Social Sciences

Informal Writing Assignments

Brad Hughes, Martin Nystrand, Paige Byam, and Tom Curtis
The assignments below are generally short, informal, perhaps ungraded writing assignments that instructors might consider adapting to their classes. Students often appreciate the opportunity to explore their thoughts on paper in such a way that relieves the pressure of a longer, more formal writing assignment.

The Question Box

Sequenced Assignments with Different Forms of Media

Greg Downey, Library and Information Studies
Taught by Professor Greg Downey, this hybrid in-person/online course gives students the chance to experiment with personal publishing tools such as weblogs and video podcasts.

The Information Society: Hybrid In-person/Online Course Syllabus

Sequencing Different Genres of Writing Assignments in a Women’s Studies Syllabus

Caitilyn Allen, Plant Pathology, UW-Madison
Professor Caitilyn Allen’s writing-intensive Women’s Studies syllabus includes her expectations for polished and revised drafts as well as overviews of the various papers she assigns throughout the semester.

Women’s Studies 530: Biology and Gender


Instructions for a Final Portfolio in a Sociology Course

Tona Williams, Sociology Department, UW-Madison
Having students submit all of their written work for the semester gives this instructor a chance to review each student's progress and remember her feedback much more specifically, all of which she considers when she's determining a final grade.

Instructor: Tona Williams
Lecturer: Prof. Gerald Marwell
Sociology 210--Survey of Sociology


Instructions for Final Portfolio in Sociology




Having Students Do Self-Evaluations of Their Writing and Speaking

Professor Virginia Sapiro, Gender and Women's Studies and Political Science Department
This kind of self-evaluation from students helps instructors evaluate students' work and encourages students, as this professor explains, to take responsibility for their own learning.

Self-Evaluation in Women’s Studies 640 



STUDENT’S NAME: _______________________________________________ 


Options for Commenting on Student Papers

Brad Hughes, UW-Madison WAC Program
Whether we consider them or not, we actually have many choices for how we'll comment on student papers.  The sample comments that follow are designed to illustrate some of these many options.

sample comments from two types of commenters--the minimalist and the friendly, interested reader

Responding to Student Drafts Using Audio

Annette Vee, English Department, UW-Madison
Instead of writing comments on student papers, some instructors record spoken feedback in a digital audio file.  Here's a thoughtful explanation of the benefits of audio feedback, sample student reactions to the audio feedback, and guidelines for trying this yourself.

Like many writing instructors, I had a comfortable and effective written feedback routine for my students’ writing; however, when wrist pain from typing prompted me to seek alternative methods of giving feedback, I discovered how rewarding audio commenting could be for both me and my students.


Student Guidelines for Peer Review: Psychology

Professor Colleen Moore, Psychology Department, UW-Madison
Notice that in this peer-review process, reviewers first outline their peer's draft (to help the author see how readers understand its organization) and then offer advice for strengthening the paper.

Psychology 411


Peer Review Instructions

Read the paper, and comment on the draft. Note what isn’t clear, what sentences are awkward, etc.


1. Write an outline (sometimes it helps to number the paragraphs when you do this).


Preparing for Effective One-on-One Conferencing

Dawn Biehler, Department of Geography
Instructor Dawn Biehler provides a timeline for preparing for conferencing, as well as advice for how to make the most of the conference time you have with students.

One-on-one conferencing yields the best results if you

Organization Issues

Professor Robert Hawkins, School of Journalism and Mass Communication, UW-Madison
Professor Robert Hawkins’ handout offers specific advice to students on organizing paragraphs and making transitions. 
Paragraph unity.
Ideally, every sentence in a paragraph should contribute to developing some central idea.
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