Taken by nearly all Davidson students in their first year of study, WRI 101 provides a formative experience in the arts of composing prose of the sort produced by academic and other intellectual writers. The course equips students with the skills and rhetorical sensibilities associated with writing in the liberal arts: critical analysis of texts and ideas; verbal and written deliberation about issues over which reasonable persons disagree; the crafting of inventive, correct, and sophisticated prose; and the ability to adapt one's writing to a variety of intellectual occasions. Instructors guide students in the practice of drafting and revising printed texts or digital documents, with approximately 40 pages of prose produced for the semester.
All WRI 101 courses have the following elements in common:
- Students receive guided practice in drafting and revising texts, understood as the most important activity of the course (approximately 40 pages of prose for the semester, including informal writing, drafts and revisions).
- Students receive generous response to their writing, both from the instructor and peers.
- Students are instructed in techniques for critical reading, written analysis, and written argument.
- Students are given opportunities to write in response to issues and texts which can be approached through multiple perspectives, with various intellectual commitments, and by various avenues of inquiry.
- Students are instructed in how to write with integrity and how to make fair use of the work of others.
- Students receive library instruction tailored to the specific needs of the course.
Though the specific reading, writing, and/or research projects assigned across the many WRI 101 courses vary by professor, all sections of the course embrace four learning goals:
- Read texts closely and critically for analytic and rhetorical purposes
Critical reading anticipates the eventual use of a text in one's writing, and requires a sustained examination of the nature, structure, and quality of that text. Critical readers work to discern the context of a document's production and distribution, note its rhetorical and stylistic features, and locate its place within a tradition of inquiry. Critical analysts notice how other writers assemble evidence, interpret their objects of study, and argue for particular conclusions. Often, critical readers reckon with difficulty, ambiguity, and innovative thinking.
- Make fair and effective use of the work of others
Responding to and making effective use of the work of others is a seminal feature of writing in the liberal arts. The course provides opportunities for students to make interesting and effective use of others' texts and ideas in their own writing, and teaches students to do this responsibly, ethically, and according to professional conventions for quotation, paraphrase, summary, and correct citation.
- Draft and revise arguments
The actual labor of producing intellectual writing involves taking a document through stages of drafting and revising. This process is aimed not only at correcting errors and polishing style, but more substantively at improving the quality of one's analysis or argument in light of reviewers' commentary and an enhanced understanding of readers' needs and expectations. Such revision may involve qualifying claims, addressing counterarguments, extending supportive evidence, refashioning appeals, adjusting tone, strengthening structural coherence, or even reconceiving one's approach to the issue at hand. The final steps of revision include editing for clarity, proofreading, and attending to document design.
- Draw upon multimodal and archival resources (visual, auditory, textual, digital) to serve specific rhetorical goals
Work in the course is produced using print or multimodal resources, which may include still and moving images, animations, graphic elements, words, music, and sound. Digital media allow writers to extend their analyses and arguments beyond the printed page, and thereby broaden the distribution of their work, sharpen its aesthetic impact, and enhance its readability. In addition to deploying various media to serve various rhetorical goals, writers in the course use material drawn from the vast archive of print and digital resources that faculty and librarians help students navigate with contextualized purpose, critical assessment, fairness, and authority.