Writing In College: From Competence to Excellence
Amy Guptill, SUNY Brockport
Pub Date: 2016
ISBN 13: 9781942341215
Publisher: Open SUNY
Conditions of Use
One of the strengths of this text is its thoughtful treatment of specific elements of the writing process, but it is not as comprehensive as other writing textbooks. Chapter 3, for example, discusses how to craft a complex, compelling thesis... read more
One of the strengths of this text is its thoughtful treatment of specific elements of the writing process, but it is not as comprehensive as other writing textbooks. Chapter 3, for example, discusses how to craft a complex, compelling thesis statement using a “three-story” model, and this is certainly something that developing writers will find helpful. However, there isn’t a discussion of the pre-thesis stages of the writing process that writers can use to *arrive* at a thesis. In many college classes, students are given prompts asking them to develop arguments that demonstrate mastery of a particular concept or subject, and so the very process of taking the course may supply the opportunities for preliminary thinking required to formulate a thesis. However, Guptill says that the textbook “is well suited to composition courses or first-year seminars” (“About the Book”). As a first-year composition instructor, I find that many of my students aren’t sure about how to find a suitable topic and work their way toward discovering what they think about it, so more guidance on these early stages would be a welcome addition. On pp. 11-12, Guptill does discuss briefly how free-writing can be a useful strategy to try after receiving an assignment, and I would like more of this kind of material. That said, the textbook does a great job of providing practical and helpful guidance on the writing elements it covers, including the thesis statement, introductions and conclusions, paragraph structure, how to handle college-level research, and considerations of style and mechanics. Also helpful are the introductory chapters that give students a broader view of the role writing plays in the academic world and what professors expect of their students’ writing.
As I read the textbook, I did not come across any sections where I questioned the accuracy of the guidance being offered.
The writing advice, tools, and examples that Guptill offers in the text probably won’t expire any time soon. Her guidance on using electronic databases and navigating resources like Google Scholar would only need updating if the technology, or means of accessing it, changes, but there doesn’t seem to be much danger of this in the very near future. If changes are required, I think that they would be easy to implement. One nice feature of the textbook is that the provided examples showcase effective instances of writing across a variety of topics that won’t become outdated. For example, rather than referencing examples from current popular culture, Guptill includes excerpts from essays and books on broad topics such as “the cold fusion controversy of the 1980s” (ch. 6), embodied cognition, and 12th-century theologian Peter Abelard (ch. 7). I think that these are representative of the types of topics students might encounter in a college classroom and are more accessible than examples in other writing textbooks that I’ve read.
No complaints here. The writing is very accessible and would, I think, strike students as friendly. Guptill writes clearly, modeling the style that she advocates students adopt.
Each chapter of the text focuses on a key feature of college-level writing and can be used separately. In addition to this helpful modularity, there are some ideas reinforced in multiple chapters. For example, Guptill stresses the importance of students approaching their writing tasks consciously and taking an active role in the learning process. Another thread is the comparison between how students might have approached writing prior to college (namely the “five-paragraph essay”), and how Guptill is proposing students approach higher-level writing assignments. This is helpful because it draws from the knowledge students already have while showing them new ways of thinking.
As I read the textbook, I had thoughts like, “Oh, this chapter would be a nice supplement when I teach introductions and conclusions.” The textbook could be used on its own or employed as an accompaniment to other texts, either as a whole or in chapters. There are instances where the text refers to something from an earlier chapter, but these references aren’t so numerous or essential that lacking the earlier sections would impede a reader’s understanding.
The textbook is well organized and arranged logically. I like that the chapter on introductions and conclusions follows the chapter on paragraphs, since this reflects the order that I use when I teach these components. The only critique that I have is what I mentioned in the first part of this review, that I would have liked to see a much lengthier discussion of pre-thesis brainstorming and idea-development strategies.
I did not encounter any difficulties navigating or using the text. All the links that I clicked on worked.
I noted only a few instances (5 or so) of small errors, primarily sentences that were missing minor words. Also, there is one paragraph excerpt that is supposed to have parts emboldened, but doesn’t (p. 53).
This text does not have any problems with cultural insensitivity and I don’t think that readers would find any aspects of it offensive. There is an assumption that the primary audience has recently graduated from high school, which might be a bit problematic for non-traditional students. I have one admittedly picky little issue with a sentence on page 5: “By the end of high school you probably mastered many of the key conventions of standard academic English such as paragraphing, sentence-level mechanics, and the use of thesis statements.” I understand that this phrasing is in line with the overarching concept of the textbook, which is that it’s helping move students from “competence” to “excellence.” However, I think that many competent first-year writing students would not identify with the suggestion that they’ve “mastered” anything about writing. This is the only instance where this type of phrasing appears, but it comes early in the text, and might make some students feel a bit inadequate. Like I said, I’m being picky!
I like the presentation of ideas in this textbook and think that students would find the concepts, illustrations, and examples useful. I think that I could pull chapters from it to supplement other materials, and that it would provide students with helpful overviews of topics that I cover in class. Periodically, there appears advice and encouragement from students who contributed to the textbook, and this provides positive sentiments of “you’re not alone, writing IS challenging” that readers might find reassuring.
I think this is a wonderful little book for teaching writing, since it delivers what is so rare in writing texts: well-lived context. It gives the students perspective and a holistic view of what they need to accomplish in writing, and it does it... read more
I think this is a wonderful little book for teaching writing, since it delivers what is so rare in writing texts: well-lived context. It gives the students perspective and a holistic view of what they need to accomplish in writing, and it does it with simplicity, brevity, and wit. The entire book is only 91 pages, which makes it easy to digest. It will work as an excellent metacognitive text for a writing course, although it will need to be supplemented with more examples of good essays and a rhetorical guide that discusses persuasion, logic, and writing for different audiences. There are, however, links to resources at the end of every chapter that can be found online. This book also does a fine job of discussing writing as a student and for academic purposes and greatly helps to contextual that unique position. Like the commonly used _They Say, I Say_ (Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing, (New York: W.W. Norton & Co, 2009), this book offers students a look at "how writing works" in college and academic life and it encourages them to enter the conversation. The main advantage in this book is that it is a bit faster to read than TS/IS, but it is not so comprehensive in terms of offering templates for the students to use. Instead, it is a more perspective-based text, which offers advice on the key areas of thesis, paragraph structure, punctuation, and other requirements to do well in college and in writing critically. The two books could be easily used together, in whole or as excerpts. One of the other big advantages to this book is its tone: it is friendly, humorous, and down to earth. It favors the practicality of "what do I have to do to succeed" that students tend to use in approaching college courses and it addresses why writing is something that matters in their lives. It also clarifies why students need to think for themselves in their writing and explains how universities favor individual thought over regurgitation and repetition. It has a kind, but no nonsense approach that will appeal to students and keep them reading it, even if they don't have to. The text itself is also a good example of academic writing for students, implementing quotations, footnotes, and other citations throughout its text in a way that is less evident among other textbooks. As a result, it can be studied as an example of style on its own.
The content is accurate and error-free, with the exception of some hyperlinks that do not function. The material can generally be found with a Google search, however, so it's not critical. Overall, I find the analysis of writing and argument to be well written, accurate, and timely. For a 91-page textbook, this is very well done. It is true that more could be added to the examples, but that is something an instructor can supplement on their own.
The content here is up to date and should endure for at least a decade, and probably longer, as long as expectations for writing in college courses remain the same.
This book is very clearly written. Clarity and brevity are its main advantage, along with the pleasant tone and humor.
This book is very consistent in its presentation of material, its accuracy, and its general framework.
It would be very easy to use this modularly, and in fact the first chapter is something that I think will apply in nearly every college course, since it offers writing advice at the same time as it introduces students to the expectations of the college environment. The later chapters on thesis statements, punctuation, etc, can also be excerpted and used as modules.
The overall organization is very good. It begins with a broad explanation of the conceptual underpinnings of the college environment, moves into an explanation of why writing is important in academics and in life, and then proceeds through relevant subareas. Included throughout are excerpts from student contributors, authors, and other relevant material that provide insight into the topics under consideration.
The only issue is the occasional broken hyperlink, but it is minor.
The text contains no apparent grammatical errors.
Cultural relevancy is high, since it is a good introduction to college itself. It applies equally to every student. It is, of course, targeted at American universities and written from that perspective, but this is not something that can be faulted, since that is where it is going to be used.
Overall, an excellent gem of a little book. I put it right up there with many of the other compact introductory guides to college writing and college expectations.
The book does a really thorough job of discussing working with sources. The chapter on thesis statements was also very good. Later in the book, there is a "Back to Basics" section which could have either been eliminated (since this book assumes... read more
The book does a really thorough job of discussing working with sources. The chapter on thesis statements was also very good. Later in the book, there is a "Back to Basics" section which could have either been eliminated (since this book assumes competence) or could have been expanded (to offer support to students who still need to work on some of these topics - introductions, paragraphing, etc.). There is no discussion of genre or different kinds of research writing. No index included.
Text is accurate, error-free, and unbiased.
The majority of links still work, but I found 10 or15 that were dead. I imagine this will be a continuing problem. There is also some discussion of social media, which will have to be checked to maintain relevance.
Very readable without being simplistic or overly complex for undergraduates. Accessible and engaging. Good use of examples and details throughout.
Very consistent throughout.
I think this book is extremely modular and would be easy to use various parts and chapters in a stand-alone manner. The chapters on working with sources could be useful in a variety of writing contexts, as could the chapter on thesis statements. The chapter on understanding assignments could also be very useful in a variety of courses.
The structure mirrors the writing process, which would make it useful in a course with several writing projects or one longer research project.
Very easy to navigate. Images and charts were readable. Nice interface overall.
No grammatical errors that I saw. Very clear and engaging prose.
The book emphasized the need for care in writing about and researching various groups.
This book does assume that the student is competent in writing, and thus would not be a good choice for a beginning or remedial course.
This text might be well suited to first year writing seminars (typically writing intensive courses taught by faculty from the disciplines). For a straight-up first year writing class that isn’t anchored in a thematic or disciplinary area, however,... read more
This text might be well suited to first year writing seminars (typically writing intensive courses taught by faculty from the disciplines). For a straight-up first year writing class that isn’t anchored in a thematic or disciplinary area, however, it might serve as a solid complement to other teaching materials that cover a wider array of genres, conventions and rhetorical practices. The author presents college as a time for students to shed fixed ideas about their perceived weaknesses. This book offers simple strategies that put many students’ earlier experiences into this new context. Amy Guptill demonstrates eloquence when she explains how certain familiar concepts -when used in a college writing context-- take on more nuance and therefore deserve a second, deeper look. One strength is the book's emphasis on presenting strategies for college level writing while also reminding student readers that no model or framework will fit every writing situation.
Accuracy seems fine.
The author thoughtfully takes into account the range of issues college writers may bring to their courses. Hyperlinks to on-line resources that reinforce or extend the material in the text are used frequently. Many of these websites - especially those linking to college writing program sites -- appear to be maintained and kept current. The text focuses primarily on "standard" written essays with less attention paid to new genres of writing such as blog posts and multi modal formats.This is something that could be updated at some point.
The author addresses students directly with a reassuring, no nonsense (sometimes self-effacing) voice. Student voices interpreting or re-framing the material are sprinkled throughout the text. This is a nice touch as it offers reassurance to novice college writers while reinforcing concepts. While the explanations are often clearly and efficiently worded, the written examples are sometimes based on topics that are too technical or arcane. As a result, a student reader might get caught up doing the work of figuring out the content rather than absorbing the concept being illustrated. One can imagine many student readers becoming intimidated by the written examples and then tuning out.
The author introduces terminology and sticks with it to reinforce concepts throughout the book.
Many chapters stand alone without needing to refer to preceding or following sections. Chapter and section titles model how to grab the reader’s attention. (“Listening to Sources, Talking to Sources”) Chapters and sections offer an engaging twist on what may seem like familiar concepts to novice college writers (i.e. “Some sources are better than others”).
