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Writing in the Discipline​

Political Science

1. In what ways is writing important to your profession?

Writing is a central element in the political science discipline. Effective communication is one of the most important skills for the political science student to acquire. Upon graduation, political science students may choose to attend law school or graduate school, where sound writing is expected. Those who choose to enter the world of work often seek out public service or managerial level positions; such positions often demand quality writing.

Writing in the Discipline

2. Which courses are designated as satisfying the WID requirement by your department? Why these courses?

POL 308: Current Political Controversy satisfies the WID requirement. This course was created in 1999 specifically to introduce political science majors to the various types of writing they might engage within their other political science courses, as well as in the post-graduate world of graduate school, law school, and/or work. We see writing as a developmental process. Students learn to critically read, think, and write in a coherent manner over time when given space to practice and to receive feedback. The department also recognizes the linkage between effective reading and effective writing, therefore students read a variety of materials for the course, and are required to use those readings to develop their writing assignments. Students are required to find and use the following secondary and primary sources: articles in academic and political opinion journals, academic and popular press literature, newspaper editorials, Supreme Court opinions, opinion surveys, and government executive and legislative documents.

3. What forms or genres of writing will students learn and practice in your department’s WID courses? Why these genres?​

Students will learn about and practice a variety of genres that are essential for a political science student to know. These genres may include, but are not limited to, op-ed articles, blog posts, book reviews, annotated bibliographies, literature reviews, research designs, research papers, data analysis reports, and policy memoranda. Some of these genres (e.g. op-ed articles, blog posts, and policy memoranda) are meant to help students practice their analytical skills. Others, (e.g. book review, annotated bibliographies, and literature reviews) are designed to help the student practice particular skills like reviewing and summarizing information. Research designs, research papers, and data analysis reports, and policy memos allow students to practice “real world” political science applications.

4. What kinds of teaching practices will students encounter in your department’s WID courses?

Faculty teaching POL 308 run the course as a seminar. They expect student-led discussion and active engagement. Students are required to present their written work in class, provide feedback to one another, and work in groups. They are given the opportunity to turn in second drafts of most of their writing assignments, and should expect to receive faculty feedback on each draft. This feedback generally focuses on understanding of the topic (academic context), the paper’s organization, use of evidence, clear and correct grammar, proper citation and spelling, use of punctuation, and other writing “mechanics.”

5. When they’ve completed your department’s WID requirement, what should students know and be able to do with writing?​

The expected outcome is that students will understand the different purposes of writing in the discipline and employ the conventions of writing in their major fields. Students will produce writing that is well organized, supported by evidence, demonstrates correct usage of grammar and terminology, and is appropriate within an academic context. Additionally, students will understand when and how to employ different manuscript formats, how to properly cite sources, as well as how to use the American Political Science Association’s (APSA) reference style.​​​​

Public Administration

1. In what ways is writing important to your profession?

Effective written communication is an important skill for the Public Administration Major to acquire. Upon graduation a public administration major may choose graduate school or law school where sound writing is expected. Public Administration is a pre-professional program so students often seek governmental and other public sector agency entry level professional employment where good quality writing is expected and often visible to various audiences such as elected officials, news reporters and the broader public.

Writing in the Discipline

2. Which courses are designated as satisfying the WID requirement by your department? Why these courses?

Political Science 301 Foundations of Public Administration is the required WID course for all Public Administration majors. This course prepares students to fulfill the research-based writing requirements of the Public Administration Major.

3. What forms or genres of writing will students learn and practice in your department’s WID courses? Why these genres?​

The principle form of writing taught in Political Science 301 is the policy memorandum. Political Science 301 is taught as a lecture/seminar format with a number of required group collaborative projects and individual assignments, including a 10-page research paper that requires students to demonstrate they can find and effectively use academic literature, professional journals and government reports to answer a researchable question. The research paper also requires students to construct an annotated bibliography that illustrates that they can identify each type of literature. A library guide is available at Adams library for Academic journals, and in class the faculty member provides a list of professional organizations, particularly the American Society of Public Administration (ASPA), where students can access professional journals across the range of Public Administration subfields. Government reports are available from the rich array of professional associations such as the National Association of State Budget Offices (NASBO) that also has archives of Government Reports on a wide range of topics. Students also are required to create a one page 100-200 word executive summary of the 10-page paper. The executive summary is a key document in the Public Administration discipline because it is the one most likely to be read by policy makers. In sum, in Political Science 301 students learn to identify and produce the three types of professional writing typical of much writing in the field of Public Administration (i.e. policy memorandum, research paper, executive summary).

