Overview of Concepts in Freshman Composition

from Eric Matas

Getting a college education involves a lot of writing. To help students succeed, colleges require a semester of Freshman Composition. Freshman Composition helps students to know how to compose clear, organized essays to convey their understanding and mastery of topics. The course may have different names depending on the school; some examples are English Composition 101, College Writing 1, Composition and Rhetoric, or Introduction to College Writing. Whatever the course name, this lesson is an overview of the main concepts students explore in a semester of freshman writing. 

Concepts in Freshman Comp

Students study many writing concepts and terms in a composition course. Throughout a semester of Freshman Comp, you’ll read about these concepts and discuss them with the instructor and classmates.

1. Understanding the Writing Process

  • Prewriting: Gathering your thoughts and ideas before you start.
  • Drafting: Writing your first version; it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • Revising: Making changes to improve your writing.
  • Editing: Checking for grammar and spelling errors.
  • Publishing: Sharing your final piece with others.

2. Types of Writing

  • Narrative: Telling a story.
  • Expository: Explaining facts.
  • Persuasive: Convincing others of your point of view.
  • Descriptive: Painting a picture with words.

3. Using Sources Responsibly

  • Quoting: Using someone’s exact words (with credit).
  • Paraphrasing: Putting someone’s ideas in your own words (with credit).
  • Avoiding Plagiarism: Always give credit where it’s due.

4. Structuring Your Writing

  • Introduction: Start with a hook to grab attention.
  • Body: Support your main idea with facts and details.
  • Conclusion: Sum up your thoughts and end with a bang.

5. Grammar and Style

  • Sentences: Learn to write clear and varied sentences.
  • Paragraphs: Organize your ideas in logical chunks.
  • Word Choice: Use words that fit your message.

Overview of Assignments in Freshman Composition Courses

Freshman Composition courses typically include various assignments to hone writing skills. Here’s an overview of common assignments and the process of writing, drafting, and peer review.

1. Personal Narrative

  • Description: Students write about a personal experience.
  • Drafting: Multiple versions help refine the narrative.
  • Peer Review: Feedback from peers aids improvement.

2. Research Paper

  • Description: A deep dive into a specific topic.
  • Drafting: Multiple drafts guide the research and writing process.
  • Peer Review: Fellow students provide insights and suggestions.

3. Persuasive Essay

  • Description: Students argue a point of view.
  • Drafting: Revisions help build a strong case.
  • Peer Review: Peers evaluate and suggest improvements.

4. Descriptive Writing

  • Description: Vivid descriptions of people, places, or things.
  • Drafting: Multiple drafts allow experimentation.
  • Peer Review: Classmates offer fresh perspectives.

5. Reflective Journaling

  • Description: Ongoing reflection on learning and growth.
  • Drafting: Regular writing, without formal drafts.
  • Peer Review: Optional but can be beneficial.

The Process: Multiple Drafts and Peer Review

In Freshman Composition courses, writing is often taught as a process. Multiple drafts enable students to refine their ideas and language. 

Peer review is a fundamental part of this process. By sharing work, students can gain different views, find mistakes, and get valuable feedback.

Instructors are typically available for support throughout a writing course. In addition to class sessions, college instructors and professors offer office hours. During office hours, students can stop by and ask questions and get help. Commitment to the process of drafting and peer review can significantly contribute to success in these courses.