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Writing

Study Writing at the University of Otago


Clear, accurate, and concise writing and speaking are skills that will set you apart from others in any profession you choose. At the University of Otago, we offer a comprehensive writing programme, in which you may choose from academic, professional, and creative writing papers.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the difference between ENGL 126, ENGL 127, and ENGL 128?
What is the Minor in Writing, and why would I do it?
If I want to focus on improving my writing skills, which paper should I take?
If I want a paper to help me with speaking/presentation and writing skills, which paper should I take?
If I am a multilingual speaker/writer who wants to improve my writing skills, which paper should I take?
If I am a multilingual speaker/writer who wants to improve my speaking/presentation and writing skills, which paper should I take?
I heard ENGL 126 is for Health Sciences students. What's the deal with that?
Where do I get more information about the Health Sciences First Year English Diagnostic Test?
What creative writing papers does the English Department offer?
Is there anything that will allow me to explore my interest in journalistic writing?
What upper level courses will help me take my writing to a higher level?
Who can I contact if I have not found what I need here?


What is the difference between ENGL 126, ENGL 127 and ENGL 128?


There is some overlap between these papers, but there are also important differences:
ENGL 127 Effective Writing is focused entirely on developing writing skills. The paper is part of the English major but it is open to all majors (and is required for Computer Science majors).
ENGL 128 Effective Communication divides its focus between speaking/presentation skills and writing skills. It is open to all majors; English majors or those intending to major in English are encouraged to enrol.
Students who take ENGL 127 can take ENGL 128 as well.
ENGL 126 English for University Purposes is designed to assist students who will benefit from added instruction in spoken and written communication skills in order to progress through any discipline at the university, but it is in some ways specific to students entering the demanding Health Sciences professional programmes. It is also the best choice for international students wanting to improve basic writing and spoken communication skills. ENGL126 is graded as a Pass / Fail course. This means that the number and letter grade you get does not appear on your transcript - only a "Pass" or "Fail" - and this cannot hurt or help your grade point average.

What is the Minor in Writing, and why would I do it?


Papers in Writing may be taken individually or as part of the Minor in Writing. The Minor involves taking five Writing papers in total with one at 300-level. You'll find a complete list of these papers on the Minor in Writing page.

A Minor in Writing is a useful way to supplement any degree programme. It will give you an edge when entering the workforce, as it demonstrates to prospective employers that you have mastered the complex writing and communication skills they seek.


If I want to focus on improving my writing skills, which paper should I take?


You should take ENGL 127. In ENGL 127 students learn or improve practical aspects of grammar, punctuation, style and mechanics at the level of the sentence, paragraph, essay. Assessments include essays, a reading journal, summary, and a number of online tests covering editing, citation, and punctuation.

If I want to focus on improving my speaking/presentation and writing skills, which paper should I take?


You should take ENGL 128. Like ENGL 127, ENGL 128 provides valuable instruction on writing skills, but shares this attention in equal part with the art of spoken rhetoric and persuasive speech, and provides students with essential presentation skills as well. Assessment includes formal and professional letter writing, academic essays, and professional reports.


If I am a multilingual speaker/writer who wants to improve my writing skills, which paper should I take?


Is English your first language? If YES, then you should take ENGL 127. If NO, are you an advanced English speaker/writer - equivalent to or above a 7.0 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)? If YES, then you should take ENGL 127. If NO, then you should take ENGL 126.


If I am a multilingual speaker/writer who wants to improve my speaking and writing skills, which paper should I take?


Is English your first language? If YES, then you should take ENGL 128. If NO, are you an advanced English speaker/writer - equivalent to or above a 7.0 in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS)? If YES, then you should take ENGL 128. If NO, then you should take ENGL 126.

I heard ENGL 126 is for Health Sciences students. What's the deal with that?


Health Sciences First Year students must sit a compulsory English diagnostic test, to be held in late February in the St David St Lecture Theatre. Students who do not pass the test will be required to enrol in ENGL 126 English for University Purposes, so it is common that this paper enrols about half of its students with Health Sciences majors. The remaining students come from a wide array of other disciplines. If you are planning to be an English major, however, you should take ENGL 127 and/or ENGL 128 and not ENGL 126.

Where do I get more information about the Health Sciences First Year English Diagnostic Test?


You should go to the Health Sciences First Year English Diagnostic Test page for information on the test.


What creative writing papers does the English Department offer?


ENGL 217 is a workshop-based paper in writing poetry. ENGL 227 and ENGL 327 both teach and provide hands-on experience writing creative non-fiction. ENGL 337 teaches the art of writing travel narratives and involves hands-on experience writing them.
There is no first level creative writing offering, as writing students are encouraged to take ENGL 127 or ENGL 128 in their first year.


Is there anything that will allow me to explore my interest in journalistic writing?


ENGL 227 Essay and Feature Writing provides instruction and hands-on experience with an array of journalistic genres, including travel writing, features/profiles, reviews, political commentary and column writing. In ENGL 327 The Essay: Creative Non-fiction, which follows on from ENGL 227, students write an "object-study" on a subject from areas including literary history, science, history or technology. In ENGL 337 Creative Writing: Travel Narratives students write their own travel narratives by employing the techniques learned from examining travel narratives written by others.

What upper level courses will help me take my writing to a higher level?


ENGL 327 The Essay: Creative Non-fiction is a dedicated writing paper that serves as a follow-up to ENGL 127 and ENGL 227 on composition and rhetoric. Some upper level literature papers also place a heavy emphasis on advanced writing, such as ENGL 368 Approaches to Writing about Literature, ENGL 337 Creative Writing: Travel Narratives and ENGL 342 Digital Literature.


Who can I contact if I have not found what I need here?


General or administrative questions should go to the English Reception in person or email. Specific questions about one of the writing papers should go to the coordinator of the paper, who you can identify and locate by going to the Our People page.