Writing 5 or Writing 2-3?

Writing 2-3

Writing 2-3 is a two-term, two-credit course that provides more intensive guidance through the reading, writing, and research processes, including individual support from teaching assistants and a culminating research project. Some entering students are invited to complete an online directed self-placement process during the summer. 

See this page for more information about the online directed self-placement process for writing courses.

If you have been invited to participate in the online directed self-placement process, please consider when making your decision that Writing 2-3 is a course with limited enrollment. We many not be able to honor all requests for Writing 2-3. 

Writing 2-3 is a two-term course in first-year composition based on the assumption that excellence in writing arises from serious intellectual engagement. To achieve this excellence, Writing 2-3 enrolls students into intensive, seminar-style classes in which literary and other works (including the students’ own) are read closely, with attention to substance, structure, and style. The primary goal of Writing 2 is for students to learn to write clearly and with authority. By committing themselves to the rigorous process of writing, discussing, and rewriting their papers, students come to identify and then to master the essential properties of the academic argument.

In Writing 3, students engage in the more sustained discourse of the research paper. These papers are not restricted to literary criticism but typically employ the research protocol of other academic disciplines. Throughout the reading, writing, and research processes, students meet regularly with their tutors and professors, who provide them with individualized assistance.

Professors who teach Writing 2-3 have four goals for the course. We want our students to read more closely, think more critically, write more clearly, and research more carefully than they do when they first arrive in our classrooms. To meet these goals, we engage students with interesting readings, lively class discussions, and challenging writing assignments. The course ends in a culminating research project.

How is Writing 2-3 Different from Writing 5?

Writing 2-3 is taken in place of Writing 5. Indeed, the courses share many similarities. Both courses ask students to read and interpret texts. Both give students instruction in writing strong thesis sentences, in crafting effective arguments, and in writing clear, correct, and emphatic prose. Still, some differences exist between the courses, most notably:

Writing 2-3 is a two-term course. Having two terms permits you and your professor to accomplish more than you might accomplish in a single term. Your professor has time to explore more fully a course theme. You’ll be reading broadly on that subject, and from many different perspectives. Your professor also has time to include many different kinds of writing assignments, often asking you to do writing that is personal as well as analytical. These various assignments allow you to focus more closely on several different aspects of your writing. Finally – and perhaps best of all – having two terms will enable you to build the kinds of relationships with your professor, your tutor, and your classmates that you cannot build in a single term. Many enduring relationships are established in Writing 2-3, and the sense of community you’ll find there will help you to grow as a thinker and a writer.

Writing 2-3 has a research component. Though many Writing 5 courses do engage students in research activities, most do not demand a culminating research paper. In Writing 2-3, however, professors provide step-by-step guidance through a research project, on the topic of a student’s choosing. This guidance is excellent preparation for the scholarship required of you in other courses.

Writing 2-3 has a Teaching Assistant assigned to the course. This TA, working in conjunction with your professor, provides you with excellent writing support. Your TA meets with you for an hour every week, and your professor confers with you regularly throughout the term. No other writing course at Dartmouth has the resources to offer you this kind of support. Students tell us that their weekly meetings with the TA contribute greatly to their academic success.

Writing 2-3 for International or Multilingual Students

We offer a section of Writing 2-3 exclusively for international or multilingual students. This section of Writing 2-3 is NOT an ESL course, in that some of the enrolled students consider English their first language or have been speaking English for many years. More important to note is that we do not spend time in class reviewing grammar. The primary difference between this section and others is that the international/multilingual section incorporates discussion of how rhetorical and research styles differ across cultures. International or multilingual students find this class advantageous for several reasons, including the reason that students come from all over the world, making class discussions fascinating and educational.

Please note: because enrollment in this section is limited, a preference for the course cannot always be honored. In the event that we cannot fulfill your request, we will place you either into Writing 5 or into a regular section of Writing 2-3.


Writing 5

Writing 5 introduces Dartmouth students to the writing process that characterizes intellectual work in the academy and in educated public discourse.  Each section of Writing 5 organizes its writing assignments around challenging readings chosen by the instructor. The texts for the class also include the writing done in the class. The course focuses primarily on the writing process, emphasizing careful reading and analysis, thoughtful questions, and strategies of effective argument.

The Writing Process

Writing 5 approaches writing as a process that requires a continuous re-thinking and deepening of a student's engagement with a topic.  Accordingly, Writing 5 classes expose students to an array of skills and strategies.

Exploring. Texts and ideas are not self-evident; they prompt exploration. Among the various means of opening up a text or idea are close reading, short oral or written commentary, individual and collective information gathering, and brainstorming.

Analyzing. Analysis is more disciplined than exploration. Analysis identifies the premises and patterns of a text, teases out its assumptions, determines its perspective and intention—in short, analysis is a sustained inquiry into the existing and potential meanings of a text.

Drafting. Drafting shapes the discussion of a claim, question, or problem into a coherent whole.  Often drafting begins with developing an outline of the whole paper; sometimes it begins by writing a section of the imagined whole.  In all cases drafting is a recursive process in which the writing is clarified by re-thinking its shape, purpose and audience.

Revising. Revision happens at every stage of the writing process as the writer clarifies his or her thinking and refines expression.  In scholarly and professional writing—and in Writing 5—revision assumes a draft that circulates to other readers/writers for comments. Revision may involve reformulating a section, reordering the sequence of discussion, or rethinking the whole text.  Revision can also target a particular issue in the discussion or a recurrent problem in the prose.   Revision, or editing, is also the local work of polishing a text, making sure its prose is clear and concise, and readying it for circulation as a finished piece.

Differences Between Writing 2-3 and Writing 5, At a Glance

Considered from a certain perspective, the programs are very similar. The quality of instruction is excellent in both courses. Students enrolled in the two courses might read some of the same books and certainly will write the same kinds of papers. Both courses are rigorous and demanding; both will help you to improve your writing; and both are staffed by terrific, committed faculty.

But there are differences between the two programs. The following table is intended to assist you in making a smart choice.

Writing 2-3

  • Writing 2-3 is a two-term, two-credit course. The extra term permits you ample time to improve your writing.
  • Writing 2-3 provides thorough instruction in the research process and requires a research paper in the winter term.
  • Writing 2-3 offers individualized attention by providing graduate teaching assistants with whom you'll meet once a week. These graduate teaching assistants will address your particular writing and research needs.

Writing 5

  • Writing 5 is a one-term course. You'll be able to complete this part of the first-year writing requirement in a single term.
  • While all Writing 5 courses introduce you to the library and require a research task, most do not require a research paper.
  • Writing 5 students who need extra help with writing and research can find it by scheduling an appointment with a peer tutor at RWIT, Dartmouth's Center for Writing, Research, and Information Technology.


More information about Writing 2-3 and 5

More information about Writing 2-3 and 5, including course outcomes and guidelines for students, can be found at the following links in the Curriculum/ Writing Courses section of our website:

Writing 2-3

Writing 5