Wk 1 Discussion - Differences in Writing. Coursework (Coursework Sample)
Respond to the following questions in a minimum of 200 words:Writing is an individualized process; no two people will approach it exactly the same. However, academic writing does require adherence to basic standards. Much of your writing as a college student will be closed form writing, which is, according to Ramage, Bean, and Johnson, “characterized by unified and coherent paragraphs, topic sentences, transitions between sentences and paragraphs, and forecasting of the whole before presentation of the parts” (17). 1. What are some of the differences between the process for writing in closed form vs. writing in open form?2. What types of writing assignments/projects would call for open form? Closed form?3. How does the type of essay you are writing (closed or open) determine your writing process, organizational structure, and rhetorical strategy? Reference:Ramage, John D., et al. The Allyn & Bacon Guide to Writing. Pearson Education, 2015.
Reading Material:1 POSING PROBLEMS: THE DEMANDS OF COLLEGE WRITINGWHAT YOU WILL LEARN• 1.1 To pose subject-matter problems, in which you wrestle with the complexities of your topics.• 1.2 To make decisions about your writing based on purpose, audience, and genre.• 1.3 To use varying rules for “good writing” depending on the rhetorical context.• It seems to me, then, that the way to help people become better writers is not to tell them that they must first learn the rules of grammar, that they must develop a four-part outline, that they must consult the experts and collect all the useful information. These things may have their place. But none of them is as crucial as having a good, interesting question.—Rodney Kilcup, HistorianOur purpose throughout this textbook is to help you see writers as questioners and problem posers—a view of writing that we believe will lead to your greatest growth as a college-level thinker and writer. In particular, we want you to think of writers as people who pose interesting questions or problems and struggle to work out answers or responses to them. As we show in this chapter, writers pose two sorts of problems: subject-matter problems (for example, Should the United States pass stricter gun-control laws?) and rhetorical problems (for example, Who are my readers? How much do they already care about gun control? What form and style should I use?).We don’t mean to make this focus on problems sound scary. Indeed, humans pose and solve problems all the time and often take great pleasure in doing so. Psychologists who study critical and creative thinking see problem solving as a productive and positive activity. According to one psychologist, “Critical thinkers are actively engaged with life. . . . They appreciate creativity, they are innovators, and they exude a sense that life is full of possibilities.”* By focusing first on the kinds of problems that writers pose and struggle with, we hope to increase your own engagement and pleasure in becoming a writer.*Stephen D. Brookfield. Developing Critical Thinkers: Challenging Adults to Explore Alternative Ways of Thinking and Acting. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1987): 5. Academic writers regularly document their quotations and sources. In this text sources are documented either on the page or in the Credits section at the end of the text.Why Take a Writing Course?Before turning directly to the notion of writers as questioners and problem posers, let’s ask why a writing course can be valuable for you.First of all, the skills you learn in this course will be directly transferable to your other college courses. Introductory courses often focus on generalized academic writing, while advanced courses in your major will introduce you to your field’s specialized ways of writing and thinking. What college professors value are the kinds of questioning, analyzing, and arguing skills that this course will help you develop. You will emerge from this course as a better reader and thinker and a clearer and more persuasive writer, able to meet the demands of different academic writing situations.Effective writing skills are also essential for most professional careers. One recent study showed that college graduates in business or professional life spend, on average, 44 percent of their time writing, including (most commonly) letters, memos, short reports, instructional materials, and professional articles and essays.Besides the pragmatic benefits of college and career success, learning to write well can bring you the personal pleasure of a richer mental life. As we show throughout this text, writing is closely allied to thinking and to the innate satisfaction you take in exercising your curiosity, creativity, and problem-solving ability. Writing connects you to others and helps you discover and express ideas that you would otherwise never think or say. Unlike speaking, writing gives you time to think deep and long about an idea. Because you can revise writing, it lets you pursue a problem in stages, with each new draft reflecting a deeper, clearer, or more complex level of thought. In other words, writing isn’t just a way to express thought; it is a way to do the thinking itself. The act of writing stimulates, challenges, and stretches your mental powers and, when you do it well, is profoundly satisfying.With this background on why a college writing course is important, let’s begin with key rhetorical concepts that will serve as the foundation for your study of writing.CONCEPT 1.1 Subject matter problems are the heart of college writing.