We surveyed 79 syllabuses from general education courses in the humanities at UNC, all of which require at least 10 pages of written work. Based on our survey, we found that students in humanities courses most often write:
- “Analysis,” “research,” and other papers, which are often modes-based instead of specific genres, or generic assignments such as a “final paper” or “final essay.”
- Midterm and final exams, which occur both during and out of class and include identifications, multiple choice, essays, and other types of questions.
- Annotated and other bibliographies.
- Short weekly writing assignments, such as journal entries, reflections, and online discussion board posts that require students to critically analyze course materials.
- Individual and group oral presentations.
- Genres that require students to understand historical context, gender, race and/or ethnicity, and both U.S. and non-U.S. cultures.
- Genres (mostly papers) that require critical reading, thinking, and viewing of art or films.
- Genres that require secondary research related to course materials, including scholarly articles, essays, and book chapters.
We also surveyed the course objectives in humanities syllabuses, identifying the following goals, many of which may also be shared by composition instructors. These are listed in order of frequency:
- Understanding historical context
- Critical reading, viewing, and/or thinking about texts and images, such as literary prose, poetry, non-fiction (essays, speeches), memoir, autobiography, art and film
- Reading scholarly articles, essays, and book chapters
- Understanding U.S. and non-U.S. cultures
- Understanding gender, race, ethnicity, and/or sexuality
- Primary and secondary research
- Presentation skills
- Implicit and explicit genre understanding
- Group work
- Acquiring discourse community vocabulary
- Clear and cohesive writing
- Asking questions
- Understanding a foreign language
- Writing a thesis
- Grammar mastery
- Peer editing
- Reading plays
- Media production skills
- Writing an original argument
- Memorizing information