The Department of Religion established a writing program in 1994 as its contribution to Calvin’s college-wide writing program. The goal was for students to “learn to write and write to learn” in general and in ways specific to the disciplines taught by the Religion department. The department approved a series of components aimed at improving students’ writing at every stage of our teaching. Most of the components of the program are integrated into departmental courses through the writing assignments that professors require of their students.
In addition to the writing that is already part of their courses, all religion majors are also required to designate one of the courses of their major (not REL 357 or 396) as a writing-enriched course. The goal of this requirement is to help students further develop their abilities in both writing and research. Students must have already completed English 101 or 102 with a minimum grade of C; they should ordinarily complete this writing-enriched course during their junior year so that it is done before they take the Religion Senior Seminar. This requirement involves the following elements:
- At least 3750 words of carefully monitored writing (through at least two different assignments, including a research/thesis paper).
- A component of revision (at least one-third of the written work for the course can be revised).
- Significant faculty instruction and feedback on writing (including at least one student-professor meeting focused on writing).
- Writing is to count for at least 25% of the final grade.
- Early in the course, student and professor should develop a contract that specifies the requirements and their due dates (see the department web page for the basic contract).
Writing Style and Mechanics:
- Students are to submit a “diagnostic essay” during the first three weeks of the course. Professors should use this essay to focus the student's attention on elements of their writing style and mechanics that need work.
- In order to guide their reflection on the elements of good writing, students will read Joseph Williams and Gregory Colomb, Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace, 4th ed. (Longman, 2011). The instructor should specify on the contract for the course how the student will be kept accountable for this requirement.
The Components of Research Writing:
- In order to guide their understanding of the elements and stages of good research, students will read chapters 1-7 and 9-11 in Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers, 7th or 8th ed. (University of Chicago Press, 2007, 2013).
- In connection with their reading of these chapters, students will develop and write a research/thesis paper under the guidance of their professor, following the schedule drawn up by the professor and clarified on the contract for the writing-enriched course.