• 1.1 Pose subject-matter problems, in which you wrestle with the complexities of your topics.From your previous schooling, you are probably familiar with the term thesis statement, which is the main point a writer wants to make in an essay. However, you may not have thought much about the question that lies behind the thesis, which is the problem or issue that the writer is wrestling with. An essay’s thesis statement is actually the writer’s one-sentence summary answer to this question, and it is this question that has motivated the writer’s thinking. Experienced writers immerse themselves in subject matter questions in pursuit of answers or solutions. They write to share their proposed solutions with readers who share their interests. Let’s look more fully at the kinds of subject matter questions that initiate the writing process.Shared Problems Unite Writers and ReadersFor college professors, “a good, interesting question” is at the heart of good writing. Professors want students to become gripped by problems because they themselves are gripped by problems. For example, at a workshop for new faculty members, we asked participants to write a brief description of the question or problem that motivated their Ph.D. dissertation or a recent conference paper or article. Here is how a biochemistry professor responded:• During periods of starvation, the human body makes physiological adaptations to preserve essential protein mass. Unfortunately, these adaptations don’t work well during long-term starvation. After the body depletes its carbohydrate storage, it must shift to depleting protein in order to produce glucose. Eventually, this loss of functional protein leads to metabolic dysfunction and death. Interestingly, several animal species are capable of surviving for extensive periods without food and water while conserving protein and maintaining glucose levels. How do the bodies of these animals accomplish this feat? I wanted to investigate the metabolic functioning of these animals, which might lead to insights into the human situation.As you progress through your college career, you will find yourself increasingly engaged with the kinds of questions that motivate your professors. All around college campuses you’ll find clusters of professors and students asking questions about all manner of problems ranging from puzzles in the reproductive cycles of worms and bugs to the changing portrayal of race and gender in American films. At the heart of all these communities of writers and readers is an interest in common questions and the hope for better or different answers. Writers write because they have something new or surprising or challenging to say in response to a question. Readers read because they share the writer’s interest in the problem and want to deepen their understanding.Where Do Problems Come From?So where do these problems come from and how can you learn to pose them? The problems that college professors value might be different from what you at first think. Beginning college students typically imagine questions that have right answers. Students ask their professors questions about a subject because they are puzzled by confusing parts of a textbook, a lecture, or an assigned reading. They hope their professors will explain the confusing material clearly. Their purpose in asking these questions is to eliminate misunderstandings, not to open up controversy and debate. Although basic comprehension questions are important, they are not the kinds of inquiry questions that initiate strong college-level writing and thinking.The kinds of questions that stimulate the writing most valued in college are open-ended questions that focus on unknowns or invite multiple points of view. These are what historian Rodney Kilcup refers to when he says that writers should begin with a “good, interesting question” (see the epigraph to this chapter, p. 2). For Kilcup, a good question sets the writer on the path of inquiry, critical thinking, analysis, and argument.So how does a writer get hooked on an open-ended problem? Although this “how” question is complex at a philosophical level, we can offer two relatively simple and helpful answers. Sometimes you get caught up in a question that others are already debating—an existing question that is already “out there” in a conversation in the public. Some of these “big questions” have sparked conversations for many hundreds of years: How did the universe get created? Why do good people have to suffer? Do humans have free will? Thousands of narrower subject matter questions are being discussed by communities all the time—in classroom debates, discussion threads on blog sites, or in the pages of scholarly journals or newspapers. When you advance in your major, you’ll be drawn into disciplinary problems that may be new to you but not to your professors. In such cases, a problem that is already “out there” initiates your search for a possible answer and invites you to join the conversation.But sometimes you actually initiate a conversation by posing your own problem fresh from your own brain. For example, you find your own problem whenever you see something puzzling in the natural world, note curious or unexplained features in a cultural phenomenon or artifact, or discover conflicts or contradictions within your own way of looking at the world.In Table 1.1 we describe some of the ways that writers can become gripped by a problem that may lead to engaged writing.TABLE 1.1 How Writers Become Gripped by a ProblemOccasion That Leads to Your Posing a Problem Examples Your Interior Mental StateThe problem is already “out there.”(You enter a conversation already in progress.)You encounter others arguing about a problem, and you don’t know where you stand. Our class discussion has left me uncertain about whether health care should be rationed.In To Kill a Mockingbird, I can’t decide whether Atticus Finch is a good father. • • You are equally persuaded by different views or dissatisfied with all the views.