Student FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about WI courses

I already know how to write. Why do I have to take a WI course?

WI courses are not courses in writing per se. They are courses in specific disciplines (anthropology, chemistry, history, and so on) that use writing as a tool for learning. “Writing” is much more than grammar, spelling, style, and punctuation. WI courses help students think critically about and engage more deeply with subject matter. Equally important, no one “learns how to write” once and for all. Writing has as much to do with what you write (a letter, a term paper, a business proposal, an advertisement, a magazine article, or a poem) and to whom you write (a client, your supervisor, the editor of a newspaper, or a group of registered voters) as what you write about (why genetic engineering is or is not acceptable, the highlights of a baseball game, why a company’s productivity is down, or the meaning of a novel on the New York Times bestseller list). Writing takes various forms (genres) for different purposes (to make an argument, to persuade a potential client, to secure someone’s vote, or to think through your own ideas about a lecture or a chapter in a book). Writing is about what to say, to whom to say it, how to say it, and what form should be used.

I’ve taken courses at MU that weren’t WI but had more writing than the WI class I’m in now. Why aren’t courses with more writing counted as WI?

More than the amount of writing is involved. WI courses feature assignments that require revision based on feedback from the instructor. The writing deals with complex problems or questions related to course content. The writing counts for a significant portion of the course grade. And, WI courses are designed to keep the student/teacher ratio as close to 20-to-1 as possible.

I took WI courses at another school. Why don’t my WI credits transfer?

The WI designation is not the same everywhere. At MU, courses are “flagged” WI only when the instructor applies for the WI designation for a specific term and the application meets standards established by MU’s Campus Writing Board. The Board, comprised of MU faculty, meets regularly to discuss and approve courses for WI status. Decisions are based on MU’s WI Guidelines, which may differ from other schools’ guidelines.

What if I can’t fit two WI courses into my program of study at MU?

MU advisors are aware of the General Education requirements and are prepared to help you schedule your required courses so that your graduation is not delayed. Students who experience extreme hardship may apply to waive the lower-division (1000 or 2000 level) WI course by submitting a writing portfolio to the Campus Writing Program. The directions and form are available here: Waiving a Writing Intensive Course, but please note that waivers are rare.

Can my honors thesis count as WI? What if I want to take more than two WI courses?

Honors theses can be WI; the directions and form are available by PDF at the website given above. There is no upper limit to the number of WI courses you may take, although you are advised against taking more than two in any semester.

Won’t taking WI courses hurt my GPA?

Although grade averages do vary from department to department, grades within departments do not vary much between WI and non-WI courses. WI courses do not affect most students’ overall GPA.

What if I’m just not good at writing?

You don’t need to be a great writer to perform well in WI courses. The central purpose of WI courses is to stimulate your thinking about the subject matter and get you engaged in the courses. You can get help with your writing—the organization of your paper, your ideas, arguments, supporting evidence, or the style of your writing—by meeting with a WI tutor at the Learning Center. Tutors won’t “fix” punctuation or grammar problems (writers must learn to edit their own work), but tutors will help you identify patterns of error in your writing, brainstorm the assignment with you, and strategize about what you’re trying to say and how to say it. To schedule an appointment, call the Learning Center at 573-882-2496.