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Writing In College: From Competence to Excellence

(31 reviews)

Amy Guptill, SUNY Brockport

Pub Date: 2016

ISBN 13: 9781942341215

Publisher: Open SUNY

Language: English

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Reviewed by Lucas Street, Director of the Reading/Writing Center and Instructor of English, Augustana College on 7/31/19

For a slim, 84-page text, Writing In College is indeed comprehensive. Guptill provides practical, student-centered advice on transitioning from high-school writing to college writing. Yet this advice is couched in context, both theoretical and... read more


Reviewed by Cleatta Morris, Instructor, LSUS on 4/11/19

The book takes a refreshing, atypical approach to freshman rhetoric and composition. It’s neither a writing handbook nor a reader and doesn’t pretend to be. Instead, it gives practical advice to new college students on how good writing can help... read more


Reviewed by Chris Werry, Associate Professor, San Diego State University on 3/27/19

This textbook provides a broad and welcoming introduction to academic writing. It is an excellent general introduction to academic culture and composition, containing smart tips for thinking about why professors assign writing, how they tend to... read more


Reviewed by Jane Garrard, Dr. Jane Garrard, Professor, Chemeketa Community College on 2/4/19

The text is extremely comprehensive and extensively covers all the major areas in college writing, such as research writing, critical thinking, and mechanics, just to name a few. After each thorough and easy to understand chapter, there are... read more


Reviewed by Elizabeth Stearns, Lecturer, The Ohio State University at Newark on 6/19/18

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


Reviewed by Chad Judkins, Adjunct Professor of English, Portland Community College on 8/15/17

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


Reviewed by Laura Beadling, Associate Professor, Youngstown State University on 6/20/17

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


Reviewed by Ellen Polansky, Adjunct Instructor, First Year Writing, Rhode Island College on 4/11/17

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


Reviewed by Jenfier Kurtz, Associate Professor, Virginia Western Community College on 2/8/17

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


Reviewed by Rachel Morgan, Instructor , University of Northern Iowa on 2/8/17

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


Reviewed by Mary Boyes, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University Honors College on 2/8/17

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


Reviewed by Kimberly Fahle, Coordinator of Writing Services, Virginia Wesleyan College on 2/8/17

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


Reviewed by Keryn Neary, Adjunct Professor, Concordia University - Portland on 12/5/16

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


Reviewed by Sheri Benton, Lecturer, University of Toledo on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Jenny Friedman-Gaskins, Part-time Faculty, Umpqua Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Phyllis Nissila, Instructor, Lane Community College, Eugene, Oregon on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Steven Kelly, English Instructor, Kansas State University on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Carol Russell, Instructor (16 years), Kansas State University on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Lyda Woods, Adjunct Professor, Rogue Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Cybele Higgins, ESL Faculty, Lane Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Jennifer Love, Instructor of Writing, Lane Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Christopher Rose, Full-Time Instructor, Portland Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Michael Sutcliffe, Writing Instructor, Portland Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Eleanor Latham, Professor of Humanities/Developmental Literacy Coordinator, Central Oregon Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Tim Krause, Adjunct ESOL Instructor, Portland Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Jarrod Dunham, Instructor - English Composition, Portland Community College on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Stephen Maley, Lecturer, University of Washington on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Anthony Edgington, Associate Professor, University of Toledo on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Amy Friedman, Asst. Professor, Temple University on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Kate Michaelson, Visiting Instructor of Composition, University of Toledo on 8/21/16

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


Reviewed by Mary Van Ness, Senior Lecturer, University of Toledo, Department of English Language & Literature on 8/21/16

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


Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Really? Writing? Again?
  • Chapter 2: What Does the Professor Want? Understanding the Assignment
  • Chapter 3: Constructing the Thesis and Argument—From the Ground Up
  • Chapter 4: Secondary Sources in Their Natural Habitats
  • Chapter 5: Listening to Sources, Talking to Sources
  • Chapter 6: Back to Basics: The Perfect Paragraph
  • Chapter 7: Intros and Outros
  • Chapter 8: Clarity and Concision
  • Chapter 9: 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).