• • Part of you thinks X but another part thinks Y (you feel divided).Your gut instinct tells you that someone else is wrong, but you haven’t fully investigated the issue (your instinct may be wrong). This article’s explanation of the causes for anorexia doesn’t seem quite right to me.Shanita says that we should build more nuclear power plants to combat global warming, but I say nuclear power is too dangerous. • • Your skepticism or intuition pushes against someone else’s view.• • Your system of values leads you to views different from someone else.• • NOTE: You aren’t gripped by a problem until you have seen the possible strengths of other views and the possible weaknesses of your own. You must go beyond simply having an opinion.Someone gives you a question that you can’t yet answer. Your boss asks you whether the company should enact the proposed marketing plan.Your history professor asks you, “To what extent does Frederick Jackson Turner’s frontier hypothesis reflect a Eurocentric world view?” • • You feel overwhelmed with unknowns.• • You feel that you can’t begin to answer until you do more exploration and research.• • You may be able to propose a few possible answers, but you aren’t yet satisfied with them.You pose the problem yourself.(You initiate the conversation.)You see something puzzling in a natural or cultural phenomenon. You note that women’s fashion magazines have few ads for computers and begin wondering how you could market computers in these magazines.You notice that political activists and protesters are using social media to gain attention and gather adherents. How might social media serve purposes beyond entertainment? • • You begin puzzling about something that other people don’t notice.• • Your mind plays with possible explanations or new approaches.• • You begin testing possible solutions or answers. (Often you want to talk to someone—to start a conversation about the problem).You see something unexpected, puzzling, or unexplained in a poem, painting, or other human artifact. Why is the person in this advertisement walking two dogs rather than just one?My classmates believe that Hamlet really loves Ophelia, but then how do you explain the nunnery scene where he treats her like a whore? • • You can’t see why the maker/designer/artist did something in such a way.• • You notice that one part of this artifact seems unexpected or incongruous.• • You begin trying to explain what is puzzling and playing with possible answers.You identify something inconsistent or contradictory in your own view of the world. I agree with this writer’s argument against consumerism, but I really want a large plasma TV. Is consumerism really bad? Am I a materialist? • • You feel unsettled by your own inconsistent views or values.• • You probe more deeply into your own identity and place in the world.In each of these cases, the problem starts to spark critical thinking. We’ll examine the process of critical thinking in more detail when we discuss “wallowing in complexity” (Chapter 2, Concept 2.1).FOR WRITING AND DISCUSSION Finding a ProblemBackground: Figure 1.1 shows a sculpture by Billie Grace Lynn that was the West Collection 2011 Grand Prize Winner. This electric/hybrid motorcycle made from cow bones, a bicycle frame, and motor is a ridable kinetic sculpture. This activist sculpture is intended to inspire people to think about reducing their consumption of meat. Lynn built a full-sized version of the Mad Cow, which runs on waste vegetable oil, and will be taking the motorcycle on a cross-country tour.Task: Spend several minutes writing down one or more open-ended questions that emerge from looking at the photo of this sculpture. What puzzles you about it? Consider the sculpture’s title as well as its appearance and the possible effects the artist hopes to have on viewers. Then share your individual questions with classmates. Speculate about different answers to some of these questions. The best questions will lead to a genuine conversation with different points of view. (If you would like to find out more about Billie Grace Lynn, a quick Web search will yield information about her art training, philosophy of art, and other work.) FIGURE 1.1 Mad Cow Motorcycle by Billie Grace LynnIn a similar vein, your instructor may ask you to speculate and formulate thought-provoking questions about another puzzling work of art, the surreal painting Portrait de Famille (1954) by Dorothea Tanning, which appears on page 1.CONCEPT 1.2 Writers’ decisions are shaped by purpose, audience, and genre.• 1.2 Make decisions about your writing based on purpose, audience, and genre.In the introduction to this chapter, we said that writers must address two types of problems: subject matter problems and rhetorical problems. In this section we look at rhetorical problems in more detail. To begin, we’ll explain in more detail what we mean by the term rhetoric.What Is Rhetoric?At the broadest level, rhetoric is the study of how human beings use language and other symbols to influence the attitudes, beliefs, and actions of others. One prominent twentieth-century rhetorician, Kenneth Burke, calls rhetoric “a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that by nature respond to symbols.” To understand what Burke means by “symbols,” consider the difference in flirting behavior between peacocks and humans. When male peacocks flirt, they spread their fantastic tail feathers, do mating dances, and screech weirdly to attract females, but the whole process is governed by instinct. Peacocks don’t have to choose among different symbolic actions such as buying an upscale tail from Neiman Marcus versus a knockoff tail from