Reference Managers and Writing Workshop – 11/8/13
Endnote has gotten better over the year. It’s funky, but good at certain tasks.
Which tool you use is really about how you work.
If just getting citations from Jstor, those pop into Endnote easily, goes into Word very easily.
Endnote Web allows you to go to the web storage easily.
But in Archive, digital photographs, Zotero (only tool that can work with Web pages and web-based research materials easily). Also allows annotation; has mostly functional ipad/iphone app. Open source. Zotero is very stable; funding from the Mellon foundation, NEH. Can be used with Open Office and not just Microsoft Works, so other capabilities.
Reference Managers are part of a whole ecosystem of tools.
DiRT, bamboo group – some of tools free, some paid. Things you can do are things like create collaborative maps; maybe text, citation, or network analysis. Citation managers are also starting to integrate into this world. Qigga will make a citation map for you with additional visualization capabilities. On the downside it doesn’t do its task of being a reference manager all that well.
Citation managers handle bibliographic data. You can also attach PDFs to them; most have an annotation ability. Automatically format your bibliography into whatever style is required, whether APA or journal you’re submitting to.
Citation map, you can graph the network of co-authors to see who was collaborating with whom, and institutions that collaborate with one another. Bibliometric analysis. It’s looking at the authors and also if you are using [something] it also extracts the reference information.
- oneclick capture of web pages and images.
- Cloud storage of citations and documents.
- Public and private groups
- Information discovery
- Annotate and make notes within
- Works well with word processors
- Apps for mobile devices under development
Just purchased by Elsevier. Endnote is owned by Thomsen/Reuters
Was begun as a startup by bibliometric students.
Can share PDFs and images around. You can have a little discussion group in Mendeley (not shared publicly, but within groups.)
You can import and export citations into and out of tools very easily.
“Faculty of 1,000” is peer review subscription process. Meant for science peer review mostly.
Gets at idea of how articles are shared, how often, with whom.
- Oldest and most established
- Works best with citations from databases
- Can hndle large volume of citations quickly
- Automatically find and attaches full-text
- Private groups through EndNoteWeb
- Cannot share PDFs, only citations
- Over 5,000 citation styles for nearly all journal titles.
- Very good for systematic reviews and scientific literature management.
Comparison charts of the managers are all over the Internet and most libraries have one.
WSU research guides exit for Endnote and Zotero
Tracy – Scrivener – you can have split screens, drag and drop between screens.
Can moved back and forth, can export as .rtf file. Can also use it as a transcription tool and play tapes into it (?). Has notecard feature, look at things as though they’re on a bulletin board.
Marsha – NotaBENE. Designed for academics. Database, articles
Has bibliographic software built in. Orbis is a huge database itself. Key word search for all documents. Internally searchable. Can be hooked up to libraries and search for things.
Danielle – Bill Cronon’s presidential speech. Core biz of Historians is “resurrection.” Make the dead past live again. No worse crime than to make it forgettable.
n We tend to write history that is forgettable.
n Writing is something you develop and can hone.
Historiography and debates within our specialty are OK in our dissertation, hone in seminar, etc. All of that is important, but it tends to suffocate our narrative and makes for writing that’s really boring to read.
Really good writing is narrative-driven.
Habits – constant editing can whittle down a really bloated narrative to a few sharp points.
Editors – they care about you and want to yelp you say it better.
Write about your writing. A lot of us have really good ideas at weird times. In the shower, right when you’re trying to go to sleep, in conversations with friends over lunch or over drinks. Keep an idea journal. If you think about an anecdote that might fit in a much larger narrative, jot it down.
Brilliant ideas might not look so brilliant later, but at least they’re there.
Journals don’t have to look good. Nobody has to see it except you.
Procrastination – make it work for you by visualizing things in your head. Think about what you want to say, how you plan to structure, visualize a draft, envision yourself writing. Athletes use visualization all the time. Say everything in your head, visualize yourself doing that.
Recruit a support group (broadly). Every good writer is part of a community. Use that community – mentors, colleagues, friends, whoever is in your world. Ask advisors to give deadlines for chapters. Ask people who I feared a little bit to give me the deadlines. People with psych sway. If mentors give deadlines, much more responsible to them.
