Composition Program (ENGL 4 & 5)

Composition Program (ENGL 4 & 5) Composition Program (ENGL 4 & 5)

The Composition sequence of English 4 and 5 or English 4C and 5C provides students with writing skills and strategies they will use throughout their years at Saint Mary's.

Select an item below to learn more.

General Information about the English Composition Classes.

English 4 & 5 (Information about the courses)

  • In English 4 (Composition), students read examples of good writing and write and rewrite 4 to 5 essays, using analysis, evaluation, explanation and argument.  The course emphasizes learning to articulate and support a clear thesis, as well as to use writing as a tool for intellectual discovery and growth.  Students will write a minimum of 7500 words.
  • English 5 (Argument and Research) continues to develop the more complex critical thinking skills that students need to analyze texts and to elaborate arguments. In addition, the course gives students practice in exploring ideas through research and in supporting a thesis by consulting, synthesizing and properly citing sources.  Students write and rewrite two or more papers.  Both essays ask students to evaluate and synthesize evidence.  At least one essay will be a research essay of at least 2500 words that presents an extended argument and incorporates at least 3 peer-reviewed sources, as well as other appropriate research material.  Students will write a minimum of 6000 words.

The "better writing" our students aim for is characterized by:

  • a clear thesis that controls the entire essay.
  • adequate development of ideas, whether through logical explanations and arguments or through specific details and examples.
  • a clear organization that suits the topic and the audience.
  • coherent paragraphs, appropriately connected and built from well-constructed sentences.
  • sentences that convey meaning to a particular audience.
  • evidence that the writer has tried to make their work both informative and interesting.

Instructors often use a workshop method, in which students read their own essays (in draft form or in finished versions) to small groups within the class. This procedure teaches students to be critical of their own and other writers' work and encourages revision.

Class discussions of the readings focus on style and structure as well as on the writers' ideas and arguments.  Students may be asked to use these readings in various ways as bases for their own writing.  For example, they may relate a writer's ideas or experiences to their own ideas or experiences; they may analyze and evaluate the arguments in the reading and the arguments that were raised in class discussion; they may write similar essays.

English 4C & 5C (information about the courses)

  • English 4C and 5C are cohort writing courses, meaning you take them in consecutive semesters, with the same professor and the same students. If you feel less prepared for the reading and writing demands of college, this sequence may be best for you because it is more gradual, offering time to gain confidence and practice in academic writing. In these courses you will learn about yourself as a writer and analyze and research the practice of writing. 

A key assumption underlying English 4C and 5C is that writing in college is not only something people do but also something people study. An implication of this assumption is that learning about writing will help students do writing as a literate practice. 

Most notably, this approach challenges the belief that good writing is a set of skills that are governed by universal rules that hold in all situations. In fact, the opposite is true. Writing demands will change as you move into your disciplinary courses (e.g. writing like a biologist; writing like a financial analyst; writing like an anthropologist; writing like a poet) and then again when you enter the workplace or graduate school.

In response to these changing contexts, these courses will help you to write well in this context of the writing classroom, while simultaneously helping you to develop the knowledge needed to understand how writing emerges and operates in other contexts, for different audiences, with different purposes. In doing so, we expect, and research has shown, that you will be more likely to take these writing practices with you to other courses, and to be more agile in your writing as you will be well versed in understanding your own writing processes, rhetorical situations, and how writing operates. 


Other Questions contact the Director of Composition, at