Skip to main content

Writing 340

Course Description & Objectives

Writing 340 builds on the foundations of critical thinking, reading, and writing established in Writing 150, burnishing these skills and augmenting them with an emphasis on the professional, public, and academic aspects of majors and career fields.

The Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences offers five versions of Writing 340, encompassing wide disciplinary concentrations. These five are Arts & Humanities, Health Sciences, Natural Sciences, Pre-Law, and Social Sciences, along with several Special Topics.

The writing requirements in Writing 340 are similar to, but not identical with, those in Writing 150. All students produce thirty-forty pages of formal writing over the course of the term, and they revise two essays of their own choosing for a portfolio that constitutes twenty-five per cent of their course grade. Typically, these pages are accomplished through four assignments plus a diagnostic essay that is administered early in the semester. In addition, an oral component is usually introduced at some point in the class, typically as a complement to written work. (e.g., a moot court exercise might be part of the Pre-Law pedagogy or a mock professional conference might be set up among Social Sciences sections.)

Usually one of the assignments in any Writing 340 class is slightly longer than the others—perhaps ten-twelve pages--and incorporates concentrated research within the professional literature of that discipline. Special attention is usually devoted to the public and ethical issues that attend to specific majors and the professions to which they lead (E.g., questions of biomedical ethics often frame an assignment within the Health Sciences sections of Writing 340.) Lecturers are asked to permit their students to focus about half of their writing specifically within their individual major. (So, depending on their majors, students within an Arts & Humanities section would be allowed to tailor one or more of their essays to their interest in English, Philosophy, Literature, Art History, etc.) Outside of the College, the Schools of Business and Engineering present their own varieties of Writing 340, as well.

Lastly, while the framework of Writing 340 harkens back to Writing 150, expectations are greater for advanced writing students. The bar is raised, in part because Writing 340 students have consistently demonstrated that the maturity and sophistication of their writing permit them to meet these higher standards. While this reflects their growth as undergraduates, it is also clearly testimony to the underpinnings of good composition skills that they acquire in Writing 150.

Arts and Humanities sections appeal to those students majoring in English or literature, comparative literature, linguistics, philosophy, religion, art and art history, music and music history, and television and cinema. Typical assignments include film and literary reviews, analyses of texts, commentaries on academic and social issues, and explorations of themes important to literature, film, music, and the arts. As is true of all five models of WRIT 340, instructors often encourage students to base some of their writing squarely within their individual majors.

Health Sciences sections gather together students intending careers under the wide umbrella of health care. Besides those students aiming for medical school, these classes also include nursing, physician assistant, pre-dental, pharmacy, and occupational therapy majors. Common assignments include clinical visits followed up by written observations, examinations of the professional and ethical questions pertinent to medicine, research into the roles performed by different health care specialists, and assessments of the availability of, the distribution of, and the economic and social costs attending to medical care.

Natural Sciences sections are geared for those students majoring in physics and astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology, or any who wish to satisfy their WRIT 340 requirement with the physical sciences. A sampling of assignments from these classes reveals mock professional conferences where papers are presented orally and then submitted in written format to the instructor, identification of pressing scientific issues and the possible means of addressing them, and critical evaluation of articles appearing in the leading professional journals.

Pre-Law sections are designed to give those students seriously considering attendance at law school a feel for the unique of style of reasoning and writing engaged in by attorneys. The university does not have a formal pre-law major, so students in these classes represent a wide variety of majors. Assignments frequently include shortened forms of legal memoranda and briefs, moot court presentations where opposing “counsel” present oral arguments first and then file written versions with their Lecturer, basic legal research, and explorations into the philosophy of the law.

Social Sciences sections draw students from majors in political science, sociology, psychology, communications, journalism, history, economics, anthropology, and education. Past assignments in these classes have included expanded letters to the editor of various publications, perspectives on significant social issues and proposed resolutions, field visits to schools, libraries, and social services along with the resulting reports, and mock speeches for political candidates for a variety of offices. Research in prominent disciplinary journals and texts is also featured heavily.

Advanced Writing for the Visual and Performing Arts
Students of the fine arts are invited to study advanced expository writing through the models of the written work of artists who have theorized their own aesthetics. Students will develop analogies between artistic practice and the writing process. Debates on creative practices will, through the acquisition of theoretical vocabularies and analytical tools, be placed solidly within a written context. Prerequisite: This Special Topics version of WRIT 340 requires the approval of the instructor, which may be obtained through the Writing Program.

Advanced Writing: Communication and the Public Intellectual
This course examines the ways in which intellectuals construct public identities, particularly how public intellectuals position themselves and the communication choices they make. Typical assignments include examining how public intellectuals adapt or re-vision their messages to fit the peculiarities of a particular medium and how writing style can accommodate different audiences. Prerequisite: This Special Topics version of WRIT 340 requires the approval of the instructor, which may be obtained through the Writing Program.

Advanced Writing: Writing in the Community
This course promises to be a dynamic experience, as it places writing in a real-world context by partnering USC students with community groups to identify local problems and to use rhetorical tools for addressing these problems. Our class is premised on the model of writing with the community, which engages community members as partners rather than subjects or clients, each partner bringing something to learn and something to teach. By recognizing the value of different kinds of knowledge, this class asks all its participants to engage with perspectives outside their realm of experience.

This is an alternatively structured course in terms of contexts of learning and design of assignments. Although the tenets of good writing remain the central focus of the course, the semester will culminate in a media-driven, documentary-style final project, which will use writing, research, and personal experience to communicate these issues in a way meaningful to a broader public audience.

This class will appeal to students with a desire to be active participants in their courses and who are interested in innovative approaches to learning. Given its community-based/real-world component, this course would interest students wishing to have a more intimate understanding of those people and issues that are so often the subjects of academic research. Disciplined and open-minded students who are willing to explore creative approaches to fulfilling course requirements should find this curriculum a challenging yet satisfying alternative to more traditional offerings. Prerequisite: This Special Topics version of WRIT 340 requires the approval of the instructor, which may be obtained through the Writing Program.

Advanced Writing: Writing in the Environment
This course will encourage you to think about writing, prompt you to read good writing and, most importantly, ask you to write. Potential topics for discussion include environmental ethics, preserving wilderness areas, consumption, and specific environmental challenges confronting Los Angeles. Our discussions, readings, and writing assignments will explore ways in which writing can be a public, political act. We will examine how writers make effective arguments with various kinds of evidence, and consider how rhetorical factors such as purpose and audience shape presentations of the environment in writing. We will also explore research as an important interface between academia and broader civic discourse. Prerequisite: This Special Topics version of WRIT 340 requires the approval of the instructor, which may be obtained through the Writing Program.