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The Writing Intensive Requirement

At the core of Smith’s Writing Intensive requirement is the faculty’s shared conviction that thinking and writing are indispensably linked, working together to fuel students’ intellectual growth as you embark upon your college careers. We write to generate ideas; we write to test the value of those ideas against the standards of evidence and clarity demanded by the liberal arts disciplines; and we write to communicate our thoughts and convictions to an array of audiences both in and beyond the classroom.

Why Have a Writing Intensive Requirement?

Writing Intensive (WI) courses embrace the responsibility to prepare students for the writing tasks they will encounter as their intellectual careers at Smith unfold. Accordingly, first-year students in WI courses learn how to ask questions; to observe closely; to interrogate assumptions; to gather, analyze and present evidence; and to make careful, evidence-based arguments through writing. They hone these skills by engaging in a process of drafting and revising facilitated by timely, discriminating feedback from peers and instructors. Students can expect their WI courses to help them to:

  • articulate a thesis or central argument, or to create a description or report, with an orderly sequence of ideas, effective transitions, and a purpose that is clear to the intended audience;
  • support an argument or enrich an explanation with evidence;
  • compose paragraphs that are focused and coherent;
  • develop an awareness of library-supported research tools, and an ability to search for and evaluate relevant primary and secondary sources for scholarly work;
  • incorporate the work of others (by quotation, summary or paraphrase) concisely, productively, and with attention to the models of citation of the various disciplines and with respect for academic integrity;
  • and edit work until it forcefully and persuasively communicates its meanings.

The Structure of Writing Intensive Courses

While there is no one way to learn to think deeply and write powerfully, students can count on WI courses to:

  • be small enough to permit meaningful and consistent attention to the writing process (no WI course or WI section of a larger course may have more than 20 students, and most will have fewer);
  • offer an array of discrete writing assignments and opportunities during the course of the semester (rather than a single, longer paper or project);
  • and offer significant opportunities to revise work, guided by feedback from both instructors and peers.

Beyond these shared commitments, students may find that their WI course will employ a variety of pedagogical strategies (informal writing, writing workshops, etc.); that the writing opportunities it provides may be shaped by the intellectual values and practices of a particular academic discipline; and that the course may offer opportunities to write in the public-facing genres (e.g., the op-ed, the position paper, the blog post) or for the array of media platforms (e.g., the podcast, the website, the video essay) where writing does its work today. First-year students are invited to submit exceptional essays written in their WI courses to Smith Writes.

Your Writing Life at Smith

The required WI course is the beginning, not the culmination of a student’s writing life at the college. Just as one’s thinking and learning is never finished, working on the writing that enables that thinking and learning will continue across each student’s years at Smith, whether within the major or in the curriculum at large. For students working on an essay or a lab report, and for faculty members designing a writing assignment or rethinking the role of writing in a course, the Jacobson Center for Writing, Teaching, and Learning offers resources and the advice of professional writing instructors and well-trained peer tutors to advance and enrich your writing at Smith all along the way. For consultation on the research process for papers and projects, students and faculty are invited to email or meet with the Libraries’ Research Services and to review Library Guides for subject-specific primary and secondary sources.

Each first-year student is required, during their first or second semester at Smith, to complete at least one Writing Intensive (WI) course with a grade of C- or higher. Based on their level of proficiency, students will be directed toward particular writing courses. Ada Comstock Scholars and transfer students are also required to complete at least one Writing Intensive course, with a grade of C- or higher, during their first two semesters at Smith. The Writing Intensive requirement can be satisfied before matriculation based on transcript review by the registrar, in conjunction with the Committee on Writing and Public Discourse.

Writing & Public Discourse

Writing that matters.

Smith is undergoing a transformation in how we teach students to write, with public discourse at the center. Across Smith’s courses, disciplines, programs and events, students don’t just get a chance to practice writing in the classroom, they also get a chance to put their ideas into action and make a difference in the world.

Learn More