Courses of Study 2018-2019 
    Sep 25, 2022  
Courses of Study 2018-2019 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines

The John S. Knight Institute helps to coordinate the teaching of writing in all undergraduate schools and colleges (the School of Industrial and Labor Relations; the School of Hotel Administration; and the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Architecture, Art, and Planning; Arts and Sciences; Engineering; and Human Ecology) as well as the teaching of academic communication for international students and scholars (with the Graduate School). The program administers writing seminars for first-year and upperclass students, discipline-based seminars in its Writing in the Majors Program, tutorial writing classes, seminars in the teaching of writing, and writing and speaking courses for international graduate and professional students.. More than 30 academic departments and programs participate in the program.


The director of the John S. Knight Institute is George Hutchinson, professor in the Department of English.

The Knight Institute has 3 campus locations:

  • 101 McGraw Hall, (607) 255-2280
  • 174 Rockefeller Hall, (607) 255-6349
  • 260 Caldwell Hall

T. Carrick (Director, Writing Workshop), M. Cox  (Director, English Language Support Office), D. Faulkner (Director, First-Year Writing Seminars), D. Evans (Director, Writing Outreach), K. King-O’Brien (Associate Director, Writing in the Majors), N. Lindberg (Lecturer, English Language Support Office), M. Myers (Lecturer, English Language Support Office), K. Navickas (Director, Writing Centers), J. Sands (Multilingual Writing Specialist), E. Shapiro (Director, Writing in the Majors), B. Zukovic (Senior Lecturer)

First-Year Writing Seminars:

For first-year students the Institute offers First-Year Writing Seminars—more than 125 different courses in the humanities, social sciences, expressive arts, and sciences. Through introductory work in a particular field of study, seminars help students write good English expository prose—prose that, at its best, is characterized by clarity, coherence, intellectual force, and stylistic control. All seminars pursue this common aim through small classes and adherence to a program-wide set of guidelines:

  • Seminars should require at least five—and at most eight—formal essays on new topics, totaling about 25 pages of polished prose.
  • No fewer than three of the five to eight required essays should go through a process of development under the instructor’s guidance (e.g., revision, peer review, responses to readings, conferences).
  • All seminars should spend ample classroom time on work directly related to writing.
  • Reading assignments in the course subject should be kept under 75 pages per week to permit regular, concentrated work on writing.
  • All students should meet in at least two individual conferences with the instructor.

Offerings change from semester to semester. Each semester’s First-Year Writing Seminars are described on the web at

First-Year Writing Seminars aim to ensure that students will enjoy the benefits of small classes. Instead of pre-enrolling in their writing courses, students request placement in one of five writing seminars by filling out an electronic ballot in mid-July for the fall semester and in November for the spring semester. Over 95 percent receive one of their top three choices. After placement by ballot, students may change their writing seminars via electronic add and drop.

The colleges and the schools served by the Institute accept First-Year Writing Seminars in fulfillment of their individual graduation requirements in categories referred to variously as “first-year writing,” “oral and written expression,” and the like. The Institute does not decide whether students may graduate: it makes courses available. Individual colleges and schools administer their own graduation requirements.

Currently, most undergraduate students are required to take two First-Year Writing Seminars. Architecture majors, however, need only one. Hotel students fulfill their requirement through HADM 1650  in one semester plus one First-Year Writing Seminar in the other. Agriculture and Life Sciences students can take First-Year Writing Seminars or choose from among a variety of other courses to fulfill their requirement.

All students who score 5 on the Princeton Advanced Placement Examination in English receive 3 credits. Such credits are awarded automatically; no application to the John S. Knight Institute or the Department of English is necessary. How these credits may be applied to first-year writing or other distribution requirements depends on the student’s college and score. All students who score 5, except Architecture majors, may apply their 3 credits toward the writing requirements of their college. Of students who score 4, only Agriculture and Life Sciences students may apply their 3 credits toward the writing requirements of their college. Students should always consult their college registrars to be certain that they understand their writing requirements.

Students who have already taken a First-Year Writing Seminar, or who score 4 or 5 on the Princeton AP exam, or 700 or better on the English Composition or CEEB tests, may enroll, space permitting, in the following upper-level First-Year Writing Seminar: ENGL 1270 .

Although there are no exemptions from college writing requirements, some students may fulfill all or part of their college’s writing requirement through transfer credits or writing-course substitutions.

