William and Mary

Major Writing Requirement

What is the Major Writing Requirement?

The Major Writing Requirement is designed to ensure that students continue to develop their ability to write in clear, effective prose that shows evidence of sustained and well-developed thought. The Major Writing Requirement must provide students with a series of opportunities to practice their writing, especially as commented upon by an instructor. Students must satisfy the lower-division writing proficiency requirement before attempting the Major Writing Requirement.

When do I arrange to do the Major Writing Requirement?

Students should choose the course in which they will complete this requirement only after consulting with their advisor at the time of declaring their major. Each student is then expected to complete the writing requirement during the junior or senior years. It is in the best interests of students to complete the Major Writing Requirement before their final semester, if possible. The course should come from those numbered 300 or above in the chosen subject field most suitable to a student's area of special interest.

When should I meet with the instructor who will oversee my Major Writing Requirement?

At the time of pre-registration for the specified course, the student should consult with the scheduled instructor to make the arrangements necessary to ensure that the objectives of the Major Writing Requirement (see above) are fulfilled. Once the semester begins, the student should meet with the instructor during the first week of classes in order to begin the process of choosing a topic and of arranging a timetable for completing the project.

How do I choose a topic?

Students should choose a topic in close consultation with the major writing advisor, who will have final approval over the chosen topic. In some cases, the student will already have a topic in mind prior to meeting with the instructor; in other instances, the instructor might propose one based on discussions with the student and his/her expressed interests. In any case, it is important to work closely with the instructor in order to ensure that the final topic is chosen in timely fashion. The topic itself should reflect the special interests of the student and must fall broadly within the scope of the course in which the requirement is to be met.

What resources do I need to become familiar with in order to complete the Major Writing Requirement?

As part of the Major Writing Requirement the Department of Classical Studies requires that students become familiar with both the standard scholarly resources in the field and the more specialized literature relating to the students' chosen topic. Students will also be required to demonstrate proficiency in the use of standard electronic resources. This might include bibliographies such as the Database of Classical Bibliography (DCB), more specialized bibliographies such as Diotima, and familiarity with standard sites such as Perseus.

Although the choice of such resources will vary according to the chosen topic, a basic familiarity with tools such as these will be expected. By demonstrating proficiency in this area students will automatically fulfill the department's Major Computing Requirement. In addition to gaining familiarity with these general resources, students will be expected to identify and utilize more specialized resources appropriate to their topic in consultation with the major writing advisor. Finally, students are strongly encouraged to consult the Swem reference librarian in classical studies for additional assistance in identifying and utilizing the appropriate resources.

How long should my major writing paper be? What format should I use for citations, both ancient and modern? What kind of bibliography is needed?

Specific requirements such as length, citation format and bibliography will vary according to the topic itself and the requirements of the individual major writing advisor. The advisor will make these requirements clear to the advisee at the beginning of the project.

What is a reasonable schedule for completing the Major Writing Requirement?

A reasonable timeline for completing the Major Writing Requirement is as follows:

  • First week of classes: Meet with major writing advisor to discuss expectations and requirements and to begin identifying possible topic.
  • Second week of classes: Submission of topic statement and preliminary bibliography based on initial meeting with advisor.
  • Seventh week of classes: Submission of research outline and bibliography. Students should then begin writing with the expectation that most advisors will require preliminary drafts of the paper or parts thereof before the submission of a first complete draft. The major writing advisor will make such requirements clear in consultation with the advisee.
  • One month before end of semester: Submission of first draft of complete paper.
  • Two weeks before the end of semester: Submission of final draft. Only minor revisions will be expected after this date.
  • Final day of classes: Submission of corrected copy of major writing requirement.
How will my Major Writing Requirement be graded?

The Major Writing paper will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis to fulfill the requirement itself. It will also make up a part of the final course grade as determined by the major writing advisor.

If I am writing an honors thesis do I also have to complete the Major Writing Requirement?

Students who submit an acceptable thesis will be certified by the Department as having satisfied the Major Writing requirement (this applies only to Classical Studies majors; non-Classical Studies majors who happen to be working on a thesis in the Classics Department should check with the requirements in their major).