Advanced Composition

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

People writing in a classroom
In Teaching Advanced Composition, Katherine H. Adams and John L. Adams admit that "there is no consensus about what advanced composition means or ought to mean.".

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Advanced composition is a university-level course in expository writing beyond the first-year or introductory level. Also called advanced writing.

"In its broadest sense," says Gary A. Olson, "advanced composition refers to all postsecondary writing instruction above the first-year level, including courses in technicalbusiness, and advanced expository writing, as well as classes associated with writing across the curriculum. This broad definition was the one adopted by the Journal of Advanced Composition in its early years of publication" (Encyclopedia of English Studies and Language Arts, 1994).

Examples and Observations

  • "A good many educators use the term advanced composition to refer specifically to a junior- or senior-level composition course concerned more with writing in general than with how writing functions in particular disciplines...
    "It is unlikely that compositionists will ever reach consensus about advanced composition, nor would most teachers want some kind of monologic, universal method and course. What is certain is that advanced composition continues to grow in popularity, both among students and instructors, and it remains an active area of scholarship."​ (Gary A. Olson, "Advanced Composition." Encyclopedia of English Studies and Language Arts, ed. by Alan C. Purves. Scholastic Press, 1994)
  • "[T]eaching advanced composition should be more than just a 'harder' freshman course. If advanced composition is to have any viability at all, it must be founded on a theory that (1) shows how advanced composition is different in kind from freshman composition and (2) shows how advanced composition is developmentally related to freshman composition. The 'harder' approach achieves only the latter."​ (Michael Carter, "What Is Advanced About Advanced Composition?: A Theory of Expertise in Writing." Landmark Essays on Advanced Composition, ed. by Gary A. Olson and Julie Drew. Lawrence Erlbaum, 1996)
  • "Students who enroll in advanced writing courses write with proficiency yet often rely on formulas; their prose is stuffed with too many words and weighed down with nominalizations, passives, prepositional phrases. Their writing lacks focus, details, and a sense of audience . . .. The goal of an advanced writing course, therefore, is to move students from proficiency to effectiveness."​ (Elizabeth Penfield, "Freshman English/Advanced Writing: How Do We Distinguish the Two?" Teaching Advanced Composition: Why and How, ed. by Katherine H. Adams and John L. Adams. Boynton/Cook, 1991)

Sites of Contention

"My advanced composition courses currently function not only as 'skills' courses but also as sustained inquiries into how writing functions (and has functioned) politically, socially, and economically in the world. Through writing, reading, and discussion, my students and I focus on three 'sites of contention'--education, technology, and the self--at which writing assumes particular importance. . . . Although relatively few students choose to write poetry in my current advanced composition courses, it seems to me that students' attempts at poetic composition are considerably enriched by their integration into a sustained inquiry about how all sorts of writing actually function in the world."​ (Tim Mayers, [Re]writing Craft: Composition, Creative Writing, and the Future of English. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005)


"For most of my first eleven years at [Oregon State University]--the years during which I taught both first-year and advanced composition--I wrote identical course descriptions for these two composition classes. The basic structure of the syllabi for the two classes was also similar, as were the assignments. And I used the same text as well . . .. Students in advanced composition wrote longer essays than first-year students, but that was the primary difference between the two courses...

"The syllabus for my fall term 1995 advanced composition class . . . raises new issues. The text that follows begins with the second paragraph of the course overview:

In this class we will discuss questions such as these as we work together to become more effective, self-confident, and self-conscious writers. As is the case with most composition classes, we will function as a writing workshop--talking about the writing process, working collaboratively on work in progress. But we will also inquire together about what is at stake when we write: we will explore, in other words, the tensions that inevitably result when we wish to express our ideas, to claim a space for ourselves, in and with communities that may or may not share our assumptions and conventions. And we will consider the implications of these explorations for such rhetorical concepts as voice and ethos."

(Lisa S. Ede, Situating Composition: Composition Studies and the Politics of Location. Southern Illinois University Press, 2004)

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Advanced Composition." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Nordquist, Richard. (2021, February 16). Advanced Composition. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Advanced Composition." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 27, 2023).