Writing is a process. It takes time. You need to put in your schedule time to write. Life tends to intervene; everybody has a lot going on.
n Know when you’re sharpest. I cannot write anything really good after 10 p.m.
n You don’t have to set aside full days or full weeks, but can set aside a couple of hours or an hour.
n If you are inclined to needing deadline pressure, form a writing group – being accountable to other people who are supportive and caring of your goals. It’s like the gym – if you’re meeting a friend there, you’re going to go.
o Just make sure that when you form a group, you choose people who have the same goals and work styles.
o Try not to form writing groups with people who are troubled. You want to be with people who are sane and leave the crazy where crazy belongs.
o Turn the Internet off. Horrible, demonic time-sucker. Make a deal with yourself – turn off your phone, Internet, television. Focus your attention.
n Ask for feedback. All good writers have really good editors. We need lots of other eyes on our work. People we trust will give it to us straight. Some will be really good at narrative; others really good at structure.
o Important for people to have non-academy people read the work. Does it make sense to them? If it doesn’t then there’s a problem. People not in our specialty need to know what we’re saying. If they don’t we need to be able to fix that.
n Omit needless words (Strunk & White). Twitter is an amazing editing tool to force you to think about extraneous words in sentences.
n Read novels and really good non-fiction. Pay attention to the tools those writers bring to the art of storytelling. Form.
o Narrative arc; character development; setting a scene.
n Pay attention to details – vividness, clarity, empathy, explanatory force.
o Noone loves your topic AS MUCH AS YOU DO. Make them care – bring the tools of writing into play. Write about scenes. What was the weather like the day you’re talking about?
§ Travel guides, farmers almanacs, city directories, old photographs. Get the descriptive details just right.
o Show, don’t tell. Dialogue, sensory language, quotes.
o Let your characters speak for themselves, but be very selective with your quotes.
§ If the quote is so good, don’t describe it – let the quote speak for itself.
§ Delicious little morsels that you cannot possibly recreate or summarize in your own words.
· Let them add flavor and texture.
n Do not edit as you write. It will suck up your time and destroy your morale.
o Ann Lamont calls first draft the “down draft.” Get it down. Then comes the “up draft” when you clean it up.
Peltzer competition OAH.
Janine – Clockwork Muse. It will save your life.
Rhinoceros skin. They have to write a book some day – and I will critique it. We all have to find ways to get over our own insecurity. Insecurity about writing, presenting, can paralyze us. We have to kick them out of our own head – they’re causing you to slow down or stop It’s unnecessary worry. We’re not that cruel in our profession. Let that go – sweep it out of your mind.
Marc – You’re not as stupid as you think you are. There is always that fear of finally being found out, about people discovering (finally) that you’re not as good as they thnk you are. They’re gong to read something, a sentence that you had pained over for a day, and I remember making my first publisher (before it was easy to do digital changing) change a paragraph and I had to pay for the change in my page proofs in order to save this paragraph – for the life of me I couldn’t find where the damned paragraph is in the book. He could have taken the stupid paragraph OUT and it would have been inconsequential. The way that you overcome it is by doing it.
I found it a whole lot easier to write my second book than my first book. I felt good about having survived my dissertation, and then I was very proud of having written a very well reviewed and published book. I didn’t enjoy writing that first book. But I had a blast writing my second book; I went into the basement with two thermoses and lock myself in for the day.
We’re all always insecure. You build confidence through a lot of the things that Danielle discussed today.
Danielle – I’m terrified of writing my second book, because I’m afraid it won’t be as good as my first book and that I’ll have nothing to say. That voice will always try to come in.
Ann Marie – Find your own voice. It enables you to be more direct. You’re not hiding any more behind words, behind passivity. You’re crisper, you’re more direct.
Michael – It’s the painstaking going back, that has always been my, and continues to be.
Karen – I have this problem with the historiographical argument. I don’t want to have one; I just want to tell the story of these amazing people that I love and I think it breaks it up, and I don’t want to.
Danielle – I agree with you, I think it does break up the narrative, put it in the footnotes. You don’t have to argue; I think that all of us, the stories we tell come out of history, out of a context. A lot of the stories we tell were told in part by somebody else, and we’re dusting them off, bringing them in with new eyes, telling them in order to tell a new story.
Tracy – Different advisors want different things in these regards. This is frustrating. Mutual friends of ours have 50 page lit reviews. You have to do what they want. If your topic and writing style is mismatched with your topic and your advisor.
