This chapter explores the task of writing in college. It details common myths about academic writing and the importance of developing a “writer’s sense” within the writing situation. It identifies features of the complex “literacy task” college writing assignments require and decodes elements of the academic writing situation that students frequently struggle with: in particular, the nature of argument and analysis in college writing tasks. The chapter outlines three common types of writing assignments college writers might expect to receive and offers advice on how to address them. It closes by detailing particular textual features commonly expected in academic essays.
The principles Aristotle laid out in his Rhetoric nearly 2,500 years ago still form the foundation of much of our contemporary practice of argument. The rhetorical situation Aristotle argued was present in any piece of communication is often illustrated with a triangle to suggest the interdependent relationships among its three elements: the voice (the speaker or writer), the audience (the intended listeners or readers), and the message (the text being conveyed).
In this chapter, [Kerry Dirk] introduces students to genres as rhetorical responses to reoccurring or similar situations. After defining genre in the context of rhetoric and composition scholarship, [Kerry Dirk] uses examples from popular culture, discussion from contemporary scholars, and personal experience to show students how genre awareness requires a rhetorical way of looking at writing. This chapter is meant not to teach students how to write in any one particular genre; rather, it is meant to help students start to see their own writing endeavors as texts that function within the context of genres.
How can we help students become invested in their writing? How can we help students write interesting papers that we look forward to reading? Students can learn to write interesting papers that develop complex ideas if they begin by “looking for trouble.” This chapter provides students with a step-by-step process for finding their way into assignments by focusing on tensions within texts or between themselves and texts, articulating problems, and raising questions. Given that all good academic writing, regardless of discipline, wrestles with meaningful problems and pursues fruitful questions, you can help students use this approach whenever they are given a writing assignment.
Interpreting writing assignments can be a challenge for anyone. For first-year college students, however, it can be an overwhelming struggle as students learn to adjust to new academic pressures and expectations.What is my instructor evaluating? Do I need an argument? How do I structure my response? Questions like these trouble the minds of many undergraduates and, for several reasons, they frequently go unanswered. This chapter gives students practical strategies for interpreting writing assignments, including how to identify important rhetorical elements, how to calculate and respond to common expectations, and how to recognize and discuss specific points of confusion.
The first step in any successful college writing venture is reading the assignment. While this sounds like a simple task, it can be a tough one. This handout will help you unravel your assignment and begin to craft an effective response. Much of the following advice will involve translating typical assignment terms and practices into meaningful clues to the type of writing your instructor expects.
Rather than merely define rhetoric and provide examples, this chapter asks students to participate in playful exercises that revolve around a hypothetical murder. While the facts remain the same, the rhetorical situations vary: you can invite your students to write as if they are detectives, coroners, eulogists, and lawyers. In each situation, the rhetorical demands are different; however, students will be encouraged that they know how to respond from their own experience or from examples by other student writers that demonstrate how responses might vary and why. The progression of the writing exercises will help you and your students identify and define which rhetorical strategies they are already capable of employing and help them to think about how such strategies can apply to academic writing.
Conventional literacy pedagogy in secondary education uses the five-paragraph essay to train students to be succinct writers capable of performing in pressured situations, such as state mandated tests. We aim to show students of first-year writing practical steps in transitioning into college writing by providing strategies for breaking out of habits that limit intellectual inquiry. Through learning critical reading, freewriting, and outlining techniques, student writers can compose in multiple genres in the first-year writing course and across the disciplines. These invention strategies can prompt valuable dialogue between teachers and first-year writers making the transition into college level writing.
One of the toughest challenges students face is figuring out what to write about. Connecting personal identity and purpose to more public contexts and subjects can play a significant role in helping students to write confidently. “Taking Flight” acknowledges the anxiety writers can feel when faced with the task of inventing, while offering strategies for overcoming those challenges. The strategies discussed include journaling, conversation (including through digital means such as email and instant messenger), reflective methods such as prayer and meditation, and kinesthetic strategies such as role play, drumming, movement, and switching between handwritten and electronic writing technologies.
This chapter focuses on how to work collaboratively on group projects and on how technology can facilitate productive cooperation among group members. Users will learn how to assess a project, choose technologies conducive to review and document sharing, and prepare group projects for presentation. Group members should assess the requirements of a project, determine the best communication technologies to use for the project, assign roles to each group member, and organize the project and technology for easy access, completion, and presentation.
Students need to learn how to revise their writing based on readers' feedback, but they rarely know how to make such decisions. This chapter teaches students how to make decisions about essay development and revision by modeling and explaining a writing teacher's decision-making process. Every semester, I ask my students for topic ideas and then write an essay for them. They provide feedback on the draft, and I revise it based on their comments. This chapter draws on one of the writing experiences. Students will see various stages of an in-progress essay that demonstrate and explain how student writers can employ these strategies in their own preliminary writing to presentation-quality writing.
This handout provides some tips and strategies for revising your writing. To give you a chance to practice proofreading, we have left seven errors (three spelling errors, two punctuation errors, and two grammatical errors) in the text of this handout. See if you can spot them!