The chapters and sections are ordered strategically. Sentence level concerns come towards the end of the book while the notion of academic writing as entering a conversation comes first. This sends an important message to beginning college writers that mechanics are legitimate concerns, but the bigger shift they will see in college involves the more global aspects of their writing.
Some hyperlinks are perfectly curated to enrich or expand the chapter content. Others might send a student reader off on a confusing or possibly irrelevant detour. Good links are those that connect to online writing resources that explain new concepts such as “meta discourse.”
The author has clearly taken great care since this is a writing text!
While the intended readership seems to be wide ranging and inclusive, some of the writing examples - while not in any sense offensive or insensitive -- could be a bit more inclusive.
This text offers a nice take on a vexing concern for both students and instructors alike: building strong revision habits. The author devotes a chapter to making a strong case for revising rough drafts. She carefully describes how writing and thinking are intertwined and also how precision (rather than elegance) should be the goal for academic writing. Most importantly, she provides a useful framework for students to use as they take a second look at their writing.
This text offers a nice overview of the basics that writers need to consider when developing college level essays. The chapter on analyzing an assignment offers a useful discussion of the different types of writing that may be requested from... read more
This text offers a nice overview of the basics that writers need to consider when developing college level essays. The chapter on analyzing an assignment offers a useful discussion of the different types of writing that may be requested from students, examining terms such as analyze and critical thinking. The chapter on developing an effective thesis statement which focuses nicely on a thesis driven essay as a type of argument. Beyond the explanations of concepts, the book also includes some exercises that give students an opportunity to apply the concepts. These exercises dive into some depth, asking students to truly engage with the concepts rather than the easy types of comprehension questions often found at the end of chapters.
This information seems not only accurate and error-free but open-minded in its discussion of the techniques needed for effective college level writing. All borrowed information is borrowed from reputable sources with clear credit to the sources provided through footnotes.
The content is not only up to date, but written in a way that it remains relevant despite MLA updates or other changes. The topics are covered from a concepts focus, discussing the overall concepts needed for effective writing. The section on using sources does refer specifically to academic articles from databases, but does so in a way that eliminates the need for changes if database formats change.
This book is a bit text-heavy, with lengthy paragraphs for the explanation. While this does offer clear context for the content (and does avoid unnecessary jargon) there is value in conciseness. Sometimes the explanations take on more of a second person reference that I prefer, with statements such as "If you suspect that you're in a quoting rut, try out some new ways of incorporating sources" (45). While this is useful information, it can be confusing to students who are being taught to avoid the second person in their essays.
This text remains consistent in its format and organization. The use of terms is consistent, and the tone (which is rather casual and conversational) is consistent throughout.
The text does seem like it could be broken into sections and/or used piece-meal if an instructor so desired. Each chapter can function as a stand alone feature, which makes this a text that can be used section by section throughout a course.
Each chapter stands alone, yet is also organized in a manner that flows logically from the first chapter, which talks about the role of writing in academic and work pursuits, to the final chapter, which reviews the importance of correctness in writing.
I had no difficulty navigating the text, and found that the presentation of the content on the page was familiar. There were no distracting features, although there are a few links that could become problematic in terms of maintaining access to the linked pages.
I noticed no glaring grammatical errors within the text. However, I did not read it specifically seeking grammatical errors.
This book offers references and quotes from a variety of texts. This makes the content all inclusive, avoiding any specific cultural of racial bias. The textual references are related to general concepts from history, science, and literature. These should remain relevant for a long time.
Overall, this is a well structured and comprehensive book that can assist students as they write college level essays. It is not specifically focused on "English" types of content, and thus can be a resources for a variety of courses.
Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence is an excellent supplemental text to a freshman writing course. In nine chapters, the book covers expected material from a first-year writing course: expectations of college writing, evaluation of... read more
Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence is an excellent supplemental text to a freshman writing course. In nine chapters, the book covers expected material from a first-year writing course: expectations of college writing, evaluation of research, incorporation and utilization of research, a focus on cohesion and mechanics. The book approaches the student as a "junior scholar joining the academic community," and takes great care focusing on clarity and concision, including chapters on improving topic sentences and theses. The text engages contemporary college students, understanding that OWL Purdue, Google Scholar, and even Wikipedia are part of the conversation in a current composition classroom. Overall, the book delivers on its promise to take the well-prepared high school student and introduce the student to introductory college writing.
A great benefit of the book is its hyperlinks, which link to academic articles, AAC&U rubrics and commissioned studies. In regards to teaching college writing, the book shows both adherence to time-tested standards of practice (attention to mechanics, organization, and fluency), yet it incorporates a contemporary conversation that addresses writing as a skill employers are seeking and the need for a new college student to learn discipline specific writing.
"They Say / I Say" and "The Nuts of Bolts of College Writing" are two contemporary, popular texts that introduce college writing and research in plain speak, and "Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence" references both these texts and appears very much to translate the college-level writing assignment from professor to student in open and clear communication. Hyperlinks in the texts and footnotes (there are no end notes) take the student to relevant articles, studies, and information that support contemporary writing practices. The book's clear organization would allow for easy updates as necessary.
The book's use of graphic organizers and images create great clarity, and no doubt easily aid visual learners. Chapter 3, with images, debunks the shape of a traditional five-paragraph essay, and shows an essay, that through research, reveals more questions and answers, moving past the five-paragraph model. Chapter 4, "Secondary Sources in Their Natural Habitats" opens with a table that evaluates sources from academic journals to websites. The author understands students should see complex concepts, such as evaluating research, in several digestible formats.
The book's main concern is scaffolding the college writing experience to a new college student, and therefore does not first approach the subject of writing through terminology. For example, the first two chapters, respectively, outline the expectations of professors and students, and walk a student through developing and understanding a writing assignment. Standard terms are used to describe writing, but the book is more concerned with students using and mastering the task of writing rather than recognizing terminology. The framework of the book is extremely consistent and follows the pattern and organization typical of most composition handbooks.
Chapters such as "Listening to Sources, Talking to Sources" would make excellent out of class reading to accompany a lecture or activity on academic sources. Students who might need more guidance at the sentence-level will find the second half of the book helpful as it discusses common problems in writing such as comma usage and awkward word choice. This book is adaptable and could easily be included at various points in a typical composition course, but it could also be recommended independently as a resource for a student who needs more structured guidance.
From chapter to chapter, the book is extremely organized. Clear examples are provided, often in images and tables. Each chapter ends with a useful section of resources and exercises. Unlike more lengthy books, the exercises are curated and easily adapted for in or out of class use. Students should be able to navigate the text easily, particularly the last three chapters, which address issues like writing a more effective introduction or conclusion paragraph. Often the examples progress in a series of three, so the student can see which specific clauses or sentences improve a paragraph's cohesion or a thesis' development.
The text is easy to read, with the majority of hyperlinks being easy to navigate between outside material and returning to the text. However, a few links to publisher produced material or articles are broken. At 85 pages, the book is easy to digest and use as a reference. The images and graphic organizers, while not plentiful, are well-chosen, clear, and apt. The section on mechanics is easy to follow, marking its sentence examples as "informal" and "formal" as well as "incorrect" and "correct."
The text is largely free of grammatical errors, and shows good attention to editing and design.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. The examples used show a wide variety of subjects, scholarship, and time periods.
This text does not seem to be designed as a rhetoric manual or handbook, rather it is a general introduction to any kind of college/academic writing. This text would be a great companion resource for composition courses but is not comprehensive... read more
This text does not seem to be designed as a rhetoric manual or handbook, rather it is a general introduction to any kind of college/academic writing. This text would be a great companion resource for composition courses but is not comprehensive enough to stand alone. This text would also be ideal for summer institutes or “bridge” classes. As an introduction to college writing, the text is comprehensive. The text does not have an index or glossary, which would be useful.
This text appears to be unbiased and accurate. The author goes out of her way to be inclusive in her examples of student's backgrounds.
This text is relevant and up-to-date. Guptill includes references to technology and social media that are contemporary. Guptill’s links and sources are also current and relevant. Because the text is hyper-linked, the text will require frequent updates/checks on those links. Some of those links are already broken. The chapters covering research will also bear scrutiny over time as how we find sources (via databases or Google Scholar) is likely to change.
The book is written in a clear, conversational style with students as the intended audience. All terminology and jargon are more than adequately explained.
Tone, terminology, and logical framework are all very consistent in this text. Guptill builds from the idea of finding something to write about/figuring out assignments to addressing the actual structure of writing. Guptill's style and the content she addresses in each section is very patterned and clear.
This is the weakest area for this text. While the sections of this book are clearly organized with headings and sections, the layout and design of the text could be improved upon greatly. The book’s arrangement is very text heavy with few graphics and illustrations. Even though the writing is super clear and accessible, students who are used to accessing information via the web, may find the walls of a text a bit daunting. Additionally, some of the hyperlinks could use more contextualization/instruction so that students aren't just wandering off the page to marginally relevant sources.
Again, Guptill's style and structure is logical. An instructor could easily follow Guptill's organization or could jump around the text without any trouble. Because each section focuses on a specific skill set---creating clear paragraphs, for instance--an instructor could easily use this book as a whole or in parts.
There were no interface issues in the PDF or the online version. I did not try to the ePub version, so I cannot speak to that. The book would benefit from having an interactive glossary and index.
This text contains no significant errors in grammar, except where intended to illustrate poor grammar. There are a couple of typos, though.
Guptill's text is culturally sensitive and inclusive. She addresses how geographic and cultural backgrounds can effect writing and speaks to the ways that students can identify and avoid "nonstandard" or informal English in their writing.
I am definitely going to include this book as a companion text for my research writing course. Guptill's sections on writing paragraphs and getting mechanics right are especially inviting and clear. Additionally, the length of this book is spot on. Students don't want a 300-page tome, they need this kind of pocket guide to get started. I appreciate how Guptill truly kept her audience in mind when she created this book.
This text covers a lot of important topics related to college writing. The background on higher education generally was an interesting and helpful background not found in many other writing or composition textbooks. One area that I felt this text... read more
This text covers a lot of important topics related to college writing. The background on higher education generally was an interesting and helpful background not found in many other writing or composition textbooks. One area that I felt this text lacked, however, was a discussion of rhetorical situation and genre. Concepts such as audience, medium/mode, purpose and genre are key to my writing pedagogy, but weren't covered in the text. While the text lacked in those areas, the discussion of organization, argument, and source use was very thorough and helpful. Drawing on Graff and Birkenstein's They Say/I Say provided an excellent framework for students to approach the use of secondary sources.
The content of this book is accurate and adheres to the principles of writing and writing pedagogy central to the field of composition.
The text is up-to-date and has potential for longevity in terms of helping students complete traditional essays. One area not covered in the text which may negatively impact its longevity is its complete privileging of traditional alphabetic texts to the exclusion of multimodal composition, which is becoming more and more prevalent in college courses across the curriculum.
The language of this text is very clear and engaging. The tone is friendly, yet still authoritative. It seems ideal for incoming college students.
The tone and structure of this text is consistent, creating a very coherent text.
This text makes good use of subheadings, blocks, and boxes to support clarity and engagement. The only thing that might make the text more successful in this area is the use of visuals.
The organization of this text is logical and effective. I particularly appreciated the placement of sections related to grammar placed at the end of the text with an accompanying explanation of why it was there within the text and how this relates to a successful college writing process.
The interface is easy to use, but hyperlinks within the table of contents and within each page to subsections would be helpful.
Not only does this text appear to be free of grammar errors, it has a nuanced and thoughtful discussion of grammar and debates over "correctness" that I believe is important for a college composition course.
In terms of cultural relevance, I appreciated the discussion of gendered language and issues to consider relating to it. One aspect missing from this discussion, however, was issues of gender identity and pronoun preference. I also appreciated the discussion of informal and formal language and its relation to background, identity, and class.
