two further writing courses. These courses are to be chosen from an array of writing-intensive courses that are offered throughout the undergraduate program. Students must take at least one of these two writing-intensives within their major. These courses are  designated with a "Q" section in the Schedule of Classes. For more on the Writing Across the Curriculum program, go to