Student Resources

Welcome to the Critical Thinking through Writing (CTW) Student Information page. Below, you will find information on the CTW initiative and resources to help you as you prepare to take your CTW classes. If you would like information about the initiative beyond what you find in this site, please feel free to contact Jennifer Lawrence, Associate Director of CTW, at or by phone at 404-413-5878.

Frequently Asked Questions


For more information on CTW and the accreditation process see the links below:

For more information the relationship between critical thinking, writing, and the job market, please read these articles discussing surveys of employers:

If you want additional information on SACS accreditation or the QEP, please contact the CTW office via email at or by phone at 404-413-5878

Answers to frequently asked questions

What is CTW?

CTW stands for Critical Thinking through Writing. Beginning in the fall of 2009, all entering undergraduate students are required to take two CTW courses in their major in order to graduate with a degree from Georgia State University. CTW courses are designed to develop students’ critical thinking abilities within their major area of study. The courses incorporate short writing assignments that encourage students to examine the course content in a new light and to use the tools that they have learned in their courses to think like members of their discipline.

What is critical thinking?

Every discipline defines critical thinking a bit differently, which is why GSU decided to require students to take two Critical Thinking through Writing courses in their own discipline. On the whole, most disciplines would agree that the ability to think critically reflects the highest orders of learning. Most agree that students are engaging in critical thinking when they perform actions like synthesis, analysis, evaluation, and application. Some majors add more actions and each discipline tends to define these actions a bit differently according to the needs of their field. For example, synthesis means something quite different to a Chemist than it does to an English major.

How will I know if a course is a CTW course?

Critical Thinking through Writing courses will be labeled as CTW in GoSolar and in the course catalog. For a list of CTW courses in your major, you can also contact your major’s advisement office.

Where can I find a list of CTW courses offered in my major?

For a list of courses in your major, you can check with your department or college advisorsa.

Why did Georgia State University add the CTW course requirement?

The Critical Thinking through Writing initiative is part of Georgia State University’s Quality Enhancement Plan. Every few years, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) requires its schools to reevaluate their expectations of students and consider ways of improving curriculum so that they can be reaccredited. When it was time for GSU to prepare for reaccreditation, the team responsible for handling GSU’s reaccreditation plan surveyed the faculty to see what they thought the students really needed to improve. Most of the faculty agreed that GSU students would benefit from a focus on critical thinking, so the university developed the Critical Thinking through Writing initiative as a means of improving the curriculum, and the university decided to make CTW a graduation requirement to ensure that all GSU students would have the opportunity to take the courses.

Will I have to do more work in a CTW course?

Possibly. Critical Thinking through Writing courses focus on developing critical thinking through the use of short writing assignments. CTW classes often offer students the opportunity for revision, and assignments are often sequenced, meaning that rather than writing one long paper at the end of the semester, you may write several shorter assignments that allow you to focus on elements of critical thinking and then combine those segments into one longer assignment. You may indeed do more writing than you do in your other classes, but the writing you do should be more productive. CTW assignments are as varied as the majors that offer them, so the types of writing you do and the objectives of those assignment will be guided largely by the discipline you are studying.

How were the CTW courses chosen?

The university asked majors to develop two CTW courses. Some majors chose to adapt courses that already existed, and others chose to develop entirely new courses to meet the needs of the Critical Thinking through Writing initiative. Once the majors chose their courses, they developed a plan for the courses as well as some sample syllabi and assignments, and they submitted the courses to the Undergraduate Assessment Committee for approval.

Who has to take CTW courses?

Beginning in fall 2009, every undergraduate student must take two CTW courses in their major to graduate from Georgia State University. This rule applies to incoming freshmen as well as students transferring in to Georgia State University in fall 2009

How many CTW courses will I have to take?

Every undergraduate must take two CTW courses in their major.

Can I take more than two CTW courses?

Yes. You must take two within your own major, but you may take as many within your major as you like. Some majors may restrict enrollment in CTW courses to majors.

If I took a CTW course in another major, does it count toward my graduation requirement?

No. Students must take two CTW courses within their majors. Students may be allowed to take CTW courses in majors other than their own, but those CTW courses will not count toward the graduation requirement.

I’m a transfer student, and I already took a course like the CTW course offered here. Will I have to take the course again at GSU to get CTW credit?

Yes. Only courses taken at Georgia State will receive CTW credit.

I have a double major. How does the CTW requirement affect me?

Students taking a double major will have to take two CTW courses in each of their majors.

How does the CTW requirement affect Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) majors?

BIS majors are required to take two CTW courses just as other majors do. Many BIS concentrations offer CTW directed readings. For more information on the CTW offerings for BIS students, please refer to the course catalog or contact your major advisor.

I’ve heard that CTW is part of university assessment. What is being assessed?

CTW is a part of university assessment, and your work in the CTW course may be reviewed by faculty members other than your course instructor. Faculty members in your department often sit down to examine student work to help them come to a consensus about the traits they value in student thinking and to share successful strategies for improving student learning. This is something that happens in many courses, not just CTW courses; however, because the Critical Thinking though Writing initiative is formally a part of university assessment, work in CTW courses will be considered more consistently than work in other courses. However, it is important to remember that while your work in the CTW courses may be part of university assessment, the university is not monitoring individual students, just trends in student writing and the success of assignments.

My class has a CTW consultant. How can the consultant help me?