The excerpts from students found in each chapter were a great mechanism for students to get the perspective of other students, not just teachers and "experts."
This book covers a wide range of topics addressed in the writing classroom in a way which is through and clear. The division of chapters to reflect the writing process works well for students moving from high school to college level writing. The... read more
This book covers a wide range of topics addressed in the writing classroom in a way which is through and clear. The division of chapters to reflect the writing process works well for students moving from high school to college level writing. The subject matter is clear and allows for direct connections. I really appreciated this text as I use They Say/I Say in the classroom, and this text made connections to that which I was able to highlight with my students.
I found this text to be accurate in the way that it address the subject matter. It followed conventions and pedagogies which are currently being taught in the writing classroom.
The material here is fairly standard and should be considered relevant for a long while.
The writing and examples provided are very clear and easily accessible to students. I tested a chapter of this book on a freshman level writing class and was very pleased with their understanding.
Throughout this text the writing is consistent and easy to navigate. The framework of the chapters is clear and terminology used is defined and easy to understand.
I was able to pull one chapter out of the whole in order to develop a lesson and it seemed that it would be easy to do that throughout this text. While the book works well as a whole, the division of chapters allows for teachers to adjust what would be needed with the particular group of writing students they're working with.
The flow of the text led clearly from one concept to the next in a logical fashion which reflected the writing process. As this is just one way to address the teaching of writing, and personally the way that I prefer, I found it very useful and clear, but I could see that with some methods of writing instruction the structure may not work as well. Nonetheless, this text offers chapters which could be easily reorganized to achieve a number of different goals.
Interfacing with this book worked very well and I found the text easy to navigate. The headings were clear, the few images in the text were easy to understand and the hyperlinks worked well.
Thankfully, as this is a book on writing, the grammar was spot on.
Writing is a way to bring equality to groups with diverse backgrounds. This text does not address issues in a way which would be considered offensive or insensitive and works to encourage students toward developing stronger academic writing skills.
I am looking forward to using this text with my future work with college writers. I was glad that my students reactive positively to the text when I tested it in class and really appreciated the connection to the text we were already using.
The text effectively explains the differences between high school and college writing expectations, and provides relevant examples for sentence construction, paragraph development, and essay organization, clarity, and concision . While it does not... read more
The text effectively explains the differences between high school and college writing expectations, and provides relevant examples for sentence construction, paragraph development, and essay organization, clarity, and concision . While it does not have an index or glossary, the text has a table of contents and is searchable.
The content is accurate, error-free, and unbiased.
The writing instructions and examples in the book are up-to-date, and the text contains several links to outside resources and examples. A potential concern are broken links if those outside resources are edited or changed, but I believe those links can be updated relatively easily. The author mentions some writing conventions that are in flux and may change (for example, the future likelihood of singular "their"), but overall, the writing instruction is timeless.
The author does an excellent job of speaking to college students in lucid, accessible language and provides her readers with examples that illustrate strong, effective writing.
The text is consistent in design, terminology, and framework. Each chapter includes advice from college students that reinforces the author's discussion, footnotes to resources, exercises and examples, and links to additional outside resources.
While the book does move meaningfully from the first chapter to the last, it would not be difficult to use the chapters in a different order. For example, since the book focuses on argument and use of sources early (chapters 3, 4, & 5), I might have students first read the chapters on clarity (chapter 8) and mechanics (9), especially if I were beginning my course with a different genre, such as a personal narrative.
The topics in the book are presented clearly.and in a logical way. I would likely use chapters 8 and 9 (on clarity and mechanics) before chapters 4, and 5, which discuss finding and using sources, because I don't begin my course with the major argumentative essay. But Guptill makes a good argument within the text that the organization of the text itself reflects: focusing first on well-constructed sentences without a strong, thoughtful argument will not result in a strong essay. Therefore, the writing of an effective essay as a whole is focused on before the nuts and bolts of mechanics.
I found no interface or navigation issues within the text. It took a few tries to realize that clicking on the number in an endnote bumps the reader back up to the corresponding place in the text, but this is likely my inexperience with online textbooks. The one major issue I do see has to do with accessibility and accessible design: several of the links provided in the Other Resources sections use vague language such as "this handout" or "this one." All learners would find descriptive, meaningful link text more helpful.
The text was a pleasure to read and grammatically correct. I found only one word error - "much" for "must" in the first paragraph of chapter 9. The only other problem was in chapter 5 in the discussion of block quotes - the example provided does not accurately display the direct quote by Kahneman in block format. Other than this, the book is well-written and edited.
The text does not contain references that are culturally insensitive or offensive. The author uses multiple examples from a variety of resources.
I really enjoyed this book and plan to use it in my composition courses. Guptill puts relevant, helpful information for new college-level writers into concise, relatable language that I believe they will actually read. She doesn't dismiss or scoff at the skills and preparation students bring with them from high school to college; instead, she uses those rote lessons (such as generic introductions and the 5-paragraph essay) as foundational building blocks for their college writing.
I am very pleased with the comprehensive nature of the text. It covers all the finer details that are sometimes dropped in the rush of a course based on a quarter system. There are usually things that we as professors spot our students making... read more
I am very pleased with the comprehensive nature of the text. It covers all the finer details that are sometimes dropped in the rush of a course based on a quarter system. There are usually things that we as professors spot our students making mistakes with, but because these are not the main thrust of the curriculum, we end up having to leave them out, only addressing them on a case-by-case basis as they appear in students' writings. I routinely teach WR115 and Wr121 on my campus. These are considered a paragraph-to-essay course, with emphasis on rhetorical modes, while the 121 is the first in the series of transfer courses, with an emphasis on solid essay writing skills being overlaid with argumentation and critical thinking concepts. I feel this text bridges the gap between the two and am planning to make it a required text for both.
Has a pleasing compare and contrast mode when addressing the ideas students may bring with them to a college course, versus what instructors and professors are really looking for. Guptill does an excellent job of linking these expectations to the actual learning that may take place in a writing class. Because of this compare/contrast structure, the accuracy of the descriptions of standard writing curriculum are brought into nice relief, which heightens the accuracy of all the information in the text. Nicely done.
Because Writing in College: from Competence to Excellence, is written with an eye to not just what good writing is, but also, the more effective mindset to approach all college learning experiences, the text should maintain a high degree of relevance and longevity to the college/writing community.
A strength of the text is its ability to speak to the college student in clear terms. Many analogies are provided which help illuminate the concepts and are easily approachable.
Good consistency throughout. The author demonstrate clear excellence in her understanding of teaching and writing.
Each section is easy to read and understand on its own. Each module is able to be pulled out as a stand-alone.
The text is very cohesive from the start. The juxtaposition of the Research module with the previous explanation of some philosophical approaches to college writing courses is somewhat abrupt, but, on the other hand, entirely necessary, and I am not sure how this could be structured to move away from this. Because the modules are easily separated, and, I would expect, follow an individual instructor's course flow, this really should not be an issue in any way.
Absolutely no issues with the interface of the book.
There are no grammatical errors--a very clean read.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way, and in fact, addresses some of the issues regarding preserving gender neutral references in writing in a realistic and useful way.
I am very pleased with this book. It really does a nice job in explaining not just the technical aspects of writing, but the connection to the larger academic community which can be forged by expressing original ideas in a reflective manner.
I reviewed the text with our institution's developmental writing class in mind, Writing 97 which is an introduction to college essay writing. I preface my comments by saying I believe it is more suited to our higher level writing class, WR115,... read more
I reviewed the text with our institution's developmental writing class in mind, Writing 97 which is an introduction to college essay writing. I preface my comments by saying I believe it is more suited to our higher level writing class, WR115, which bridges the gap between the developmental writing (97) and Writing 121 in our institution. For Writing 97 purposes, the text would benefit by including more exercises for the writing techniques covered, although the hot links to Online exercises from supplementary materials such as Purdue's, OWL resources, and Diana Hacker's Writing Reference exercises are very helpful. There are many such references and links. The chapters are text-intensive; therefore, for the purposes of a class similar to our WR97, I believe they would benefit with more of a variety of presentations such as more side bars, the above-mentioned exercises, and information offered in more graphic formats for visual learners.
For the information presented, very accurate.
I believe the information remains relevant and offers classic writing techniques while suggesting a few newer instructional methods such as the "I say/they say" approach to argument writing. An additional effective element of the text is the chapter covering what writing professors expect, and the attention given critical thinking which is such an important element to crafting argument papers, in particular.
The prose is accessible for the transitional student I reference (the WR115 class in our institution) and sufficient context for specialty terms and jargon. I believe the addition of a glossary of terms in a back matter section would have added benefit.
The text is consistent in terms of terminology and framework.
For the student in our developmental writing class, the text would benefit with more variety in the presentation of the material--more graphics, exercises, etc., as noted above.
The topics are presented in a logical, clear fashion.
The interface is consistent.
The grammar in this writing book is very good.
The examples and citations are derived from diverse sources.
I particularly appreciated the hot links to many good resources Online, as noted previously. I believe the "side bar" inserts featuring student responses and perspectives on various writing topics would be of both interest and help to students. The "how to" examples for various writing skills such as topic sentences, three-level thesis statements, and instruction on such "writing mechanics" as how to avoid wordiness, fix run-on sentences, fragments and common punctuation problems, etc, seem to cover many of the most common areas of challenge for writers transitioning from high school to college level writing. The attention to rhetorical techniques and matters of "grace" and style in the last two chapters in particular will also help students upgrade their writing skills for college papers. For students in developmental writing classes at the college level (perhaps one level lower than I believe this text might be best suited), a course using this textbook would be strengthened by the addition of supplemental materials featuring more practice exercises for each element of the essay, more sample and "whole essay" readings, and more punctuation and grammar exercises. There is some attention to ESL needs (such as in syntax development and various "agreement" issues such as subject/verb and verb tenses), which would benefit the developmental students as well, as many international students fit this demographic, but more may be necessary.
At less than 100 pages, Writing in College (WIC) is an admittedly brief text. While it doesn’t cover every college writing scenario (an impossible task), it serves as a fantastic primer for students who are making the transition from high school... read more
At less than 100 pages, Writing in College (WIC) is an admittedly brief text. While it doesn’t cover every college writing scenario (an impossible task), it serves as a fantastic primer for students who are making the transition from high school expectations to college expectations. In this way, it’s more like a college writing manifesto than a traditional textbook, which will be refreshing to instructors and edifying for students. The text offers practical writing instruction for beginner college students. It doesn’t hedge; it’s very frank about what college instructors/professors expect from students, how they grade, and what their concerns are (while also revealing that it’s different for different instructors). WIC helps students understand that they’re junior scholars, rather than “knowledge consumers.” I wish I’d had this introduction when I started undergrad, as it would’ve saved me from confusion and amateurish writing mistakes from the get-go. Though there’s no glossary or index, the text’s brevity and easy-to-follow “conversational” structure makes those features largely unnecessary.
Having spent the last decade as either a student or instructor, I can vouch for the text’s accuracy about college writing expectations, at least when it comes to writing argument-driven essays. Guptill perfectly captures the difference between college writing and high school writing, especially highlighting the need for students to consider their audience, to do original thinking, and to critically engage with ideas. Chapters 1 and 2 are especially useful in this regard. More importantly, I believe other college writing experts would support Guptill’s ideas and overall approach. In particular, WIC helps students abandon the rigid and stale “5-paragraph essay” form and see the advantages of writing a more complex, “organic” essay (Chapter 3 handles this subject fabulously). The text forwards the kind of writing that will allow students to excel in a college environment.
WIC seems relatively timeless, as it engages college writing from a rhetorical and processual approach, rather than format- or topic-specific ones. I can see this book being just as honest, relevant, and useful a decade from now. One thing that may need continued work are the hyperlinks embedded in the text, as URLs change or get deleted or as pages/visuals change with new formatting. But it seems that those features could be easily changed to keep up with the times.
