What does academic writing at Drexel really look like?

Project: 77
Name: Dan Driscoll, Scott Warnock (; 215-895-0377)
Department: English and Philosophy
Academic Area: Writing/Composition

Title: What does academic writing at Drexel really look like?

Based on our work in the Drexel Writing Center, in the Writing Intensive Course Program, and with faculty across the university, we know that beyond the First-Year Writing Program, many students write a lot in their upper-level, disciplinary courses at Drexel. However, the reality is that we don't know much about this writing. We don't know how much students write in their disciplinary courses. We don't know what the assignments look like. We don't know how students are graded and how faculty respond. And we certainly don't have a good basis for assessing this writing in an institution-wide way. This summer, you will help us conduct a University-wide research project to answer questions that will lead to a clearer understanding of writing at Drexel: What roles are student writers asked to take, and what audiences are they asked to write to? What is the purpose for such writing, and what genres are students asked to learn/use? What kinds of evidence must writers use? where do they find that evidence, and how do they work with/present it in their writing projects? How do these writing projects count for students? Does the writing they do help them prepare for the professional worlds they wish to enter? Our primary work together will involve a pilot study of primary documents form around the University that will help us address these and other questions. This work will help us increase institutional knowledge and better plan writing programs/initiatives, as well as support for students and faculty. If you take part in this summer project, you will help us design a research protocol, and then you will help us collect, code, and analyze writing assignments from courses across the University. You will also help us set up another, expanded study by developing processes for collection and analysis of data as well as helping to identify additional questions we should ask when coding and analyzing data from assignments. This is a major curricular research opportunity. If you are interested in studying writing, this would be an excellent opportunity for you to see how research is conducted in composition studies and to participate in this work at the ground level.

Associated Independent Study:
An independent study involved with this project would include helping you understand issues and theories related to the study and how things like audience, purpose, and genre affect writing in different contexts. One possible project for this could be detail annotated bibliographies or resources for faculty and students interested in learning more about writing in/across disciplines. You could also describe in a written report the research protocol we followed, your personal work in the project, and our project outcomes at the end of the summer.

Gained Experience:
In addition to gaining a greater understanding of composition research, writing, and how writing varies by context, you will gain an understanding of methods of writing research and study design, including various technological processes of data collection and analysis. You will also get a tremendous, high-level view of how assignments are designed by faculty. In addition, if you are interested in writing and becoming a better writing, this work will provide the opportunity to work closely with writing faculty and will allow you to be involved in frequent discussions about evaluating and teaching writing as well as writing program administration.

Work on this pilot study will lead to the proposal of a larger writing research project and possibly a grant proposal. We would certainly propose to present this work at national writing conferences (WPA, CCCC, NCTE), and would include you in such work (we have had success co-presenting with undergraduates at national venues in the past, including with previous Summer Humanities Fellows). The end goal outside of the institution would be for us to write a journal article (or perhaps book chapter) about this work, and you would certainly be invited to participate in such work as a co-author.

You will assist with all aspects of the research as described above: developing a protocol, creating an informed research background/bibliography to ground our study, collecting materials, coding materials, analyzing the resulting data, thinking through ways of improving/expanding the study, and thinking of venues to present and publish our results. You will also help us examine the results in the context of writing literature.

We will meet frequently and work mainly out of the Drexel Writing Center; some collection and analysis work will take place electronically and can be done remotely.

We can set up a flexible meeting schedule. You should plan on spending some time each week meeting with us and working out of the Drexel Writing Center space, but (as mentioned above) some work can be done remotely.

Interview Availability:
April 18, 2014; April 21, 2014; April 22, 2014