Walmart. Poor flirting humans, however, must make dozens of symbolic choices, all of which convey meanings to audiences. Consider, for example, the different flirting messages humans send to each other by their choice of clothes, their hairstyles, their accessories, or their song playlists. Even one’s word choices (for example, street slang versus intellectual jargon), one’s e-mail username (janejones@___.net versus foxychick@___.net) or one’s choice of major (chemical engineering versus film studies) gives further hints of a person’s identity, values, and social groups. Rhetoricians study, among other things, how these symbols arise within a given culture and how they influence others.In a narrower sense, rhetoric is the art of making messages persuasive. Perhaps the most famous definition of rhetoric comes from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, who defined rhetoric as “the ability to see, in any particular case, all the available means of persuasion.” Effective speakers or writers fruitfully begin by trying to understand their audience’s values and beliefs and the kinds of arguments that different audience members might make on a given issue (“all the available means of persuasion”). If we imagine the interaction of several speakers, each proposing different points of view and each analyzing and appreciating others’ viewpoints, we can see how mutual understanding might emerge. The study of rhetoric can therefore help humans construct more functional and productive communities.At an operational level, writers can be said to “think rhetorically” whenever they are consciously aware of writing to an audience for a purpose within a genre. Let’s look more closely at each of these in turn.How Writers Think about PurposeIn this section, we want to help you think more productively about your purpose for writing. At a specific level, your purpose is to bring something new or contestable to your reader. At a more generalized level, your purpose can be expressed as a rhetorical aim. Let’s look at each in turn.Purpose as a Desire to Bring Something New or Contestable to Your ReaderOne powerful way to think about purpose is to focus on what is new or controversial (contestable—capable of being contested) in your paper. For most essays, you can write a one-sentence, nutshell statement about your purpose.• My purpose is to give my readers a vivid picture of my difficult struggle with Graves’ disease. [What’s new: a vivid account of one person’s struggle with Graves’ disease.]• My purpose is to explain how Thoreau’s view of nature differs in important ways from that of contemporary environmentalists. [What’s new: a possibly controversial way of thinking about the difference between Thoreau and contemporary environmentalists.]• My purpose is to persuade the general public to ban the sale of assault weapons. [What’s new: a contestable argument that some would say narrows the rights conveyed in the Second Amendment.]This view of purpose will be developed further when we explain how an effective thesis statement tries to bring about some change in the reader’s view of the subject (Chapter 2, Concept 2.2). Writers of closed-form prose often place explicit purpose statements in their introductions along with their thesis. In most other forms of writing, the writer uses a behind-the-scenes purpose statement to achieve focus and direction but seldom states the purpose explicitly.Purpose as Rhetorical AimIt is also possible to think of purpose more broadly by using the concept of rhetorical aim. Articulating your rhetorical aim can help you clarify your relationship to your audience and identify typical ways that a piece of writing might be structured and developed. The writing projects in Part 2 of this textbook are based on six different rhetorical aims: to express, to explore, to inform, to analyze/synthesize, to persuade, and to reflect. Table 1.2 gives you an overview of each of these rhetorical aims and sketches out how different aims typically use different approaches to subject matter, how the writer’s task and relationship to readers differ according to aim, and how a chosen aim affects the writing’s genre and its position on the spectrum from open to closed forms.TABLE 1.2 Purpose as Rhetorical AimRhetorical Aim Focus of Writing Relationship to Audience Forms and GenresExpress or share(Chapter 6)May also include an artistic aim (Chapter 18)Your own life, personal experiences, reflections You share aspects of your life; you invite readers to walk in your shoes, to experience your insights. Form: Has many open-form featuresSample genres: journal, blog, personal Web site, or online profile; personal essays or literacy narratives, often with artistic featuresExplore or inquire(Chapter 7)A significant subject-matter problem that puzzles you You take readers on your own intellectual journey by showing your inquiry process (raising questions, seeking evidence, considering alternative views). Form: Follows open form in being narrative based; is thesis seeking rather than thesis supportingSample genres: freewriting; research logs; articles and books focused on process of discoveryInform or explain(Chapter 8)Factual knowledge addressing a reader’s need or curiosity You provide knowledge that your readers need or want, or you arouse curiosity and provide new, surprising information. You expect readers to trust your authority. Form: Usually has a closed-form structureSample genres: encyclopedia articles; instruction booklets; sales reports; technical reports; informative magazine articles; informative Web sitesAnalyze, synthesize, or interpret(Chapters 9–12)Complex subject matter that you can break down into parts and put together in new ways for greater understanding Using critical thinking