Teaching Arguments and Thesis Statements

Writing Portfolios in Biology: Balancing Process with Product

Cindee Giffen, UW-Madison
A course coordinator explains why the course evaluates biology students' drafts, reviews, and final products together in one portfolio.

In Introductory Biology 152, all students engage in an Independent Project (IP), a semester-long staged writing assignment. Students write a project proposal, a first draft, and a final paper in scientific journal article-style, and present their results to an audience of their peers and instructors.

Why Should I Use Writing Assignments in My Teaching?

Brad Hughes, UW-Madison WAC Program
The premise of this WAC website--and of the WAC movement overall--is that effectively designed writing assignments enhance our teaching and our students' learning.  While acknowleding that assigning and evaluating writing is time consuming, this page offers a number of persuasive arguments why writing assignments are part of effective teaching and learning.

That's a good question, actually. Let's be honest–-there are, after all, many reasons why we might not want to assign writing in our courses. And many of those reasons have to do with the limited time we all can devote to teaching. Designing writing assignments and responding to student writing take valuable time—lots of time if we do them carefully.

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




Sample Evaluation Criteria for Papers in a Philosophy Course

Jocelyn Johnson, Philosophy Department, UW-Madison
This kind of rubric, from an undergraduate philosophy course on contemporary moral issues, not only emphasizes the traits of successful papers but also, with its continuum for each trait, gives students a quick visual sense of strengths and of areas to improve.  Notice that the instructor gives open-ended comments as well.  And notice the excellent explanations of the evaluation criteria--some terms, like "orginality," need explanining within the context of a particular course and particular assignment.

Sample Paper Evaluation Sheet in Philosophy



Name:_________________________________  Topic:_______________________________________________




Making a Sociological Argument: Orienting Students to a New Field

Greta Krippner, Sociology Department, UW-Madison
Greta Krippner offers explicit advice for introducing students to the discipline of sociology. Specifically, Krippner offers guidance for coaching students to make a sociological argument, find a sociological research question, and read quantitative journals.

Of course the method of presentation must differ in form from that of inquiry.”   (Karl Marx, 1867)


From Topic to Thesis

Tisha Turk, Gender and Women's Studies, UW-Madison
Students may do a good job of coming up with a suitable thesis or argument, but how can instructors help students to move beyond the obvious or the ordinary? In this handout, instructor Tisha Turk shows her students what she’s thinking as she reads their ideas to help them understand reader expectations

A well-constructed thesis statement helps hold an essay together by showing the reader where the paper is going to go.

Syndicate content