3 First-Year Composition Prepares Students For Academic Writing

Jennifer Gross

Thinking back to my first semester of college when I took first year composition seems like ages ago. It is hard to recall what assignments I had completed but it is easy to think of what professor I had for that course. After four years of writing papers for my numerous English courses I think it is more important to look at my success and growth as a writer; opposed to what were my “best” pieces of writing. I believe that first year composition led me to where I am today as a writer. What has caused my growth and success is the professors I have had, not entirely the courses I have taken. I noticed that I learned and retained more knowledge from those professors who taught me about what kind of writing and resources I am going to use after I graduate college; and differentiated those from academic writing.

First year composition seems like a crucial step in the path of students’ academic success but really it is how the course is taught. The concept of a five-paragraph essay is a good start to academic writing but that is all it is, a start. Academic writing is more than just an introduction, three main points, and a conclusion. Teaching freshman or first year college students that academic writing is more than what they have previously been taught for years prior will help them succeed in college and further on after. As college students, we are expected to have good writing and grammar skills to produce quality academic writings. First year composition expands the students knowledge on those skills but it is up to the student to retain the material and put it to good use. It pushes students to explore the uses of languages in writings and to use new ideas and strategies in their academic writings. This course has students step outside of their writing comfort zone to have the ability to grow as a writer and also a student.

My definition of academic writing is writing formally about a certain topic or subject for a professor or academic journal. Slang or informal phrases should not be used in academic writing as it takes away from the formality of it. Some college students may not realize this but using the wrong form of they or your in their writings can be considered text message slang, thus losing the formal tone in the writing. First year composition teaches students how to properly use grammar and punctuation, or maybe reminding them how to. The younger generations are very quick to use text message slang because it is something they do more frequently than writing academic papers. I have caught myself typing and writing in text message slang when drafting a paper; this is because I type or write fast to get my ideas on the page before I forget them. That is okay during the first draft of a paper but in the final draft all of those mistakes should be fixed.

One of the most important parts of an academic paper is citing the sources that are being referenced to in the paper. Citing them properly is even more important because accidentally plagiarizing is just as a big deal as plagiarism is. First year composition teaches students how to cite sources in MLA and APA formation, as well as in text citations. This is a major step while learning how to write academic papers because it shows that the student has done the research on their topic while also giving those sources credit. Stating facts and explaining a topic in academic writings such as a research paper, without citing where the information has come from will create a lack of credibility towards the author. Along with citing sources, another important skill for academic writing is being able to use databases to find reliable information from peer reviewed articles and writings. College’s databases become a student’s best resource when doing research for academic papers.

First Year Composition teaches students the basics and grounding of writing while preparing them for the start of their academic writings. It is a stepping stone course to expose students to new ideas and strategies that they can use in their collegiate career and so on. The K-12 education system has taught students that academic writing is a five paragraph essay that has an introduction, three main body paragraphs, and a conclusion. That may work for middle school and some of high school, but college academic writing is much more than that. First year composition teaches students all of the elements that go into writing well and writing academically. Citing sources, proper grammar, correct punctuation, and stepping out of the comfort zone are just some of the skills students are taught in this course. Without this course it would be difficult for college students to complete academic papers such as research papers, abstracts, thesis’ and many other types of writings.

 

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Good Ideas About Writing by Jennifer Gross is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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