The University of Texas at Austin
School of Undergraduate Studies
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Writing Expectations

Ideas, Questions, Reasons, and Explanations

Your instructor wants you to write about thought-provoking ideas and questions, exploring them with sound logic, and developing them with reasons, evidence, and detail. While you may occasionally be asked to reflect on personal experience, your “personal take” on an issue should be only a starting point for your Signature Course writing.

Original Work

Your writing should demonstrate what you are thinking and learning about the subject matter. You will need to clearly show which ideas in your writing come from others, and which are your contribution to the conversation. You must quote, paraphrase, summarize accurately, and cite outside sources correctly.

A Process of Drafting and Revision

You are not likely to write a good college-level paper in one sitting. To do justice to your ideas, you need to start drafting early, and return to your work several times to develop and polish it. Your Signature Course instructor (and TA, if you have one) will provide feedback on your writing. You’ll also have opportunities to read the work of your classmates, and receive suggestions from them about your writing. Your instructor will want to see that you have used this feedback to improve what you’ve written.

College-level Correctness

Your instructor will be looking for writing that takes itself seriously. This means you should generally avoid slang, informal language, and shortcuts common in texting or email (emoticons, “U” for “you,” and so on). In college, all of your instructors—not just your English teachers—expect to see correct grammar, mechanics, and spelling. Proofread your work carefully before others read it. Don’t neglect the basics, like putting your name on your paper, giving your work a title, numbering the pages, and other professional details.