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


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 composition, business, STEM/Technical Writing, and creative writing courses. 

Writing Commons houses ten main sections: Academic Writing | Rhetoric | Information Literacy | Evidence & Documentation | Research Methods & Methodologies | Style | New Media Communication | Professional & Technical Communication | Creative Writing | Reviews

The two best ways to navigate through Writing Commons are using the top menu navigation, under Chapters, or use the site search field to the right of the menu.

Learn to write convincing evaluations and improve your critical thinking abilities. Evaluate a performance (such as a movie, speech, or play), a visual (such as an ad or artwork), or a text (such as a Web site). Read exemplary evaluative texts, define appropriate assessment criteria, and write a convincing and well-researched evaluation.

Reviews present an author's opinion or interpretation. Writing an evaluative text involves defining criteria and then applying these criteria to assess a subject.

Mark Twain once wrote, “Don’t say the old lady screamed—bring her on and let her scream.”  What he was trying to convey is the power of storytelling, or narration, in a piece of writing.  Many times it is more effective to tell a story, to let the old lady scream, than to just state facts or state an argument—that is, to say the old lady screamed.  Narrative essays are essays that enable you to tell a story (or stories) to make a point.

A well-chosen and well-told story will capture and hold your readers’ attention, arousing their curiosity or sympathy, and making your ideas more thought-provoking and memorable.

By reading and discussing literature, we expand our imagination, our sense of what is possible, and our ability to empathize with others. Improve your ability to read critically and interpret texts while gaining appreciation for different literary genres and theories of interpretation. Read samples of literary interpretation. Write a critique of a literary work.

Texts that interpret literary works are usually persuasive texts. Literary critics may conduct a close reading of a literary work, critique a literary work from the stance of a particular literary theory, or debate the soundness of other critics' interpretations.

What is Literature and Why Does it Matter?

Literature is what makes the world whirl. Whether a student is reading about Miranda’s encounter with a “Brave New World” in William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, a “falling star” in John Milton’s poem “Song,” or “a Spring Saturday” in Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, what the student reads was written by an author who aimed to give a reader his or her perspective—or spin—on the world in the form of literature. By reading literature with a critical eye, one can begin to go beyond simply expressing a like or dislike of a particular text, delving deeper into the particular view of the world that an author wanted to convey. 

In contrast to analyzing the structure, codes, or patterns in a literary text, biographical criticism emphasizes the relationship between the author and his or her literary work. Since the premise of biographical criticism maintains that the author and his or her literary work cannot be separated, critics look for glimpses of the author’s consciousness or life in the author’s work. Early childhood events, psychological illnesses, relational conflicts, desires (fulfilled or unfulfilled), among other things, may all arise in an author’s work. 

Feminist criticism, or gender studies, focuses on the role of women (or gender) in a literary text. According to Bressler, “central to the diverse aims and methods of feminist criticism is its focus on patriarchy, the rule of society and culture by men” (168). Feminist criticism is useful for analyzing how gender itself is socially constructed for both men and women. Gender studies also considers how literature upholds or challenges those constructions, offering a unique way to approach literature.

Support your arguments with reasoning, library and Internet research, and original research, including questionnaires, interviews, and ethnographies. Employ emotional, ethical, and logical appeals to sway readers' opinions.

Arguments are persuasive texts. Writers make specific claims and support these claims with reasoning; library and Internet research; and original research, including questionnaires, interviews, and ethnographers. There are three main types:

Understand how to make and refute arguments. Learn how to analyze a Web site from a rhetorical perspective. Identify a place to publish your work online.

Appeals to persona, appeals to emotions, and appeals to logic--these three appeals, as outlined by Aristotle and described below, are used with varying degrees of success and emphasis to persuade people. Persuasive arguments targeting critical readers tend to be thoroughly grounded in logic.

Solving Problems by Negotiating Differences 

How many times have you been in an argument that you knew you couldn't win? Are you reluctant to change your mind about certain social, political, or personal issues? Do you have an unshakable faith in a particular religion or philosophy? For example, are you absolutely certain that abortion is immoral under all circumstances? Are you categorically against animal experimentation for advancements in medicine?

