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UCI writing classes are notoriously hard to get. Anteaters can fulfill the writing requirement through Humanities Core or the Writing 39 series. This post focuses on the Writing 39 series, specifically, Writing 39C Argument and Research, which completes the series and undergraduate writing requirement. This class can be challenging, so based on personal experience, here are some tips to succeed.

Research your professor

This goes for all classes, not just writing! Use Rate my Professor to familiarize yourself with your professor’s teaching style and expectations. Undergraduate writing is primarily taught by PhD students who only teach a couple quarters, so, they might not appear on Rate my Professor. In this case, try asking peers who took the class before you. Hopefully this prevents you from getting a professor like this.

This is crucial for writing because grading is subjective. Some professors are more lenient than others. For example, Justin Lee only grades the major submitted papers while other professors grade every assignment. Know what you are getting yourself into!

Understand major writing assignments

Writing 39C has a common syllabus with three major assignments across all sections, the Historical Conversations Project, Advocacy Project, and ePortfolio. Each section has its own theme, which ranges from first amendment rights to the American Dream, accompanied with a book to further discussion and understanding. The problem that you researchw will branch from your class theme.

So here’s a breakdown of the assignments.

  • Historical Conversations Project

The goal of this paper is to prove your problem is a relevant problem by using history as evidence. It needs to explore how the problem arose and evolved to its current state. You need to explain why it is relevant today, and how it connects to your class theme. In doing this, you are laying out the problem for your reader to understand.

  • Advocacy Project

After understanding the history of your problem and how it arose in the HCP, the next step is to propose the best solution. In the advocacy project, you consider proposed solutions and advocate for the best one. Consider counter arguments to your solution to strengthen it. The AP also includes an oral presentation, explaining your problem and solution to the class, essentially laying out your AP early in the writing process for critique.

  • ePortfolio

The ePortfolio is the final assignment which uses your writing samples to argue your growth and learning throughout the quarter. This is done through a Reflective Introduction explaining to your professor your writing and thinking process. It’s a chance to reflect on your work, using your samples as evidence.

The HCP and AP are written in roughly four weeks each, leaving two weeks for the ePortfolio. Understanding the major assignments and ten week breakdown will help pace your writing and make you more prepared for the class.

Conduct organized, focused research

The HCP and AP are both research papers, making research essential. Instead of using popular sources like the New York Times, college research papers must consist mostly of academic sources. Academic sources are peer reviewed, published, journal articles because they are more credible and in depth, which also makes them considerably longer. Use UCI library research guides, especially JSTOR, to find academic sources. Once you find them, read the abstract and conclusion first to determine if it’s relevant to your paper. If it fits, then skim the source for information to strengthen your argument.

Please start early because bothe the HCP and AP need 8-10 academic sources! It takes a long time to find quality sources that fit with your argument. Organize your research by having a Google Doc for your sources. When you find a source, cite it in MLA format and hyperlink it so it’s easy to go back to and saves you from rushing to finish your works cited at the last minute. Under each hyperlinked citation, write bullet points to remind yourself what it says and how it relates to your essay!

Trying to find 10 sources for your HCP

Writing 39C is demanding and time consuming, but by understanding the major assignments and class structure in advance, you’re one step ahead. In fact, you can start choosing a problem and researching its historical context now! This gives you more time to conduct research and fully understand your problem. With research papers, regardless of how gifted of a writer you are, you will need to dedicate time digging through academic sources to support your argument. Sometimes you may feel like this,

but after 10 short weeks, you’ll be done with 39C and finished with your undergraduate writing requirement. You got this dude!


Nancy Duong