A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

How to use Writing Commons?

Welcome to Writing Commons, the open-education home for writers. Writing Commons helps students improve their writing, critical thinking, and information literacy. Founded in 2008 by Joseph M. Moxley, Writing Commons is a viable alternative to expensive writing textbooks. Faculty may assign Writing Commons for their compositionbusinesstechnical, and creative writing courses. 

Writing Commons houses seven main sections: Information Literacy | Research Methods & Methodologies | Writing Processes | Collaboration | Genres | New Media | Style 

The two best ways to navigate through Writing Commons are using the top menu navigation, called Open Text, or the left-hand navigation menu system.  


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Archive-April 2014

"Power in the Black Stuff" by: Laura L. Beadling 

Synthesis Notes: Working With Sources To Create a First Draft

snowflakeSynthesis Notes: Working With Sources To Create a First Draft was written By Erika Szymanski 

Synthesis notes are a strategy for taking and using reading notes that bring together—synthesize—what we read with our thoughts about our topic in a way that lets us integrate our notes seamlessly into the process of writing a first draft. Six steps will take us from reading sources to a first draft.   

When we read, it is easy to take notes that don’t help us build our own arguments when we move from note-taking to writing. In high school, most of us learned to take notes that summarize readings. Summarizing works well when the purpose of our notes is to help us memorize information quickly for a test. When we read in preparation for writing a research-supported argument, however, summarizing is inefficient because our notes don’t reflect how our sources fit into our argument. We have to return to our sources and try to recall why and how we saw them contribute to our thinking.


Power in the “Black Stuff”

wordsPower in the “Black Stuff” was written by Laura L. Beadling 

Concision—saying more with less—is an undervalued but critical writing skill, especially when writing a screenplay.  Part of the reason that concision is so undervalued is that it seems easy but is actually quite difficult and takes skill, intellectual effort and ruthlessness (as a well-known bit of writing advice goes, you must “kill all your darlings”).

If you can eliminate a sentence, a phrase, or even a few words, you probably should.  This is especially true in a screenplay, which is a space-bound genre; screenplays typically run approximately 90-120 pages because 1 screenplay page is roughly equal to 1 minute of screen time and most movies run between 90 minutes and two hours.  You don’t want to waste your precious space because you’re being needlessly long-winded! 


Why Meet with a Writing Tutor?

"Why Meet with a Writing Tutor?" was written by Sarah Pittock, PhD, of Stanford University 

You may think of writing as a lonely activity, something to work at in a hushed, half-lit library carrel.  Or you may think of writing merely as a matter of correctness, of getting all the commas in just the right places.  Or you may suffer from writing anxiety and feel unable to produce the first word, let alone the first page.  These writing challenges, and many others, can be addressed in a meeting with a writing tutor.  Tutoring has the reputation of being remedial, of serving students with limited writing experience.  But the writing tutorial can benefit all writers—freshman, graduate, or faculty—and represents a significant learning opportunity. 


Photos on this page courtesy of University of Pennsylvania, University Communications.

2013 Aaron Swartz Best Webtext Award

The Aaron Swartz Best Webtext Award 2013

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