WriteThe second major learning objective of the QEP is improving written arguments. UMW’s FSEMs help students develop and organize written arguments and enhance the students’ abilities to edit and revise during the writing process.

The Writing Center is the main academic center that engages students and assists them in developing effective writing skills. Students can make appointments at the Fredericksburg Campus Writing Center or the Stafford Campus Writing Center for assistance during any step of the writing process—brainstorming, organizing, revising, creating proper citations—on a variety of written assignments. Below is a list of helpful Writing Center links:

Writing in FSEMs

Instructors—Do you need an idea for a writing project? Are you simply curious about what other professors have done in their seminars for this component of the QEP? Here you will find a select list of writing projects employed in FSEMs.

FSEM 100F: The French New Wave – Cinema and Society

  • Reaction Papers: “For each of the films we view, you will write a one page reaction paper to be handed in on the first day of the discussion of the film in question.”
  • Midterm Paper: “As a midterm exercise, you will be asked to write a short paper on an assigned topic that will require you to develop an argument on a theme found in several of the films we have discussed.”
  • Final Seminar Paper: “You will be asked to write a seminar paper (8-12 pages, not including title page and works cited page) on a topic that you will choose in consultation with the professor. In week 9, you will propose a topic. In week 12, you will provide an outline of the paper. You will be expected to use properly documented secondary sources (print and electronic) for this project.”

FSEM 100H2: The Idea of Cool

  • Writing Assignments: This course includes 4 writing assignments with drafts: How to be Cool at Mary Washington, Rap Genius, The Zine Scene, and Movie Night. “Writing assignments will follow the guidelines discussed in class. You are encouraged to make use of the services of the University’s Center as you prepare for these assignments.”
  • Tumblr: “Oh, yeah. Tumblr. I’d have you do a blog for this class, but blogs aren’t cool. Blogger? That’s what your mother uses to post pictures of her quilts. Tumblr’s where it’s at. You’ll create your own tumblr dedicated to your idea of cool, and contribute to it regularly.”

FSEM 100C5: Lost and Forgotten Manuscripts of Christianity — Research Paper

  • Text Selection and Initial Bibliography
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Rough Draft of Final Paper
  • Final Paper: “Your major paper assignment involves writing a research paper on a [non-canonical] text of your choice that is relevant to the class and cleared with me. The final paper must be type-written, double spaced, and 8-12 pages in length, including notes. The Religion Program requires the Chicago Manual of Style format. I will expect you to use it for your footnotes. You can find information on it on the Simpson Library webpage or through the Writing Center. . . . This paper requires library research, which you will be introduced to this semester. Internet sources, other than those that are simply digital versions of printed texts, must be used with caution and sparingly.”

FSEM 100MM: Pirates, Liars, and Pigeons (Not Your Typical Math Course)

  • Assignment 1: “For this first writing assignment, you will be modeling the work of a human interest writer for the local newspaper. Puzzles, mathematical or otherwise, have been popular in newspapers almost since their conception. In fact, the famous “spider and the fly” puzzle we discuss in class originally appeared in a London paper in about 1903. Your job is to write a column for the paper about a good problem that you discover on your own. A list of places to go to look for a “good” puzzle will be discussed during your library orientation.”
  • Assignments 2-4: “These writing assignments consist of formal presentations of solutions to problems that you solve in class. For these assignments, you should assume that you are talking to your grandmother. That is, you will need to explain and expand upon your thinking process in a way that is understandable to somebody who has had absolutely no exposure to the material. There is no requirement for when you submit these solutions, except that no two can come from the same general class of problems, and at least one must be completed before spring break.”
  • Assignment 5: “This is biggest writing assignment. Here you are asked to provide a detailed write-up of the concept you choose for your final project. More on this appears in the guidelines to be distributed separately.”

HIST 202: Good, Bad, and Ugly American Tourists (American History First-Year Seminar)

  • Autobiographical Writing Assignment: “Students will write one 3-5page autobiographical paper that analyzes a personal experience with tourism using the theoretical and historical contexts discussed in class. You should recount your own experience as a tourist, as well as explore the perspectives of the other people you have encountered in this context, whether they are workers, locals, or other tourists. Think self-critically about your own role in cross-cultural encounters, paying particular attention to the dynamics of power that shape tourist destinations.”
  • Research Paper Proposal: “Each student will be required to complete a multistage research project on an American tourist site. Students must submit a one-page proposal by Week 2 outlining the chosen site and interpretive framework, and then must attend office hours during the subsequent two weeks to discuss their topic.”
  • Research Paper: “Students will submit a 6-8 page research paper on their topic, due during Week 6, in class.”
  • Revised Research Paper: “A revised version of the paper that takes into account peer feedback from the [oral] presentation must be turned in after the presentation.”

