Situation

The subjects of college papers don't exist in isolation. The environment, setting, or circumstance in which you write influences your approach to each writing task. The general setting that dictates college writing is educational and academic, though more particular circumstances will surround each specific assignment. For example, each assignment will be affected to some extent by the specific disciplinary expectations of a given college, course, and grade level, so that if you want to write a given paper successfully, it's your job to identify these. Are the expectations at a college of Arts and Sciences any different from those at the colleges of Business, Engineering, Agriculture, or Education? What conventions govern the writing in English courses and how are they different from those that govern sociology, art, or nursing? What assumptions can you make if enrolled in an advanced class versus an introductory class?

You already know that writing in college, like writing in secondary school, will be evaluated, which puts additional constraints on every act of writing you perform. Consequently, your writing, while displaying disciplinary knowledge, must be clear, correct, typed, and completed on time. Be aware that in your physical absence, your writing speaks for you, allowing others to judge not only your knowledge, but other intellectual habits, such as your general level of literacy (how critically you read, how articulately you make an argument), your personal discipline (the level of precision with which the paper meets all requirements), your reasoning ability (does your approach demonstrate intelligence, thoughtfulness?), and possibly your creativity (is your approach original, imaginative?). In other words, every piece of writing conveys tacit, between-the-lines information about the writer, as well as the explicit information the assignment calls for. (For more information on the academic community, see Chapter Five.) Therefore, as you are writing consider the following:

• Know who you are. Be aware that your writing may reflect your gender, race, ethnic identity, political or religious affiliation, social class, educational background, and regional upbringing. Read your writing and notice where these personal biases emerge; noticing them gives you more control, and allows you to change, delete, or strengthen them—depending upon your purpose.

• Know where you are. Be aware of the ideas and expectations that characterize your college, discipline, department, course, instructor, and grade level. If you know this context, you can better shape your writing to meet or question it.

• Negotiate. In each act of writing, attempt to figure out how much of you and your beliefs to present versus how many institutional constraints to consider. Know that every time you write you must mediate between the world you bring to the writing and the world in which the writing will be read.

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