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Writing Across the Curriculum

Sample Assignments for Revision

During this workshop, participants were asked to discuss possible revisions of each of these assignments, provided by M. Miller-Lamb of the Library. Below, each assignment is followed by brief notes suggesting strategies for revision. Note that all three assignments suffer from a general lack of specificity.


  1. Find a New York Times article written on the day that you were born. Find a book written in the year that you were born. Make a copy of the title page and hand it in.

This request may seem to students like an insignificant task designed only to keep them busy; oftentimes students do not devote much time and energy when they suspect this is the case. The instructor could ask him or herself, what are the underlying goals of this assignment? Are there more concrete and meaningful ways for me to enable students to meet these goals? How could I redesign this assignment to be a component part of a larger assignment?

  1. Using biology journals, write an annotated bibliography using at least three sources. Two of them must be peer-reviewed.


Students may ask, “Which biology journals? What is an annotated bibliography? A peer-reviewed source?” You may have reviewed these definitions in class, but it would be helpful to provide definitions of these terms here as well. Additionally, students benefit when a research assignment like this one is situated within a larger project so that they can more clearly understand its significance.

We often ask our students to visit a tutor and/or, in this case, a librarian, for additional support as they work through our assignments. If a tutor and/or librarian not connected with the course were to see this assignment, they would likely have a difficult time determining the specific requirements for this assignment. Without this information, they will be unable to offer the student substantive help.

  1. What is the meaning of culture? Go to the library during class time and find out. You cannot use a dictionary or an encyclopedia.


Beyond a dictionary definition, students will likely have a near-impossible time researching such a broad concept unless it is more clearly associated with specific course concepts. Furthermore, the instructor might revisit his or her decision to restrict students from using dictionaries or encyclopedias, particularly advanced, subject-based encyclopedias like the Gale Virtual Reference Library.


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