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Political Science

“Modern English... especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration.”

Participating in WIT since 2010
LWTA Kate Korychi

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,”
Horizon, 13, 76, pp 252‐265, (April1946).

In political science we have concentrated WIT resources in first year because many students enter the university without the requisite writing and analytic skills. Our second-year political theory course, POL200, is also involved in WIT and in the version of the course taught by Professor Rebecca Kingston has a thoughtfully constructed series of scaffolded assignments that teach students the requisite critical reading and writing skills for political theory.

Good political science writing is a reflection of good political science thinking. Training in analysis and the acquisition of writing skills cannot be separated; writing should be taught as integral to the craft of political science. Political science students need not only to improve their writing in a generic sense, but they also need to learn how to write in a discipline-specific way.

WIT has enabled us to offer customized instruction for students in political science in our very large first year course, POL101. We do this primarily through tutorials, some of which focus on developing students critical reading and writing skills. For example, one tutorial gives students practice identifying and argument in a course text. Another tutorial has students doing guided peer review on a draft of their essay.

Delivering such instruction to over twelve hundred first year students is not only helping us improve the quality of students’ writing, but it has also made us aware of the enormous impact that such instruction can have for courses in the second year and beyond. The earlier our students acquire these interlocking sets of skills, the more they will benefit from their subsequent education and the more likely they are to perform at a wide range of related tasks. It is vital therefore that they acquire these skills as early as possible.

We have accordingly formulated the following goals for the teaching of writing in POL101.

 By the end of the year students should be able to:

  • Identify the arguments (in particular separate argument from context and evidence) and assumptions (both explicit and implicit) of the authors they are reading.
  • Move beyond a mere summary of the arguments of others so as to develop their own critiques of received arguments and formulate their own analyses of them.
  • Formulate their own research questions, paying specific attention to questions of the scope and originality of such questions.
  • Organize and structure their own arguments and recognize the difference between an argument and opinion.
  • Understand the need for analysis of evidence to substantiate their arguments.
  • Draw on multiple sources relevant to their questions and integrate these sources into their responses to these questions.
  • Deploy comprehensive and accurate referencing and citation
  • Express themselves clearly and coherently

POL Courses that have participated in WIT:

  • POL101Y
  • POL200Y