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Program in Writing and Rhetoric


Office: Sweet Hall, Third Floor
Mail Code: 94305-3069
Phone: (650) 723-2631
Web Site:

Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR)

Courses offered by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric are listed under the subject code PWR on the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site. Courses offered by the Oral Communication Program within PWR are listed under the subject code ORALCOMM. See the Oral Communication Program for more information about the program.

The Program in Writing and Rhetoric (PWR) designs and teaches courses that meet the Writing and Rhetoric requirement for undergraduates at Stanford as well as intermediate and advanced writing and rhetoric classes. For more information on the requirement, see the Writing and Rhetoric Requirement page on the PWR website.

PWR courses engage students in rhetorical analysis of texts and research-based argument. Students in PWR courses learn and practice time-tested rhetorical principles to gain increasing control over the intellectual and stylistic elements of their writing; they learn to analyze the persuasive strategies of others and to apply those insights to their own writing.

Toward these ends, PWR 1 focuses on elements of academic argument: understanding a writer's stance; developing an argumentative thesis; discovering, developing, and deploying cogent proofs; making appropriate organizational and stylistic choices; and understanding the expectations of varied audiences. The course emphasizes research-based writing, including the effective use of primary and secondary sources and data based on fieldwork. Students enrolled in PWR 1 carry out significant research and use it as the basis for a persuasive research-based argument.

PWR 2 further develops students' skills in writing and the oral presentation of research, emphasizing the ongoing development of content, organization, and style. The course addresses the dynamic interdependence of writing and speaking, as well as the importance of visual and multimedia elements in the effective presentation of research. Students enrolled in PWR 2 have opportunities to draft and revise written assignments and oral presentations as well as opportunities to present the results of scholarly inquiry, with an emphasis on how to work purposefully and well with a variety of presentation media.

As a general rule, students complete a minimum of three major assignments in both PWR 1 and 2. Written assignments vary from 5 to 15 pages in length, and students work intensively on revising each piece of writing. Oral presentation assignments vary from 3 to 10 minutes in duration, and students have an opportunity to rehearse and revise major presentations. All assignments involve analyzing a range of texts as well as identifying, evaluating, and using multiple sources in support of research-based arguments. In-class work focuses on how to read with an increasingly critical eye, how to utilize a range of generative writing and revision activities, and how to identify, evaluate, integrate, and cite sources effectively.

Writing and Rhetoric classes enroll no more than 15 students; consistent participation is crucial. In-class activities include close reading and analysis of texts, drafting and revising parts of assignments, and responding to the writing of peers; in-class workshops are augmented by a minimum of three individual or small group conferences with the PWR instructor during the quarter.


The Writing and Rhetoric requirement includes courses at three levels.

  1. The first-level course, taken in the first year, can be completed in PWR or Integrated Learning Environments, including Structural Liberal Education (SLE) and Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture (ITALIC), or by completion of the Education as Self-Fashioning (ESF) course; the curriculum emphasizes analysis and research-based argument.

  2. The second-level course, to be completed by the end of the sophomore year, is a writing and oral/multimedia presentation course taught by the Program in Writing and Rhetoric. Completion of Structured Liberal Education also fulfills this requirement. Introductory Seminars certified by the Writing and Rhetoric Governance Board satisfy the second-level Writing and Rhetoric Requirement (WRITE 2). Courses offered as Introductory Seminars require an additional application form; see the Introductory Seminars web site.

  3. The third-level course is a Writing in the Major (WIM) course taught in each major, providing students with systematic opportunities to develop skills for writing in their chosen fields. A list of certified WIM courses may be found in the table of "Undergraduate Major Unit Requirements" of this bulletin. WIM course descriptions may be found under individual department and program sections.

The sequence of required courses provides a coordinated approach responsive to how students mature as writers, researchers, and presenters during their undergraduate years. At each level, students develop greater sophistication in conducting inquiry and producing scholarly work in progressively more specific disciplinary contexts.

Before the term in which students enroll in the first two levels of the requirement, they review course descriptions on the PWR Courses webpage. After reviewing the offerings, students submit a list of top choices, and the PWR office assigns students to courses based on these preferences.

Students wishing to pursue advanced work in Writing and Rhetoric may enroll in electives offered by PWR. Topics vary; further information may be found in the PWR section of the Stanford Bulletin's ExploreCourses web site or on the PWR advanced courses web page. PWR also offers courses culminating in a Notation in Science Communication and a Notation in Cultural Rhetorics.

PWR Courses Offered in 2021-2022

Oral Communication Courses Offered in 2021-2022

Advanced PWR Courses

Prerequisites: PWR 1 and PWR 2.