Seminar in Composition

Pitt offers several courses that are considered equivalents of Seminar of Composition (SC). 

In any course that satisfies the Seminar in Composition requirement, you can expect to

  • Use writing to explore a topic of study
  • Assume independence and confidence in personal writing processes 
  • Write in response to challenging readings
  • Devote class time exploration of writing strategies and essay design
  • Have 19 students in your class

The majority of first-year Pitt students take Seminar in Composition. If you felt you understood the directed self-placement reading quickly and thoroughly and produced a written response that you believe meets the requirements for college-level writing, consider Seminar in Composition. 

If you want support as you are working on your writing projects in SC, you can also register for ENGCMP 0201 Composition Tutorial, a one-credit tutorial course that allows you to meet with a faculty consultant in the Writing Center each week. This is a good option if you feel unsure about the writing process or want a reader for your work.

SC is offered under several different course numbers:

  • ENGCMP 0200 Seminar in Composition
  • ENGCMP 0203 Seminar in Composition: Gender Studies
  • ENGCMP 0205 Seminar in Composition: Film
  • ENGCMP 0207 Seminar in Composition: Education
  • ENGCMP 0208 Seminar in Composition: Service-Learning 
  • ENGCMP 0212 Seminar in Composition: Topics in Diversity 
  • ENGCMP 0213 Seminar in Composition: Disability Studies 
  • ENGCMP 0214 Seminar in Composition: Sustainability
  • For Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences first-year students only: FP 0003 First-Year Seminar or FP 0006 
  • For students in the Swanson School of Engineering only: ENGCMP 0210 Seminar in Composition: Engineering.

To learn more about each of these options and read what students who have taken the courses say about them, browse below.

ENGCMP 0200 Seminar in Composition

We offer many sections of ENGCMP 0200 in several different meeting patterns: you can choose a section that meets three times a week, twice a week, or one evening a week. While all the sections will engage with the learning goals for Seminar in Composition, the readings and the writing assignments will vary by section. 

This introductory course offers students opportunities to improve as writers by developing their understanding of how they and others use writing to interpret and share experience, affect behavior, and position themselves in the world.  Specific reading and writing assignments may vary from section to section, but student writing will be the primary focus in all sections.  The course is designed to help students become more engaged, imaginative, and disciplined composers.

"I'm much better at structuring my writing now. Writing is just like playing a sport or an instrument—the more you do it and the more you practice, the better you get. There's no doubt in my mind that had I not taken Seminar in Composition, my essays in future writing courses would be of a lower quality. Seminar in Composition is the best introductory course I've taken at Pitt. Between improving my analytical skills and discovering what I'm passionate about, I had a very positive experience taking this course. Even if you aren't planning on taking writing courses, I promise this will help you in just about any class. At the very least, you'll become a better reader and a more logical thinker, and I can't think of a class where those skills are inapplicable." Sam Mueller

"I would take this course again. The class structure included a lot of collaboration with my peers. In each class, there were small group discussions that involved each student. Everyone had the opportunity to discuss their perspective on the readings. As a freshman, I felt overwhelmed at times, but this class allowed me to interact with classmates while sharing individual perspectives. This small class setting also allowed me to seek one-on-one help from my professor. This course was substantial for promoting growth and creating an optimal learning environment for me. I’m truly grateful for the impact that this course had on my education." Jordan Huff

Jenna Anderson"I took Seminar in Composition in my first year at Pitt and was surprised at the creative freedom we were allowed in writing. Of course, the class teaches you a universal writing style that you can use in other classes, but we also explored different formats that might work better for a certain topic of writing. The class was organized so that we would listen to a few lectures, do some exercises to practice, and then we moved on to a project that allowed us to choose a topic and how to present it. Instead of being restricted to an essay, we were able to create posters, power points, brochures, and other visual aids to present our information and it challenged us to pull out the most important parts of our writing to make our presentation more impactful and succinct. This was valuable since many students either struggle with condensing or elaborating on their writing points, and this project helped us practice that skill." Jenna Anderson