Guptill’s prose is wonderful. It’s written conversationally and often uses humor and illustrations that college students will find relatable. The text avoids abstractions and instead delivers practical, concrete information. Students will have no trouble engaging with the text.
WIC maintains a high degree of consistency. It's adequately self-referential (without being overbearing), which should help remind students about concepts discussed in other chapters. The text also has a clearly unified purpose--it all relates back to the specific "genre" of college writing.
As mentioned previously, the text is brief: 9 chapters, approximately 10 pages/chapter. That said, students should easily be able to read and digest chapters within 15-30 minutes (depending on their reading speed, choices to follow links embedded in the text, etc.). Each chapter also makes use of clear, bold subheadings. One downside of the text's modularity, though, is that later chapters sometimes require readers to recall content from earlier chapters. Each chapter could technically stand-alone, but it makes more sense if readers understand the broader context. I can see how that might potentially discourage students; however, I think the text's brevity and lucidity serves as a buffer here. (It's also worth mentioning that on a meta-level WIC is essentially an argument-unto-itself about how to write excellent college papers. In other words, it's putting its own lessons into practice, which instructors and students alike can appreciate.)
Guptill has organized WIC deftly. Altogether, the text takes a top-down approach, focusing on higher-order concerns first and then moving on to discuss lower-order concerns. In my experience, approach like this is conceptually beneficial for students and accurately aligns with the values and objectives of college writing programs. There are 9 chapters, but they can ultimately be grouped into three broader sections. The first three chapters tackle the most important concerns of writing a college assignment: an awareness of genre, audience, and purpose/focus. The next block of chapters (4-7) deals with development, organization, and source integration. Chapters 4 and 5 are especially cogent and useful discussions about finding, evaluating, and using sources. The final block (chapters 8 and 9) handles style and conventions. Chapter 8 has some great information about writing with concision and grace.
WIC's interface is great. It's easily navigable, including intra-text links (like how the links in the table of contents let readers jump directly to each chapter without having to scroll) and easy-to-manage links to sources outside the text. If you have the .pdf file open in a web browser, you can easily right-click links and open them in new tabs. From a design perspective, the text is clean, crisp, and attractive. I especially enjoy the emboldened, boxed-out "Student Voices" asides, which give readers concrete insight from actual college students. These asides add depth and relatability to the text without interrupting it.
I didn't find any grammatical errors. It looks professionally edited and is written expertly--to be expected from a text that's about excellent academic writing. I did find one minor formatting mistake: on p. 53 there's a part where the text says there’s “emboldened” text in the second usage of a quotation, but the bold is missing there. It should be easy to fix, though.
WIC is in no way culturally insensitive or offensive. It takes a global perspective; when it uses examples, it often engages different cultural and geographic backgrounds.
Overall, I love the clarity, frankness, and flexibility Guptill's text offers. It demystifies and simplifies (without over-simplifying) the practice of writing in college in a way that's beneficial for students, graduate students, and instructors alike, on par with Graff and Birkenstein's landmark _They Say/I Say_ text. WIC is equally useful to both writing instructors and instructors from other disciplines, especially considering its brevity. Given the chance, I'd certainly use it in future classes. It would also serve as a great supplementary text for instructors who are a required to use a curriculum-specific textbook.
This text covers many areas that beginning writers face. It covers the basics from understanding the assignment and what the professor wants, to creating the rough draft, to incorporating sources, and finally to grammar. The focus of the '3... read more
This text covers many areas that beginning writers face. It covers the basics from understanding the assignment and what the professor wants, to creating the rough draft, to incorporating sources, and finally to grammar. The focus of the '3 story thesis' in Chapter 3 is especially useful. Additionally, the idea of creating an outline using "key sentences" rather than topic points is something I will be implementing in my teaching. This text is complete "with concise discussions, clear multidisciplinary examples, and empathy for the challenges of student life." (About the Book) Although, this text may not be intended to use as the sole text for a writing course, I found most of the content to be valuable information when teaching the beginning writer. Specifically, I can see this text to be invaluable to the Graduate Teaching Assistant in any writing course.
Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence offers accurate information on many areas of writing. It is especially grounded in the areas of formulating ideas and generating a thesis. Guptill offers alternate perspectives on many of the fears and problems beginning writers face. She encourages her readers to become "conscientious writers."
Guptill uses such sources as OWL, MLA, Chronicle in Higher Education and many others. Most of the information presented, either in text or via an external link, are current and will not become obsolete in the near future. There will be some that will, undoubtedly, need to be updated as new and more useful information is made available. However, this is true of every text.
From a student perspective, this text provides excellent definition and context for all of the technical terms used. Guptill uses external links to make everything as clear to her readers as possible. It is very clear this text is written for students in a writing course. She goes further by stating that what most students learn in their high school writing class may not be what the college professor is looking for. Guptill states that "the assumption behind high-school instruction is that the teacher is the engine of learning." However, she reminds her readers that in college "writing a paper isn’t about getting the “right answer” and adhering to basic conventions; it’s about joining an academic conversation with something original to say." These are valuable lessons for the beginning writer.
Perhaps the most obvious consistency in the framing of this text is how Guptill focuses on writing at a college level, for a collegiate audience. She begins by addressing what a college professor wants and how to produce a paper that may satisfy "thorough understanding of context, audience, and purpose, mastery of the subject, detailed attention to writing conventions, skillful use of high-quality, credible, relevant sources, and graceful language.”
The references at the end of each chapter, with links to each was especially helpful, especially to a beginning writer. Each chapter deals with a topic students face as they sort through writing in an academic environment. I think a student reading this text would appreciate, as I did, the student comments interspersed throughout each chapter.
Each chapter clearly addresses something a college student would either have questions about or would need to know. In an 16 week semester, it is conceivable that each chapter could be addressed in 2 weeks. Given that the exercises at the end of each chapter are not asking students to write a paper, it allows each instructor to structure the chapters (and the lessons within) to coincide with assigned essays. Also, I would have liked page numbers.
I read the text online. I am especially impressed with the expanded content by way of the internal links to relevant sources. There was only one link that did not work. The use of bold face type, boxed information, bullets etc. made for easier reading. Referring to previously read chapters is a good practice, however, Guptill provides links to previous chapters, which can be somewhat distracting if a student gets into the habit of looking at all links provided.
I did not find grammatical errors.
This text is culturally inclusive. There were no obvious signs of insensitivities. Guptill could have addressed obvious differences in writing perspectives as it pertains to various backgrounds, but I did not feel it was necessary.
I like the way the text speaks to the college student. I can see myself utilizing many of Guptill's ideas and approaches to teaching the beginning writer. Although the author focuses on the argument driven essay, the advice, examples, and exercises can be applied to nearly all writing for the beginner. I agree with the author when she states, "Experienced writers don't figure out what they want to say then write it. They write in order to figure out what they want to say."
Guptill's text is indeed a "warm invitation" to join the academic community in which research writing is a key method of communication. What is really wonderful is her approach to writing as that of joining an already existing discourse community,... read more
Guptill's text is indeed a "warm invitation" to join the academic community in which research writing is a key method of communication. What is really wonderful is her approach to writing as that of joining an already existing discourse community, a community that she sets about helping students decode. The text has an effective table of contents, perceptive suggestions from real students throughout, but no glossary nor index.
I believe that Guptill's student-centered approach helps to reduce the bias that instructors without a sociology background may not even be aware exists. By that I mean, she listens and shares students' insights about learning to write and attempts to understand the mind set behind certain kinds of common errors. This approach reminds me of the fascinating work by Dr. Flowers through the Bay Area Writing Project, in which she explored "think aloud" protocols with students who were in the act of composing academic writing.
The content in meaningful and up-to-date and the section on incorporating sources is one of the best I've read because it really looks at how students need to lead into and out of cited material in ways that enhance and support their own arguments.
I love the way the lesson on "key" sentences flows right into the section on outlining to show us that they are connected. She encourages students to write their key sentences into their outlines. This strategy provides helpful scaffolding as students climb toward writing the entire paper. I also like the student input here: "A good paper has cohesion. I love outlines, so I really like the idea of writing my first sentence of each paragraph as my plan. This way, you know what to write about and you know that your paper will flow easily. As a reader, this is an important characteristic to me. If the paragraphs are just jumping around in all different directions, I quickly lose interest in trying to follow along. The reader should not have to struggle to follow your paper. Flow can make the difference between an okay paper and a scholarly product."
Yes the text is internally consistent in terminology and framework. The student insights, boxed off to separated them, accompany each section as well. I really learned a lot reading all the student feedback and appreciate its inclusion throughout.
Yes, the text is easily and readily divisible. One could use part of the text, such as the sections on key sentences and outlines, without incorporating the rest of the text.
The topics move logically, at least for me, from global to local. By that I mean that Guptill explores higher -order cognitive challenges and assumptions about writing first and looks at sentence and paragraph level concerns later.
I experienced no interface issues at all. The table of contents is hyper-linked for ease of navigation.
I encountered no grammar errors.
I experienced no cultural insensitivity. Rather I was impressed by the exploration of academia as a culture, particularly in Chapter 2.
Amy Guptill is able to see writing from the students' perspective, which is a gift. For example, students struggle with the idea of writing about a topic that their audience, primarily their instructor, knows better than they do. Guptill describes this experience well: "When you write for a teacher you are usually swimming against the stream of natural communication. The natural direction of communication is to explain what you understand to someone who doesn’t understand it. But in writing an essay for a teacher your task is usually to explain what you are still engaged in trying to understand to someone who understands it better. "
Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence addresses all the areas and concepts behind orienting students who are new to writing expectations in college. It is comprehensive in covering everything from moving beyond the five-paragraph essay... read more
Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence addresses all the areas and concepts behind orienting students who are new to writing expectations in college. It is comprehensive in covering everything from moving beyond the five-paragraph essay while not negating its usefulness, to deciphering professors' assignments and expectations of critical thinking, to perfecting the foundational paragraph. The table of contents clearly shows the chapter titles that address the range of sub-topics that need to be considered to produce excellent writing in college. Although it is meant to be a short textbook, the addition of a simple glossary would be helpful, as would a Chapter 10 to conclude the book and bring the book full circle back to the Introduction, sending writers off with excitement to explore their new understanding of excellence in college writing.
The content is accurate, contains no errors, and is unbiased. The accuracy of the book is enhanced by the author's apparent experience as a subject area professor who understands what new college students needs to navigate research-based writing assignments as well as how to work with professors who may or may not incorporate writing strategies into their content courses.
The book will always be relevant. It contains no content that will become dated. The plentiful and effective links to additional resources can be easily updated as needed. The strategies it presents will never become obsolete so long as critical thinking and evidence-based writing is expected in college.
The text is clear, easy to read, and engaging. Key terminology discussed includes context, definitions, and links to resources that explain further. The clear writing style is in itself a model for students new to college writing.
Overall, the text is consistent in terms of terminology and framework. Each chapter presents the topic, hooks the reader to want to learn the 'why' of the topic, explains comprehensively, and finally provides two consistent and extremely useful sections: Other Resources and Exercises.
The modularity of the text is one of the factors that makes it quite accessible to readers. The chapters are all about the same length, have clear sub-sections with sub-titles that flow from one to the next, and clear resources and exercises sections highlighted in red and blue. It is easy to follow the book from where one left off after putting the book down for a few days. Moreover, the way the content presentation is divided makes it so the book or sections of the book could be used in a variety writing, research writing, or subject area courses.
The topics in the text are presented logically and clearly. The book sets the stage for readers to understand the larger context of college writing, gets into identifying what professors want and why, breaks down how to plan writing with organizational structures to fit the task, and then emphasizes the importance of clear paragraphs and mechanics.
The interface of the text, including navigation, charts, and text boxes, is clear. There is nothing in the text that might confuse the reader.
There are no grammar errors in the text. The writing style is enhanced by grammar that communicates effectively for the task. The grammar choices the author makes are all in the service of clear communication with no extra wordiness or unnecessary complexity.
