Rhetoric and Composition
Department Chair:
Laurie McMillin

Phone: (440) 775-6601
Fax: (440) 775-8619

Rice 116
10 N. Professor St.
Oberlin, OH, 44074

Writing Requirement

Writing Requirement

By end of their Oberlin College career, students should be able to:

  • communicate effectively in writing
  • understand writing as a process
  • engage in writing as a form of critical thinking
  • demonstrate rhetorical flexibility by addressing various audiences and purposes in their writing
  • demonstrate their awareness of the conventions and forms of particular disciplines

To help accomplish these goals, the college instituted a new writing requirement in 2013. This requirement applies to all students in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as all transfer and double-degree students. Students changing divisions from conservatory to college or becoming double-degree candidates are also subject to the requirement. The writing requirement is administered by the Committee on Writing, on which rhetoric and composition faculty serve.

Students may fulfill the writing requirement by passing two courses designated either Writing-Intensive (W-Int) or Writing-Advanced (W-Adv). Because early attention to the writing process can benefit students throughout their academic career, we strongly encourage students to complete two writing courses by the end of their second year of study. A third writing course, W-Adv, is strongly recommended.  These courses must be completed at Oberlin College, with the exception that transfer students may petition to count one transferred course with a comparable focus on writing. No test scores (AP, IB, SAT, ACT) will count as satisfying any part of this requirement.

Table of Contents:

Writing-Intensive Courses

Writing-Intensive (W-Int) courses involve explicit instruction in writing, are generally limited in size to allow such instruction, and require multiple writing assignments. These courses are designed to help students develop, compose, revise, organize and edit prose appropriate to the discipline or course.

  • W-Int courses attend to the writing process. Faculty in W-Int courses should pay explicit attention to the writing process, including the elements of organization, composition, revision, and editing prose, each as is appropriate for the course or discipline.
  • Faculty in W-Int courses provide mechanisms for students to get feedback on their work and to incorporate this feedback into their writing for the course. This feedback may incorporate faculty response, peer-review, or the feedback of a writing associate, for example. 
  • W-Int courses require multiple writing assignments that total 15 or more pages of writing. A single long paper at the end of the semester doesn’t meet this criterion unless the paper was developed in stages and revisions over the course of the semester. Raw lab notes, unedited journal entries, or similar types of writing also do not meet this criterion.  
  • W-Int courses are generally be limited to 20-25 students where possible. Research indicates that this is the ideal limit.
  • The Committee on Writing reviews and approves all courses carrying the W-Int designation.

Writing-Advanced Courses

Writing-Advanced (W-Adv) courses are associated with the major and aim at helping students develop as writers within a discipline, employing the conventions and styles appropriate to that field and demonstrating the depth and engagement with disciplinary issues typical of knowledgeable practitioners. Students are encouraged to complete one course designated W-Adv in relation to their major field of study. In most cases, these courses will be upper-level or capstone courses geared to the major. The department or program administering the major determines which courses should have this designation, and which courses with this designation offered by related departments or programs would benefit their majors.

  • W-Adv courses follow the same criteria as the W-Int courses, with particular emphasis on modes of writing and communication appropriate to advanced work in the discipline.
  • W-Adv courses carry the expectation that a certain level of disciplinary knowledge is required to undertake the advanced writing in the field.
  • The kinds of writing assigned to students are similar to the kinds of writing used by specialists in the field. This could include, for example, essays, extensive research papers, formal lab reports, and formal presentations.
  • The Committee on Writing reviews courses designated as W-Adv and work with individual faculty as well as departments and programs on the development of these courses, but will defer to departments, programs, or curricular committees for the designation of W-Adv Courses.

English for Speakers of Other Languages

The college has developed a number of courses and programs for students who need help with the writing of English as a Second Language. A placement test given before the start of the academic year begins will help determine the course ESL students should take. Ann Deppman and Amy Monoit in the Office of the Dean of Studies oversee this program and can help place you in the appropriate course.

Conservatory of Music Students

Most of the information we provide on these web pages applies to the writing requirement for students of the Oberlin College of Arts and Sciences. Only undergraduate majors in two divisions of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music have a writing requirement: the Division of Winds, Brass and Percussion and the Division of Vocal Studies. Conservatory students pursuing other majors do not have to worry about a writing requirement, unless they are pursuing a double degree with the College of Arts and Sciences, although most find that good writing is necessary in some of their courses. Conservatory students are welcome to take Department of Rhetoric and Composition and Writing Certification or Writing Intensive courses in the college.

Expository Writing Proficiency. Students with an SAT verbal score below 580 or an ACT score below 24, or a TOEFL score below 600 must complete one course chosen from the RHET 111-119 series in rhetoric and composition. All double-degree students must adhere to the College of Arts and Sciences writing requirements, found under "Requirements for Graduation" in the College of Arts and Sciences section of this catalog.

If you are concerned about whether or not the Expository Writing Proficiency Requirement applies to your major, or how you might fulfill it if it does, begin by consulting your faculty advisor. If you still have questions after that, see Dean Marci Alegant in Bibbins 123.

Transfer Students
It is sometimes possible for transfer students to get credit towards fulfillment of the writing requirement through the work they’ve done at other institutions. Students who want transfer credit should fill out this form, attach it, and send it along with the course syllabus to Natasha Tessone (ntessone@oberlin.edu).

Special Advice for Students with Special Needs

If you have special learning or physical needs and are concerned about living and working at Oberlin, we suggest you contact Jane Boomer , Coordinator of Services for Students with Disabilities, in Peters G27. Along with Ms. Boomer, we in the Department of Rhetoric & Composition will be happy to try to accommodate your needs or advise you on strategies for passing the Writing Requirement and succeeding in writing assignments at Oberlin.