Every Harvard College student is required to take a course in expository writing during their freshman year, a requirement in effect since 1872. In Expos courses you learn how to write the kinds of persuasive papers you will need to write throughout college, in disciplines as varied as literature, anthropology, government, and the life sciences. The ability to write clearly, truthfully, and convincingly will serve you well outside of Harvard and after you graduate—whether as consumers, family members, friends, employees, or as citizens of a democracy. Those who write well are especially empowered to transform the many worlds they navigate, both big and small. This life-long project begins with mastering essay writing in college.

The Writing Exam that freshmen take over the summer allows the Writing Program to advise you on whether you should enroll directly in Expos 20—which meets the Expository Writing requirement—or whether you might be better served by enrolling first in the elective course Expos Studio 10 in the fall. (Note that students placed in Expos 20 on the basis of their Writing Exam have the option of fulfilling their Expository Writing requirement by enrolling in Humanities 10a and 10b. Admission to this course is by application. To fulfill the requirement, students must complete both terms of Humanities 10a and 10b sequentially during freshman year.)

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. Each Expos Studio 10 class is limited to 10 students, who work closely with their preceptor and collaboratively with their classmates. Expos Studio 10 assignments invite students to investigate concerns, questions, and debates relevant to their own lives at Harvard and beyond; students develop their knowledge both from written and visual sources as well as from experiences and experts outside the classroom. The course gives students the chance to try out their ideas in many short pieces of writing, in oral presentations and other projects, and in lively discussions, helping them develop ideas in multiple stages and actively practice the steps of constructing an essay. For information about the course—its approach, structure, and assignments, as well as how to decide if it’s right for you—please see the Expos Studio 10 website at the Harvard College Writing Program.

Students who are recommended for Expos Studio 10 on the basis of the summer Writing Exam will meet with an Expos faculty member during Opening Days to discuss whether placement in Expos Studio 10 is appropriate for them. Students who were not recommended for Expos Studio 10 but who want to enroll in the class may do so with the permission of an Expos Studio 10 adviser.

Why should I take Expos Studio 10?

Students choose to take Expos Studio 10 for a variety of reasons. Some are students who have less experience in writing, or whose writing preparation suggests that an additional term of coursework would support their 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.

Expos Studio 10 is offered in the fall term only. Students who enroll in Expos Studio 10 must fulfill their Expository Writing requirement by taking either Expos Studio 20 or Expos 20 in the spring. Students who are recommended for Expos Studio 10 and who opt not to take it will enroll in Expos 20 in the fall.

Expos 20 and Expos Studio 20

In the service of teaching you how to craft an academic argument, each Expos 20 course focuses on a specific topic, exploring the issues, debates, and questions involved in that subject. No previous knowledge of the topic is required for any Expos course. Although each course has its own distinct set of sources, the foundation of every Expos 20 course will be on reading in preparation for writing and on strategies for writing analytical arguments.

In Expos 20, students learn, among other things, how to pose an analytical question that makes a paper’s argument necessary; how to craft a thesis that is arguable; how to analyze evidence thoughtfully and respond to alternative interpretations; how to structure an argument logically; how to use primary and secondary sources responsibly; and how to approach the complex steps involved in a research paper. Throughout the course, students are learning how to apply the lessons learned in Expos to papers in other fields.

Students who enroll in Expos Studio 10 in the fall have the option of taking either Expos 20 or Expos Studio 20 in the spring to meet the expository writing requirement. Expos Studio 20 meets the same curricular goals as Expos 20, but continues the hands-on, intensive small-group instruction of Expos Studio 10. The course is focused on a semester-long theme, and each section enrolls only 10 students; emphasizes both independent and collaborative work; gives students the opportunity to develop ideas through writing, discussion, and oral presentations; and offers more frequent individual feedback. Like Expos Studio 10, Expos Studio 20 involves students in experiences beyond the classroom, and assignments allow students to connect the course theme to concerns and questions that have meaning in their lives at Harvard and beyond. For more information about Expos Studio 20, please see the Expos Studio 10 page of the Harvard College Writing Program website.


How do I section?

To register for Expos, you will use a sectioning tool in my.harvard. Visit the Writing Program’s website for the most up-to-date instructions on how to complete the registration process.


  • The Writing Center, part of the Harvard College Writing Program, is a place for Harvard undergraduates to get help from trained peer tutors with any stage of the writing process, from idea brainstorming to partial drafts to completed essays.
  • The Harvard Guide to Using Sources is a concise and useful introduction to the basics of using sources effectively and responsibly. The Guide explains the standards of source use and acknowledgment in the Harvard community, and teaches essential practices to help students handle their work with sources with integrity. It is a required text in Expos 20.
  • The Harvard Writing Project (HWP), staffed by Writing Program faculty members with expertise in a wide variety of disciplines, develops writing guides for courses and disciplines as well as for senior thesis writers.
  • The Harvard Writing Project and the Bok Center collaborate to sponsor the Bok Writing Fellows Program. Bok Writing Fellows are advanced graduate students who consult with undergraduates on writing in particular concentrations.
  • HarvardWrites offers an array of lessons on the fundamental elements of academic argumentation.