Overall, the text is culturally relevant and not offensive. The book is written in language that should appeal to and catch the attention of readers who have recently graduated from high school in the United States, Canada, etc. The quotations from students create identification with the topic; to enhance this, quotations from a wider variety of student names might broaden the appeal. One concern is that are a limited number of words and references that should be revised to make the book more culturally accessible ("Booyah!" in several chapters and "bullshit" in Chapter 9). A few minor revisions to each chapter with a wider audience in mind -- non-traditional or older students, international students, non-native English speaking resident students, community college students -- would smooth out the cultural references and expand the book's appeal.
I plan to use this book to help get my Academic and College Transition ESL students ready to enter college.
Amy Guptill's textbook offers a comprehensive discussion of writing in an academic (primarily four-year/university) setting, with an emphasis on the thesis-driven essay that includes research. The focus of each chapter (e.g., "Understanding the... read more
Amy Guptill's textbook offers a comprehensive discussion of writing in an academic (primarily four-year/university) setting, with an emphasis on the thesis-driven essay that includes research. The focus of each chapter (e.g., "Understanding the Assignment"; "Constructing the Thesis"; "Listening to Sources"; "Getting the Mechanics Right") supports the book's larger focus on academic writing, and the chapter topics fit together well. While the book does not contain an index or glossary, the table of contents makes it easy to see which topics are addressed in the book. The historical focus in Chapter 1 on the origins of universities and of scholarly writing is an interesting element of the book and adds to its comprehensiveness. As mentioned in the book's "Reviewer's Notes," the audience for *Writing in College* is clearly "well-prepared" students. As a community college instructor, I found some of the material less applicable to my own teaching than it might be to that of an instructor in a four-year college or university. But for the audience that the book is trying to reach, I would call the book comprehensive.
I found the book to be accurate. Many of Guptill's assertions are supported by sources (usually available in full text online) that she provides direct links to in her text. Also, Guptill occasionally brings in her personal experience as a writer (and, more often, the views of students, in their own words) to support her assertions. I did notice a few places in the textbook where I felt that a phrasing could be modified to move beyond a focus on the four-year college environment. (An example--again reflecting my experience as a community college instructor--is in Chapter 3 where Guptill asserts that professors don't want to see obvious theses in essays (21). I personally love to see a thesis in a student's essay that's as clear as a bell! Guptill is clearly aiming for a more nuanced student essay here.)
Guptill's book seems relevant and to have good powers of endurance. References to popular culture (e.g., texting language) are frequent enough to make the book feel current without being intrusive. Guptill also has a good handle on changing conventions in academic discourse and refers to how academic writing has been trending toward a plainer, more direct style; and how "invented" rules like end-of-sentence prepositions can be safely disregarded by most college writers. I found the book timely and up-to-date in an enduring way.
Guptill's textbook has some wonderfully clear chapters and sections. Her discussion of what makes a good thesis (main idea) in an essay in Chapter 3 is lucid and engaging. Guptill also has a nice way of stepping outside her role as an instructor and looking at the conventions of academic writing as (admittedly) sometimes a little odd. She does this at the start of Chapter 2 in her inviting discussion of the irony of the typical writing situation in college: how the writer is writing for an audience (i.e., the instructor) who in many cases understands the subject better than the student (9). (As Guptill points out, this situation is the reverse of most other writing situations, where writers are trying to inform/educate/entertain a less-knowledgeable reader. No wonder writing essays isn't very exciting for a lot of students!) Parts of the book would benefit from added clarification. The primary area of need involves statements leading into numbered lists, a format Guptill uses frequently to identify the varied reasons or methods for approaches or expectations in academic writing. Often a paragraph preceding a lengthy, numbered list will end with a phrase like "Some points:" or "Here are some possible reasons:" Reading these brief lead-ins, I was often left scratching my head, wondering, "Points about what again?" or "Reasons for what, did you say?" These lead-in statements could possibly be revised by placing them in bold type, and instead of a general phrase like "Here are five common strategies," include an assertive passage separated from the text that precedes it, stating something like, "Here are five ways to make your thesis both original and grounded in the sources." A phrase like this (especially if bolded and separated from the preceding text) would be easy to refer back to and reduce confusion about what is being discussed in the ensuing lists. I also felt that many of the longer passages Guptill quotes to illustrate effective paragraphs, such as those in Chapter 6, "Back to Basics: The Perfect Paragraph," could focus on topics that are more easily understandable to a wider, 21st-century audience; quoted passages about the "the cold fusion controversy of the 1980s" (55), for example, could be replaced by something equally newsworthy but more easily understandable to a wide set of readers, such as the benefits of a whole-foods diet or the vast amount of plastic cluttering up our seas. I also felt that the clarity of the textbook could be improved by Guptill's better identifying the authors and/or subjects of the texts that she is quoting (such as in Chapter 7: "Intros and Outros"). A lengthy quoted passage in Chapter 7 may begin with a lead-in statement as brief as "Victor Seet on religious embodiment:" (61). After reading such brief introductions-to-quoted-examples, I was left wondering, "Who is Victor Seet? What is religious embodiment? Are these students?" (etc.) There needs to be more of the "top bread slice" in these "quotation sandwiches" Guptill makes, preparing readers for the big quotes so we know what to expect from them.
I found Guptill's book consistent in terms of tone (upbeat, encouraging, sometimes humorous) and terminology. Each chapter ends with a section on "Other Resources" and with helpful suggestions for writing projects. I did notice that some elements are present in some chapters but not others. For example, Chapter 5, "Listening to Sources . . . ," ends with a section called "Conclusion"; I did not necessarily see that feature in other chapters. I also observed Guptill referring in Chapter 7 to examples of passages written by students (she identified them as such); I hadn't recalled this reference-to-students'-writing from previous chapters and wondered why there was this apparently new reference to students' work.
The book seems very modular to me. I can imagine an instructor effectively assigning portions of the text in a course; or assigning just a single chapter. My favorite chapter of the book, Chapter 9, "Getting the Mechanics Right," is a smart, reassuring, and accessible look at grammar and usage rules in writing; it's comprehensive in itself considering its brevity and would be a great stand-alone reading assignment for any student who might feel that her grasp of writing's mechanics could be better.
For the most part, the organization/structure of Guptill's book works for me. Her approach is organic (a term she defines, in its rhetorical sense, in her text): she starts with broader concepts like understanding the assignment and exploring a thesis, and moves much later into more sentence- or surface-level features of writing like clarity and mechanical correctness. My main reservation about the book's flow is the above-mentioned observation that some of the long, numbered explanatory sections need clearer lead-in statements that readers can refer back to to remind themselves of what is being listed.
From an interface standpoint, the book is inviting and easy to navigate. The live links within chapters take readers to the intended websites (as far as I can tell); and Guptill's chapter titles and subheadings nicely identify what is discussed in the named section.
*Writing in College* is a grammatically great read! I noticed only two very minor grammar elements that could be smoothed out: a subject-verb needing agreement in Chapter 1 ("Neither of these assumptions are true"); and a "than" needing to be a "then" in Chapter 2 ("than the bat would cost"--p. 16). Otherwise, grammatical elements look good to me.
As mentioned, the book is geared toward well-prepared students and makes this clear up front. I appreciate Guptill's comments in Chapter 9 ("Getting the Mechanics Right") about how students with working-class or transnational or multilingual community affiliations will "have to expend more effort than their middle-class English-speaking counterparts to master the standard conventions [of written English]" (76). As suggested above, I did feel that the examples chosen by Guptill for effective paragraphs, introductions, etc., could be more accessible to a general audience. Many students might find academically specialized topics like sociology's balance theory (53) bewildering and would probably be better off with more media-friendly examples.
Amy Guptill's *Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence* is a well-informed, readable textbook geared toward well-prepared first-year college students. The book has an organic arrangement from chapter to chapter and offers clear and engaging explanations of how to develop an interesting thesis, "converse" with sources in one's research-based writing, and create flow and mechanical accuracy in one's essays. The book could be strengthened with more descriptive lead-in passages to numbered explanatory sections; fuller, more descriptive introductions to lengthy quoted examples; and (in some cases) more accessible choices of topics in the quoted examples. On the whole, I found the book informative and well-written, a worthwhile contribution to the composition field.
The text, was for the most part, comprehensive, and covers all of the major areas that ideally should be reviewed in a composition course. While some sections could technically use more, such as section on sources and mechanics (I would love if... read more
The text, was for the most part, comprehensive, and covers all of the major areas that ideally should be reviewed in a composition course. While some sections could technically use more, such as section on sources and mechanics (I would love if it covered the use of dashes), I wouldn't expect a text to cover everything and an instructor should be able to make up for any minor gaps in the text.
I found no issues with the accuracy of the text.
The only section that could need revision in the future is the section on sources, as sources are heavily affected by technology and it constant needs updates, but that's not a fault of the text. I was happy that it included a section on gendered language.
The prose is easy to follow for early composition students and relevant examples.
The terminology of the text is consistent.
The separation of the sections of text makes it very easy for a teacher to assign as needed.
The structure and organization of the text is very close to the same structure of my courses.
While it's easy to switch between chapters on the epub version of the text, this feature isn't present in the pdf version.
The text contains no grammatical errors.
The text attempts to avoid any cultural references. However, in the first chapter, the text mentions high school and there's an assumption that everyone reading the text is a traditional student. The high school references can be damaging to nontraditional students, ESOL students, and any student that may have come through something other than the American secondary education system or those that had problems with that same system.
I was pleasantly surprised by this text as it covers the same subjects I teach in my course and most texts from publishers fail to reflect the content of a composition course.
This text is appropriately designed for its audience and purpose. In a brief “About” section, the author explains this text is best-suited “for students who have largely mastered high-school level conventions of formal academic writing and are now... read more
This text is appropriately designed for its audience and purpose. In a brief “About” section, the author explains this text is best-suited “for students who have largely mastered high-school level conventions of formal academic writing and are now moving beyond the five-paragraph essay to more advanced engagement with text.” The author has left out discussions of rhetorical theory or multiple argument structures or modes in favor of establishing a seemingly simple yet nuanced, workable approach to composition. The author has constructed a sequences, modular text based on understanding structures and conventions that define the academic essay genre by relating the writing process to aspects of the writing situation – the author frequently comments on instructors’ attitudes and reasoning leading to a gentle demystification of academic writing in general. As such, this text is quite appropriate for basic writing and first-quarter composition but less so for subsequent writing—research-argumentation courses. The text offers a good treatment of integrating sources but stops short of a question driven research process. The text is, however, conspicuously missing an explicit discussion of pre-writing and revision, but both are embedded and implied in activities related to the development of “an organic college essay.” The brief treatment seems sufficient for this approach, and, since these aspects of process writing have been prolifically written about (both in published texts and on the web), instructors should have no trouble supplementing. Please also see the following section on cultural relevance.
This text seems to take a pedagogical approach inspired by genre analysis, although without explicit use of that term. As such, the text is echoing (and in several instances exceeding) other composition texts on the market today. I found no inaccuracies.
Often, students (and some faculty) think of rhetorical structures as timeless or constant. Unfortunately, this misassumption is the source of many ineffective assignment drafts. The explosion of technology has impacted academic genres and changed the expectations of audiences in subtle (and sometimes invisible) ways. This text makes no mention of online writing as a rhetorical situation and seems to suggest essays as a genre that does not change across disciplines and modalities. However, the analytical tools and questions that subtend this text’s pedagogy do suggest a means of unpacking these changes, so students would be blindsided by merely memorizing a template that is later found to be outmoded. The text uses hyperlinks to reinforce and validate some claims, and each chapter concludes with a list of “other resources.” While this does create a liability as web addresses often change, it does connect the approach to its surrounding context and some ongoing conversations about writing.
