Writing 101: Course Goals and Practices

Writing 101 introduces you to key goals and practices of academic writing. You choose from among Writing 101 courses that are designed and taught by scholars trained in disciplines across the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Thus, individual sections of Writing 101 often focus on different topics and readings, but all sections share an emphasis on writing as a social process and a commitment to helping students generate effective academic arguments.


While many features of academic writing vary across disciplines and genres, you will learn how to:

Engage with the work of others.

In pursuing a line of inquiry, scholars need to identify and engage with what others have communicated. To do this, academic writers:

  • Read, look, and listen closely to others’ arguments.
  • Attend to the context of others’ arguments.
  • Make fair, generous, and assertive use of the work of others.                                                                                                

Articulate a position.

The point of engaging with the work of others is to move beyond what  has been said before. To do this, academic writers:

  • Respond to gaps, inconsistencies, or complexities in the relevant literature.
  • Anticipate possible counter arguments or contradictory evidence.
  • Provide new evidence or interpretations.
  • Advance clear and interesting positions.                                                                                                                                                                                       

Situate writing for specific audiences.

In order to effectively advance their position within their fields of inquiry, scholarly writers need to be aware of disciplinary conventions and expectations. To do this, academic writers:

  • Apply discipline-specific conventions for using and citing sources.
  • Draw on appropriate and effective support for an argument.
  • Learn expectations and concerns of intended readers.
  • Integrate context-appropriate visual design elements.

Transfer writing knowledge into situations beyond Writing 101.

Even as scholarly writers situate their writing for specific audiences, they also need to transfer knowledge and practices across disciplines and contexts. Writing is an ongoing practice. To do this, academic writers:

  • Build on prior writing knowledge.
  • Adapt writing knowledge to new contexts.


Achieving these goals involves several integral writing practices. Through print, in-person, and digital interactions, you are offered practice in:

  1. Researching. Research is often ongoing and recursive, rather than a discrete, initial step of the writing process. Depending on the field, this research may include locating primary and secondary sources; conducting fieldwork; questioning methodology; collecting, analyzing, examining, or organizing data/evidence; identifying social or political contexts; or considering the implications of an academic work.
  2. Workshopping. Academic writers re-read their own writing and share work-in-progress with colleagues in order to reconsider their arguments. You learn how to become a critical reader of your own prose through responding to others in classroom workshops, seminar discussions, or conferences.
  3. Revising. You are asked to rethink your work-in-progress in ways that go beyond simply fixing errors or polishing sentences in order to extend, refine, and reshape what you have to say and how you say it.
  4. Editing. As a final step in preparing documents for specific audiences, you learn how to edit and proofread.

As a reflection of Duke’s commitment to intellectual inquiry, Writing 101 provides a foundation for you to learn new kinds of writing, preparing you to identify relevant questions and articulate sophisticated arguments in your future work, both inside and outside the university.