Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence

January 20, 2016 | Updated: January 9, 2020
Author: Amy Guptill, The College at Brockport, SUNY

Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence is designed for students who have largely mastered the conventions of high-school level writing and are now rising to meet more the advanced expectations of college. Students will find in Writing in College a warm invitation to think of themselves as full, self-motivated members of the academic community. With concise explanations, clear multi-disciplinary examples and empathy for the challenges of student life, this short textbook both explains the purposes behind college-level writing and offers indispensable advice for organization and expression.

Subject Areas
Communication/Writing, Academic Writing

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Writing in College: From Competence to Excellence by Amy Guptill, The College at Brockport, SUNY is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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Reviews (3) Avg: 4.5 / 5

Sheryl Newton

Institution:University of the Fraser ValleyTitle/Position: Associate ProfessorCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The text covers most areas of the subject appropriately. Even though paraphrasing is discussed, the text lacks a chapter on summarizing and paraphrasing. There is an effective index but no glossary; a glossary is not needed for this text.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

Content is accurate.

Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The craft of writing has not changed much over the years. The author's information is mostly up-to-date. Any text that needs further updating would be easily implemented.

Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The text is clear and accessible. There is no jargon. Some technical terminology needs to be further explored, such as summarization.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

There is nothing further to say.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The text is easily and readily divisible throughout. There are plenty of subheadings in larger chapters.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

This is a very clear text and the ordering of the topics is logical. Upon first glance at the ordering, I wondered why introductions and conclusions were separate from the thesis chapter, but as I read through, the ordering of the topics made sense for a first year writing course, as the ordering emphasizes the importance of having strong content.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

There are no interface issues. There are many links throughout which I found a little distracting. I think I would have preferred to see hyperlinks left in the notes section of each page rather than having hyperlinks throughout the main text.

Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

There are no grammatical errors; however, there is a typo. In the chapter,"What's Critical about Critical Thinking," the first sentence says "that if often...," and it should say, "that [it] often..."

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

I think there could be a few more examples for inclusivity, maybe when the author looks at texts as examples. There could be examples from indigenous writers or even lgbtq writers.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

Overall, Writing for College is a succulently written text. Reading about the art of writing can be quite dull, but Amy Guptill has just enough humour in the text to keep it interesting. I was pleased to see all of the writing examples and the discussions about the writing. I also enjoyed seeing the different exercises at the end of each section. I wish I had this text before I started university level courses!

While this text is meant for first-year courses, I would use it for university writing prep courses as well. I teach a pre-university composition course, and I usually have a difficult time finding a suitable textbook for it, but this particular text would work perfectly.

Kimberley Nowitsky

Institution:Langara CollegeTitle/Position: EAP InstructorCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

Although this is not a long textbook, the topics covered is quite comprehensive. The most important macro and micro aspects of becoming a better writer are included. The chapters are logically sequenced in the order in which one may approach a written assignment. The content covers a broad range. While highlighting the mechanics of what makes good writing and the importance of using reliable sources, the book also includes the importance of learner autonomy and responsibility in a post-secondary classroom.
The author also includes useful exercises and other resources at the end of each chapter, enabling readers to do further practice or research.



Comprehensiveness Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The content is fair and accurate. It includes a variety of examples and quotes from a variety of sources and attempts to give global advice which could be applied to any writing assignment. There are some random quotes from individuals. It may be useful to include their titles to provide more context and prove their background in academics or writing.

Content Accuracy Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

Academic writing and grammar do not seem to evolve significantly so the content of this textbook will be relevant in years to come and may be a useful reference tool for students throughout their academic career. It focuses on the basic principles of what has traditionally made good writing and organization. What is lacking however is how some sources have evolved. In particular, the use of online content as an academic source is not mentioned. With more and more experts sharing their knowledge on platforms such such as TedTalks or YouTube, it would be helpful to acknowledge how these sources are cited in-text and in reference lists. This update could be easily added to the end of Chapter 5.

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

This textbook is reader friendly and direct. The use of expression and language would be easily accessible for any level of student, but mostly for first or second year students. The sentences aren't overly long or loaded with academic jargon or examples. The writer's sense of humour comes through which makes this text a pleasant read.

Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The text is consistent throughout. Each chapter builds on the previous ones, recycling ideas, terminology and advice given by the author. The text appropriately highlights background information on each topic for the reader and applies this information to support the main idea of each chapter. Common writing problems or challenges are included, followed by appropriate solutions or advice and follow up resources and exercises. Also the tone of the text remains consistent.

