Department of English

Nonfiction Writing at Brown for First-Year Students

The Nonfiction Writing Program brings together three forms of writing: academic essay, journalism, and creative nonfiction.

All Nonfiction writing classes are conducted in small seminar settings. 

Registration Guidelines
Information on how to register for these limited-enrollment courses.
Concentration Requirements
Information For the Nonfiction Writing track, English concentration.


Taking ENGL0900 in your first semester will give you a good background in the skills of critical reading and writing helpful in other academic courses. If you are reasonably competent at critical reading and writing, however, taking other lower-level courses in English should give you what you need and/or help you to assess your writing abilities so that you can choose a writing course that more precisely meets your needs.

If I have already had analytical writing instruction in high school and have written relatively long research papers, why should I take a writing course at Brown?

ENGL0900 will instruct you in the concepts and methods of critical inquiry, whereas ENGL1030—which deals more with individual research—requires a higher level of writing competency. Although high scores in standardized tests demonstrate knowledge and competence, the specific demands of university writing often differ from those evaluated by standardized tests. 

Concentrating in English requires a good background in critical reading and writing. If you are reasonably competent at critical reading and writing, taking an introductory literature course first will help you learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. You will then be able to choose a writing course that more precisely meets your needs.

Read the individual descriptions for each section and choose the one that interests you the most. You might also contact the specific instructor of the section that interests you. The number of sections offered allows you to choose a section that works well with the rest of your schedule. 

Although high GCE scores reflect competence in the English language, ESL students benefit from the intensity of individual writing instruction. ENGL0900 will familiarize you with the practices of writing in a university in the US.

You must check with your department to see what is required.

For nonfiction writing courses that require a writing sample, individual instructors have different requirements; these will be explained on the first day of class. You may also contact the specific instructor ahead of time for the section you’d like to take to prepare your sample.

Please see the curriculum map for details. In a general sense, ENGL0930 will introduce you to creative nonfiction and to its various subgenres. ENGL 1050, an intermediate-level seminar in nonfiction has been designed for more experienced writers wanting to concentrate on specific subgenres. As an advanced writing course, ENGL1180 requires the highest level of competence in writing and a working familiarity with creative nonfiction.

Additional Information

The Nonfiction Writing program like other concentrations has guidelines that must be followed to complete the track.
The Nonfiction Writing Program, unique to Brown University in its scope, teaches the writing of nonfiction in its predominant modes: the academic essay, creative nonfiction, and journalism.