Here are comments compiled from a survey on teaching writing given by Sandra Hollin Flowers to CLA faculty in March 1997

Mechanical Problems in Student Writing

  • Fluency: weak or non-existent transitions between sentences and between parts of a paper; insipid style; faulty diction; limited vocabulary; sentence fragments

  • Lack of care in documentation and citations, inadvertent or deliberate plagiarism

  • Grammar: subject-verb agreement and noun-pronoun agreement; use of modifiers

  • Punctuation, particularly comma splices

Intellectual Weaknesses in Student Writing

  • Thinking skills: critical, visual, abstract, creative, logic

  • Reading skills: isolating a work's thesis and major themes/concepts; grasping an overview while reading

  • Formulating thesis statements; conceptualizing and organizing papers

  • Supporting assertions and opinions

  • Undeveloped argumentation skills

  • Synthesizing sources and ideas

  • Recognizing anomalies and resolving contradictions

  • Poor sense of intellectual continuity; failure to connect current reading to previous reading and life experiences

  • Paragraph structure, development, coherence

Advice to Students

  • Most often repeated advice: Go through the entire writing process; rewrite, rewrite, rewrite!

  • Take advantage of peer and teacher review opportunities.

  • Know each professor's guidelines and follow them. When in doubt, ask.

  • Write with the reader in mind. Supply evidence, explain your reasoning.

  • Question and learn to evaluate your own writing.

Advice to Colleagues on Preparing Students for Respondents' Courses

  • Most often repeated advice: Teach them the research process; be sure they know how and when to quote, cite, and document sources.

  • Have them write regularly with specific objectives for each assignment (argument, analysis, etc.).

  • Hold them to strict editing and manuscript format standards.

  • Teach them how to write essay exams.

  • Teach them to hold themselves accountable to the text.

  • Give them feedback on their writing.

  • Assign high grades only for high levels of performance.

  • One colleague's advice to self which applies to all writing assignments: take time to prepare the assignment carefully.