ENGL 304 (3 cr): Advanced Composition


Are you trying to figure out new ways to strengthen your writing? Have you always wanted to develop a recognizable writing voice of your own? Are you interested in figuring out how to make the strongest impact on your readers? Are you perhaps interested in exploring the differences between writing for, say, The Vancouver Sun, The Guardian, and an academic journal? Are you considering going into teaching and wondering how to go about talking to your students about their own writing? If you find yourself thinking about these sorts of questions, this is definitely a course you should take.

Advanced Composition approaches the study and practice of writing with a focus on audience, authorial voice, and style. It emphasizes the writing process and the rhetorical concerns and principles (situation, genre, intent) which govern that process. The course offers an overview of traditional Artistotelian or classical rhetoric, as well as looking at more recent (20th and 21st century) theorizing of genre and communications. Students get to do in-depth studies of communities of practice; they learn to situate and develop their own rhetorical strengths. They also get to argue thoughtfully and even vigorously with their instructor and classmates, and to prepare a final project aimed at a real and carefully identified community of readers (best case scenario: you might even think of aiming for publication).

Intended Students

Students may register in English 304 if they have completed six credits of first-year English (or equivalent credits as recognized by UBC) and if they have also completed at least sixty credits toward their undergraduate degree. English 304 is included among optional courses available to both English Literature and Language majors students (Group F or Category 4, respectively). It is an excellent choice for students in the Education Faculty who are planning to teach English.

The primary goal of this course is to turn good writers into excellent ones. Its model is revision-based; students compose, revise, consult, reflect, and revise again. As a 304 student, you will receive commentary on your work not only from your instructor, but also from other students, and you will reflect on your writing not only formally (in a course assignment, for example), but also informally (in exchanges with your instructor and classmates). Other course objectives facilitate and enable this primary one.

Note! This course does not focus on grammar or on basic skills of composition. It assumes competence in these areas (making no concession for poor grammar or troubled writing skills) and takes up strategies for making writing especially effective.

Course Objectives

When you complete the course successfully, you will be able to do the following things:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge with the principles of rhetoric (effective and persuasive composition/argument);
  • Read your own compositions analytically and critically, and use revision strategies to improve those compositions;
  • Write with a strong sense of how your intervention in a rhetorical situation functions;
  • Understand your writing in terms of a whole tradition of rhetoric studies;
  • Write essays more confidently in a variety of academic and non-academic genres; and,
  • Use research to deepen any writing assignment (with an understanding of how research functions as an intervention in a specific dialogue), and internalize a sense of how and why source materials are deployed in specific ways in essays.

Assignments and Evaluation

  • Participation in a series of interactive discussion forums – 10%
  • Journal entries – 15%
  • Short paper in a specific style – 20%
  • Long paper in the style of either a feature article or a scholarly article in the field of rhetoric – 35%
  • Final exam – 20%


Must be purchased (will be available from the Bookstore or in PDF or hard copy directly from the site):

    Michael A. Gilbert. Arguing with People. Peterborough: Broadview, 2014.
    ISBN: 9781554811700 (paperback) / 1554811708 (PDF)
    You can use broadview20% discount code if you are buying the hard copy through Broadview. Shipping charges apply.

ENGL 304 Textbook Order Form