All students must fulfill the expository writing requirement during their first year. The Writing Exam allows the Writing Program to advise students about whether they should enroll directly in Expository Writing 20 or whether they would be better served by enrolling first in Expos Studio 10: Introduction to Expository Writing. Students who are recommended for Expos 20 are also eligible to fulfill the writing requirement with Humanities 10a and 10b.

Expository Writing 20

Expository Writing 20, the one-semester course that satisfies the Harvard College writing requirement, is offered during the fall and spring semesters, and students using this course to meet the College’s writing requirement must take the course during their first year. Expos 20 is designed to introduce students to the practices and expectations of academic writing at Harvard. Students in Expos 20 write three academic essays, developing their ideas in early response papers and essay drafts and then refining and developing those arguments further in substantive revisions. In these three essays, students work with complex sources, engage in rigorous analysis, and develop original arguments. These essays give students experience in approaches to academic argument found in other writing assignments at Harvard. Because of the sequential nature of the writing process in Expos, students are often writing something for the course—response papers, other writing exercises, essay drafts or revisions—every week. Expos 20 is structured as a seminar, meeting twice a week in classes limited to 15 students. Each section of Expos 20 is devoted to a different course topic. Additional information about Expos 20 and course topics, can be found here. Fall 2020 course information will be available in August.

Students who have been recommended for Expos 20 may fulfill their expository writing requirement by taking Humanities 10a and 10b, a two-semester reading- and writing-intensive course. The two semesters must be taken consecutively during the first year to meet the requirement. For more information about the course, please see the Arts and Humanities website.


Expos Studio 10

Expos Studio 10 is designed to help students make the transition from the writing they’ve done before college to the writing that will be expected of them at Harvard. One of the most important goals of Expos Studio 10 is to help students approach their writing with confidence, both about what they have to say as well as about how best to communicate those ideas.

Good writing is a skill we develop by practicing it regularly, not just by putting thoughts on paper, but also by listening carefully to the reactions of our readers and opening ourselves to the suggestions and insights of dedicated teachers. These are capacities that themselves take practice to develop, and there is no better place to do so than in the “studio” writing course—one that uses a hands-on and intensive approach to writing and that emphasizes both individual and collaborative work. In the studio course, students try out their ideas in many short pieces of writing as well as in lively discussions. Each week they work in teams and on their own to generate and test their positions in debates and their interpretations of evidence, and to imagine alternative ways of understanding an issue. Every step of the way, preceptors are there to coach students in their development as thinkers and writers. They offer abundant feedback in one-on-one conferences and in paper comments. And they lead students through innovative exercises and assignments that draw on a variety of media and the diverse thinking found in disciplines like psychology, philosophy, sociology, political theory, anthropology, and art.

Students who choose to take Expos Studio 10 do so for a variety of reasons. Some are students who have less experience in analytical writing, or whose writing preparation suggests that an additional term of coursework would ease the transition to writing at Harvard. Some have strong writing experience in other areas (for example, journalism or creative writing) but have less experience in the kind of analytical writing that Harvard courses will require. Some students know that they haven’t written extensively in their previous courses and want practice, or feel unfamiliar with the conventions of the American academic essay. Others feel they have strengths in other academic areas and want to take this opportunity to develop their writing abilities as well.

Like Expos 20, Expos Studio 10 emphasizes analytical writing: engaging with important social, political, and ethical questions relevant to Harvard students and the larger community; developing ideas and structuring arguments; reading closely, analyzing evidence, and questioning sources; and communicating those ideas to readers in clear, effective prose. However, Expos Studio 10 differs significantly in its approach and structure.

  • Expos Studio 10 assignments invite students to investigate the diverse concerns, rich traditions, and live debates within the broader Harvard community, both by the subjects that students explore as well as by the opportunity to learn from experiences and experts outside the classroom.
  • Expos Studio 10 classes devote the first half of the course to practicing the skills of writing and revising an argument in shorter assignments. Those briefer pieces, each addressing a compelling question, offer students strategies for developing a strong and arguable thesis and for organizing ideas effectively.
  • In the second half of the course, students then apply those fundamental elements of argument to a longer essay.
  • Throughout all those assignments, Expos Studio 10 courses also prioritize an attention to writing and learning as a process, introducing students to the practical benefits that discovery and revision bring to their writing in any course they will take at Harvard. From the beginning of each assignment, students learn how to develop ideas in brief reflections, responses, and exercises--all useful tools for meeting the challenges of writing assignments at Harvard.
  • To ensure as much feedback and one-on-one attention to student’s writing as possible, Expos Studio 10 courses are smaller: only 10 students per section. Students also meet more frequently in individual conferences with their preceptor.
  • Expos Studio 10 sections also prioritize practicing oral presentations, giving students the opportunity to develop skills at another important mode of communicating their ideas to others.

Students who elect to take Expos Studio 10 have often been recommended for the course by faculty in the Harvard College Writing Program on the basis of the Writing Exam, although some students elect to take the course without being recommended for it. Students who are recommended and other students interested in the course will meet with one of the Expos Studio 10 faculty during Orientation to determine if placement in Expos Studio 10 is appropriate for them.

Expos Studio 10 is offered in the fall term only. Students who enroll in Expos Studio 10 must fulfill their writing requirement by taking either Expos Studio 20 or Expos 20 in the spring. Expos Studio 20 continues the intensive, small-group instruction found in Expos Studio 10. Additional information on Expos Studio 10 can be found here