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SEED projects 2017 – Writing, Writing Everywhere

On-line, discipline-aligned materials to support undergraduate students’ writing development in Arts

Dr Rosemary WetteDr Rosemary Wette (Faculty of Arts)

This project’s aims were to explore common core and disciplinary-specific elements in undergraduate writing by learning about assignment requirements and staff views on proficient writing (Phase One of the project), and then using this knowledge to develop and implement workshops on dissertation writing with BA Hons students in a History dissertation course (Phase Two).

In Phase One, transcriptions of seven interviews with lecturing staff in Arts on their views on proficient writing in their discipline revealed that in order to be evaluated as proficient, texts by undergraduate writers need to demonstrate: an understanding of course themes, appropriate use of scholarly sources, engagement with assignment topic through critical analysis/argument, use of evidence and examples in support of appropriate claims, coherent organisation, use of appropriate transitions and signposting, well-structured sentences and paragraphs, and grammatical and lexical accuracy.

Rosemary also learned from the interviews about the support routinely offered to undergraduate students from within their disciplinary courses, which includes detailed assignment task sheets and marking rubrics, in-class explanations and opportunities to discuss models, scaffolded tasks, and opportunities to receive feedback from peers and teachers on drafts and marked assignments.

In Phase Two, from analysis of dissertations, examination of literature on historical discourse, discussions with History lecturers and attendance at workshop sessions, she developed two 2-hour workshops within a course for BA Hons students. These examined dissertation features; the structure of core components (e.g. Introduction, Historiography, Methodology, Argument, and Conclusion); time, causality and argument; and the use of metadiscourse to manage the information flow and engage with readers.

Feedback from workshops (both informally and through written comments) and from the course convenor noted the usefulness of her examination of dissertation components, and the opportunities she provided for analysis of the discourse of sample dissertations and published texts. Both workshop sessions were very well attended.