Danielle – but if you’re telling it well, you can make a case for telling it the way you want to.
Danielle – note taking – one place for everything – not ramdom legal pads or whatever you had that day.
Cami – I find that my procrastination tendencies are a manifestation of what Tim is describing – if I procrastinate enough then the errors in my work are because I procrastinated, not errors in my own head. That’s the excuse. I just finished writing it five minutes ago and now I’m sending it to you, OF COURSE it’s not perfectly polished. It’s an excuse.
Barry – The best advice came from Dr. Kruman, keep your backside in the seat and keep writing. Listen to the man, he knows what he’s on about.
Marc – You will meet a lot of people who you will think are a whole lot smarter than you are, and they will at some point drift away. If you want to succeed, the best way to succeed is to keep your butt nailed to the chair. You have to plan to do it every day and commit yourself to sitting there for that time. I actually like Howard Becker’s term for a first draft in writing for Social Sciences, he calls it a “spew draft,” you just “bleh” it all out. If you even think of it in those terms, you can’t expect a whole lot from yourself if it’s all spew.
Danielle – Always easier to edit if you’ve got words on paper or the screen than to produce finely-honed sentences as you’re writing.
Tracy – I’m an incredibly undisciplined person. You just have to accept that you’re going to feel like inadequate and not as smart as the people around you. It’s not true. So instead of trying to discipline yourself, it’s better to reward yourself. I set myself little daily rewards. But when it’s stuff that I just kind of do out of habit, I can’t take it away from myself. Rewarding yourself rather than punishing yourself is probably better.
Danielle – there’s different kinds of writing, too. A review or something for a class I’m writing the night before. But there’s other writing.
Tracy & Danielle – It’s probably important for you to have deadlines to make sure you have a crappy first draft. If you can write three pages, then you can write another three pages, and writing a book is just repeating that over and over again.
Joe – I really like that earlier Danielle said she uses note cards. Low-tech handwritten
Janine – I use binders. Everything goes in binders and then
Danielle – I use notecards, and use them in the archive. Raw material for my book is in four boxes. All the notecards are chronicleogically arranged . . . the narrative is sort of storyboarded out with note cards.
Andrew – any advice for moving into professional article writing for the first time going into it?
Danielle – take the very top one. Start at the top, not the bottom, because you just don’t know. Then if you get rejected go to the next one. See how they look and study their form. Where’s their thesis statement? Up in the first paragraph, or later? Study their form, their structure, and then write your draft in their form. Then when you start to craft your essay, put it into that format, formulaically. Then have a whole lot of people read it before you submit it. That would give more likelihood to getting it accepted.
Tracy – Know how much historiography they want. Some want a little, some want quite a lot.
Andrew – I’m really anxious because my main form of writing right now is seminar papers.
Danielle – it should be different. Everything goes right into that five paragraph format of thesis, evidence, conclusion.
Marc – in my seminars I say you should be writing a journal article. I realize that getting there in a semester isn’t realistic, but I always set that as the goal for what the best seminar paper is.
Danielle – in graduate school, you’re always focused on criticism, centering it in a conversation. But when you’re writing a journal article, you are presenting your own stuff. You need to state the “so what?” in a journal article. You need to make a case for yourself.
Tracy – Look at the last three year of the journal and see what they’re publishing in. From what I’ve seen in research papers from graduate students is that it becomes very quickly a narrow topic.
Danielle – something like the OAH, you can have a small story that speaks to a larger issue. Your topic needs to speak to larger issues not only in the field, which your topic is part of, but also to the larger American history.
Write it, and then let us see it, and we’ll help you hone it and make it publishable. Never not try because you don’t think it’s good enough. I’ve been reviewing a ton of submissions for journals and I realize that they all needed more editing.
The things that I notice is, one, there isn’t a coherent structure. It’s hard to find a thesis, and then, the essay doesn’t support the thesis. Two, it’s full of mumbo-jumbo, academic doublespeak where you use fancy words and big theories that doesn’t say anything. Three, full of information that’s not useful. Quote from meeting minutes – really? Just summarize. Giving information that takes you away from the main point, and takes you too far down the road. Know when to need to cut off the broad painting and come back into the narrow focus. And I also think that people have good stories to tell but they’re not always aware of why it matters. People need to know why it matters. Effective submissions make that point very effectively, and then remake that at the end. Finally, it’s about gracious writing.
