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


unCommon News

A crowd-powered newsletter for a writing-centered community.

Issue 6, November, 2012

Hello friends,

When Governor Jerry Brown of California signed legislation that supports the creation of 50 free textbooks for common undergraduate courses, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) quickly critiqued the idea of free textbooks, suggesting it would costs “tens of millions of dollars to develop, distribute and maintain” these textbooks.

For Governor Brown as well as the AAP, we have some great news: You can cross one important textbook off of your list!  California, welcome to Writing Commons! 

We are pleased to announce that past issues of "unCommon News" are now available at our archive, and they are linked through Rich Haswell's CompPile. We are honored to be anchored at CompPile, a quality crowd-powered academic resource.

In this issue we will explore:

  • Two Calls for Papers--one on academic argument, and one on Information Literacy
  • Writing Commons traffic report
  • A note from one of our users
  • Social Media

The Traffic Report

Traffic at Writing Commons is on a steady rise; in October alone we had more than 30,000 users. With around 1,000 users accessing Writing Commons every day, we look forward to making it 2,000.

What does more traffic at Writing Commons mean for you? Each user accessing Writing Commons is a vote for the relevance, quality, and scholastic value of every article published, and that article could be yours. So send in your work and enjoy the benefits of 30,000 readers a month.

User Report: Susan Youngblood

We've asked how you, our users, employ Writing Commons in your classrooms and this is what you had to say. This is how Susan Youngblood plans on using Writing Commons in her upcoming technical writing service courses:

I've selected a condensed book for the class, and I plan to use WC (Writing Commons) resources as supplements. In particular, I plan to add the following components:
  • managing group projects (for the group report assignment)
  • copyright and writing (for the instructions assignment because some students need the video)
  • some of the style entries
  • some pages on incorporating evidence (for the report assignment)
And I'll incoprorate a set of resources I built from scratch before I learned about WC, resources that cover usage and other WC-type topics. 
I knew I could select a comprehensive textbook for the class, but students in the class are largely from other majors, especially nutrition & dietetics, wildlife biology, and building science. They seem intimidated by the large, dense chapters in most expensive writing textbooks and, for this and several other reasons, they often don't read them. My service course students seem more likely to read bite-sized pieces about relevant topics, and both the condensed book and WC present information this way. Also, the comprehensive books are expensive (sometimes a few students put off buying then and fall behind in class) and heavy (many students are reluctant to tote them to class when they are carrying materials for a number of classes).
Were our audience for this class to shift significantly, I might change books and approaches, but I still like having short easy to read supplements.

We thank Susan for sharing her students' thoughts on how Writing Commons helps bridge the gaps left behind by other course materials.

Do you have an anecdote or story about how you use Writing Commons in your classroom; maybe you just want to share some pedagogy? Either way, drop us a line; we want to hear from our users!

Calls for Papers

As an organic, digital, recursive text we are interested in receiving new and interesting articles and chapters to expand the breadth and depth of what we can offer our global community of writers.

While we welcome submissions covering all aspects of writing, we are especially in need of content focused on academic argument. In the past Writing Commons has partnered with the first-year composition program at the University of South Florida to produce a derivative work, a textbook used by that writing program--one that more specifically focuses on academic argument.

Those interested in submitting articles should contact Jason Carabelli and Brogan Sullivan at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details about recommended content and conventions.  Note: all submissions will be reviewed by editors at Writing Commons.

A list of submission topics is as follows:

Forms of Academic Writing

Writers Emphasize Complexity

Writing is an Ongoing Conversation

Writing is a Process

What is an Argument?

Understanding Claims

Visual Rhetoric and Cultural Lenses

Writing a Rhetorical Analysis

Research as Conversation

Research as Discovery

Defining Evidence

Summarizing and Paraphrasing

Formulating a Thesis

Thesis Models

Making and Supporting Claims

Considering the Opposing Side

Considering Audience, Purpose, and Genre

Classical Argument Structure

Tracing a Logical Progression

Introductions and Conclusions

Citing Your Sources

Writing Helpful Peer Reviews

Making the Most of Peer Feedback

Making the Most of Instructor Feedback

Information Literacy

Submission should be between 500 and 1,000 words, and should take advantage of the capablities offered by the digital space (i.e., the ability to include Creative Commons-licenced images, to embed YouTube or other videos, to hyperlink, etc). Topics may address:

  • What is information literacy? (an introduction to the concept)
  • Determining what information you need
  • Approaching online sources / conducting research online
    • Identifying credible electronic sources
    • Discovering and using library databases
      • Understanding best resources for research
      • An annotated list of electronic databases that first-year undergraduate students might find particularly useful
    • Understanding the place of place of resources like Wikipedia in the research process
  • Distinguishing between different types of sources (i.e., an edited collection, a book, a journal article, etc.)
  • Understanding the connection between writing and research
  • Citation Mining
  • Avoiding plagiarism and citing correctly
    • Formatting according to Chicago style
    • Formatting according to Harvard style
Submissions should be sent as Word docs to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." data-mce-href="mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by December 1, 2012. If images are used, please attach them to the same email as seperate files (preferably jpegs), indicating their placement within the text file. Citation should follow the current edition of the MLA Handbook. For more formatting and style, please see the "Guide for Authors." Queries are encouraged and may be directed to either Quentin Vieregge at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Jennifer Yirinec at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Social Media

Keep up with Writing Commons using your favorite social networking sites.

Writing Commons has its own Facebook site, where we keep our status and postings relevant to the latest site information, as well as news about the greater Open Education Resource community.

Writing Commons is also available on Twitter using @writingcommons and #writingcommons.

Writing Commons' tweets consist of answers to students' most common writing questions, such as "What's a paragraph supposed to have?" and "What's an argument, again?" Each tweet is hyper-linked to our Writing Commons blog, where Writing Commons staff provides succinct, accessible answers and helpful examples.

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