This author’s pedagogical approach works to demystify academic genre conventions and clarify the writing situation itself. In early chapters, significant attention is paid to explanations of why composition courses are required for college students and how instructors tend to view their relationships with students. Most students are oblivious to the sight-unseen financial investment that the voting public has made in their education, and this text reminds them of their place in a larger community. Conversely, the text uses accessible language appropriate for most undergraduates and advanced English language learners.
Use of consistent font sizes and weights and linear dividers effectively separate sections of the text, and titled section breaks mark chapters into easily consumable bites – each is roughly 10 pages making the text easy to align with homework reading-writing assignments. Bolded “bubble” sections in each chapter bring other scholars’ voices into concert with the author, but the consistency of their integration makes them fit seamlessly without the interrupted feeling common to textbooks. There is a consistent absence of graphic and visual media that is detrimental to the currency of the text for many students, but, again, this is an aspect that is easily supplemented or amended.
Writing textbooks are tricky to think of as modules, as this suggests a writing process that is divorced from its social-political-economic context. Nevertheless, this text does create divisions between chapters and ideas that allow for portability and adoption of a section without the entire text. Common terms and a genre analysis pedagogy link the sections but without necessitating one to understand the next.
Most scholars think of the rhetorical situation and the writing process as a triangle and a recursive cycle respectively. This forces linear composition textbooks into a somewhat artificial arrangement that reinforces the erroneous belief in writing as a linear event. Like most others, this text introduces students to writing as they enter a new class and progresses through aspects of essay development with corresponding chapters. Unfortunately, this works only until students write their first essay, usually in week 2-4. At this point, students need information from each chapter. This text does, however, make this needed information easy to find. Instructors could reference sections while responding to student writing directing students to read ahead as needed.
As previously mentioned, this textbook is all text (understandably so as most images and graphics require permission from for-profit copyright holders). As a result, it could be tedious to some learners. Still, the arrangement of mini-lessons followed by activities does offer instructors a ready-made way to diverge from reading/lecture into collaborative activity.
The author has chosen an academic voice that is reminiscent of an introductory course. Terms are accessibly colloquial without impeaching the academic ethos, and the author’s sentence structure and variety makes for easy reading. While not a handbook, this brief rhetoric does give students some interesting, useful mini-lessons on academic style and grammar expectations like comma use. Thankfully, the author maintains her approach contextualizing choices as stylistic, rhetorical decisions rather than as “right” or “proper” use.
Because the text takes a genre-driven, structural approach to essay writing, I do feel that it would benefit from a discussion of discourse as a means of distributing power and its role in distributing power unequally. First year composition courses are often the only place where students are introduced to the idea that their work conveys inherited biases and assumptions associated with and about race, gender, age, classes, etc. Learning academic literacies (like essay writing) is very much a process of learning to be accountable for those biases and responsible for the implications of our work. For a text that is specifically oriented towards unpacking the college essay and its academic context, it is conspicuously quiet on the ways that formal education and the essay often replicate systems of straight, white, male privilege. Nevertheless, the genre structure does allow for easy supplementation.
My thanks to the author for making this text available! All too often, the pressures of tenure push scholars to limit their work to the for-profit publishing industry making it virtually unavailable to most of us who would build upon their expertise.
This depends largely on audience: for a student coming from a high school that teaches the "5 paragraph theme," who placed out of college composition, attending a university, who is taking a social science class, the book provides useful, if... read more
This depends largely on audience: for a student coming from a high school that teaches the "5 paragraph theme," who placed out of college composition, attending a university, who is taking a social science class, the book provides useful, if general, information. On the one hand, the book covers essential elements of college level writing: the writing process, using sources, and sentence mechanics. On the other hand, I'm not sure why a student who placed out of college comprehension would need information on sentence mechanics, and I am sure that a student with the kind of problems addressed in that chapter would not be able to apply the general advice in previous chapters or understand what the examples are intended to show (to say nothing of not being able to understand many of the examples). The book is not at all comprehensive in terms of being a composition or rhetoric text.
The author is a sociologist writing about writing; the accuracy is about the same as one might expect from a rhetorician writing about sociology. Some material is simply wrong (most current documentation systems do not include URLs) and in others it fails to identify something as specific to social sciences (such as using APA documentation without any hint that science writing usually prefers CSE (Council of Science Editors), Humanities (undergraduate) classes want MLA, Anthropology wants a version of APA (AAA) and so on. Where the author specifically draws on a composition text (They Say/I Say, for example), she does so accurately. General information about such things as the writing process are accurate (by which term I mean consistent with how professors specializing in composition and/or rhetoric teach those things). The use of "key sentences" rather than "topic sentences" reflects current composition practice. (On the other hand, having a "topic outline"--set up as if it were a formal outline--seems misleading.) I was surprised to see advice on gender-based language issues as promoting one way of avoiding gender stereotyping: using the plural pronoun exclusively. I was even more surprised to see that approach billed as something modern/progressive professors would accept while the stodgy, old-fashioned professors would not. Of course, modern/progressive professors often prefer "new" pronouns such as ze and zir; professors valuing concision prefer s/he over "he or she"; professors who want "they/their" often insist that students make the general antecedent plural (not "A doctor must keep their knowledge up to date" but "Doctors must keep their. . .")
As mentioned above, the examples of source documentation are already out of date. Most of the rest of the book is sufficiently general that, unless process-writing goes out of fashion, it will remain current.
This section is complicated by the audience issue: for a Junior or Senior university student, the prose is accessible; for a Freshman or Sophomore student, some of it is accessible (and would be to an adult student at pre-college level) and some of it is not. The text is about composition, and it almost entirely avoids technical terminology related to composition or rhetoric. The exception is in the "grammar" section.
So, the book has quite a bit about how professors work and think, and the kind of expertise they have (and do not have). Those materials are clearly aimed at university students (as opposed to community college students), who "placed out of" freshman composition. Materials on paragraphing and grammar are more appropriate for freshman students who did not place out of freshman composition--but they would then, presumably, be taking freshman composition. Although universities do use first year Masters students as teaching assistants in freshman composition classes, most universities now provide and require such TAs to complete workshops on composition theory. In any case, students taking a freshman composition course would likely have access to a composition textbook. I was surprised to see advice on ignoring traditional punctuation conventions to distinguish restrictive from non-restrictive clauses, followed later in that chapter for how to punctuate restrictive versus non-restrictive clauses.
I honestly cannot imagine this text being used for a composition course. I can see a social science instructor having it as an optional text, something to recommend to those students whose first paper was especially benighted. In that case, a student could certainly read only part of it, or read it in any order.
The text follows a standard organization for composition texts, starting with general information (what your professor wants) and ending with grammar (typically an appendix in a composition text).
Most of the chapter footnotes had at least a couple and in some cases most of the footnotes with the red underlining to show a link running through the footnote, making it look like those items had been crossed out. Incidentally, blue is a more typical color to show links, and red is especially problematic in terms of disability access. The drop down menu on each page that provided a link to other chapters was very helpful.
Grammatical accuracy, of course, depends on whether the text is supposed to be formal or informal and on which grammatical conventions the author has deemed outdated. In terms of the author's section on grammar, the book has no grammatical errors.
In terms of avoiding racism or sexism, the book is fine. In terms of "backgrounds" the book is suitable only for university students (and not "non-traditional students" such as first generation university students). I thought the suggestion that a student who was not willing to follow the author's advice should abandon academia and learn a trade, maybe even become a plumber was particularly hurtful--of course, I'm sure that students who are interested in a trade would never see this book.
This is NOT a college composition textbook. It is a somewhat idiosyncratic discussion about how university students (who placed out of college composition or perhaps who believe that what they learned in a college composition course is irrelevant outside of that course) should write in their social science classes.
The strength of this book is that it is not intended to be an all-encompassing reference overloaded with details concerning every potential writing dilemma, nor a step-by-step essay generator. Rather, it offers a bird’s eye view of best practices... read more
The strength of this book is that it is not intended to be an all-encompassing reference overloaded with details concerning every potential writing dilemma, nor a step-by-step essay generator. Rather, it offers a bird’s eye view of best practices that introduce students to academic scholarship. As such, it’s a bridge between the prescriptive nature of high-school-level writing and the independent thought of college-level work. The nine chapters focus on elevating the core elements of written academic inquiry -- expectations of scholarly work, constructing theses and arguments, interacting with secondary sources, organization, style, and mechanics -- but limiting its focus to broad strokes that offer the biggest bang for the buck. This is less about teaching new skills, but all about polishing what students already know. As an ESOL instructor, I can imagine using this textbook as a framework to guide critical thinking and reflection while supplementing it with the nuts-and-bolts specific to my situation, namely grammar, research, and citation. There is a basic table of contents, but no index. Terminology is typically explained in context, but it would be helpful to highlight it and include it in a glossary. There is little or no discussion of different rhetorical styles, vocabulary (e.g., transition words), citation styles, or instruction in common skills such as brainstorming, outlining, summarizing and paraphrasing, etc. -- that is all assumed to have been covered in previous courses. There are example passages, but no full-length model essays or papers. One important area that I wish the book addressed at length is topic selection and topic narrowing.
The information seems to be accurate. I did not notice any unintentional errors or typos. The author has distinct expectations of college students and expresses opinions on some familiar grammar and style arguments (e.g., that vs. which), but provides appropriate explanation for both.
The tone feels fresh, and the content seems relevant, including, for example, the current shift in thinking regarding the use of “they” and “their” as a single, non-gender-specific third person. That small section likely will need to be updated sooner rather than later as the usage quickly becomes more widely accepted. The larger issue in terms of longevity has to do with the many links to external sources that may need to be updated and replaced over time. Several are unnecessary and distracting links to publishers of books that are mentioned as resources. I think these references would be better served with basic bibliographic information so that students could then choose to find the books in the library or from a retailer, if they choose. Other links, however, point to valuable content on third-party sites. They all seem active at the moment, but they may not exist a year or two from now. Updates, however, should be relatively easy and straightforward to implement. In terms of relevancy, I find that this book is extremely relevant in shifting students from using information to write toward using writing to inform.
Although academic vocabulary -- especially in the sample texts -- may slow some readers, its otherwise conversational tone makes this book a quick and easy read. Concepts are demonstrated through examples and exercises. Furthermore, the book attempts to paraphrase key points through testimonial pull quotes by real-life students who share authentic observations in everyday language. Ironically, I think the chapter on clarity and concision happens to be the least clear and direct. More simplified examples might be more quickly understood.
Yes, the book provides a consistent presentation.
Each chapter seems to work independently so that individual parts could be reorganized or omitted. Internal sections are clearly delineated, though that could be improved by starting major sections within chapters on a new page, especially since this is a PDF and there isn’t as much need to save space/paper as a printed version may require. That would facilitate using or omitting individual sections.
Unlike writing books that build from sentence to paragraph to essay, this book works from the top down, starting with academic expectations and the philosophical shift away from a five-paragraph essay through the big idea of good theses and organization of information toward the details of specific types of commas that plague student writers. I believe this is a useful process because it reflects how we write, examining audience and purpose first, then editing and revising for the finer details, such as punctuation.
Overall, the PDF seems fine. The links to external materials all work at this time. The layout is simple and easy to read. I remain ambivalent about the book’s pull quotes featuring comments from actual students. I like them in concept, but I’m not sure how much they help student readers in their current format. This might be just a matter of layout rather than content. There is almost no graphic relief. While this book does not have to be laden with illustrations, perhaps some additional way of offsetting the example texts and pull quotes might provide for easier reading and navigation.
I did not observe any unintentional grammatical errors.
While I did not observe anything culturally insensitive or offensive, neither did I observe any conscious effort by the text to be inclusive or diverse. Some of the references or examples may, in fact, be from a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds, but it is not obvious. This may be partially due to the fact that this book focuses on academic research writing rather than creative or personal writing. Instructors may wish to supplement examples and resources that clearly reflect diversity.