When faced with a creative writing assignment in your composition class, you may feel a bit nervous at first. How do you write something that’s not a research paper, where your main goal is to tell a story in a clear and inventive way?

Learning to tell a story—or have a strong, narrative voice—is a useful skill both in the classroom and outside of it. You can use storytelling to write a gripping opening to a paper.

Below is an aggregated listed of undergraduate publishing websites (open article to view the full list):

  • Begin the Annotated Bibliography at the top of a new page
  • Center the title of the Annotated Bibliography page
  • Arrange these sources in alphabetical order
  • Review the components of an annotation
  • Review the parts of an annotation

Organize your research efforts and extend your thinking on a research topic by creating an annotated bibliography.

An annotated bibliography is a list of reference sources and critical summaries/evaluations of the citations. Typically, researchers will:

  1. Provide the citation information for each source following the rules of a particular bibliography style (e.g., MLA Style, APA Style, Chicago Style). Logically, you want to use the citation style in your bibliography that you will use in your research report. Examples of citation sources include books, articles, Internet sites, newspapers, and audiovisual materials.
  2. List each reference source in alphabetical order.

"Why are things like this? What is the effect, or result, of this?" and "What causes this?"--These questions guide authors as they analyze or argue about causal relationships, such as "What is the effect of a college education on income?" View fascinating reports on various cause/effect topics and then explore your own causal relationship. Improve your critical thinking skills.

Unlike explanations of processes, which follow a chronological order of events, cause and effect texts are deeply speculative and tentative, relying on causal reasoning and argument. Your purpose is to answer

Thus far, you’ve learned how to critically approach a variety of texts, how to make the most of different writing spaces like blogs and wikis, how to begin the brainstorming process by freewriting and drawing from personal experience, and how to identify and trace the ongoing conversations about particular issues. The bibliographic essay asks you to evaluate the conversation about the topic you’ve chosen by demonstrating through supporting evidence how the conversation has—or has not—changed over time.

The website eHow has a page on “How to Freestyle Rap” (“Difficulty: Moderately Challenging”), and I’m trying to figure out what I think about it. On one hand, it seems like it would be against the ethos of an authentic rapper to use a page like this to brush up on freestyle skills. After all, the page is hosted on a corporate website owned by Demand Media, Inc., the same people behind, among other things, a golf site.

But on the other hand, the advice seems solid. The eHow page encourages me to follow an easy, seven-step model

No better time to use appeals to kairos in your persuasive writing exists. If this term and/or topic are completely new, read “Kairos.” Every day, writers who understand and effectively incorporate kairos into their writing have an advantage: they can creditably connect their message to the audience’s sense of place and time.

An effective writer appeals to kairos by considering, and taking advantage of, the moment into which one’s writing will enter. Ask these questions:

  • Where will my writing be read?
  • When will my writing be read?

To view the Rhetorical Appeals table, please open the full article.

By now you know that all arguments operate according to an internal logic. No matter which of the four rhetorical appeals the author uses, her thesis will succeed or fail based on the soundness of her argument. In classical logic, an argument is sound only if all of its premises are true and the argument is valid. And an argument is valid only if its conclusion follows logically from the combination of its premises. For example, Plato’s classic syllogism, “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man: therefore, Socrates is mortal” is both valid and sound. Its premises are true, and the conclusion is undeniable given an understanding of the definitions of the terms.

  • Ad Hominem (Argument to the Person): Attacking the person instead of the argument. For example, "You say I shouldn't drink so much, but you drink every day." The validity of the argument (drink less) can't be based on the behavior of the person making the argument. Instead, the validity of the argument should be evaluated on its own terms—separate from the person making the claim.

  • Argument by Dismissal: Rejecting an idea without providing a reason or explanation for its dismissal. For instance, there is a tendency to cry "socialism" when faced with calls for a single-payer system in the ongoing health care debate. Such a dismissal of the single-payer system may include the observations, "This is America!," or, "You are free to live elsewhere if you prefer."