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October 16, 2007

Thoughts on "Experts"

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Thinking about Drafting

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October 15, 2007

Apologies for the delay...

In reading Pemberton's article on consulting over hypertexts, I was initially confused. I will admit...I don't really know what he means by "hypertext". When I thought of the online consultations that take place in the writing center I assumed they would all be electronic versions of face-to-face consultations. It hadn't even occurred to me that people might bring in HTML and web design as pieces of writing, and something they wanted help on. Realistically, I don't see that happening too often, at least not in our Writing Center. But as Pemberton points out, technology is expanding and we should be ready to meet it's new challenges should they come along. I think it's a good idea to be prepared, but that we should also keep in mind that most assignments we see in the Writing Center will probably be the writing we are accustomed to working with.

In the case of this typical style of writing within the online consultations, I don't see a need to go into extensive training. While the process is different, these are still consultations, and the main goal remains to work with the client on their writing, regardless of how we are communicating. I don't feel that the way we converse with our clients will change vastly once we move to a computer, nor do I feel the writing will be significantly different simply because it was sent as an e-mail. The only change I see that may happen to a client's writing is that they will review it a little more carefully, perhaps, before sending it in. That seems like a positive thing to me. I agree with James Inman's statement, "Consultants' general knowledge about textuality and investment in asking questions, listening carefully, and other non-directive pedagogical approaches is all they need to help clients, I believe, no matter the nature of their visits to the writing center." That summarizes my own view: while the process of the consultation may be slightly altered, the online consultations have the same goal as the face-to-face variety. We all want to help our clients write better, and since we are the same people who consult face-to-face and on the computers, we use the same skills and strategies in both situations.

Looking over The Guidelines for SWS.online, I feel that there is a good balance of familiarizing ourselves with the technology used for the service and guidelines for using it. I don't think we should try and change the way we consult simply because we can't see our client. It is interesting to see how we do the online consultations here at our own writing center; I wonder how differently the consultations are done at other writing centers. Our procedures seem to be perfect for the situation, but I bet there are many different ways that online consultations are approached.

October 14, 2007

Hypertext, schmypertext

As I began to read the Pemberton article in the St. Martin's Sourcebook, I couldn't help but wonder what all the fuss was about. As consultants, we deal every day with texts that are unfamiliar. A couple of weeks ago, I had a woman come in with a creative writing piece for her senior thesis. What I told her, and what I felt like telling Pemberton, was that while I've never written a short story, I sure read a lot. While writing consultants may not be trained in web design, we have all been using the internet for years and should therefore be able to help hypertext writers in the same way we help writers outside of our disciplines. I would, perhaps, feel more comfortable consulting on a piece of hypertext than I would on a lab report; I've certainly spent a lot more time navigating websites than reading or writing in the sciences.

Pemberton sort of makes this point in his article. While his conclusions are more exploratory than definitive, he appears most committed to the idea of including hypertext in tutor training. Again, though, if hypertext tutoring is not so far from tutoring across the disciplines, why do we need training in hypertext, but not in every other type of writing we may encounter?

Not the most coherent post. Oops.

October 12, 2007

What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you get up and walk out on me?

The title really has nothing what I'm writing about, unless, perhaps, I'm writing out of tune?
Before this class, I never even considered that writing styles of various academic disciplines, and even of other cultures, are different…sweet! Hubbuch writes that “regardless of whether the paper is a critical study for a history class or a research write-up in biology, one of the basic characteristics of scholarly writing in all disciplines is that a paper will be self-contained? (27). Hmmm..but what in the heck does self-contained mean? Obviously it means clearly explaining one’s argument, but how does each discipline vary in reaching this goal? According to my English TA, it’s his specific way, but according to the other TA, it’s the complete opposite.

Hubbuch also says that “I cannot afford to be ignorant of the fact that, even within the restricted world of academic discourse, there are many modes of writing, each with an attendant style and rhetorical conventions? and then later, “I believe, for example, that all tutors must be aware that different fields have different styles of documenting sources, even if they don’t know the particulars of all these styles? (24). I totally agree with Hubbuch’s proposition. I think it foolish to expect to find tutors that are knowledgeable in every subject: the resources would not be available and I think there are advantages to help a student from an outside view of the subject matter and force the student to take ownership of his/her paper. However, if I do not need to know everything about every subject, then I would ask for more training on the nuances of the different writing styles of each discipline. There was one consultation that I helped with an engineering lab report, and I spent a lot of time asking questions, like “Ok, so for lab reports, are you supposed to do this?? I guess it made sure the student knew what he was doing and made him have to explain it, but I did waste a lot of time asking all of these questions and less time on his writing. I would feel much more prepared in helping an engineering student if I at least had a solid grasp on what his professors expected from a lab report or IT essay or whatever. (I guess I don’t really know if they have IT essays…)

This really shows me how subjective writing can be—in the department of English, I think there is a sort of ambiguity of how to write a paper. My TA for my Survey of American Literature 1 spoke to our class about the correct way to write a paper, as he was a bit disappointed after grading our first paper assignment. He said that most English professors and even professionals prefer papers to be spelled out, like saying “First, I will say…? etc. One girl interrupted and said that she had done that last semester, but her TA graded her down and taught her not to do that. We then had a completely useless argument/discussion about paper-writing—emotions were high, people were getting all riled up, and I just sort of sat there and organized my schedule. Anyway, he was saying that his way was “the right way? and that this is what is expected. So, is this true? Or is paper writing COMPLETELY subjective and it is all about appeasing the personal preferences of the teachers grading your paper?

Have a restful weekend!
Jenna