Sample Handout Beck & Kopp
Writing-to-Learn & Formal Writing
This is a writing emphasis course. That means that you will be doing a considerable amount of writing as a
primary means of achieving course objectives. Throughout the course, you will be asked to do two very
different types of writing: writing-to-learn and formal writing. In general, writing-to-learn is used as a tool of
thinking and learning, while formal writing is a tool of communication with others.
PURPOSE: To help you learn the content of the course. The stakes are usually quite low.
AUDIENCE: Yourself (and, possibly, others very familiar with your subject & purpose, such as your
classmates & instructor).
EXAMPLES: Journals, logs, reading notes, marginal notes, concept maps, mind maps, hierarchical trees,
field notes, to-do lists, outlines, informal messages and letters, early drafts of formal writing.
PROCESS: Whatever is quick and efficient.
CORRECTNESS: Irrelevant—only what is necessary for understanding.
EVALUATION: Exploratory writing is not meant to be judged as a well-written display of knowledge; it is
it helps you explore and develop your thoughts and feelings;
it helps you recognize what you know;
it reveals what you don't know or are confused about;
it stimulates further reflection and dialogue;
everyone who needs to read it (primarily you—the writer) can understand it.
PURPOSE: To give form to your knowledge and skills and communicate them to others.
AUDIENCE: Your professor and/or other readers, such as peers in the profession or general
EXAMPLES: Academic & scientific papers, business letters and memos, reports, reviews,
informational articles, brochures, etc.
PROCESS: Extended over time, involves discovering ideas, analyzing the audience and context for
writing, researching, planning, , drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading.
CORRECTNESS: The writing must follow the conventions your audience expects, including spelling,
punctuation, grammar, proper format and style.
EVALUATION: Formal writing is meant to be evaluated by the audience, who will usually look for
clear organization and train of thought,
adequate development of ideas,
effective engagement with and guidance of the audience,
an appropriate tone and a respectable written persona
concise and coherent prose,
conventional spelling, punctuation, formatting, etc.
informed use of disciplinary conventions (such as documentation style, tables
and figures, etc.).