What’s really wild is I always think that it’s graduate students submitting, and then later I find out it’s some esteemed professor that I’ve just given “eeeeh” to.
Tracy – a lot of seminar papers, they just start. You need a stronger introduction.
Joe – Do what you SAY you’re going to do, don’t make false promises in coverage.
You’re going to get contradictory advice from people, so you have to strategically choose which ones you’re going to listen to.
Tracy – in JAH, you want to cite largely historians, the heavy hitters who’ve been on your topic, and probably in the footnotes (for the first three pages).
Danielle: 40 PP per chapter. 100 pages is too long for a chapter. Tell stories. If we can’t tell them effectively, then we’re in trouble as a profession.
Tracy -- Imagine you’re writing for a really strong undergrad.
Danielle – I would take it further and say your mother.
Writing Workshop HGSA Nov. 15
“Responding to Student Writing”
General overview – talk about how some more general principles can translate to responding to papers in History.
We do get a lot of your students in to the writing center, specifically about certain types of assignments, problems. Have good feel for how students are responding to your papers.
Joe Paszek, graduate tutor this year. Hope to get a few more people in that are kind of at the dissertation level. A lot of us in writing studies have more experience talking about disciplines, gendres, and stuff.
We do a number of things with grad students:
Job letters (very formulaic in a lot of ways)
You might not realize our service is available to you in the writing center.
Reminder – just because we made it into graduate programs doesn’t mean we don’t need to talk with somebody about our writing. We’re never finished learning how to write or learning how to write for our disciplines.
I might not have direct experience, but can help you assess the genre.
Grad students allowed two visits to writing center per week
Undergraduate students are allowed one visit per week. We see 3,000 students, maybe more, per year. Before, we would see maybe 100 a semester. Next fall we may have maybe four or five dissertation students who can work with undergraduate students.
Sometimes we’ll spend the entire hour just understanding the assignment.
Reading skills – sometimes they just don’t have the reading skills necessary to write history papers.
We work with organizational and mechanical skills as well. One of the problems is that they are so obsessed with being mechanically correct that they cannot begin to write organized papers.
Appointments made by coming in to writing center; by calling in; by using online scheduling. Recommend doing it online; easier, have fewer issues.
His schedule has been booked for almost a month. We do get a lot of no-shows and cancellations. Walk in 15 mins after the hour to see if there’s a no-show. It is a risk.
(He will pass a list of GTA names, and he is more than willing to meet with anybody).
They have a stamp to use if require students to come in; they will stamp a draft and make it official with initials. If you’re going to require students to come in to the writing center, have them bring in something. Don’t just come in empty-handed.
All undergraduate tutors are really well trained. Most have been there for longer than five years.
They don’t really work on the mechanics; more focus on higher-order issues, which come first. In the process, we will address mechanical issues, but very rarely will they sit down and do line editing. Only 50 minutes, much more important things to be addressed, such as word usage, comma splices. Idea is learning, not line editing. Not to overwhelm the student. Looking at grammar in context, rather than grammar as mechanical skills. We are not there as an editing service.
Tips in responding:
Respond to content first, not mechanics.
Look for ideas, not errors.
Use strategies like modeling student papers, talking through what you expect.
Don’t get wrapped up in how you would write something.
- word choice.
- Sentence structure.
Read the paper for its larger intention.
Consider the integrity of the intention.
2. Give more substantive feedback rather than mechanics. Respond personally and positively where possible. This is a big deal for our students. They often don’t feel as if teachers are actually reading their papers. When students get personalized comments on their paper, much more motivated to work on their paper. Use their name within comments. Encourage at certain points. I always try to find at least a couple positives right off the bat. He uses +/- sign for plus side in the paper, etc. There could be a load of things they did poorly, but if we can find a few things they did well, they won’t get overloaded. Select two or three of the biggest higher-order issues. “For the next paper, what you really need to focus on is developing a strong thesis.” So there are some things they can keep in their head for a better paper. Are they learning a historical event, responding through a historical lens.
3. Revise earl drafts, edit later drafts; grade final drafts. Push away grading a paper. An early D means “oh, it’s just useless, why would I revise.” Remember that a C isn’t a bad grade. For a lot of our students it means they’re doing fine in class. If a student gets a C, there are a lot of cases where they don’t want to revise it. We have to relinquish conrol sometimes.
