In focus: Princeton Writing Program

Aug. 31, 2006 1:45 p.m.
Princeton Writing Program seminar

The Princeton Writing Program offers intensive seminars in intimate settings to prepare freshmen for the University's rigorous writing demands. The seminars cover a range of topics but are primarily focused on developing college-level writing skills. Pictured are students in "Human Rights and the Rule of Law," a seminar taught last spring by Patricia Kennedy, a lecturer in the Princeton Writing Program.

Photo: John Jameson 

Intimate, intensive seminars focused on the art of writing are the hallmark of the Princeton Writing Program, a vital resource for preparing students for the demands of course papers, junior papers and senior theses that are central to a Princeton education.

The Princeton Writing Program offers more than 100 writing seminars of 12 students each on a wide variety of topics, including global warming, animal intelligence, ancient seafaring and the American dream. Every Princeton freshman is required to complete a seminar to fulfill the University writing requirement. 
The primary goal of the seminars is for students to learn the fundamentals of college-level written inquiry and argument. Writing seminar students also learn to use library research tools and navigate Firestone Library. Most seminars are interdisciplinary in nature so as to give students experience writing with a wide array of sources.

Writing seminar faculty number 40 to 50 each year and include postdoctoral lecturers, Princeton professors from a range of academic departments, qualified University administrators and staff, and graduate students in their last year of study.

The writing seminars were introduced in fall 2001 after a review of the way Princeton teaches students to write. The University has had an undergraduate writing requirement for generations, but students previously satisfied that requirement by taking a course that included instruction in writing by the end of their sophomore year. The revamped Princeton Writing Program emphasizes seminars that are more concentrated on writing than on the subject matter.

The program also operates the Writing Center, located in Wilcox Hall, which offers students one-on-one tutoring sessions with experienced writers trained to consult on assignments in any discipline. Both undergraduate and graduate students may bring writing projects to the center, which holds more than 1,800 tutoring sessions each year.

In addition, the program's Writing in the Disciplines initiative seeks to enhance the role of writing in every department at the University. The initiative includes roundtables for professors and graduate students on topics of general interest, such as academic writing that crosses over to a popular audience. Princeton Writing Program staff members also consult with faculty on integrating writing into courses, designing effective assignments and helping preceptors respond effectively to student writing.

For more information about the Princeton Writing Program, visit its Web site.