MIT Writing Requirement


MIT provides many resources for students who need or wish to improve their writing skills. The following are a list of some of these resources:

  • The Mayfield Handbook of Scientific and Technical Writing: The Handbook is an online writing style guide, free to all in the MIT community. Consult the handbook for everything from how to draft a lab report to how to prepare a job letter.
  • The Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies: The Program offers instruction in writing at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. Courses cover three broad areas: exposition and rhetoric, scientific and technical writing, and creative writing. The staff includes essayists, novelists, and poets, as well as specialists in technical communication.
  • The Writing and Communication Center: The Center, run by the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies, helps students develop skills such as: analyzing a topic, organizing a paper, and planning a thesis. It offers help with overcoming writer's block and with specific problems in grammar, mechanics, and style. Tutoring is available on a drop-in basis or by appointment; work is tailored to individual and group needs.
  • The English as a Second Language (ESL) Program: The ESL Program helps students whose first language is not English. The Program offers instruction in English from beginning to advanced levels, as well as writing subjects covering general and technical topics. A fully-equipped language lab is available for supplementary work. The Program administers the English Diagnostic Review concurrently with the Freshman Essay Evaluation, to all incoming students who are bilingual or whose native language is not English. This test allows the ESL Program to identify students who may benefit from the Program's assistance early on in their college careers.
  • The MIT Libraries: Information retrieval skills are an important part of your professional toolbox. The MIT Libraries offer resources to help you develop those skills. The MIT Library System is made up of libraries specializing in most of the academic disciplines. The five major subject libraries are: Engineering, Science, Humanities, Dewey (social sciences), and Rotch (architecture and urban studies). The online catalogue listing materials in all five libraries is accessible at workstations in each library.

    PHASE ONE:You may find Humanities Library material helpful as you work to satisfy Phase One of the Writing Requirement. For example, you can search bibliographic indexes on compact disc to find recent journal articles on almost any topic.
    PHASE TWO: You will want to become familiar with the subject library in your field as you write your Phase Two paper. Reference librarians in each library specialize in one or more subject areas and are available for in-depth consultation. Free quick searches of "commercially produced" online databases are available in all libraries.

The many campus publications also offer opportunities to write. These publications include the MIT student newspapers, newsletters published by dormitories and departments, and "Rune," the campus literary magazine.

Reference Books on Writing

There are many fine books on various aspects of writing. The following list is only a representative sample. Consult The MIT Libraries for additional writing reference books.

  1. The American Heritage Dictionary. 3rd College Ed. Houghton Mifflin, 1991. (An excellent and accessible dictionary with some good notes on usage.)
  2. Strunk, William Jr. and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 3rd Ed. Macmillan, 1979. (The classic concise guide to style and usage.) (Click here to access the first edition of this text, which is now available on line.)
  3. Williams, Joseph M. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. 3rd Ed. Scott Foresman, 1989. (A practical guide to writing clear and effective prose.)
  4. Fowler, W.H. The King’s English. Available online.

Other important links:

  1. Registrar's Office
  2. 21F222
  3. 21W730
  4. 21W731
  5. 21W732
  6. 21F226
  7. 21F228
  8. 21W780
  9. 21W783

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Last modified August 22, 1997