"In this course, I learned how to synthesize my personal experiences with professional research, especially in my formal written works. By learning how to properly do research on a certain topic, and identify reputable research papers and periodicals, I was able to learn more about how more global and specific topics can relate to my own personal experiences. In addition, by applying my own past to the information that I learned through research, I learned how to write professionally in a way that synthesized personal views with unbiased research." Khawla Fentis

"I would 100% take this course over again. It was the class I looked forward to most in the week. The writing scared me at first, but the assignments were distributed at a reasonable pace and very easy to understand. By the time you got to the final paper being due, you had already written all the pieces and just had to tie the loose ends together. The material covered is extremely important and was just interesting to learn about. As a STEM student, research papers are extremely prevalent, both in college and beyond. By understanding how to build my own research paper, I have been able to break apart larger research papers effectively to understand the topics at hand." Mya Rivenburg

"In Seminar in Composition, I worked on many skills including critical reading and timed writing. A major part of the course was writing critical engagements with the readings that we were assigned. I feel learning how to truly read deeply was not taught in my high school, and this class really helped me to start to understand what I read and know what was important—not only in English but in other subjects such as biology. In the course, we read passages and answered questions (usually in an essay). We wrote essays on various topics from the panopticon to self doubt. Our experience reading about the panopticon was one that I remember well—I had never heard of panopticism before this class, but now I see examples of it often in everyday life. I would definitely take this course again! It helped me learn how to read more critically, which has helped me in many other courses throughout my college career." Rebecca Mihalko

ENGCMP 0203 Seminar in Composition: Gender Studies

Like other seminars in composition, this introductory course offers students opportunities to improve as writers by developing their understanding of how they and others use writing to interpret and share experience, affect behavior, and position themselves in the world.  This particular seminar will include readings and writing activities that comment on gender difference and consider the ways in which language and culture construct socially acceptable gender and sexual norms.

Paige Wheeler"I learned that writing does not have to be in a singular format. I was able to add my own personal embellishments while still tackling difficult ideas like race, gender, and stereotypes. In SC: Gender Studies, we were often asked to follow a specific format and work through anything we felt drawn to. I appreciated this because I felt more inclined to put effort into my writing because it was about things I wanted to say. The course was valuable to me because it challenged me to write with passion and emotion. Before this class, I often was faced with the task to write about something that had little effect on me and I had no emotional reaction to. By writing about things that directly affect me, my eyes were open to many aspects of feminism that I hadn't considered prior to this class. I loved that we were often able to choose what we wanted to write about. While we always wrote about issues dealing with gender and often feminism, we were given the opportunity to choose a topic relevant to us. I learned a lot about what mattered most to me, and got some things out into the world that I needed to say. It was very freeing to have the open prompts and practice writing about what we cared about most." Paige Wheeler

"This course taught me writing techniques that I will use throughout college. Until now, I’ve only ever written basic high school answer-the-prompt type essays, and college expects much more than that. I think this course offered a great way to get introduced to new styles of writing whilst not being moved too far out of my comfort zone. I learned that with writing, you can write in much more creative ways and formats than just a simple essay while still getting your point across. It can even be fun to write about a topic that would normally be in typical essay form, but writing in comedic lists or conditional statements, etc. I particularly liked that this course, as a first-year writing course, is on a specific topic, such as gender studies. It was much more motivating to be able to read and write about a topic that interests me and that I care a lot about. The writing wasn’t just homework and another bullet point on the list of assignments I needed to complete. It was fun to read and write about an area that interested me, which also helped me retain the new writing techniques I learned." Kelley Troutman 

ENGCMP 0205 Seminar in Composition: Film

Like other seminars in composition, this introductory course offers students opportunities to improve as writers by developing their understanding of how they and others use writing to interpret and share experience, affect behavior, and position themselves in the world. This particular seminar will include a series of films, along with discussions that focus on how films and other media shape the ways we view and understand the world.