For work done at other institutions to be accepted as equivalent to First-Year Writing Seminars, students should demonstrate that they have done a reasonably equivalent amount of writing in a formal course (e.g., it is not sufficient to write one 30-page term paper.) Students in the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Sciences must file an “application for transfer evaluation” to request writing credit for such courses; students in other colleges should consult their college registrars.

In unusual circumstances, upper-level students may petition to use a Cornell writing course other than a First-Year Writing Seminar to satisfy part of their writing requirement. The John S. Knight Institute must approve all such petitions in advance.

For information about the requirements for First-Year Writing Seminars and descriptions of seminar offerings, see the John S. Knight Institute website at

Writing Workshop:

The Writing Workshop provides diverse types of writing support for students and faculty, including writing assessment, coursework, and tutoring.

FWS Writing Consultation:

Because Cornell’s writing seminars expect a greater range of writing abilities than most students have exposure to in high school, the Writing Workshop provides an opportunity for students to discover how well current writing skills fit into what Cornell expects.

During the FWS Writing Consultation, students write short trial essays and meet with writing instructors for advice on which First-Year Writing Seminars are most appropriate for their learning styles and previous experience with academic writing. Students can participate in three ways: they can attend special sessions during New Student Orientation; submit an essay electronically by visiting the program Blackboard site (search for and enroll in “FWS Writing Consultation”); or submit an early essay assigned during the first weeks of their FWS. The Writing Workshop Director will help students transfer to other courses or arrange for tutoring support.

Students who struggled in their high school English classes should definitely take part in the FWS Writing Consultation. Students whose test scores are in the following ranges should also participate in  the FWS Writing Consultation:  SAT Writing below 8, ACT Writing below 8, SAT Critical Reading/Writing below 600, ACT English below 25, TOFEL below 600.

First-Year Writing Seminars:

The Writing Workshop offers two alternative route First-Year Writing Seminars:  WRIT 1340 - FWS: An Introduction to Writing in the University  or  WRIT 1370 - FWS: Elements of Academic Writing  and  WRIT 1380 - FWS: Elements of Academic Writing . These courses are designed for students who did not have formal writing instruction in high school, are unfamiliar with academic writing, have serious difficulty with writing assignments, or feel a general lack of confidence about their writing. Some sections of these First-Year Writing Seminars are designed for international students and multilingual writers and include special instruction on developing fluency in academic English and navigating new cultures of writing. Graded S/U only, students receiving a grade of S are granted credit toward their college writing requirements.

Graduate Writing:

The Writing Workshop offers two courses ( WRIT 7102 - Graduate Writing Workshop  and WRIT 7103 - Work in Progress ) to support graduate and professional students interested in refining writing skills as they develop and sustain long writing projects and prepare for disciplinary and professional writing expectations. Graduate and professional students, post-docs, and faculty can also work with writing tutors at the Graduate Writing Service. International graduate students can also seek support from the English Language Support Office (see below).


The Writing Workshop provides multiple opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to work one-on-one with professional writing instructors. Depending upon level, need, and depth of commitment, students can work with peer tutors or faculty writing consultants in weekly tutorials or enroll in  WRIT 1390 - Special Topics in Writing , a three-credit course for students who may need ongoing support to build writing skills or to develop ongoing writing projects. Students can also visit the Writing Centers or the Graduate Writing Service (see below).

Writing Centers:

The Knight Institute offers tutoring assistance to any student who has questions about writing or a specific piece of writing. Writers can schedule appointments from time to time or visit regularly for ongoing support with writing projects. Undergraduate and graduate student tutors, some with specialized training and experience working with English language learners, are available during the academic year in five campus locations (Mann, Olin, and Uris Libraries and Balch and Rockefeller Halls).

Graduate Writing Service:

Graduate Writing Service tutors – experienced writers and teachers of writing from multiple disciplines – work with Cornell graduate students, post-docs, and faculty to refine and develop strategies for drafting and revising their writing and teaching materials, such as: dissertation chapters, seminar papers, research proposals, conference presentations, professional articles, job letters and dossiers, teaching statements and philosophies, writing assignments, and lesson plans. Writers and teachers of writing can schedule face-to-face meetings or online appointments (using an internet-based video and messaging platform). Tutors can also provide written feedback on drafts through our eTutoring system.