4. Comment critically on one item at a time. Easy to overwhelm student with all sorts of negative comments and plethora of suggestions about what to do next. Commentary may not actually accomplish a purpose. Single out one or two problems for comment; leave others for subsequent drafts. Challenges us to think about what our assignment is asking students to master. If objective is to learn historical theory, limit to how well student has grasped historical theory. If 26 of your students are not doing this successfully, it’s more than a student problem – it could be your clarity of assignment. With revisions, focus on key things *you* want to see.
5. Be specific when you comment on problems. Make it clear what instructor wants from them. If you just circle something and say “awkward” 99 percent of the time the student will not know how to fix that. Students do ‘ing fishing, or estimating academic language. They sound as if they’re trying to sound smart, but they sound really belligerent. (passive voice, intensifiers ((e.g. very important)) or weird sentence construction with lots of “which” statements. One of the things I’ve been doing a lot of is taking dependent clauses, circle them, turn them into an adjective and put it in front of a noun.
Point out what you object to without necessarily correcting it yourself – let them do the correction.
“Hey, I get where you’re going, but for this type of paper perhaps X is more appropriate.”
-or- “Hey, I would actually write it this way.”
Modeling and mimicry are the first way students try to master genre writing. If we give them a successful example and they mimic it, that’s them estimating the types of styles that we want. If they are achieving certain goals and objectives, then mimicry may be a good thing. Enough times and they can begin go master those principles.
6. Edit a page or two, not the whole paper. Sometimes do a paragraph for them. Get them to start getting practice writing the way we think they should write. Isolate a small section filled with errors that are particularly a problem for the student. Show the student what construction or stylistic problem bother you. “I notice that you use a comma in this instance all the time – perhaps look into your paper and see where else you’re doing that.
7. Include peer evaluation if you can. Group peer eval of an anonymous paper. Bring in a C and an A paper. Most of the time, do the A paper first. Then open up the C paper and have them respond to it, without telling them it’s a C paper. This assignment’s always really fun for me, most of the time they become really, really strict graders all of a sudden. Then ask them to do it to their own peer papers. It’s something students just need practice with. ((Use papers that aren’t from class for those examples)). If it’s completely anonymous and not from this class, they become vultures. They go over the top. It is intereting, across the board, students identify weaker papers with female authors, and stronger papers with male authors. From my experience, I’ve had stronger female writers.
8. What is said includes how it is said – don’t split grades. Don’t give a grade for content and a grade for mechanics as separate grades. The two are explicitly tied together. The more difficult the concepts, the more grammatical issues they have. The language just gets bogged down and they can’t figure out how to say it.
Dialect problems: Successful writing is context specific. Good writing for a history class may look drastically different than for a science class. We try not to devalue “Home
Discourse” or more personalized discourse communities, but that they are not appropriate for certain discourse communities. Writing is context specific and goal oriented. If they are using certain types of language, we say they are not appropriate for this type of writing, for this objective. Don’t’ cause dissonance, but instill that successful writers are flexible writers. They’re able to maneuver themselves within different types of settings.
Qs: Beth -- Personal pronoun: They need to see examples of strong genres you’re asking them to write within. In writing studies we do this through rhetoric. “It’s not sufficient evidence to support your claim.” We have to have conversations sometimes of how other types of audiences will not accept the Bible as proof, as evidence, for example. WE can either do this through genre, or that the audience you’re writing for will not accept this as evidence or proof. “Your personal experience will not be enough.”
The “I believe” statements are either because students see that as sufficient evidence, or it’s a hedging move – they don’t know how to support strong arguments with certain types of evidence. Try to identify where those personal statements are coming from.
Tim - The Same/but different – this may be coming from the genre of high school, a rhetorical move ingrained in them, through the compare and contrast movement. I continuously encourage instructors to bring in strong examples that does something different – modeling. Talk very consciously about the structural moves. Sometimes students don’t know how to talk about history papers. The don’t know how to make that shift. If we can bring in strong student papers and talk about why is this evidence successful, students can start to estimate and model. And ensure that students are aware that “this is what historians do.” They use citations differently. In the humanities, we use more extensive citation to build evidence and proofs, and we consider that some sort of critical thinking, critical engagement with prior processes. In the sciences, that is entirely incorrect – critical thinking and critical analysis (come from a different model). Encourage to talk about how you write successfully for History in your classrooms.