Ben Asciutto"Over the course of my first semester at Pitt, I was able to obtain a firm understanding of how to learn, write and analyze cinema. In supporting my answers to a writing prompt, I would dive into the specifics of any moment in a film and connect it to the larger message/theme of it. I learned how cinema has many dynamic relationships between areas like realism and fantasy and how technical elements can leverage one or the other, or both. Structuring our responses and essays was a core part of how we would write efficiently on various subject matters within one given prompt. The course was centered around repeated practice and improvement. Each week we had a discussion post where students posted their responses to a prompt about a film as well as reacted to the response of another classmate. In addition, we were assigned essays that tackled the overarching questions of what is realism in film, what is fantasy in film, and most importantly, what is cinema. In class, we talked as a group about our own responses as well as finding and creating the connections between each of our thoughts and opinions. Seminar in Composition: Film has made a tremendous impact on my writing in other classes I have taken. By tackling the main theories that have dominated cinema since its inception, I could apply those same concepts to any sort of movie I had to discuss. I knew the terminology required to write about any film in detail, with the support of ideas/theories mentioned in class. Although there are various cinematic movements in history, they all return to the same core elements that made up the foundation of this course." Ben Asciutto

Immanuela Obisie-Orlu"Seminar in Composition: Film was a class that helped me develop the skills needed to think and write critically about different types of film — not just as entertainment, but also as purposeful work that both impacts and is impacted by society. Over the course of the semester I learned to meaningfully analyze the films we watched, construct arguments, and back them up with sources. In addition to developing stronger writing skills through practice and constant feedback, I was also able to refine some of the more technical aspects of writing, including proper citation techniques, formatting, punctuation, and grammar. We wrote four main papers, with each focused on the analysis, evaluation, and critique of a different film or film practice. We also had workshop activities for each paper, along with peer reviews where we would read and give feedback on the papers of fellow students in the class. Other activities included discussion posts regarding readings and films we had watched, revisions of our essays, and collaborative projects like making group videos in the last week of classes. Taking the class helped me get comfortable with writing lengthier papers compared to what I had written in high school, which prepared me for all the writing I’ve been doing throughout my degree. I use the same planning and brainstorming techniques that I learned over that semester for papers that I write today, and I find that the type of writing and analysis that I learned in Seminar in Composition: Film is similar to what I the writing I do in my other classes — even the ones that have nothing to do with film or media." Immanuela Obisie-Orlu

ENGCMP 0207 Seminar in Composition: Education

Like other seminars in composition, this introductory course offers students opportunities to improve as writers by developing their understanding of how they and others use writing to interpret and share experience, affect behavior, and position themselves in the world. This particular seminar will include readings that consider issues of teaching and learning in American education and may be of interest to those who plan to become teachers.

ENGCMP 0208 Seminar in Composition: Service-Learning  

Students in this section of SC will engage in service-learning, pairing meaningful service in the community with the academic work for the course. Throughout the term, the students provide service with community nonprofits of their choice; students can expect to devote about 2-3 hours a week, for a total of thirty hours of service over the course of the term. Class discussions focus on their experiences during this service work as well as their reflections on this experience as guided by a sequence of critical readings and short essay assignments. By considering the subjects in this community context, the course improves students’ essay writing by helping them to become more critical readers and writers.

“This course has taught me to be a critic of my own writing and to explore new service areas within my Pittsburgh communities. Because of this class, I write in a more focused way; I take a position and develop it with clarity and the support of outside sources. Not only has this class made me more cognizant of the writing process and the tools I need to be a strong writer, but it has also motivated me to become more engaged in the greater Pittsburgh community in which I live.” Guy Beresteanu

Sydney Kelley

“I believe the Seminar in Composition: Service-Learning course has taught me a lot about Pittsburgh. Coming to Pitt amid a pandemic, I haven’t been able to explore the city as much as I would have under normal circumstances, but this class made me feel connected to the community. Through the discussions inside class and in the service-learning placements, I have gotten to know people in the city, but I’ve also learned a lot about Pittsburgh as a whole. I’ve learned about the disparities that exist racially and socioeconomically, I’ve learned about the strength and sense of identity that comes with neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, and I’ve learned about the resilience of Pittsburgh residents.” Sydney Kelley