Other Courses:

Expository Writing:

ENGL 2880 - Expository Writing - ENGL 2890 - Expository Writing  helps students write with more confidence and skill in all disciplines. It is open to Cornell sophomores, juniors, and seniors who have completed their colleges’ first-year writing requirements or have the permission of the instructor. “Expository Writing” courses explore themes shaped by a genre or use of expository writing, by the common concerns of several disciplines, or by an interdisciplinary topic intimately related to the written medium. Although English department instructors make up roughly half the staff, the Knight Institute’s involvement enables the course to extend and diversify its offerings in separately defined, 18-member sections that appeal to the varied interests and needs of students in many areas of study. Students may choose among a variety of sections focusing on such themes as “A Boy Named Sue: Biology, Gender, and Sexual Orientation,” “Urban Imaginings,” and “TV Nation: Television and Identity in America.” All staff are selected because their special interests and their training and experience in First-Year Writing Seminars promise original course design and superior performance.

Community Literacy:

Writing outreach has become an increasingly important feature of writing programs on various campuses. Cornell’s rich opportunities in service learning are formed on the assumption that learning by doing has a valid place in a university curriculum; they include volunteer activities and for-credit courses that span colleges and departments, as well as a concentration in Public Service Scholarship, which is sponsored by the Public Service Center. The courses listed below all concern writing as an interaction with community members outside Cornell, in the form of oral interviews, mentoring, or other collaborative work. For other writing courses with outreach components, see the First-Year Writing Seminar  WRIT 1400 - FWS: Common Ground: Education Beyond The Ivory Tower  and ENGL 2890 , specifically the section titled “Fieldwriting: Telling Community Stories.”

Teaching Writing:

Each summer and fall, the Institute offers instruction in the teaching of writing to new staff members in the First-Year Writing Seminars and to other interested instructors. Teaching Writing, offered in the summer or fall, is exclusively a course for graduate students who are slated to teach a First-Year Writing Seminar in the contemporaneous academic year. The program also sponsors a summer internship apprenticeship program for a limited number of graduate students, and a summer seminar for faculty members interested in the teaching of writing.

Writing in the Majors:

Spanning the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, the Knight Institute’s upper-level, Writing in the Majors courses do not satisfy formal writing requirements, and faculty participation is entirely voluntary. While all Writing in the Majors courses include extensive writing, usually with guided revision, they also emphasize other forms of active, interactive learning essential to scholarship and careers in the disciplines. Writing in the Majors initiatives have included individual and collaborative research projects, collaborative writing, oral  presentations, group oral exams, field studies, authentic student-designed laboratory experiments, debates, analytical and critical reading exercises, topical symposia, conversation groups, student-led discussions, poster sessions, and many kinds of informal writing, including online exchanges. Varying radically in design and size, from enrollments of fewer than 10 students to more than 300, Writing in the Majors courses over the past 20 years have involved collaboration with 175 faculty members and more than 350 graduate teaching assistants to enrich learning in 101 upper-level courses offered in 34 departments. Since 2007-2008, the Knight Institute has substantially increased the number of Writing in the Majors courses offered at the  2000-level. These courses are intended to provide students who are still in the early stages of their academic careers with opportunities to engage with disciplinary subject matter through writing.

Writing and Speaking Support for International Graduate and Professional Students:

The English Language Support Office (ELSO,, a collaborative effort between the Knight Institute and the Graduate School, offers writing and speaking support to international multilingual graduate and professional students in the form of courses, workshops, tutoring, and a conversation program. The director is Michelle Cox (


ELSO 6200 - Effective Speaking in English  

ELSO 6210 - Improving Pronunciation  

ELSO 6220 - Taking Part in Discussions  

ELSO 6230 - Designing and Delivering Effective Presentations  

ELSO 6510 - Writing, Revising, and Editing  

ELSO 6500 - Effective Writing in English  

ELSO 6520 - Strategies for Writing in Your Field  

ELSO 6530 - Becoming a Better Editor of Your Work  

ELSO 6540 - Advanced Academic Writing: Writing with Sources  

ELSO 6600 - [Writing Intensive] [Inactive] 

Workshops: ELSO offers biweekly workshops on a variety of topics related to writing and speaking, such as crafting an effective writing process, conversational English, writing for the job search, and revising for organization and structure. Review this semester’s topics. Register for a workshop.

Tutoring: ELSO offers tutoring on writing projects and presentations through the Graduate Writing Service. Learn more about our tutoring program. Make an appointment with a tutor.

Conversation Program: ELSO offers monthly Conversation Events in the Big Red Barn that provide opportunities for international graduate and professional students to interact with peers and with native-English speakers, the ELSO Ambassadors.