FSEM 100ZZ / HONR 100B: Mad Scientists, Bad Scientists, and Evil Geniuses

  • Online Journal Entries: “Each lecture will have a discussion question posted on Canvas. These questions are meant to serve as ‘ice-breakers’ for the next lecture’s discussion. It is beneficial, therefore, that you answer these questions after completing the reading and reflecting on the material. All submissions are due by nine (9 am) on the day of the lecture. The questions will require submission in essay format. Feel free to cut and paste from a word-processing program so that you have a copy of your thoughts/feelings/reflections, etc. These questions are open-ended and are a chance for you to think about the material in the context of your experiences, your interests, other readings, etc. They are not meant to be reiterations of the readings.”
  • Blogs: “Each week or so you will post to our blog site. (Instruction on blogging will be given during initial course meetings.) These postings will be reflections on the larger themes brought out in the readings, movies and in-class discussions and will enable us to carry the conversation outside of the classroom. To obtain credit for your posting, you must reflect and write substantively. Reiteration of another’s ideas without significant elaboration will not be counted.”
  • Papers: “There will be 4 assigned, 2-page, typed papers over the course of the semester to enable you to show your knowledge of the subject matter and/or readings by writing about how they fit into the context of the course. Each paper must have 1.5 line spacing with 1 inch margins and use size 12 font. (References will not be counted toward the pages limit.) Proper grammar, spelling, clarity of writing will be important as poorly written papers will not convey your thoughts and ideas. Students needing assistance in writing are advised to talk to the instructor or visit the Writing Center. The major purpose of the papers, however, is to give you the opportunity to synthesize your understanding into a coherent piece of work; therefore, emphasis will be placed on the construction of the paper and the process of writing.”

FSEM 100D4: Revolution and Cinema in Iran

  • Weekly Papers: “Every student is expected to write a weekly reflection /comments/ analyses and interpretation paper (2-4 pages) on the films we watch and the class’ analysis and interpretation of these films.”

FSEM 100F7: Octavia Butler Science Fiction

  • Journal Entries: “For this course, you will be required to keep a journal. Thus, for each text of the course (8 entries for the novels, 1 for your short story, and 1 of your own choosing), you are required to compose a one (285 words) page critical analysis, using an outside academic source to support the argumentative claim of your thesis. Also, you must compose 1 critical analysis (worth one point) that discusses a topic that you have become interested in over the course of the semester.”

FSEM 100EE: Famous Scientific Discoveries

  • Blog Participation: “Starting early in the semester, a blog discussion will be held each Friday discussing the topics that were covered for the week. Initial posts will be made by discussion leaders describing what they think are the most important or interesting issues of their topic. All members of the class will be expected to post in response. Responses should be of substantial content (this does not mean long, it means your post should reflect your considered thought about the issue).”
  • Topic Proposal: “The topic proposal is your chance to steer the direction of this seminar! For this assignment, you will be expected to propose a topic for the class to pursue during the course of the semester. Within this proposal you will make an argument for a particular subject within the field of biology.”
  • Synopses: “The synopses should relate material from a current article(s) to any of the seminal papers discussed in class for a given section. The paper should be structured such that you introduce the general topic, discuss the current article (its theme, what was done, and its relevance), and then discuss how this article stems intellectually from one of the seminal papers discussed in class.”
  • Book Report: “The book report should relate material from a book to any of the seminal papers discussed in class for a given section. The report should be structured such that you introduce the general theme of the book, include a summary of the body of the book; discuss how the book is intellectually related to the seminal work talked about in class, and finish with your conclusions on how the works fits within the body of knowledge in biology and in its particular realm of biology, as well as its impact on society.”

FSEM 100Z: International Short Fiction by Women

  • Literary Criticism Paper
  • Final Research Paper: “Your major research paper . . . is to be the thorough academic analysis of a short story of your choosing which is not on the syllabus. It may be another story from one of the collections we are using, or it may be a story from elsewhere. Obviously, it needs to be by a woman writing international short fiction. You must submit a copy of the story along with your paper if it is not in an anthology we are using. We will be discussing at length the analysis of short stories and good research and documentation, so these should not be a problem for you. This paper should be 7 to 10 pages, typed in 12 point Times New Roman font and double spaced, and it should make good use of several sound, academic sources. As you can see, it is due later in the semester, so we will have plenty of time to prepare. . . . I heartily recommend getting your work done early and taking advantage of the good service offered by the Writing Center.”

FSEM 100B8: Ethics and Literature — Research Paper

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Semi-formal Paper Proposal
  • Draft #1 of Paper
  • Draft #2 of Paper
  • Research Paper: “For this assignment, which will culminate in a paper of 8-10 pages, you will gain familiarity with the methods of appropriate scholarly research, a task in which we will be aided by UMW’s Humanities Librarian/Superhero Jack Bales; the paper will require at least four sophisticated sources.  The purpose of this research is (at least) two-fold: to add depth, richness, and possibly accuracy to your discussion by drawing in professional voices, and to give you practice then entering into conversation with those voices, since your charge here is not to report others’ ideas but rather to advance your own ideas in the midst of an ongoing dialogue.”

