Introduction: About Writing and This Book
Why are you taking yet another writing class? The quick answer is that you have developed skills and thinking patterns over the years that allow you to elevate your writing style to a professional level. The long answer can be found in the research of William Perry, who studied developmental growth in college students from 18-22 years old [an overview published in 2013 (https://tinyurl.com/ybnjh9kg)]. What we understand about the developmental processes, along with recent brain studies [described (https://tinyurl.com/yc6893kp)]combine to illustrate the adaptive nature of learning over time. Therefore, as we learn more about the brain, we continue to construct learning around that knowledge. To accommodate the knowledge of a changing brain over time, the scaffolding approach to building writing skills has emerged; everything you have learned in your writing education and practice has led you to this point. Now we are going to employ that and elevate your skills further.
We also understand that communication proceeds in the following way throughout life and any learning experience: we absorb concepts orally first, then we can talk about the concept; we read and absorb, and then we can write about it – having built a more thorough and comfortable store of knowledge on the subject or skill. This is how we learned language and behavioral norms, and this is how we learn higher-level concepts. It takes time, practice, and feedback. People have to reach a level of mental maturity before they can even perceive higher-level concepts, and when we truly understand this learning theory (https://tinyurl.com/ybjxosuv)] we can proceed with more confidence.
This introduction is designed to exemplify how writers think about and produce text. The guiding features are the following:
- Every good piece of writing is an argument.
- Everything worth writing and reading begins with a specific question.
- Improving skills takes practice, feedback, and re-thinking, redoing, revising.
The layout of our book implies there is a beginning, middle, and end to a writing course, but because writing is both an art and a skill, people will find their own processes for learning, improving, and using these skills. Writing processes differ because we are each looking for a workable schemata that fits our way of thinking. Try out a variety of writing processes and strategies, and find what works for you. If you are not uncomfortable on this journey, you simply are not stretching yet. Learning is prickly, awkward, and risky, so if it does not feel a bit unnerving, push harder and farther. We are not here to prove the skills we already have; this course is about stepping up. It’s like anything else you want to improve: if you can run a 10K in 2 hours, what do you need to do to make it in 1:45?
A quick glance through the book will show you that it deftly covers the basics, which are always important to review as you get ready to build onto your scaffolding. Reminders of terminology that form the foundation of a discipline—as well as explanations, descriptions, and examples of their use in a basic education—are in chapters such as “Critical Reading,” “Writing Basics: What Makes a Good Sentence,” “The Writing Process,” “Punctuation,” and “Working with Words.” These are, of course, fundamentals that you have worked with throughout your education, learning in each course skills and habits that elevate your reading, writing, and thinking abilities. This college writing course will ensure that you take another step up to college and professional writing.
This text is different in its emphasis on research skills and research writing. In English 111, you will work on all of the disparate research skills, bringing them together to learn how to handle a unified project that adds to a conversation in any field. The form you will learn, the building blocks of that form, the formality, and the sacrosanct crediting of sources is explained here from English professors and our instructional librarian at the college. Leaning on questions that lead to searches for answers that lead to arguments that present your understanding, the chapters “Critical Reading,” “Rhetorical Modes,” and “Argument” will fill out your growing appreciation of and comfort with the research form in everyday life. From the discussion of source types to guidance through the research process to the models of essay deconstruction, you will find that the expectations and language of this text begin with the college-level student in mind.
Working through this text will elevate you into the next stage of writing for a 21st century student and professional.
So Let’s Get Writing: What is your first question?