The CTW consultant is a graduate student in your major or in a related major. The consultant acts as a specialized tutor for your class. If your professor has elected to allow you to write drafts of your CTW assignment, the consultant may look over your assignment and offer suggestions for improvement. Your consultant can also meet with you to help you with the course content or to give you tips on thinking and writing like a member of your discipline.

My professor mentioned a CTW student survey. Where can I find a link to that?

The CTW student survey is offered at the end of every semester. A week before the end of the semester and a week following the end of the semester, students can find the CTW student survey at

What is Accreditation and how is CTW related to GSU Accreditation?

Georgia State University underwent a review for re-accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 2008. As part of the re-accreditation process, the University was required to prepare a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). The University’s QEP, Critical Thinking through Writing, seeks to increase our baccalaureate students’ capacity for critical thinking and writing as evidenced in their major field of study.

Accreditation is a voluntary, independent review of the quality of higher education institutions and programs. Accreditation is a major way that students, families, government officials, and employers know that an institution or program provides a quality education. Being awarded accreditation ensures that an institution has been evaluated and that it met set standards of quality determined by the accrediting organization. Georgia State University is currently accredited and is undergoing review for reaffirmation.

Why is Accreditation Important?

  • Provides access to federal funds: Students who want federal (and sometimes state) grants and loans need to attend a college, university, or program that is accredited. State governments require that a college, university, or program be accredited when they make state funds available to students or institutions and when they allow students to sit for state licensure examinations in some professional fields.
  • Engenders employer confidence: Employers ask if a college, university, or program is accredited before deciding to provide tuition assistance to current employees, evaluating the credentials of new employees, or making a charitable contribution.
  • Easing transfer of courses and programs: Proper accreditation is important for the acceptance and transfer of college credit, and it is a prerequisite for many graduate programs.
  • Encourages innovation and quality improvements: It allows the university to review its programs, develop creative and forward-thinking approaches to student learning, and work together to improve educational outcomes.

Who Accredits?

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) is the regional accreditor for colleges and universities. Accrediting agencies are private, nongovernmental organizations created for the specific purpose of reviewing higher education institutions and programs for quality. SACS is recognized by both the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education. Its Commission on Colleges is responsible for the accreditation of universities, senior colleges, and two-year colleges. Each year approximately 75 institutions are reviewed by SACS for reaffirmation of accreditation. Reaffirmation of accreditation for a university or college takes place every ten years.

What is Involved in Getting Accredited?

The Commission on Colleges of SACS has established a set of standards, known as the Principles of Accreditation, that serve to guide an institution to demonstrate how well it fulfills its mission, the quality and effectiveness of its programs and services, and how it is engaged in an ongoing program of improvement.

1. Institution Engages in Self Study:

· Compliance Certification: Documentation of compliance with established core requirements, comprehensive standards, and federal regulations. In total 82 criteria must be met. This Compliance Report was submitted in 2007 and reviewed by an off site review committee appointed by SACS. The committee’s findings were communicated to us, indicating deficiencies that needed addressed. A Focused Report with additional information to demonstrate compliance was completed and sent to SACS in February 2008.

· Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP): A component of the accreditation process that reflects and affirms our commitment to enhancing our programs with a focus on improving student learning. As a University, we have identified Critical Thinking through Writing as our focus. An on-site visit by the SACS Review Committee on March 18-20, 2008 focused on the acceptability of the QEP, Critical Thinking through Writing, and review areas of concern and for noncompliance.

2. Peer review: Review was conducted by faculty and administrative peers from other institutions. In addition to the off-site team, this included an on-site team that visited campus on March 18-20, 2008. All review team members volunteer their time and are generally not compensated.

3. Judgment: The reviewers and SACS committees reviewed all information gathered and decided to reaffirm accreditation.

4. Ongoing external review: SACS requires that an institution’s accreditation be reviewed every ten years. A five-year evaluation of the QEP will be conducted by SACS following our reaffirmation.

Who can I contact if I have more questions about CTW?

If you have more questions about the CTW initiative, you can contact Jennifer Lawrence, Associate Director of CTW, at or by phone at 404-413-5878

Upcoming Events

all-day Assessment: Evaluating and Encou...
Assessment: Evaluating and Encou...
Sep 28 – Oct 12 all-day
Well-designed assessments can be used to evaluate, engage, and challenge your students in all sorts of ways. In this online faculty mini-course, we’ll consider best practices in quizzing, formative and authentic assessment, problem-based learning, and other… more »
all-day Creating Online Instructional Co...
Creating Online Instructional Co...
Oct 12 – Oct 26 all-day
In this course, we’ll discuss how to find, adapt, and create well-designed content that will engage students in online and hybrid courses. We’ll outline fundamental design principles and suggest tools and techniques that we think… more »
1:00 pm How To Redesign A College Course... @ Classroom South, Room 401
How To Redesign A College Course... @ Classroom South, Room 401
Oct 13 @ 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm
This seminar will showcase NCAT’s guide to redesigning any academic area other than mathematics and will include a case study of Fairfield University’s redesign of General Biology presented by Shelley Phelan.
all-day Assessment: Evaluating and Encou...
Assessment: Evaluating and Encou...
Oct 26 – Nov 9 all-day
Well-designed assessments can be used to evaluate, engage, and challenge your students in all sorts of ways. In this online faculty mini-course, we’ll consider best practices in quizzing, formative and authentic assessment, problem-based learning, and other… more »

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