One thing I really appreciate about this book is its respect for students and teachers. It honors the students where they are now and leads them to a new level in academic scholarship. It introduces big ideas, but leaves room for instructors to supplement with specifics. It provides expectations as much as instructions. It helps students learn how to learn. Its tone is collegial and realistic, not pedantic or contrived. I also appreciate that the exercises are interesting and open-ended investigations rather than right-or-wrong answers or trite prompts. I am excited about incorporating it in my advanced ESOL writing course this fall.
This book provides a comprehensive, demystifying guide to academic writing - its purposes, conventions, and many of the most common errors that even well-prepared students commit. For students who are prepared, committed, and interested in... read more
This book provides a comprehensive, demystifying guide to academic writing - its purposes, conventions, and many of the most common errors that even well-prepared students commit. For students who are prepared, committed, and interested in improving their academic writing, this book is incredibly useful. All of the things that I recall having to learn as an undergraduate through trial and error and by scrutinizing professor's feedback are concisely covered here.
The content of the book is accurate and up-to-date with the most current research and practices in the field.
This book was crafted with current students in mind, and as such does an excellent job taking into consideration very recent issues (such as text message abbreviations) that have emerged in student writing. On questions like this, the book is both highly relevant and can be kept up-to-date. One of the book's great strengths is that it takes advantage of the electronic format to provide useful links to outside sources that corroborate information in the book, provide examples, or offer additional instruction. However, this is also something of a weakness: while most of the links appear to be stable, a couple are obsolete already. It is a small task to substitute a fresh link for a broken one, but even with regular updates, some of the links probably will not be functional. That said, the linked material is best understood as supplementary rather than integral to the text, so the occasional non-functionality of a link or two hardly compromises the value of the text as a whole.
The book is well written and clear, but may be long-winded for many undergraduate students. The text seems to assume a relatively sophisticated undergraduate reader, and it is well-suited to that audience. However, it may be a bit dense for a freshman composition course, particularly in an institution where incoming students demonstrate varying degrees of preparedness.
The text is commendably consistent, each chapter building on work done in previous chapters, and frequently referring back to content covered in previous chapters in order to reinforce the internal pedagogical structure.
In terms of assigning this text in a classroom, it's biggest weakness might be a lack of modularity. Chapters tend to be short and as such can easily be assigned for out-of-class reading, but I struggled to come up with complementary readings to assign alongside it, and the book is really best read in its entirety.
I appreciate the structure of this book. As I recalled my own experiences as a novice scholar, I found that this text mirrored the course of my own questions. It's certainly the case that the text will be most effective for students who already have some experience (and maybe accumulated frustration) with writing college papers, but for those students, this book provides a highly systematic guide to improving on their work and identifying and avoiding the mistakes they may have committed on past efforts.
The interface of the text is broadly good, though there are a couple problems. The book uses text boxes to highlight input from student contributors, and these occasionally sit awkwardly on the "page." Some of the longer student comments spilled below the margins, with the result that the end of the comment simply couldn't be read. Links were occasionally difficult to select (or selected on accident), and while having the option to immediately navigate to endnotes by clicking on the supertext number is excellent, I found it difficult to navigate back to the text after reading the endnote. These are mostly annoyance rather than significant issues, however, and for the most part there are offsetting upsides in terms of the convenience with which additional information can be incorporated.
There are a handful of minor errors in the text, mostly on the order of typos, but they are rare and do not interfere with comprehending the content. Most readers will likely not notice them at all. I'd suggest, in any case, that there is some merit in the occasional typo, as it makes the case that obsession with "correctness" at the expense of content really isn't necessary or productive.
I was pleased with the way the book handled culturally sensitive issues that emerge in writing classroom. For instance, it specifically deals with the difficulty of gendered pronouns (e.g., resisting the old practice of rendering every hypothetical student or scholar as male), and with concerns about the accessibility of formal academic English to speakers of non-dominant varieties of English. Many texts ignore these issues, perhaps considering them off-topic. I consider it a virtue of this book that it addresses them, insofar as it answers questions that students may have and provides an introduction to issues that students may perceive but lack a vocabulary with which to confront or explore.
This book would have been immensely beneficial to me as an undergraduate. Virtually everything it covers is something I had to learn by experience, and the quality of my earliest scholarship would have been much improved with the benefit of these lessons. I do not think I would require it as a primary text in a freshman comp class, but it has a lot of value as a supplementary or recommended text, particularly for students whose plans include graduate school or writing-intensive professions. It might also be valuable in a research writing or advanced composition class. Students who are most prepared will get the most out of it, but the book also offers excellent exercises at the end of each chapter that will be of value to all students.
The text does not cover all of the topics included in most writing manuals or guides to college writing. Rather, it aims to cover those writing skills and practices that will enable students with a solid high school preparation to “join the... read more
The text does not cover all of the topics included in most writing manuals or guides to college writing. Rather, it aims to cover those writing skills and practices that will enable students with a solid high school preparation to “join the conversation” of academic research and writing. The text does not include an index.
I found one error in the text. On page 53, a paragraph is revised to improve coherence, with “relevant parts emboldened.” But, in the relevant paragraph there was no bold typeface, either in the PDF or online version. I did not find any political bias in the text.
The text is up-to-date. To illustrate the spreading usage of they/their for the third person singular pronoun, the text cites posting instructions from Facebook, ie, “write on their timeline.” The text will likely need to be updated regularly to maintain relevance, and to update web links.
The text is easy to read. Terms like cohesion and coherence are explained and illustrated well.
The framework used throughout the text is that academic writing is part of a conversation. This framework is obvious in the title of Chapter 5: “Listening to Sources, Talking to Sources.” The first two chapters also fit into this framework as students are encouraged to ask for clarification from their professors if an assignment is not clear. The later chapters on writing organization and mechanics discuss the impression these have on readers, again fitting into the framework of a conversation.
I could imagine using any of the latter chapters on a stand-alone basis. The chapter on paragraph construction is particularly helpful for its concise explanation of topic sentences, cohesion, and coherence.
The text begins by addressing student motivations and possible misconceptions regarding college writing. The middle chapters explain how to engage with sources when writing a research paper. And the latter chapters explain principles of good writing.
All of the hyperlinks that I tried worked. The text includes no images or charts.
The only grammatical errors I found in the text were those meant to illustrate certain grammatical errors.
In the context of gendered pronouns, the text emphasizes the importance of respecting differences among people.
I enjoyed reading the text!
Overall, the text is good but could be improved on comprehension. The text is divided into chapters that model the writing process, making it easy for both students and teachers to use throughout a writing project. The text contains a good... read more
Overall, the text is good but could be improved on comprehension. The text is divided into chapters that model the writing process, making it easy for both students and teachers to use throughout a writing project. The text contains a good discussion of argument, offering specific examples and hypothetical situations to explore during classroom discussions. The text is also strong when it comes to discussions on research writing, devoting a few chapters to the topic and looking at research from multiple perspectives (though a stronger focus on researching in an online environment would be useful in the text). The book is not as strong when it comes to introducing students to genres, as the book leans to a "one size fits all" approach to writing at times. For programs that stress an awareness of genres, teachers will need to supplement the text with additional information. Finally, there is little information on writing in technological environments or a discussion of the importance of visual literacy in writing.
The text is highly accurate in the information presented on the writing process, research writing, argument, and other key areas. The citations offered are up to date and recognizable in the field of writing studies. The only concern is information presented on citation (i.e. MLA and APA) as this information undergoes rapid change at times (as of the writing of this review, the MLA has just announced sweeping changes in how sources will be cited in the future). Make sure that this information is continually up-to-date will be necessary going forward.
The content provided in the text is mostly up-to-date, with the aforementioned citation information the only major concern. The content provided is highly relevant and useful for a first year writing course and may be useful in a second semester research writing course as well. The course would not be as useful to an upper-level writing course, business or technical writing course, or WAC course. Information in the research chapters may need to be updated as new forms of sources and new citation methods emerge in the field.
The text is well written for a student audience; terms and ideas are clearly defined and examples are offered to help student writers understand the information. The book is text heavy (with little visual information) which could lead to a lack of attention or interest among students. The exercises offered at the end of the chapters are clear and understandable and help to reinforce the main points from the text. The book also uses bullets and numbering effectively to help organize the information presented.
The book is consistent in the information presented to readers. The structure of the text into chapters based on different areas of the writing process helps with this consistency. The vocabulary and tone of voice throughout the text is also consistent. The use of subheadings helps readers follow the organization within the text.
The text is well organized into clearly marked chapters that focus on separate, yet connected topics. One drawback is that the text is currently one PDF; having the chapters available as separate PDFs may help instructors to make better decisions on what to use from the book and may be easier to organize the book within the course. As currently designed, students will have to do a lot of scrolling through the text to find different chapters and/or topics. No self-referential material was noticed.
The book is organized well into chapters with subheadings. Chapter topics are clear and connect well to the field's views on the writing process. The book is not written in a way that will be confusing to teachers or students.
The text is mostly in a PDF format, so it is easy to navigate. Visual are clear and readable. The text includes hyperlinks to outside sources, which will be useful to teachers and students. The need to continually check hyperlinks for disabled or moved links will be necessary.
No significant grammar errors were noticed.
The text does not contain any apparent issues related to cultural insensitivity. Issues of race, ethnicity, gender etc are rarely discussed in the text, which can be seen as a possible problem, as the book does not discuss the social aspects of writing to a great extent.
The book has a good, broad approach to many aspects of composing first-year college essays. The examples used throughout clearly indicate the author's awareness of the intricacies of a Writing Across the Curriculum approach, as they draw on many... read more
The book has a good, broad approach to many aspects of composing first-year college essays. The examples used throughout clearly indicate the author's awareness of the intricacies of a Writing Across the Curriculum approach, as they draw on many disciplines. It seems that it would be difficult for a student who reads this book not to make some self-aware improvements in approaching college-level work.The text does a thorough job of considering how college-level work requires specific skill sets, and requires labor to advance from high school level writing, reading, and analysis.
I found no major errors, and applaud an error-free text. There is at least one weird superscript -- see "etiology" in Chapter 6 -- the superscript comes at an odd place -- before the word is used. I'd review to make sure those superscripts appear at the best place for the student reader.
This book will be useful for a while. It deals in depth with the obstacles students perceive in learning how to construct decent college-level pieces of writing - and that situation will obtain for the foreseeable future. The references to ideas about college composition are up-to-date ones, and reflect very current approaches and discussions.This book references _They Say, I Say_ , which is a quite standard text for these courses, and this book absorbs and discusses how this text works, making it a post- _They Say, I Say_ composition work, which makes it pretty modern from an insider's standpoint. Students will continue to journey from high school to college writing assignments, and will need to understand the nuances of what is being asked of them in this new, collegiate environment. This book serves that need well.
This book is pretty clear and easy to follow. Some examples are dense and might scare students, though. Here is one, from Chapter 6: "Both versions convey a topic; it’s pretty easy to predict that the paragraph will be about epidemiological evidence, but only the second version establishes an argumentative point and puts it in context. The paragraph doesn’t just describe the epidemiological evidence; it shows how epidemiology is telling the same story as etiology." At this point, students will be terrified by this parade of big words! And the author does not define "etiology" until the next sentence, at which point many students will have shut down and shifted back to "skim" mode. Don't scare the students! Define the hard word the first time it appears. And if you don't define it then, use that as a teaching moment also -- indicate that this is exactly what occurs in college reading, and one should breathe, and go look up a definition, and get used to doing that all the time. The effort is being made by this author to represent many types of future college writing, which is good. Many disciplines are represented.
Overall, it is reasonably consistent. I do wish the author had avoided the overuse of "flow" in a way that undercuts consistency, however. The author includes a specific application of the term from contemporary psychological work, and also uses the term when discussing what is more aptly called "logic.' The psych reference is in chapter 2: "those times when we’re pleasantly absorbed in a complex activity (what psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi calls “flow”12)". This describes a brain state, and is used aptly here in the text. Later, in chapters 7, 8, 9, and especially 6, she emphasizes "flow," as in "sentences need to flow." It is arguable that it is not even a genuine concept, this "flow," as what is being argued for is internal logic to each paragraph, a logically-constructed argument, logical sequences of sentences, and so on. It is really quite useless for an instructor to tell a student that her sentences do not "flow."
