The Skidmore College
Expository Writing Network

A Guide to EN 105: Writing Seminar II

Most Skidmore students fulfill the Expository Writing Requirement by taking EN 105 Writing Seminar II. The English Department offers between 20 to 25 sections of EN 105 each semester. Enrollment in each section is limited to 15 students to assure that students receive individual, in depth attention to their development as writers. Although the majority of Skidmore students are familiar with EN 105, many faculty and staff often have questions about the course. We've designed this page to answer many of those questions. To learn more about EN 105: Writing Seminar II, click on one of the following questions:

What is EN 105?

What happens in an EN 105 class?

How do students prepare for class?

How much writing do students do?

What kinds of comments do students receive on their papers?



EN 105 Writing Seminar II is the course most students take to fulfill the College's Expository Writing Requirement. Because students in each section will be planning to major in a variety of academic disciplines or programs, EN 105 aims to prepare them to write clearly and correctly for the rest of their college career.

EN 105 classes are theme-based writing courses. The readings, discussions, and writing assignments revolve around the theme that the instructor has chosen. Sample topics include "Writing in the Tang"; "Class Matters"; "'Race,' Writing, and Difference"; "Writing on Demand"; and "Everything is Relatives." The English Department web site offers a list of the current EN 105 classes under the "Prospectus" link.

As theme-based courses, EN 105 seminars may seem like first-year Scribner Seminars. However, the theme of an EN 105 section is not what the course is "about." EN 105 courses are about writing and the writing process: developing a thesis, organizing an essay coherently and logically, using evidence effectively to support assertions, and crafting clear, grammatically correct sentences, and revising one's own writing.



EN 105 classes typically focus on several different activities:

  • Workshops where the instructor leads a discussion of one or more student papers. Usually, these workshops focus on drafts that the students will revise. Faculty conduct these workshops in a variety of ways: some assign drafts to be read before class; sometimes students read drafts in class; sometimes the writer reads the draft aloud. Some faculty read student drafts without identifying the writer; others ask the writer to participate in the workshop discussion to focus the session.
  • Discussion of general writing issues. Faculty often devote classes to features of academic writing such as introductions, thesis statements, transitions, paragraph development, organization, conclusions, and revision.
  • Grammar review. Instructors will spend some of class time reviewing--or often teaching--particular points of grammar. This instruction my include exercises, explanations, or student presentations. Other times, instruction in grammar may occur on an individual basis in student-teacher conferences.
  • Discussion of style, diction, and editing. Some faculty spend individual class time on these topics; others incorporate them into writing workshops.
  • Discussion of documentation and plagiarism. EN 105 writing seminars are often the classes in which students learn the principles of academic integrity, citation, and documentation.
  • Discussion of readings. Good writers are good readers. Many faculty, therefore, devote time in EN 105 classes to helping students analyze readings, develop their own questions about readings, and think about ways to respond to readings in writing.

Overall, the majority of class time in EN 105 classes is devoted to writing concerns, not discussion of the course theme.



Students should expect to work two hours for every class meeting. This work may include writing, revising, preparing class readings, reading other students' drafts, writing peer critiques, conducting library research, or completing grammar or style exercises.



Students typically write four or five original, formal papers in EN 105. Papers range in length from three to seven pages. For each paper, students will prepare at least one draft. Some EN 105 instructors require that students formally revise all of their papers; others ask students to revise one completed paper from among a group of assignments. Some faculty require students to create a portfolio of their EN 105 papers in which revision is a major component. Students also write shorter assignments that may or may not receive grades. These shorter assignments build skills for the longer papers. In general, students should write at least 25 pages of finished prose in EN 105.



The approach to commenting on student papers varies among EN 105 faculty, but in general EN 105 instructors provide substantive and substantial comments to students' completed papers. Rather than focusing on the strengths and (more often) the weaknesses of an individual composition, faculty typically provide comments about paper that extend beyond a single paper and direct students to ways of improving their writing for future assignments in EN 105 and often other classes. Therefore, instructors often indicate strengths that they find in a paper and point out weaknesses that the student-writer should attend to as he or she revises the paper or undertakes a new writing assignment. Comments on EN 105 assignments are not meant to be comprehensive: faculty many not point out every sentence level error in a draft, especially if some of the problems may be eliminated as the student revises the work. Comments will, however, indicate weak or nonexistent thesis statements, poor organization, lack of evidence, confusing sentence structure, or poor word choice. Most EN 105 instructors resist editing a student's paper or even correcting every error in punctuation and spelling. Instead, the faculty indicate where the students need to edit and where they need to make corrections: students will learn more by making these changes themselves.

In commenting on EN 105 papers, many instructors ask students questions that may lead them to a deeper consider of their topic. Students often recognize that their work is superficial, but they need guidance in how to deepen their ideas. EN 105 instructors often use end-comments to suggest ways to think more subtly.


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Scribner Library