One of the most valuable forms of knowledge you will develop at the University is the ability to communicate effectively and ethically through writing. Writing effectively in different contexts and for different audiences is a practice that is universally valued by employers as well as graduate and professional programs, not to mention the instructors of your undergraduate courses. Writing is social action that can help us critique, analyze, and respond to injustices in the world and can help us work with others to transform our communities and solve urgent public problems. Writing also involves being mindful of the impact and consequences of our writing choices for diverse audiences. Writing (defined broadly as any of a number multimodal, digital, and/or visual communication modes) helps you not only enrich your communication, but also your reading, thinking, learning, and participation in the scholarship of your major, in other fields, and in various communities you belong to. To that end, you must complete at least seven credits of writing-intensive ("W") courses.
This is in addition to the 5-credit English Composition requirement. Many colleges and schools require more than seven credits, and specify what courses you can choose from. Consult the General Education Requirements by School and College to compare the English Composition and additional writing requirements for each major.
The requirement can be fulfilled in different disciplines, courses, and languages throughout a student’s career at UW. In W courses, your writing assignments will not typically be summaries of what you have learned in class but in-depth exploration and investigation of aspects of specific course topics. These assignments will give you the opportunity to develop your own ideas and interpretations concerning what you are learning in class, to put texts and ideas in conversation with one another, to create space for you to reflect on your learning, and to think critically about how knowledge is created. In fact, much of your university education will occur in the research, reading and writing assignments required by your courses.
Guidelines for teaching W courses are now housed on the UW Writing web site. Please consult that site for revised guidelines, along with extensive guides on assignment design, assessment, academic integrity, and writing instruction while working with TAs.
Where to find W courses
Courses that count toward the additional writing requirement are available in a wide range of departments. Although you shouldn't wait until the last minute to meet the W-course requirement, it was originally intended that at least some of your writing-intensive courses should be courses in your major, providing you with writing instruction and practice in your chosen area of study.
For most majors (including those in the College of Arts and Sciences, which requires 10 credits), writing courses may be any courses designated in the quarterly Time Schedule with the comment "Writing." For student in the College of Engineering, please see specific departmental requirements regarding additional writing. In the Foster School of Business, one of the two writing courses can be additional composition or any W-course, but the other must be chosen from a short list of largely business communication classes (e.g., B CMU 301).
The easiest way to look for W courses is to use the General Education Requirement Course Search offered by the Office of the Registrar.
Any passing grade (0.7 or higher) is acceptable. Courses may not be taken on the satisfactory/not satisfactory (S/NS) grading option.
Overlap with other requirements
W courses may overlap with any other requirement except the 5-credit English composition course. The courses you use to satisfy the W-course requirement may also count toward your major, a minor, the Areas of Knowledge requirement, and/or the Q/SR requirement.
For transfer students/study abroad students
Many students transfer courses/courses taken through study abroad which required enough writing to qualify as W courses. If you think you have transferred a course that should count as a W course, consult your adviser.
For postbaccalaureate students
Postbaccalaureate students are not required to complete the additional writing requirement.
Some courses in the Time Schedule have the notation, "OPTIONAL W COURSE." In these courses, the professor will explain the writing requirements for those students who wish to receive a W. Students who complete the additional requirements will receive Ws on their transcripts; the other students in the course will not.
W by special arrangement
Many students make special arrangements to have a UW course count toward the W course requirement, even though it is not designated as a W course in the Time Schedule.
If you are taking a course that requires extensive writing, you can discuss with the professor the possibility of earning a W for the course. Some professors are not familiar with the W-course criteria; it is a good idea to print out the criteria below and take the list with you.
It is also possible for you and the professor to make an arrangement in which you alone will complete the extra work required to meet the W-course criteria. For example, a 10-page paper is not sufficient to meet the W-course criteria; but a 10-page paper which is graded by the professor and then rewritten by you and resubmitted does meet the W criteria. Professors can award Ws to individual students in a course; there is a place to mark Ws on the grade sheet they submit for the class at the end of the quarter. Any course which is posted with a W on your transcript can count toward the additional writing requirement.
Registering for W courses
Whether or not a course qualifies as a W course depends on how the course is taught that particular quarter, so there is no permanent list of W courses, and W courses are not indicated in the General Catalog. Each W course is indicated in the quarterly Time Schedule with the notation "Writing" or "Optional Writing Course."
You can generate a complete list of W courses with space still available with the MyPlan Course Search.