The target of modularity has been addressed really well by this author. The sections are cogent and logical, and the text is broken up with useful examples. The Resources section is a particularly strong feature of each chapter -- they are specific enough, and have a good variety of sources to try out. The chapter length is great -- not too long, but a decent amount of depth.
Oh dear heavens, there is that term again: "flow." The text is structured logically, if that is what you mean. It does not have to "flow" -- these are discrete chapters on elements of essay structure, and one might use them in a multitude of orders in a teaching syllabus. The topics are clear, and the evidence in each chapter is presented in a way that makes sense.
I'd rate the interface as good. I wish I could more easily go from chapter to chapter -- it seems that typing in a number in the search bar is the most direct way to go from Chapter 6 back to Chapter 3. I'd really like an interactive Table of Contents, and an Index for searching for concepts and key words. Since these don't exist, it feels a bit clunky when moving around the text. The letter "B" is weird in this font: it seems overly serif-ed and curved.
The grammar is fine -- the author hits a good level of interesting, scholarly, clear, and challenging in the overall level of the prose.
I think the text foregrounds cultural sensitivity in its thoughtful recommendations to avoid gender-specific usages, in particular. Overall the book violates no standards of sensitivity, and draws on many types of examples. On the other hand, the discussions of cultural sensitivities could extend to considering cultural standpoint when writing in a more general way; not making assumptions about audience, finding out how to name and discuss racial and ethnic groups in correct terms, and so on. Or the book could include such information as a Resource in the already-excellent Resource sections.
This one thing bothered me a lot. There are somewhat disparaging comments about the professors who will be teaching this material and reading students' work. Example from Chapter 7: " Charitable and well rested instructors just skim over that text and start reading closely when they arrive at something substantive. Frustrated and overtired instructors emit a dramatic self-pitying sigh, assuming that the whole paper will be as lifeless and gassy as those first few sentences." There are other times the author takes this tone or stance. This is negative and unhelpful. As this is a book aimed at first-year students, such examples reinforce old high-school-level attitudes like "my teacher hates me." Quite the contrary ! How about ditching the stereotypes, or at least letting professors exist in the text as neutral, or as earnest readers of student work. These negative comments are inconsistent with the earlier explanations about how professors work: from chapter 2: "Professors don’t assign writing lightly. Grading student writing is generally the hardest, most intensive work instructors do." Just don't make us seem like an obstacle to students doing well or learning.
Though I've only rated the book as a "3" in this category, I do think it's a valuable addition to a writing class. While I would not select this book as a standalone text in a first-year Composition class, it offers a great perspective on the... read more
Though I've only rated the book as a "3" in this category, I do think it's a valuable addition to a writing class. While I would not select this book as a standalone text in a first-year Composition class, it offers a great perspective on the college culture versus high school that I haven't often seen in other textbooks. It covers the ideas of argumentation, source integration, style, organization, and assignment analysis quite thoroughly, and the interactive table of contents in the online version is very helpful. Where I find it lacking for my own classes would be in providing sample essays, explorations of specific genres, or in-depth examples of students following the writing process. To be fair, this does not seem to be the particular purpose of this text--I see it almost more as a high-level Strunk and White for new college writers--however, I would not feel comfortable teaching college freshmen without those supplemental materials and readings. Fortunately, I can use this book as a supplement to other materials that are readily available elsewhere or that I've prepared myself.
I found the writing very on-point in terms of describing what professors are looking for and articulating some of the common pitfalls first-year college writers should be sure to avoid as they analyze assignments, create arguments, use sources, and revise. The advice for beginning writers was appropriate for setting their expectations in Composition classes but could also be easily applied to other disciplines. Finally, the advice on finding and using sources is very much in line with recommendations in other writing textbooks I’ve used and draws on some of the more widely used concepts like “sandwiching” sources and entering academic conversations.
The text is very up-to-date in framing students' previous writing experiences on standardized tests and referencing their immersion in written communication through social media. Likewise, it does a nice job of describing the context of academia today, the different roles that professors take on, and the expectations of students. The models for writing that it draws on, as well as the stylistic guidelines, are pretty timeless. While the many links are helpful in potentially adding content for students, one concern I had was that they might become outdated or links might break before long if they aren't frequently monitored, but the same could be said for most e-texts.
While I found the book and the messages very clear as an instructor myself, I felt there may have been points when it could potentially be a bit over the heads of some first-year writing students. For instance, Chapter 5 opens by saying that "Everyone knows that a thorough analysis and persuasive argument need strong evidence." Well, unfortunately, I don't know if everyone entering my classes knows that, so at times this text seems to be geared more toward the very well-prepared college student rather than those who might need a bit more guidance. At the same time, I appreciate that the book acknowledges that students come to college with some writing experience and does not attempt to reinvent writing but rather rethink existing skills. Fortunately, though I sometimes worry about the context of the material, ideas are presented very engagingly, draw on concrete situations, and appeal to the student's perspective.
The chapters consistently drew on the idea of students modifying their existing writing skills to meet college expectations. The tone, guidelines, and formatting remained consistent throughout.
Though at some points the book references ideas from previous chapters, I plan to use it in modules and believe it will lend itself well to that use. For instance, each chapter tackles a specific skill that students will need at a certain point in the semester. I plan to start with the chapters that introduce college writing and analyzing assignments. The nicely titled "Intros and Outros" chapter will be useful early in the writing process as well. The chapters on argumentation, using sources, and "talking to" sources will be great to weave in next in that order. Finally, some of the chapters dedicated to more stylistic elements of writing will be useful when students enter the revision process.
While I plan to jump around a bit, the overall structure of the book makes sense. It begins with an introduction to college culture and how that affects the writing process and progresses into how to respond to assignments. My description of the modular nature of the chapters speaks to the thought put into the rather distinct skill sets each chapter covers.
I didn't have any difficulties reading the book, and I appreciated that it was available in multiple formats. For instance, the interactive table of contents is a nice feature in the online version, but I love having the PDF for my own annotation and printing. The call-out boxes in certain parts of the text are a nice touch and break up the blocks of text somewhat. My one critique would be that there could be a more attention to the visual layout overall since many of the students will be reading the text on screens. While the large chunks of text are quite accessible when printed out, they might appear a bit overwhelming to students scrolling down a screen.
While I noted one or two minor typos, there were no major issues and the book felt like a very professional product.
As I've probably implied previously, the cultural relevance is a really strong point in this text. This book addresses writers entering college in a very practical way that acknowledges their previous experience with writing but gives them guidance on how expectations differ in the college culture. It also frames writing issues in terms that are likely to make sense to students, such as referencing Google Scholar as a potential part of the research process and clearly addressing the various types of sources they will need to evaluate.
Overall I'm very grateful for the opportunity to integrate this text into my first-year writing class. While I will not be using it as a standalone text, it will provide a great perspective for new college writers and offers some very clear instruction on important writing skills across the curriculum. I can imagine it would be useful not only in Composition classes, but other disciplines in which professors expect students to write extensively at a college-level.
The book is concise and does not pretend to answer any and all issues related to academic writing. It does give practical advice to its target audience regarding how to bring high school quality writing up to the standard level of undergraduate... read more
The book is concise and does not pretend to answer any and all issues related to academic writing. It does give practical advice to its target audience regarding how to bring high school quality writing up to the standard level of undergraduate writing. Guptill's defined target audience is "students who have largely mastered high-school level conventions of formal academic writing and are now moving beyond the five-paragraph essay to advanced engagement with text." Guptill's tone throughout the text would be engaging for the defined audience and much less formal in approach than the typical English teacher would select. It is refreshing to have a professor of sociology point out issues with argument-driven essays that match many of the main points covered in introductory composition classes. Often students think there is no "carry-over" into other classes from their required English courses. This text would be a good choice for a supplemental "handbook" for a writing across the curriculum course, and would be even stronger if some of its grammar applications were strengthened.
Guptill uses a broad base of research to support her commentary throughout the text. There are a few minor typographical errors in the manuscript, several shifts of pronoun use and pronoun agreements within paragraphs, and an atypical use of "informal" versus "formal" in the "Correctness" section of Chapter 9, but the majority of the content and advice is accurate in composition theory.
The book should have longevity in the core features but I would encourage an updated version with an added chapter including advice on incorporating Toulmin's model of logic to argue claims of fact, cause, value and policy. An additional issue to consider is advice on how ethos, logos and pathos are "balanced" differently in the different discourses of the major academic disciplines.
Guptill's style is clear and reasonably concise. The level of the language is reasonable for college undergraduates.
The approach is consistent and based in learning theory. One of the strongest elements of the text is that it tells readers that improving writing takes effort and time. The closing paragraph sums up that stance: "You can’t become a flawless writer overnight (and no one writes flawlessly all the time). But over the course of a few semesters, you can certainly produce more precise text that presents your ideas in their best light."
The chapters offer excellent modularity.
The organization is coherent and flows smoothly.
The hotlinks interface well.
There are shifts of pronoun use and agreements within several paragraphs, and an atypical use of "informal" versus "formal" in the "Correctness" section of Chapter 9, but the majority of the grammar is consistent and moderately formal in the important models.
Jennifer Haytock summed up the content rather nicely in her reviewer's notes: "Guptill guides beginning college students through the sometimes arcane practices of the academy and does so with warmth, enthusiasm, and humor. The textbook takes students through deciphering assignments, developing sophisticated arguments, finding and using appropriate sources, and some basics of paragraphing, sentence structure, and style. Instructors will find this textbook to be a handy tool for explaining the argument-driven essay and reference for addressing common college-level writing issues. With a diverse range of examples, useful references to other sources, and purposeful exercises, Writing in College focuses on developing students’ skills in practical ways—and helps students understand why their instructors have them do what they do."
Table of Contents
Really? Writing? Again?
What Does the Professor Want? Understanding the Assignment
Constructing the Thesis and Argument—From the Ground Up
Secondary Sources in Their Natural Habitats
Listening to Sources, Talking to Sources
Back to Basics: The Perfect Paragraph
Intros and Outros
Clarity and Concision
Getting the Mechanics Right
About the Book
Writing in College is designed for students who have largely mastered high-school level conventions of formal academic writing and are now moving beyond the five-paragraph essay to more advanced engagement with text. It is well suited to composition courses or first-year seminars and valuable as a supplemental or recommended text in other writing-intensive classes. It provides a friendly, down-to-earth introduction to professors' goals and expectations, demystifying the norms of the academy and how they shape college writing assignments. Each of the nine chapters can be read separately, and each includes suggested exercises to bring the main messages to life.
Students will find in Writing in College a warm invitation to join the academic community as novice scholars and to approach writing as a meaningful medium of thought and communication. With concise discussions, clear multidisciplinary examples, and empathy for the challenges of student life, Guptill conveys a welcoming tone. In addition, each chapter includes Student Voices: peer-to-peer wisdom from real SUNY Brockport students about their strategies for and experiences with college writing.
While there are many affordable writing guides available, most focus only on sentence-level issues or, conversely, a broad introduction to making the transition. Writing In College, in contrast, provides both a coherent frame for approaching writing assignments and indispensable advice for effective organization and expression.
About the Contributors
Amy Guptill is an Associate Professor of Sociology at The College at Brockport, SUNY where she has a joint appointment with the Delta College Program, an alternative interdisciplinary General Education option. Her research focuses on spatial and structural shifts in agriculture and food systems with recent work on innovative agricultural marketing. She teaches courses in the sociology of food, development and globalization, community and social change, social statistics and college writing. In addition to Writing In College: From Competence to Excellence, she is the coauthor of a recent college textbook entitled Food & Society: Principles and Paradoxes (Malden, MA: Polity, 2012).