Choosing a Writing 101 Course

With more than 30 courses to choose from, you have an enviable but difficult decision ahead of you: “Which Writing 101 course is right for me?” To help you decide, we have summarized some of the key similarities and differences of the courses, as well as proposed selection strategy.

Some Similarities Among Courses

Because of our shared commitment to our course goals and practices, all Writing 101 courses share several components:

Each section of Writing 101 features extensive writing and revising.

You can count on being asked to write in one form or another-a response to a text, a first draft of an essay, a revision, or a final project-each week. Writing 101 professors focus on the craft of intellectual writing, working closely with you to hone your arguments, discover and frame your evidence, and situate your writing within the larger intellectual community.

Each section of Writing 101 includes substantial, difficult reading.

Occasions for engaged reading emerge not only from published articles, books, and documents, but also through your colleagues' texts as you help one another move arguments forward. Reading is done not solely for the collection of facts and contextual information, but rather as a mode of analysis employed in the service of creating your own position on a complicated issue.

Each section of Writing 101 creates a community of learners.

Writing 101 courses are capped at twelve students per section, and classroom discussions are rich, complex events. You will be asked not simply to agree or disagree with one another, but to evaluate alternative claims and meanings as you put pressure on others' positions and extend analyses in new-perhaps unexpected-directions.

Key Differences Between Courses

Writing 101 courses are taught by a cross-disciplinary faculty-historians, biologists, engineers, geneticists, rhetoricians, literary scholars, architects, sociologists, anthropologists, and philosophers. These wide variations in perspective inevitably-and profitably-generate several key differences between courses:

Each section of Writing 101 pursues a unique area of inquiry.

Writing 101 faculty draw on their own professional expertise and training to create distinctive areas of inquiry for each course. The cross-disciplinarity of our faculty engenders an expansive range of course offerings each semester, allowing ample contexts within which students can develop as academic writers. From mysticism to automobile safety, Native-American literature to digital communication, you have a rich array of courses from which to choose.

Each section of Writing 101 foregrounds particular kinds of academic writing.

The broad concept of 'academic writing' means that there will be considerable diversity in the kinds of academic writing students engage with each section. Where some students will be writing in-depth literary criticism or formal proposals, others will be grappling with the complexities of writing ecological case studies or mini-ethnographies.

Each section of Writing 101 relies on a distinct structure.

While all Writing 101 courses include extensive writing and revising, the structure within that work takes place varies across sections. Some courses revolve around three writing projects over the semester, others around one longer writing project for the term; some students conduct independent research or present work verbally, others create web pages or participate in online discussion groups.

Strategies for Choosing a Course

You may want to incorporate the following strategies into your decision-making process:

Consider possible majors and disciplinary interests.

Writing 101 can provide an opportunity for you to explore potential majors and professions. If you are considering a career in medicine, a Writing 101 course focused on ethical issues in genomics might help you understand the social implications of such research. If you are pre-law, a Writing 101 course on the history of the criminal might lead you toward a more nuanced conception of the judicial process. If you plan to pursue politics, you might find courses focusing on election-year politics or contemporary rights theories of particular interest.

Indulge your curiosity.

Approach your Writing 101 course as an occasion for delving into concepts that you deem engaging and enriching. If you wonder why and how the United States has become involved in conflicts around the world, a Writing 101 course investigating the histories of empires could help you contextualize contemporary global politics. If you've been anticipating that college will offer abundant occasions for encountering new people and ideas, a course on identity politics might help you become more perceptive about Duke's diversity.

Read the course descriptions.

Although 15 weeks of intellectual work can hardly be conveyed in a single paragraph, the online course descriptions do offer a deeper sense of the themes and interests of particular courses than the even-more-abbreviated course titles. You might also approach these course descriptions as a writer; Writing 101 faculty are, after all, writers-identify which descriptions appeal to you in terms of the writing itself.

Ask current Duke students.

Since Writing 101 is the only course at Duke taken by all undergraduates, you can ask current Duke students for information about how they worked with individual instructors and course concepts.

Check your schedule and honor your personal preferences.

Be aware of when and where sections meet. Try to avoid a situation where you will be consistently late or rushed from traversing campuses between courses. Also take into account any personal preferences you may have, whether it be your predilection for sleeping in or your dedication to maintaining a consistent exercise routine. Keep in mind that you'll be more equipped to be a committed member of the class at certain times of the day.

If your first choice gets filled before you can enroll:

Writing 101 is a universally-required first-year course and, as such, all sections fill quickly. If you cannot get your first choice, please consider the following:

  • Be flexible: Chances are there will be many Writing 101 sections that will capture your interest and help you become a more effective academic writer. As you search through the course descriptions, choose several that might intrigue you so you have a ready set of alternatives should your first choice be unavailable.
  • Be reassured: No matter which section of Writing 101 you take, you can trust that you will have the opportunity to enjoy an invigorating and rewarding experience. Our dedicated and knowledgeable faculty carefully design each Writing 101 course in order to provide you with the highest level of training in academic writing.