SPRING 2017 TUE 10:05 – 12:35

This course, limited to 10 students, is by permission of the instructor only. To apply, please email toril@duke.edu. Attach as a word document a 500 word text explaining why you want to take this course. Do include some thoughts about what writing means for you, why you think a course called “Writing Is Thinking” can help you with your own projects. Also please include your name, PhD program and year in the program on your application document.


Writing is a fundamental part of academic life. This course aims to teach graduate students at any level, from first-year students to dissertation writers, how to write well and with enjoyment, and how to make writing a part of their daily life as creative intellectuals. The course starts from the premise that writing is thinking: that we develop our own thoughts in the act of trying to express them, and that the more we learn to use writing at every stage of our work, the more we increase the range and depth of our thinking, and the more likely it is that we will get our writing published. On this view, writing is always rewriting; revision is integral to the process of writing.

In this course, the sentence is the key building block for writing. If every sentence you write make sense, you will find it easier to build paragraphs, and larger units.

When is note-taking useful, and when is it a waste of time? What is the difference between taking the usual reading notes, and taking the kind of notes that will help us as writers? By practicing different kinds of note-taking, we can integrate writing in our research.

We will learn to read as writers by working closely with selected examples of academic and non-fiction prose. This means learning to read not just as consumers of ideas, but as crafters of sentences, paragraphs, essays and books. What is the difference (if any) between good academic writing and good non-fiction writing? Do academic writers need to care about the shape and structure of their sentences, or paragraphs? Should they? What is “voice”? How do we take the audience’s needs into account?

We will learn to cut our own texts. We will discuss how best to use quotations, and consider the differences between different academic genres: what is the difference between a seminar paper and a published article? An MLA panel paper and a full-scale invited talk? What is the point of footnotes (or endnotes for that matter)?

We will also discuss and practice different types of writing groups. Learn how to ask for the kind of feedback you need, and how to use feedback.

The course will use one writing handbook: Verlyn Klinkenborg, Several Short Sentences about Writing. Other handbooks will be introduced as necessary.

The course will be writing intensive. You will have weekly deadlines for short pieces of writing. You will also get detailed feed-back on your writing every week.

Assignments: Weekly writing assignments of various kinds; participation in exploratory writing groups, participation in collective editing and rewriting in class. A short final essay.