ENGCMP 0212 Seminar in Composition: Topics in Diversity 

Seminar in Composition is a course taken by almost all undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh. Its goals are to help you engage in writing as a creative, disciplined form of critical inquiry; compose thoughtfully crafted essays that position your ideas among other views; write with precision, nuance, and awareness of textual conventions; and revise your writing by rethinking the assumptions, aims, and effects of prior drafts. This seminar will include readings and writing activities that explore concepts and practices relating to diversity and its established and emerging definitions. Your section may address, for example, issues like race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religious difference, differences in abilities, and economic disparities. You can expect to identify and analyze assumptions about difference, study how texts can generate and perpetuate such assumptions, and explore the consequences of such assumptions. You will also learn how to research and compose with attention to difference. We will read a challenging set of essays to frame our work in the course, but the key texts will be your own writings and those of your classmates. Your focus on student writing will be detailed: you will work closely with the papers that you and your fellow classmates have written, trying to think of ways to make them more precise, interesting, organized, complex, and reflexive. This course is an opportunity to learn how to use reading (published texts, the papers of your classmates, and readers' comments) to help you work on your writing and how to use writing to help you strengthen ways of reading and thinking. Like other seminars in composition, this introductory course offers students opportunities to improve as writers by developing their understanding of how they and others use writing to interpret and share experience, affect behavior, and position themselves in the world. This seminar will include readings and writing activities that explore concepts and practices relating to diversity and its established and emerging definitions. Your section may address, for example, issues like race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religious difference, differences in abilities, and economic disparities. You can expect to identify and analyze assumptions about difference, study how texts can generate and perpetuate such assumptions, and explore the consequences of such assumptions. You will also learn how to research and compose with attention to difference.

"For my first-year writing course, I took Seminar in Composition: Diversity and was in a class section that focused specifically on Hip Hop culture and its multifaceted presence within the history of the United States. The course encouraged me to broaden my definition of literature because we analyzed and contextualized not only written texts, but also rap songs, interviews, and music videos. Learning through such a wide range of material was really engaging and made for great class discussions. I would encourage any student who is interested in music or Hip Hop culture to take this course because it’s a really fun way to improve at writing!" Lily Rouleau 

ENGCMP 0213 Seminar in Composition: Disability Studies 

This composition course will engage students in formal and informal writing that fosters critical thinking on the topic of disability. Drawing on theoretical writing in disability studies as well as creative and critical literature by writers with disabilities, the course will introduce students to ways of identifying and questioning certain sociocultural assumptions about ability, sensory experiences of the world, and mental as well as physical health. The nature of the writing assignments and writing processes will vary in order to recognize a diversity of abilities and ways of thinking. In exploring disability as a diversity issue, the course aims at intersectionality, a concept introduced in 1989 by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw. Intersectionality is the recognition that none of us can be said to inhabit a single identity; for example, our racial identity is always complicated by our socioeconomic class, gender and sexuality, as well as by our identities as abled/disabled. Anyone may become disabled at any point in time, and according to the Center for Disease Control, 61 million Americans identify as disabled, so it's safe to say that disability impacts every identity.

Jada Graham"This course improved my writing skills significantly, and it taught me how to be a better writer in a way that was meaningful. We read material from authors who live with disabilities, learned about people-first language, and had open discussions about the disability community. I really enjoyed that one of the first lessons taught was that when you are writing essays all you're doing is attempting, so it's okay to need to revise an essay multiple times or to take a chance and try a new creative style. I would highly recommend this course because it will open you up to the voice of a community that is minoritized as well as help you become a more refined writer." Jada Graham

Delphie Backs"In this class, I really enjoyed learning through an often-ignored lens: disability studies. It was valuable to read pieces from authors with disabilities, learn about correct language when talking about disabilities, and learn about the struggle towards disability rights in America. The assignments in this class allowed me the creative freedom to grow as a writer and I often found myself very interested in the topics I wrote about." Delphie Backs

Hailey Palubicki

"Seminar in Composition: Disability Studies fostered a welcoming environment for me to develop my writing and experiment with different styles I had not previously worked with during my high school career. It provided a foundation in first-person writing that I had little to no experience with prior to the course and showed me how to write beyond the rigidity of the five-paragraph essay taught in high school. My instructor created a classroom setting that encouraged collaboration among peers throughout the course during group discussions and in analyzing our work. Additionally, the course's specific focus on disability studies was invaluable in learning how to be critical of the rhetoric I use and its impact on various communities." Hailey Palubicki 