Miriam – stepping back from your own writing? I am of the opinion that no writing happens in isolation, no paper is ever single-authored. It goes through so many gatekeepers. WE have difficulties doing (line editing) for our own writing, but in doing that to hers, I’m more able to effectively do it to mine. A lot of the problems our students have are similar to our own. Where are we hedging? Where are we putting in those extra dependent clauses that can easily be turned into adjectives? I do this too. Maybe on a different level, but I do this too.
Robert – where do you draw the line for different learners? I find it really fortunate that I gete so much writing from my students and work so closely with them that by the end of the semester I know who they are as writers. There are some students that LOOOVE the line editing – they want more grammatical feedback. So I’m not against doing that, I just won’t do that wholesale for all of my students. Off the bat, I wouldn’t be able to identify students, it just takes time and experience. One thing that I love doing is using the comment feature in Word; in Talkbacks, students required to respond to my comment with a comment of their own. “You’ve said this; why would it be more effective than saying this?” And they’re not allowed to revise until they have commented back. Perfectly acceptable to respond with “I don’t understand.” Not all students will respond the same way. Students sometimes take it so personally that they just crumble.
Tim – what quals as “writing intensive” at wayne? Each department will qualify courses as writing intensive.
Miriam – If a student, this is kind of a morals or ethics question, if student writes a D paper early in the semester, and then at the end of the semester write paper that is much improved but would still give a C, do you think you should give them a B for making so much progress? Is it the amount they’ve learned, or just the plain quality of the paper? A – are we outcomes based, or development based. As a department we’ve decided that’s the province of the instructor. In our courses, they must get a C or better to go into the (next level). I make the judgment call of “will this student be successful in later courses.” If I don’t feel the student has, I will have them repeat the class. There are other instances where I will give them the C and let them go. Something that must be discussed within the department.
Our department is highly invested in talking to different disciplines across the university. Our composition courses are seen as (serving) other courses in the university. The wide array of genres, contexts, there’s no way that in 15 weeks we can teach them to do that. [departments should figure out how to address student writing needs].
TIME SAVING STRATEGIES
- Discuss and respond to student writing early, not as much toward the end.
- Skim set of essays to address common problems, put a handout to discuss common problems. Take a class session to address overall problems.
- Create database of commonly-used comments and links. If you realize half of your students are having a problem that is the same, open up a word doc, cut and paste.
- Design assignments for particular skills.
- Stage assignments in parts (scaffolding) that reinforce learning but can be read quickly. Smaller portions of the task. Instead of 15-20 page paper, write no more than five to ten pages at a time, build up to end product. Students are much more successful and confident than ever seen before. Example – introduction, then move forward to different component.
- Assign low-stakes writing, the one-minute paper, or key word response. Pick up five key words throughout the essay, or two. It only takes maybe ten minutes at beginning of class to do. Can help you lead discussion.
- Use peer groups to respond to drafts. Discuss papers in sections, making note only of compliance. Small point system for compliance in peer review. I have them do groups of like three or four, have students give presentation on their paper, allows to kind of condense key arguments and key points.
- As students to turn in self-reflective note on strengths and weaknesses, where they would like to review their paper and why.
- When you’ve responded to student drafts, you don’t need to comment on the new draft – can give just an end note. Give brief note at end and grade it. Spend only two to three hours grading final papers. If you’ve commented substantively before, don’t do it all over again.
- Create rubrics. Students really enjoy creating a rubric in class. Have the students play around with where they think the most valuable points should be placed. Students privilege certain points of the essay. You’ll see where they are putting too much emphasis on certain idea.s
- If essay is very confusing, or if the feedback is complex, make a general note of the issue and ask the student to schedule an appointment. Sometimes a face-to-face is worth much more than any amount of commentary.
Instructor problems: Getting obsessed with mechanics – 10X more time. For me, personally, trying to do too many essays at once becomes a problem. Try to do no more than six at a time without taking a break. Refresh and come back. If you’re getting really annoyed. Cluster papers in a certain way, so that you don’t read all bad papers at once. You get really frustrated and forget the fact that you’ll be twice as harsh on students who “didn’t get it” when you’ve read all the good ones who did.
