New Writing Courses for International Graduate and Professional Students

By: Michelle Cox, Knight Institute, 
Fri, 04/17/2020

HThe English Language Support Program (ELSO), which provides writing and speaking support to Cornell’s international graduate and professional students, is rolling out a new writing course sequence for fall 2020! In this news article, we discuss why we are making this change, what the change looks like, and how students can navigate this new curriculum.

Why ELSO Has Revised the Writing Courses: A Bit of History

Since 2014, when ELSO was launched, the ELSO faculty have been working hard to develop writing courses that best support Cornell’s international graduate and professional students, from their first semester of their degree program to their last. In our first year, we offered just two courses (Academic Writing and, you guessed it, Advanced Academic Writing). These semester-long courses offered a mixed bag of writing strategies, and weren’t specific enough to meet the needs of all students. 

In 2015, ELSO launched a new curriculum: half-semester courses offered in two sets each semester, with four writing courses focused on different aspects of writing (the writing process, field-specific writing, the literature review, and editing). This set of four courses worked well, but didn’t allow students enough opportunities to apply writing strategies directly to their immediate writing projects. 

To address this problem, in 2018, ELSO added two “workshop” style courses, with one focused on research papers and the other on theses and dissertations. In a workshop style course, class time is divided to include instruction on writing strategies (from the instructor in 6580 Research Paper Writers Workshop, and from peers in 6590 Thesis and Dissertation Writers Workshop), writing group meetings during which students report on progress and set goals, and quiet writing time, with optional individual consultations with the instructor. These courses have proven to be really popular. However, few students have time to take all six courses, so they often enter the advanced courses without a strong foundation, causing the instructor to backtrack. This led to repetition of strategies across courses, with the instructor running out of time to get to the more advanced content. 

Thus the ELSO faculty took a step back to reflect on students’ goals and needs as writers, key components of each existing course, and how these components work as a sequence. The result is a set of four writing courses (see full course descriptions here). 

The New Set of Writing Courses

The new set of writing courses follow the writing process—from invention (steps taken to start a writing project, including the writing of the first draft) to revision and editing (steps taken to shape, organize, and fine-tune the language of an existing draft). 

The first course--ELSO 6515 Preparing to Write Workshop--is designed for students who are in the early stages of a writing project or getting ready for upcoming projects. The course will provide strategies for the many steps writers take before beginning a draft, such as selecting sources for the literature review, taking reading notes, organizing notes, mapping ideas, and developing an outline. The course will also introduce students to key Cornell resources and ways to investigate field-specific writing. Students will leave the course ready to start a draft.

The next two courses—ELSO 6535 Research Paper Writing Workshop and ELSO 6565 Thesis and Dissertation Writing Workshop—are designed for students who are in the drafting process. In ELSO 6535, students will learn about the research paper writing process, strategies related to the writing of each section of a research paper, and an overview of the journal article publication process. In ELSO 6565, students will learn how to plan and manage a large writing project, and how to investigate theses and dissertation writing practices in their field. In both courses, ample class time will be devoted to writing, so that students make significant progress on the development of a draft.

The final course--ELSO 6595 Revising and Editing Workshop—is designed for students who enter the course with a draft in hand. This draft may be a first draft--one that is in need of reorganization and refinement. This draft may also be one that is further along that mainly needs improvements to syntax and style. Students will learn how to analyze the underlying structure of the draft, reorganize the draft so that it follows a logical pattern, add language that guides a reader through the draft, revise sentence structure to create more easily readable paragraphs that “flow,” and identify and use preferred styles from their fields. As this course is also a “workshop” style course, students will have ample time during class to apply these strategies directly to their draft. 

Advice for Students 

Though none of these courses have prerequisites, these courses work well as a sequence. To avoid a mismatch between student and course, the three more advanced courses all have application processes (the links are available on the ELSO courses website—see the section on the course schedule). Before the pre-enrollment period and again during the add period, instructors will review the applications and issue permission codes that may be used when enrolling through Student Center. 

Not sure which course to take? Here's some advice:

  • Are you just getting started with a writing project? Are in the process of reading and taking notes, analyzing data, or starting to organize your ideas? Have you not taken any other ELSO writing courses yet? Take ELSO 6515 Preparing to Write Workshop.
  • Have you finished some of the prelimary steps (i.e. taking notes, analyzing data, and organizing ideas) and have started a draft? Are you working on a research paper (i.e. a paper for a course that draws on some kind of data, a paper for a conference or a publication, a thesis, a chapter of a dissertation)? Is this the first research paper in English you've worked on as a graduate student? Have you been working on a research paper that is receiving negative feedback from an advisor or from reviewers? Take ELSO 6535 Research Paper Writing Workshop.
  • Are you in the midst of writing a thesis or dissertation? Is your main challenge finding time to write, planning a large writing project, motivating yourself to write, or finding a supportive writing community? Are you already familiar with the basics of the writing process and research writing? Take ELSO 6565 Thesis and Dissertation Writing Workshop.
  • Do you already have a draft of a paper (i.e. paper for a class, a research paper, or part of a thesis or dissertation)? Do you want to improve the paper's structure, readability, style, or syntax? Take ELSO 6595 Revising and Editing Workshop. 

Have you been taking ELSO courses and aren’t sure how the new courses correspond with the old? Here’s some advice: 

  • We took components from ELSO 6510 Writing, Revising, and Editing, ELSO 6520 Strategies for Writing in Your Field, and ELSO 6540 Advanced Academic Writing: Writing with Sources and rearranged them to follow the writing process, with components related to pre-writing placed in 6515, components related to drafting placed in 6535, and components related to revision and editing placed in 6595.
  • Even if you took ELSO 6580 Research Paper Writers Workshop, you would likely still benefit from ELSO 6535. Since less of the introductory material will be covered, there will be more focus on the writing of specific parts of a research paper. 
  • ELSO 6565 is the same course as ELSO 6590, but under a new number. Since this course mainly focuses on providing quiet writing time within a supportive writing community, students may enroll in it more than once.
  • ELSO 6595 is the same course as ELSO 6530 Becoming an Editor of Your Work. If you've taken ELSO 6530, you likely wouldn't benefit from ELSO 6595. 

Do you have questions about whether you’re a good fit for a particular course?

  • You are welcome to meet with ELSO faculty during our Open Hours, which we offer before each pre-enrollment period and add period.
  • You are also welcome to email us with questions or to request an appointment (our email addresses can be found here).
  • You can also simply fill out an application for a course and let the instructor assess the fit. 







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