Kwaku Frempong-Manso"This class was very helpful in terms of transitioning from high school to college-level writing. I was able to learn how to write more concisely and efficiently. In terms of the course, it was quite interesting to learn more insight about disabilities. The perspectives and thoughts of disabled people are often overlooked and rarely taught in high schools, so this course was very enlightening." Kwaku Frempong-Manso 

ENGCMP 0214 Seminar in Composition: Sustainability 

New for Fall 2022: This course is an opportunity to take up writing as a method for engaging the world, for affecting change in the world, and for developing sustainable relationships with all those beings, systems, cultures, networks, and environments that we’re entangled within. Writing is more than a simple tool of communication, and when taken as such, this simplified view of writing might be taken up as partially to blame for the current crisis of sustainability we’re deep within. When we act as though our writing is merely a means of describing the world from a distance, we reinforce a sharp divide between our selves and the world around us. Instead, we can strive to write in rather than about the world. Writing can be a tool for developing and shaping our relationships with the world. In this section of Seminar in Composition we will engage with Sustainability as both a practice and interdisciplinary field of study. We will read texts that work to define sustainability and sustainable living. They will both promote particular practices of sustainability and trouble the notion of a sustainability that doesn’t require an overhaul in how we experience and engage the world around us. We will examine what it means to pursue sustainability and what it means to say that we are living through a crisis of sustainability. 

FP 0003 or FP 0006 First-Year Seminar

For Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences first-year students only

FP 0003 fulfills the Seminar in Composition requirement and includes Academic Foundations (FP 0001), for a total of four credits. Academic Foundations is designed especially for first-term students as an academic orientation to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. Through class work and out-of-class activities, students will gain knowledge of the educational opportunities at the University, the cultural events on and off campus, and an understanding of what it means to be a college student. Additional meetings and activities will occur outside of class time.

FP 0006 fulfills the seminar in composition requirement in the School of Arts and Sciences. This three-credit course uses readings, writing assignments, and discussions to explore a focused topic and examine ways in which high school and college-level writing differ.

You can browse specific course topics on the First-Year Seminar page.

"The essays I wrote were serious feats of storytelling. I was overwhelmed by my many ideas and the daunting task to weave them into a cohesive narrative. Thankfully, I learned how to organize my work. Some of the tricks I learned help me to track my ideas no matter the type of writing I’m doing. It was so much more than a writing class for me. Writing was used as a tool to explore the topic being taught." Deandra Robinson

"In this course, I learned more about inquiry writing and that it is okay to say 'I' in an essay. This was different from high school thesis-driven essays (which I was mostly used to). We had the course blog weekly where we respond to a specific idea, and classmates will comment under your blog post. If I could do it all again, I would take this course again because I was able to fulfill my Seminar in Composition requirement as well as take the academic foundations class. In addition, I loved the small class environment and was able to get to know people in my class by name easily. I also loved my professor for the class, who was very helpful regarding writing and life at Pitt. I will apply the skills of research and inquiry in writing courses that I will be taking in the future."  Enyo Akwayena 

ENGCMP 0210 Seminar in Composition: Engineering

For students in the Swanson School of Engineering only: Seminar in Composition is a course taken by almost all undergraduates at the University of Pittsburgh. Seminar in Composition: Engineering undertakes the goals of Seminar in Composition within a first-year (and beyond) engineering context. First-year Swanson School of Engineering (SSOE) students in Seminar in Composition: Engineering will explore engineering disciplines, practices, methods, ethics, and education and will analyze their own views and goals as engineering students and as future engineers as they are learning about and practicing writing as a rigorous, disciplined form of critical inquiry and a responsible form of communication. In Seminar in Composition: Engineering, students will strengthen their knowledge and practice of the textual conventions required of university- and professional-level writing and will, via drafting and revision, regularly reexamine the clarity and effects of their writing processes and outcomes. Writing instruction will take place in the ENGR 0011 or 0711 classroom, so students won't have a separate class meeting for ENGCMP 0210; be sure that your ENGR and ENGCMP courses meet at the same day and time in the same classroom.