FSEM 100C6: Toys as History

  • Blog Entries and Comments: “Blogs are an opportunity to share the thinking, conjectures, and analysis you are building over the course of the semester. Among its primary functions, it will also serve as a diary of your research topic as you explore it, particularly of the sources you discover, and of practical problems for which you seek advice. In many ways, the blogs function as an extension of our classroom conversation: here you can build upon ideas already shared, raise questions that have not yet been voiced, share resources and feedback, while also brainstorming your own projects.
    Students are required to compose regular blog entry for this course in keeping with our blog assignments noted on the syllabus, as well as comment each week that we have a blog assignment upon another classmate’s blog. Blog posts are due on the date noted, comments are due the following Sunday evening by midnight. . . .
    Entries should reflect a creative engagement with one’s working project and/or a thoughtful consideration of a related topic or issue.”
  • Interview Essay: “All students will compose a 3-5 page essay (guidelines to be provided in advance) to report and reflect upon their findings, and also share information about the toy at an online archive. For more information, see our online assignment page at the course website.”
  • Grant Proposal: Students will choose a topic related to the history of toys for their seminar project. “First, the initial proposal, in which students will compose a 2-3 page statement of the topic they have designed and the sources that they have found that will make it viable, which will be composed in the form of a mock Grant Proposal (in the model of requesting the research funds that are available for UMW students for their own senior theses). This proposal will then serve as the basis for the major project, the 8-10 page Research Paper itself, the major term paper assignment for the course.”
  • Research Paper: “We will work together as a cohort of the semester, exploring methods of primary source research, delving into our respective toy topics, and helping each other with useful feedback on the process at each step of the writing process. At the conclusion of the semester, students will then share their toy projects in 10-minute presentations with their research colleagues in the class.”

FSEM 100G1: Consumer Chemistry

  • Paper #1: “The first paper will require you to spend time outside of class critically evaluating advertisements from multiple media sources including television and periodicals. Emphasis will be placed on evaluating how/if science is used as a marketing tool in these advertisements, the accuracy of the scientific claims, and the perception of science presented in the advertisements.”
  • Paper #2: “In the second assignment, you will be the advertisement designer for a new product, given the specifications and results of pre-market product testing. You will have the option to design either a print, audio, or video advertisement. A brief written and oral synopsis of your ad and how the different elements were chosen to portray the new product will accompany the advertisement.”
  • Paper#3: “The third paper will examine the fine line between medicine and poison through the investigation of so-called ‘Jekyll and Hyde Chemicals.’ Research for this paper will incorporate the primary literature and internet sources.”
  • Paper #4: “The fourth assignment will be an analysis of the ingredient list of a consumer product. Sources will be used to determine the chemistry of how the active ingredients work and why each component is included.”
  • Group Project: “You will work in teams to do a thorough examination of a consumer product, or possibly a comparison of a group of products. Using our examination of products throughout the semester as a guide, your team will be responsible for leading either a whole class period or a portion of the class period. This may include discussions, writing assignments, showing of media clips, bringing in outside sources, lecture in powerpoint, experiments, etc. An annotated bibliography for the proposed sources for your class presentation will be due prior to your presentation date.”
  • Final Reflection Paper: “Your final examination in this course is an assessment of your learning over the course of the semester. Using your papers, assignments, projects, etc., you will construct a portfolio of your work and describe how you have progressed from the first day of class to the last.”

FSEM 100LL: Maps and Politics

  • Critical Reviews of Readings: “Over the course of the semester you will write two critical reviews of course readings. A critical review of an academic article or book is not merely a descriptive summary of its contents. Rather, such a review requires the author to use other sources (articles and books) to understand and assess the article’s argument. Each paper will be 2 to 4 pages long and worth 10% of your grade. The papers will be assessed and based upon both your ability to present and assess the reading’s argument and the quality of your writing organization, grammar, and style. You may rewrite to improve your review as many times as you choose.”
  • Map Interpretations: “To help you learn to apply the concepts and perspectives presented in the readings and discussed in class sessions you will write two map critiques. In each you must use concepts and techniques found in the readings to analyze a particular map chosen from the ones we discuss in class. Each critique will be 3 to 5 pages and worth 15% of your grade. These papers will be assessed based upon both the quality of content and the quality of your writing organization, grammar, and style. You may rewrite to improve your critique as many times as you choose.”
  • Final Paper: “During the last half of the semester you will employ your ability to critically assess academic literature and to examine maps and mapping technologies to write a short (7 to 8 page) research paper. This paper can focus on a particular map or set of maps and argue how it(they) present particular perspectives on the world. Alternatively, you may investigate social or ethical issues associated with contemporary or historic uses of mapping technologies. We will work together to find suitable topics throughout the semester. You will have to turn in a complete draft of the paper by Week 12, present the paper to the class, and turn in the final version during our final exam period.”

Learning Modules for Writing

  • The Writing Process — This module from the Writing Center focuses on the general writing process and outlines five steps to follow for successful writing.
  • Punctuation: Commas and Semicolons Made Easy — This module targets students who struggle with comma and semicolon usage, addressing the bulk of common mistakes made with these punctuation marks.
  • Introductory and Concluding Paragraphs — This module introduces students to the purpose of introductory and concluding paragraphs and gives students tips for writing each.