4. What kinds of teaching practices will students encounter in your department’s WID courses?

Political Science 301 socializes students in the Public Administration major to expect to write more than one draft of papers and to receive faculty feedback following each draft. That feedback focuses on an understanding of the topic (academic context), the paper’s organization, use of evidence, and clear and correct grammar, spelling and similar writing basics. There also are a number of assignments in the class that require group collaborative writing. Students learn to share research and writing responsibilities as they create a PowerPoint presentation, to be accompanied by a brief but collaboratively written Memorandum.

5. When they’ve completed your department’s WID requirement, what should students know and be able to do with writing?​

The expected outcome of the Public Administration major’s WID requirement is that students will gain greater understanding of and practice with the policy memorandum, a key genre of writing in public sector work, as well as the research paper and executive summary. Students will understand when and how to employ academic research, professional studies and cases, and governmental reports to construct the policy memorandum and will learn how to properly cite sources using the American Political Science Association (APSA) reference style.​​​​

Geography

1. In what ways is writing important to your profession?

Effective written communication is an important skill for the Geography Major to acquire. Upon graduation, some geography majors may choose graduate school where sound writing and the ability to prepare rigorous research papers is expected. Other geographers may apply for a variety of jobs in governmental, public sector, nonprofit or private consulting organizations, where lucid and precise writing is specified in job descriptions. Geographers must convey complex concepts and the results of statistical and cartographic analysis to diverse audiences--such as elected and appointed officials, public stakeholders, and the scientific community—in a manner that is concise, understandable and relevant to decision-making and policy formation. Writing in the Discipline

2. Which courses are designated as satisfying the WID requirement by your department? Why these courses?

Geography 100-Introduction to Environmental Geography and Geography 460-Senior Seminar: Theory and Research are the required WID courses for the Geography Major.

The 100-level WID course prepares students to develop the ability to convey in writing the content and meaning of mapped environmental data, which is an essential skill of the geographer.

The 400-level WID course provides students the opportunity to hone their ability to write research papers, an important process for neophyte academics and other professionals.

3. What forms or genres of writing will students learn and practice in your department’s WID courses? Why these genres?​

The principal form of writing taught in Geography 100 is the policy memorandum. The course is delivered in a lecture/seminar format with a number of required small-group collaborative projects through which students complete assignments--generally focused on map interpretation--leading to the writing and redrafting of the policy memorandum.

The principal approach to writing taught in Geography 460 is designed for students to demonstrate that they can find and effectively use academic literature, professional journals, and government reports to answer assigned research questions. The Geography 460 research paper also requires students to construct an annotated bibliography that illustrates that they can identify each type of available, relevant literature. Students are required to use online and hard-copy journals using the resources of RIC’s own Adams Library. In class, the faculty member provides a list of professional organizations, particularly the Association of American Geographers (AAG), and the U.S. Department of the Interior (which oversees the National Weather Service, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association, and the U.S. Geological Survey), from which students may access academic journals and government reports across the range of geography’s subfields. Students are required to create a one-page (150-250 word) executive summary of their final research paper. The executive summary is a key document in the discipline of geography, because it is the one most likely to be read by policy makers.

4. What kinds of teaching practices will students encounter in your department’s WID courses?

Geography 100 and Geography 460 socialize students in the Geography Major to expect to write more than one draft of papers and to receive faculty and, where relevant, peer feedback following each draft. That feedback focuses on a student’s demonstrated ability to understand the topic within a broader academic or policy context; to organize a policy memorandum or paper with a logical progression of germane theories, methods and findings (and their implications); use available evidence with a clear awareness of its limitations; and write with respect for accepted professional conventions, including spelling, grammar, syntax and modes of citation. A number of assignments in both geography WID classes require collaborative, small-group writing exercises as students create policy memoranda and outlines for research papers.

5. When they’ve completed your department’s WID requirement, what should students know and be able to do with writing?​

The expected outcomes of the Geography Major’s WID requirement are (i) for students to demonstrate the ability to write a research-grounded policy memorandum, which is a genre of writing relevant to public sector work and (ii) for students to write research papers, which are the fundamental means of presenting information in graduate school. In both instances, students will understand when and how to employ the results of research, including annotated bibliographies, literature reviews, case studies, and the findings from their own empirical inquiries.

Page last updated: February 16, 2021