Readings for WAW Courses

Readings for WAW Courses

Rebecca Babcock, Cynthia Cochran, and Aliethia Dean


In 2015 and 2016, we surveyed and interviewed 31 instructors from the US and Canada who self-identified as being practitioners of WAW and WAW-based courses (see the published study, “WAW: A Snapshot in Time,” in the Fall 2023 issue of Composition Studies). We also examined any course material the participants shared with us. This blog post is meant as a companion piece to the work we did in that study; specifically, it focuses on the readings instructors reported assigning in their writing about writing courses. We hope readers will find inspiration for their own courses.

In analyzing the data we found a number of readings used by 2 – 6 instructors as well as some used by only one instructor. The list below indicates the number of respondents who used each reading.

We thought this blog space a good venue to share readings being used in WAW classrooms at the time of the research. Since that time, there have been several books published that are suitable to WAW as well, of course, as an ever-growing body of writing studies literature, and thus an ever-growing list of WAW readings. If you are interested, another place to find readings is

We hope that over time this list will grow. Please add readings you currently use in the Comments section.

Used by 6 instructors:

†Wardle “Identity, Authority, and Learning to Write in the New Workplace.”

Used by 4 instructors:

†Brandt “Sponsors of Literacy.”

†Haas and Flower “Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning.”

†Kain and Wardle “Activity Theory: An Introduction for the Writing Classroom.”

†Porter “Intertextuality and the Discourse Community”

†Swales “The Concept of Discourse Community.”

Used by 3 instructors:

†Alexie “The Joys of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me.”

†Bazerman “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activities and People.”

†Covino and Jolliffe “What is Rhetoric?”

†Mahiri and Sablo “Writing for Their Lives: The Non-School Literacy of California’s Urban, African American Youth”

†McCarthy “A Stranger in Strange Lands: A College Student Writing across the Curriculum.”

†Perl “The Composing Process of Unskilled College Writers.”

†Rose “Rigid Rules, Inflexible Plans, and the Stifling of Language: A Cognitivist Analysis of Writer’s Block”

†Sommers “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers”

†Villanueva excerpts from Bootstraps

†X “Learning to Read” 

Used by 2 instructors:

Foley “Unteaching the Five Paragraph Essay”

†Gee “Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics”

†Grant-Davie “Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents”

†Greene “The Role of Inquiry in Writing a Researched Assignment” 

Hartwell “Grammar, Grammars and the Teaching of Grammar”

†Kantz “Helping Students use Textual Sources Persuasively”

†LaMott “Shitty First Drafts.”

†Murray “All Writing is Autobiography”

†Prior “Tracing Process: How Texts Come into Being”

†Sommers “I Stand Here Writing”

†Swales “Create a Research Space (CARS) Model of Research Introductions.”

*Wardle and Downs “Introduction”

Lists of Readings Mentioned by Only One Instructor (65)

Allen “The Inspired Writer vs. The Real Writer”

*Alexie “The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me”

Bartholomae “Inventing the University”

Bazerman Intertextuality: How Texts Rely on Other Texts

Bazerman “A Relationship between Reading and Writing: The Conversational Model”

Beaufort College Writing and Beyond 2007

Bishop The Subject is Writing: Essays by Teachers and Students

Bizup & Williams Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace

Brand “The Why of Cognition: Emotion and the Writing Process”

Brannon, Courtney, Urbanski, et al. “The Five-Paragraph Essay and the Deficit Model of Education”

Bruce “Listening to and Learning from ESL Writers”

Carroll “Backpacks vs Briefcases: Steps Toward Rhetorical Analysis”

Covino & Joliffe “What is Rhetoric?”

Cronk (dir.) God’s Not Dead (movie)

Crowley “Tolerance and the Christian Right”

Dean “Muddying Boundaries: Mixing Genres with Five Paragraphs”

Driscoll “Introduction to Primary Research: Observations, Surveys, and Interviews”

Edlin “Keeping the Faith: The Christian Scholar in the Academy in a Postmodern World”

Elbow “Speaking with My Eyes Closed”

Elbow, Belanoff  Being a Writer: A Community of Writers

Fulweiler “Looking and Listening for My Voice”

Grant-Davie “Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents”

Greene “Argument as Conversation”

Hartwell “Grammar, Grammars and the Teaching of Grammar”

Hesse “Writing Beyond Writing Classes: Useful Strategies for Busy Professors”

Hinton “So You’ve Got a Writing Assignment. Now What?”

Hoffmann “Cool at 13, Adrift at 23”

Horning & Becker Revision: History, Theory, and Practice

Khan “Putting Ethnographic Writing in Context”

Lunsford and Lunsford “’Mistakes Are a Fact of Life’: A National. Comparative Study”

*Mahiri & Sablo “Writing for Their Lives: The Non-School Literacy of California’s Urban, African American Youth”

McLeod “Some Thoughts about Feelings: The Affective Domain and the Writing Process”

Miller Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

Miller Norton Book of Composition 2009

Miller “Speaking My Mind: Persistence of the Five-Paragraph Essay”

Montenegro “Is There a Better Word for Doom?”

Murray “Teach Writing as Process Not Product”

Murray The Craft of Revision

Nunes “The Five-Paragraph Essay: Its Evolution and Roots in Theme-Writing”

Nunnally “Breaking the Five-Paragraph Theme Barrier”

Penrose & Geisler “Reading and Writing Without Authority”

Perl “Understanding Composing”

Rand “Enacting Faith: Evangelical Discourse and the Discipline of Composition Studies”

Reynolds “For Fitness, Push Yourself”

Rose Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievements of America’s Educationally Underprepared

Rosenberg “Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources”

Sargent and Paraskevas Conversations About Writing: Eavesdropping, Inkshedding, and Joining In

Seo “Speaking My Mind: Defending the Five-Paragraph Essay”

Smith “Speaking My Mind: In Defense of the Five-Paragraph Essay”

Sommers (dir.) Beyond the Red Ink: Teachers’ Comments through Students’ Eyes (video)

*Sommers “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers”

Sommers and Saltz “The Novice as Expert: Writing the Freshman Year”

Speer “Re-Conceiving the Five Paragraph Essay in an Era of Uncertainty”

Spinuzzi “Four Ways to Investigate Assemblages of Texts: Genre Sets, Systems, Repertoires, and Ecologies.”

†Straub “Responding—Really Responding—to Other Students’ Writing

Steelman “Annoying Ways People Use Sources”

Tremmel “What to Make of the Five-Paragraph Theme: History of the Genre and Implications”

*Wardle and Downs “Introduction”

Wardle and Down Writing About Writing; A College Reader

Webb-Sunderhaus “A Family Affair: Competing Sponsors of Literacy in Appalachian Students’ Lives”

Wesley “The Ill Effects of the Five-Paragraph Theme”

White “My Five-Paragraph-Theme Theme”

*Windsor “Joining the Engineering Community: How Do Novices Learn to Write Like Engineers?”

X, Malcolm “Learning to Read”

Zeiger “The Exploratory Essay: Enfranchising the Spirit of Inquiry in College Composition”

†appears in WAW 1st ed.

†appears in WAW both 1st and 2nd ed.

*appears in WAW 2nd ed only.

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