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First-Year Composition and Rhetoric and HSU

Welcome to First-Year Composition and Rhetoric at HSU!

We have designed the First-Year Composition and Rhetoric Program to help you explore your knowledge and practices as a learner, writer and critical thinker. In our courses, you will examine how writing works in and across different communities, explore your developing identity as a writer, and enter into ongoing important conversations. 

We offer different course pathways to help you satisfy your Written Communication general education requirement. At Humboldt State University, we think it’s important that you decide yourself which of our two options for first-year composition is the right choice for you. To help you make the best decision, you’ll take the Choose a Writing Course survey as part of your Canvas Registration Tutorial.  (Note:  If you are a continuing student and haven't been provided access to the tutorial, please please contact the Program Director, Lisa Tremain.)  

Keep in mind that first-year composition at HSU might be different from the English classes you had in high school.  This page and our FAQ page help to explain our program and course offerings.   

These are the course choices for first-year composition at HSU:

  • Regularly paced two-semester sequence: English 102 and English 103
  • Accelerated one-semester course: English 104

Please note:  If you have AP, IB, or college credit for English from high school, you should still take the Choose a Writing Course Survey, but you may not be required to take a first-year writing course.  Ask your advisor to help determine if you have met the English GE requirement.  Also, take a moment to review the Placement Categories at the bottom of our FAQ page.

HSU First-Year Composition and Rhetoric Learning Outcomes

In the HSU Composition Program, all of our courses are aligned to Program Outcomes.  These outcomes are derived from research and experience about how writers move toward writing expertise over time and in and across contexts.  Our outcomes are designed to articulate the types of knowledge writers should develop not only in in Composition and Rhetoric courses, but in every context where writing occurs. 

  • Reading and Analytical Knowledge: You will develop knowledge about how meaning is negotiated between text, reader, and community and how the discovery, evaluation, and reporting of information is part of this negotiation
  • Genre and Conventions Knowledge: You will gain experience locating, analyzing, and evaluating various genres.  You will compose in several genres and explore how and why genre conventions vary.
  • Knowledge of Writing as a Process and Practice: You will develop flexible research, composing, and revising strategies and explore writing as a collaborative and social practice.
  • Discourse Community and Lexical Knowledge: You will explore how discourse shifts across communities and you will develop knowledge to participate effectively as writers, thinkers, and researchers in them.
  • Rhetorical Knowledge: You will increase your ability to assess and respond to rhetorical situations and consciously adjust your writing and research practices to each rhetorical situation.
  • Knowledge of Self as a Writer: You will think about writing and your own writing knowledge in new ways and gain confidence as you develop writer identity.
  • Dispositions toward Writing: You will understand that writing is both a subject of study and an activity that requires lifelong practice and reflection.

HSU's Choose a Writing Course Survey

The survey is part of the Canvas Registration Tutorial.  It will ask you nine questions about your experiences with writing. You should plan to spend about thirty minutes to complete it. There are no "correct" or "preferred" answers to the survey. The right answer is the one that best reflects your own experiences with writing.

After you complete the survey, you'll view your score and will receive a recommendation of which course to take based on your responses, either English 102/103 (the regularly-paced option) or English 104 (the accelerated=paced option).  The recommendation you'll receive after taking the survey is only a recommendation and does not enroll you in the recommended class.  The final decision for which course to enroll in is up to you. 


Comparing English 102/103 with English 104

Both English 102/103 and English 104 do all of the following:

  • Teach the same course outcomes, which are designed to support the development of your writing knowledge;
  • Provide opportunities for students to write in several genres and study how writing practices can be shaped to meet particular rhetorical situations;
  • End with a writing portfolio, in which you’ll share a range of your written work from the course and reflect on your developing writing knowledge;
  • Fulfill HSU's general education Area A Written Communication requirement.  

The main difference between these options is the pace. English 102/103 provides students with two semesters of first-year composition, and English 104 moves at a much faster pace, as it covers the same curriculum as English 102/103 in one semester.

Benefits of choosing English 102/103: While completing the Written Communication requirement in a single semester may seem attractive, there are benefits to taking the two-semester sequence of English 102/103: 

  • Because the material in English 102/103 is stretched across two semesters, the course pace allows for more time to process and practice new and complex material;
  • There is more personalized instruction, and class size is smaller in English 102/103;
  • Students experience English 102/103 with the same instructor and group of students.

In fact, many universities require all their students to take two semesters of writing—it's the only option they offer—so you shouldn't feel that taking two semesters will put you behind in some way.

Optional Writing Lab:  English 110

Whether you choose English 102/103 or English 104, you also have the option of enrolling in English 110, which is a one-unit writing lab taken at the same time as the Area A writing course. English 110 provides additional instruction, time to write, and instructor support, including one-on-one help; there is no extra work (no homework) assigned outside of class.  If you feel like you could use more time and/or support as a writer, this course is for you.

The First-Year Composition and Rhetoric Portfolio

In HSU’s First-Year Composition and Rhetoric courses every student will end the course by creating a portfolio of their written work.  The portfolio serves as a “snapshot” of where you are as a writer in a particular moment, and, because “all writers have more to learn” (Rose, 2015), this assessment is one that can inform your next steps in your writing development.  The Composition and Rhetoric Portfolio at HSU is assessed according to the course outcomes.

Purpose of the Portfolio:  The Composition and Rhetoric Portfolio at HSU is a text-based communication between you and portfolio readers. The portfolio’s communicative functions are:

  • To provide you with a process that allows you to purposefully select and present writing that demonstrates your learning of and reflection on the course outcomes.
  • To provide readers with evidence of your writing development and flexibility across a range of texts.
  • To allow readers to assess how you have applied and reflected on course outcomes.
  • To create a timestamp of your writing knowledge at this point in your writing development.
Questions? Please contact the Program Director, Lisa Tremain.