WRIT 250 Assignment Library

Writing 250 is an advanced composition course designed to help students further develop the analysis, synthesis, argument, and research skills built in first-year writing in addition to introducing them to primary research. The course follows a Writing in the Disciplines approach, requiring students to choose topics within their fields to research and to write about to help prepare them for their later coursework in core classes. Writing 250 is offered both face-to-face and online.

Exploratory Essay

The Exploratory Essay is designed to introduce students to writing in the disciplines and to finding/using Library resources related to their major. This narrative essay requires students to find and compare academic and non-academic sources on the same topic. There are three variations of the assignment that instructors can choose from. The final product takes the form of a process narrative in which students trace their steps in finding and comparing sources. Usually, the exploratory essay ends up generating a topic idea that students will want to pursue for the subsequent assignments.

Areas to highlight: Students often struggle with understanding the difference between academic journals themselves and the articles within them. This can be particularly difficult in online sections of the class. It is also important to walk students through Library database searches (or request a librarian demonstration), as students sometimes assume that any source that comes from a library search is peer-reviewed. Also, sometimes students make this first assignment more complicated than it needs to be: it’s ultimately a process narrative, and instructors should emphasize that it’s a relatively low-stakes entry-point into researched writing in the disciplines.

Annotated Bibliography

The second major assignment is an annotated bibliography based on secondary research for the research project students have identified. Students will articulate a topic and rationale in a topic proposal ePortfolio/Research Toolbox assignment around the same time as they are working on the annotated bibliography. For the annotated bibliography, students select 8 to 10 academic or professional research sources and write summaries and evaluations of each source. Students also write an introduction to the bibliography, in which they identify trends or concepts that connect the sources to one another.

Areas to highlight: Students often struggle with selecting good sources, even though they have already had experience with the process with the exploratory essay. Some of the same issues are prevalent, including the use of popular/non-academic sources, as well as sources published in academic journals that aren’t necessarily appropriate for a literature review (opinion pieces, book reviews, etc). Students also struggle with meaningful, detailed summary and specific evaluation of the sources, and sometimes tend to review the sources in very broad terms.

Literature Review

The literature review is a synthesis of secondary research on a student’s topic. Students choose at least five of their secondary sources from the annotated bibliography to include in a literature review that describes the “state of research” in their major on their chosen topic. Emphasis is placed on identifying the gap in existing research, into which the student’s proposed research project will eventually fit.

Areas to highlight: Students struggle with synthesis of sources and identifying gaps in research. Also, sometimes students have trouble seeing “the big picture” of research, and instead more through their sources in isolation. It’s important to emphasize the balance between direct quotation, paraphrase, and original synthesis, as sometimes students rely too heavily on direct quotation.


The Prospectus is the culmination of the research project students have worked on for the entire semester. The prospectus serves as a formal proposal for an original primary research project in the student’s major, based on the research question identified earlier in the semester. In the prospectus, the students combine a condensation of the literature review with a discussion of the results of their small-scale primary research project (mini-pilot or in-class survey), and outline an original study that they have designed to answer their research question.

Areas to highlight: It helps to describe the prospectus as a sales pitch. Students should think of it as an opportunity to “sell” their proposed research project to a group of skeptical colleagues. Ultimately, they have to prove that they have credibility as researchers in their field and that their project is valid enough to stand on its own. The effectiveness of this approach depends largely on how well students can show how their original student fits into the discourse community established in their review of literature.


Students work on the multimodal presentation concurrently with the prospectus. The presentation is the student’s opportunity to “sell” the research project proposed in the prospectus. Students are required to use different modes of expression in assembling the presentation, including video, audio, and handouts. In a face-to-face class, presentations usually take place during the last week of the semester. In an online class, students create recorded versions of their presentation and share on a discussion board.

Areas to Highlight: Students often don’t recognize that a change in mode or medium requires a change in technique, so students need help in understanding how electronic, visual, or spoken text is different from print text and, thus, how to think about audience. Students may also need help with unfamiliar technology. Students also struggle with making their presentation persuasive (selling their proposed research) instead of informative (reviewing existing research).

Research Toolbox

This project is undergoing some curricular revision. The files below are in a state of transition.