History of PWP

The Professional Writing Program (PWP), established in 1980, is one of the original models for upper-division writing programs nationally; and the University of Maryland, College Park continues to be one of the few major state universities to maintain a broad advanced undergraduate writing program. PWP now offers 13 courses that meet the University’s upper-level writing requirement. The Program runs approximately 250 sections of these courses each year, serving well over 5,000 undergraduates annually.

The program began in 1980 with two courses, English 391 (Advanced Composition) and English 393 (Technical Writing). In the intervening years, we've added English 392 (Legal Writing), English 394 (Business Writing), and English 395 (Writing in the Health Professions). We also offer Honors sections of 391 and 393, and a section of 393 designed for non-native English speakers.

Beginning in spring 2004 PWP instructors developed a further series of specialized courses to meet various campus needs: English 390 (Science Writing) and a series of “special topics” courses under the 398 umbrella (398A, Writing for the Arts; 398C, Writing Case Studies and Investigative Reports; 398E, Writing about Economics; 398L, Scholarly Writing in the Humanities; 398N, Writing for Nonprofits; 398R, Nonfiction Narrative Writing and Editing; and 398V, Writing about the Environment).

In every PWP course, students write and revise four to six major assignments for a total of approximately 25 pages of formal graded writing per student. Much of this writing is based on significant, often original research. PWP courses teach writing that focuses on meeting the needs of specific professional audiences, using profession-specific genres to achieve particular ends. To do this intensive work effectively and maximize student-teacher interaction, PWP courses are capped at 22 students per section.

PWP courses continue to be highly valued by alumni and undergraduates. In spring 2007, the Campus Assessment Working Group (CAWG) Annual Survey showed that 75% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their PWP course provided a positive academic experience and 73% agreed or strongly agreed that their PWP course showed them how to combine thorough research with careful writing to produce credible and persuasive professional documents. These percentages are very high for required courses.

In addition, an English Department 2008 Non-Major Survey reported that 77% and 78% respectively said their PWP course taught them the skills needed to write professional documents and gave them practice in those skills.