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The chapters of this text could be used chronologically or as stand alone units. While the chapters compliment and build on each other, the individual chapters could be studied independently. Additionally, shorter sections in each chapter could be easily assigned as there are clear sub-headings throughout each chapter. Overall, dividing up the content of this textbook should not cause confusion for the reader as each chapter addresses a separate theme related to writing skills.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The organization of this text is user-friendly. Headings and subheadings are clear along with sections, points and lists. Using a variety of font types and sizes help to visually divide the text into digestible parts. The chapters are ordered logically, as previously mentioned, for the most part following the steps students should take when given an assignment. The information on the pages is well-spaced and in some parts complimented with visuals.

Organization Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

I did not find any interface issues.

Interface Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

This textbook has been edited well for grammatical and spelling errors.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

This text is not highly diverse which may be due to the nature of this subject. However, this text could be more diverse with some simple revisions. All of the names, including contributors, in this textbook are of European origin. This includes many of the sample pieces of writing and the topics in the samples, for example: King in England and Magna Carta. There is little to no mention of minority cultures or names throughout this textbook. Every example references a Caucasian name or person or a historical event from the developed world.
While there is mention of gendered language, it seems limited to pronoun usage. There may be other grammatical choices that readers should be aware of.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 2 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

I would recommend this textbook as the content is easily digestible and user-friendly from a teaching perspective.

JIM HU

Institution:Thompson Rivers UniversityTitle/Position: ASSOCIATE PROFESSORCreative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

The text is designed to help new college and university students understand what is expected in academic writing or writing in the disciplines. Despite its volume of 85 pages, the text is fairly comprehensive in explaining the transition from secondary to post-secondary writing, professor expectations regarding assignments (for example, right arguments rather than right answers), source utilization, discourse style, and writing mechanics. The exercises and other resources at the end of each chapter are a great asset for the teacher. In this sense, the text serves well as a supplemental text for university writing. However, due to its conciseness, more could be desired if adopted as a sole text for a university composition or writing course that has a focus on writing processes, models, and rhetorical types. The text has no index or glossary.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

The content is accurate and error-free. However, a note could be made toward the beginning for student readers regarding the quotes in boxes. These quotes from students contain colloquial expressions and should not be taken as models for academic writing (e.g., "voila, you have a perfectly cited resource!" p. 46; "Then, you ... EDIT (haha, made you flinch!)" p. 49).

Content Accuracy Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

The content is relevant to teaching and learning how to create excellent writing in a university setting. Given that the text is an open book and that many students prefer to use Internet sources in academic writing, it would be desirable to have more guidance on the latest Internet citation. It is worth mentioning that the latest APA (7th ed) has introduced or confirmed some interesting language uses. For example: "A researcher's career depends on how often they [instead of he or she] are cited."

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The language is accessible, conversational, and easy to read; it has a sense of humor, avoiding an otherwise potentially boring process. University students should have little difficulty comprehending the technical terms.

Clarity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

The text is consistent in the use of terminology within the book. Each chapter introduces a theme topic, explains the topic and offers advice and strategies to deal with the topic, and generally ends with some form of a conclusion. As well, each chapter has an appendix of further resources and exercises. Note that cohesion and coherence are interpreted somewhat differently in other writing textbooks and linguistic literature (e.g., Halliday & Hasan, 1976).

Consistency Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

Although the chapters flow following the writing process, each chapter can easily stand on its own focusing on a specific theme. Students do not have to read previous chapters in order to understand a latter one. Similarly, the chapter has subheadings on sub-themes or subtopics that can be accessed independently. Thus the teacher can start or continue with any chapter deemed a priority for a particular class.

Modularity Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

The topics in the chapters follow a clear, logical order consistent with concerns of the writing process, moving from understanding assignments and professor expectations, to presenting theses and arguments, to using sources, and to attending to style and language mechanics.

Organization Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

No significant interface issues were found, except one problem: Some Internet links do not work. This can be fixed with updating. Using colors for headings and subheadings could help with online viewing.

Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

The text does a good job in terms of language accuracy in general but a few minor language issues and errors are apparent.
1. p. 14 "But it is still seems..."
2. p. 15. "so many different ways that if often seems meaningless."
3. p. 55 "Williams' and Bizup's excellent lesson"
4. p. 72 "The balanced structure and contrasting language reinforces ...." (Cf. "The balanced structure adds ...")
5. p. 77 "one that simple adds extra information."
6. p. 79 "a dependent clause is serving as as an introductory element."

One can argue the omission of the hyphen in the following is a personal choice of style, not necessarily an error, but as a writing textbook that many new university students regard as language models, it would be better to keep the hyphen as there are professors who prefer the convention.
1. p. 6 "Good, well constructed writing..."
2. p. 52 "a thoughtful and well organized argument"
I recommend using checkers such as Grammarly and Microsoft Word Spelling and Grammar checkers to detect such errors and issues.

Grammar Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

I do not see insensitive or offensive language in these areas although the variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds represented in the examples is limited.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

I recommend this text as a supplemental writing manual. Updates might be considered in view of the 7th edition of APA