Composition studies are college- and university-level courses in writing. They focus on academic writing, rhetoric, technical writing and written communication methods for aspiring professionals in various academic disciplines. These courses are often taken by people who are earning a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in English. To earn a bachelor’s degree, most university students — even if they are not English majors — will have to successfully pass at least a few basic composition studies courses to develop their writing skills.
One aspect of composition studies is that they focus on both the art and science of writing. The science of writing includes technical elements such as grammar, sentence structure, paragraph organization and overall cohesion. The art of writing has more to do with the techniques writers need to transform their words into something meaningful, such as the effective use of rhetoric, imagery and logic. Composition studies also encompass skills such as research, because the technical skills required to complete and synthesize research are combined with the rhetorical skills needed to develop effective hypotheses and arguments related to the results of the research.
Within composition studies, there is a fairly large variety of courses. Beginning composition courses can help students learn about the fundamentals of college-level grammar and composition, the formulation of thesis statements and essays, and basic research skills. Literary research courses combine reading and analyzing fiction or nonfiction literature with advanced research into related facets, such as literary criticism, which will require students to synthesize information and express their own research-based opinions. Advanced composition classes can help students to develop their skills in fiction and nonfiction writing as well as help them refine the rhetorical techniques they employ in their writing. Other classes in composition studies focus on professional, business and technical writing, which often require students to use their skills in composition to write about other academic disciplines, such as science or sociology.
There are many practical uses and implications for the skills that students learn through their courses in composition studies. Students who have mastered technical and business writing as well as their skills of persuasion might go on professionally to write successful grant applications. Other students might carry these skills into graduate school for future careers in law, business or politics. Award-winning authors who write popular fiction or self-help books might well apply the skills they learned through their composition studies to enhance their writing and communication.