Q: Nate – strategy to get students to go to writing center without forcing them. Email us, will set up a time for one of tutors to come in and talk to one of your classes so that they really understand what we do there. Don’t feel as if requiring a student to go to the writing center is a bad thing. Students might have this opinion that they have to go to the writing center, they’re a bad writer. No, we’re here just to support students. The writing tutor is in a really strange relationship between student and teacher. Students often vent about instructors and come up with amazing things to self-justify. We’re trying to suss out what’s actually happening, where’s the student emotion coming from? Have the student bring in the assignment as well as the paper. Encourage them not to bring in a “clean” copy of their paper – it is useful to see your comments as well. We can focus on trying to interpret what you guys are trying to get to as well.
From paper exercise – make sure end comments first, plus/minus, *then* go back and do a few things within the paper. Don’t overwhelm the student. ID key things students are supposed to master through writing this paper. Some things will correct themselves if you focus on higher-order issues in places. That way students don’t get overwhelmed and despesrate.
Limit time spent so you prioritize beyond grammar. Start working towards higher-order issues. Then you can go back and do something individually. Identify two mechanical things they can work on, and play around with those. Point is freeing up time for you guys, also. So much time in mechanical issue not productive for you either.
Addressing awkward/offensive issues – if not malicious, do not address it. Does it happen over and over? Or is it one phrasing that came out in a strange way. The way we used to teach writing courses, which were based in hot topic issues, infuriated too many people and myself as well. Getting things that were very insensitive to a number of people, I would leave more of an end comment. Not the idea that “you are a bad person if you offend somebody,” saying perhaps “this is less effective because you come across as very biased or opinionated in certain ways, you may want to rethink how you address . . . “ Doing it solely on the level of rhetoric. I would be very happy if people opposed to me could at least do it in rhetorically sound ways – something logical, so we could have a sound basis for a discussion.
Provide a counter-view, and ask them to justify their opinion in light of that counter-view. Talkbacks are useful Give a student a chance to respond to that.
Know when to start a classroom conversation. “The US felt . . . “ “ The FLN was . . . “ Students generally know who their audience is (you) and so they make a conscious choice (FLN is . . . ) that is actually correct. In reality, we are their audience, and in many ways they are super-good writers because they address their audience. Having a more concrete discussion about who their audience is [is important].
In general, academic writing is never aimed at a general audience or an uninformed audience. Genres – they will never have to write as a historian, and so we return to a focus on functional genres.
Q Andrew – first sentence in second [piece] – “greatest political films *ever*” – students often feel they need to compliment the sources and often do it in an over the top way. I don’t need your opinion, but that comes across as demeaning and harsh. I don’t want to shut down my student, but . ..
A – In this case, I might suggest editing the first sentence. Delete, but in a comment explain, hey, it might be more effective to jump into a more specific argument. This is an example of modeling, hey, this is a more effective sentence.
Remember students come in thinking the three goals of an introduction should be catching the attention of your audience, giving a thesis, and giving a road map. Most students now assume that engaging an audience means “flash,” and that means surprise.
Provide students with articles, look at how they write the introduction. How do professionals establish warrants and claims? It’s all about student modeling.
If you supply sample papers, you MUST go over them if you’re going to supply them. Also, don’t give out a PHENOMENAL student paper at the beginning of the semester – it will only overwhelm. No Perfect Examples. When I do provide phenomenal examples, they come from professionals. That’s what they should be working towards. If they can write a perfect paper at the beginning of the semester, why should you even be in my class? Realizing that students are emotionally fragile, 99 percent of the time.
Teaching circles? Within our department, based on the classes we’re teaching, we set up instructor teaching circles once a month to discuss class progress, class assignments. We also do norming sessions, each bring in one or two papers, try to figure out where our investments are, so that we all start with the same responses. So the reason giving feedback is not personal bias, but representing a disciplinary way of writing, thinking. Technically we are advocating a certain type of writing from our disciplines. Also, you realize you’re not the only person who has terrible student papers. We’ve been doing that for about three years now. Was brought from one of our new lecturers who came from Eastern. Have also tossed around the idea of group grading – how you would respond to this, makes certain things more social, but also requires dedicate time. Consider finding people who are teaching similar courses, meet once month.
English – Writing Studies – 1010, 1020, 3010, each with sometimes 30 sections apiece. All students that you guys get should have taken 1010.
Time saving strategies:
Sample paper examples for more effective response: