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Core Courses

EN101 - Composition
Course Description


The goal of EN101 Composition is to significantly contribute to the accomplishment of the following statement taken from the Communication Goal chapter in Educating Future Army Officers for a Changing World (EFAOFACW):

“By the end of their first year, cadets meet a college-level standard of basic proficiency in argumentative writing and establish their competence as writers ready to develop their skills in future undergraduate assignments.”

The specific EN101 course objectives are as follows:

  1. Instruct cadets in the four elements of effective communication listed in EFAOFACW, Section II, Communication: Substance, Organization, Style, and Correctness.
  2. Help cadets to become better academic writers by emphasizing effective use of a writing process and the responsible use of sources in the preparation of argumentative essays.
  3. Improve cadet ability to read and think critically by exposing them to a variety of important and interesting essays that investigate profound and enduring themes and issues.
  4. Develop cadet awareness of the rhetorical dimensions of different writing projects and the need to employ appropriate conventions for each.

Course Requirements

  1. Three Homework Essays, ranging from 4-6 pages. Each essay requires cadets to respond critically to readings in the course anthology. One essay entails research in the Jefferson Library.
  2. An annotated bibliography in support of the research essay.
  3. A number of minor assignments designed to facilitate successful execution of the Homework Essays.
  4. A variety of other assignments that expose cadets to writing standards in other academic disciplines and allow them to experiment with other modes of presentation (technical reports, Web writing, oral presentations, presentation visuals and supplements, etc.).
  5. A Term End Examination that tests cadets’ ability to write an essay unassisted by tutors, mentors, and other sources of help.

Course Texts

  1. The New Humanities Reader, 4th edition.  Eds. Richard E. Miller and Kurt Spellmeyer.
  2. They Say/I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 2nd edition.  Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein.
  3.  The Little, Brown Handbook, 12th edition.

Course Leadership

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Message to the Class of 2016

The primary goal of EN101 Composition is to help you become a better academic writer. The course will emphasize a writing process that enables you to develop ideas, formulate arguments, generate drafts, revise effectively, and meticulously prepare final copies of your essays. You will learn the importance of understanding the audience, context, and purpose for each writing project, and will occasionally pause to reflect on your own development as a writer.

To achieve this goal, we will read and discuss essays authored by a variety of important and interesting writers. The readings will inspire you to think seriously about the issues they raise and serve as models for your own compositions. An important aspect of the course is learning to work responsibly with sources: using other writers’ ideas and words to develop and support your own arguments. You will become skilled at quoting, summarizing, and explaining other people’s words and ideas in your own compositions, while appropriately citing their origin.

All these skills will enhance your ability to write college-quality essays in all of your courses and prepare you for more difficult writing challenges you will encounter at West Point..

The course readings explore contemporary social, political, and cultural issues in fields such as education, the environment, economics, gender, science and technology.  These issues are relevant to how we live now—at West Point, in the Army, and in the nation and world at large.  The readings invite you to consider deeply problems you will face in your future as a military officer and responsible citizens.  

Good luck, work hard, and let us know what you think.

-LTC Peter Molin
EN101 Composition Course Director

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EN101 Writing Standards

Successful authors of college essays demonstrate an astute sense of the rhetorical situation to which they respond - an awareness of each writing project’s audience, context, and purpose. Successful authors also demonstrate an efficient use of the writing process - a methodological approach to composition that emphasizes generative writing, idea development, drafting, receiving feedback, revision, editing, and proofreading.

Successful essays are substantial - insightful, original, thorough, and compelling. They are well-organized - main ideas are logically presented, paragraphs are unified and mutually supportive, and transitions between sentences are smooth. They are stylistically clear and graceful - their language is exact, jargon-free, and appropriate to the argument and audience addressed. They follow the conventions of standard academic discourse and standard American English, and they are generally free of correctness errors.

Effective college writing demonstrates proficient collaboration and citation techniques - the responsible and acknowledged use of other people’s words and ideas, wherever they may be obtained.

The following questions refine the explanations of substance, organization, style, and correctness and conventions offered above:

  • Substance - factual accuracy, appropriate and adequate evidence, pertinent research, purposeful use of data, intelligent thought, proper attribution.
    • Does the essay address the prompt?
    • Does the essay make a substantial and compelling argument?
    • Does the essay communicate intelligent, responsible ideas?
    • Does the essay offer original analysis, not mere summary?
  • Organization - coherence, intelligibility, conciseness, orderliness, soundness of logical relationships, persuasiveness, completeness, appropriate method and form of presentation.
    • Does the essay have a beginning, middle, and end?
    • Does the essay support a well-conceived, clearly written, properly placed thesis statement?
    • Do ideas flow logically from sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph?
    • Does the essay cohere?
  • Style - fluency of language, precision of vocabulary, appropriateness of tone, effectiveness of sentence structure, use of active verbs, imaginative use of language.
    • Does the choice of words convey meaning clearly?
    • Does the tone suit the intended audience?
    • Does the writing avoid clichés, slang, or inappropriate passive voice?
  • Correctness and Conventions - observance of appropriate usage, grammar, spelling, punctuation, documentation format, and other conventions of educated discourse.
    • Can the writer spell, punctuate, cite evidence, and document correctly?
    • Do sentences follow the principles governing the way words fit together?
    • Do errors distract a reader’s attention from the purpose of the writing?
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