and possibly research, you challenge readers with a new way of understanding your subject. Skeptical readers expect you to support your thesis with good particulars. Form: Typically has a closed-form structureSample genres: scholarly articles; experimental reports; many kinds of college research papers; public affairs magazine articles; many kinds of blogsPersuade(Chapters 13–15)Subject-matter questions that have multiple controversial answers You try to convince readers, who may not share your values and beliefs, to accept your stance on an issue by providing good reasons and evidence and attending to alternative views. Form: Usually closed form, but may employ many open-form features for persuasive effectSample genres: letters to the editor; op-ed pieces; advocacy pieces in public affairs magazines; advocacy Web sites; researched academic argumentsReflect(Chapter 24)Subject matter closely connected to your interests and experience; often involves self-evaluation of an experience Writing for yourself as well as for a reader, you seek to find personal meaning and value in an experience or course of study. You assume a sympathetic and interested reader. Form: Anywhere on the closed-to-open-form continuumSample genres: memoirs, workplace self-evaluations; introductory letter for a portfolio; personal essays looking back on an experienceHow Writers Think about AudienceIn our discussion of purpose, we have already had a lot to say about audience. What you know about your readers—their familiarity with your subject matter, their level of expertise, their reasons for reading, their values and beliefs—affects most of the choices you make as a writer.In assessing your audience, you must first determine who that audience is—a single reader (for example, your boss), a select group (a scholarship committee; readers of a particular blog), or a general audience. If you imagine a general audience, you will need to make some initial assumptions about their views and values and about their current attitude toward your subject. Doing so creates an “implied audience,” giving you a stable rather than a moving target so that you can make decisions about your own piece of writing. Once you have identified your audience, you can use the following strategies for analysis.Strategies for Analyzing AudienceQuestions to Ask about Your Audience Reasons for Asking the QuestionHow busy are my readers? • • Helps you decide on length, document design, and methods of organization (see Concept 1.3 on open versus closed forms).• • In workplace writing, busy readers usually appreciate tightly organized prose with headings that allow for skimming.What are my readers’ motives for reading? • • If the reader has requested the document, he or she will probably already be interested in what you say.• • In most cases, you need to hook your readers’ interest and keep them engaged.What is my relationship with my readers? • • Helps you decide on a formal or informal style• • Helps you select tone—polite and serious or loose and slangyWhat do my readers already know about my topic? Do my readers have more or less expertise than I have, or about the same expertise? • • Helps you determine what will be old/familiar information for your audience versus new/unfamiliar information• • Helps you decide how much background and context to include• • Helps you decide to use or avoid in-group jargon and specialized knowledgeHow interested are my readers in my topic? Do my readers already care about it? • • Helps you decide how to write the introduction• • Helps you determine how to make the problem you address interesting and significant to your readerWhat will be my readers’ attitudes toward my thesis? Do my readers share my beliefs and values? Will they be skeptical of my argument or even threatened by it? • • Helps you make numerous decisions about tone, structure, reference to alternative views, and use of evidence• • Helps you decide on the persona and tone you want to projectTo appreciate the importance of audience, consider how a change in audience can affect the actual content of a piece. Suppose you want voters to approve a bond issue to build a new baseball stadium. For voters who are baseball fans, your argument can appeal to their love of the game and to the improved fan amenities in the new park (more comfortable seats, better sight lines, bigger restrooms, more food options, and so forth). But to reach non-baseball fans, you must take a different tack, appealing to values other than love of baseball. For this new audience, you might argue that the new stadium will bring new tax revenues to the city, clean up a run-down area, revitalize local businesses, or stimulate tourism. Your purpose remains the same—to persuade taxpayers to fund the stadium—but the content of your argument changes if your audience changes.For college papers, students may think that they are writing to an audience of one—the instructor. But because instructors are captive audiences and because they often know more about the subject matter than the student writer (making it hard for the student writer to bring something “new” to the reader), they often ask students to address real audiences or to role-play addressing hypothetical audiences. They may ask you to blog for a Web audience, publish for classmates on a course Web site, write for community readers in a service learning context, or imagine writing for a particular magazine or journal. As an alternative, they may create case assignments with built-in audiences (for example, “You are an accountant in the firm of Numbers and Fudge; one day you receive a letter from . . .”). If your instructor does not specify an audience, you can generally assume an audience of student peers who have approximately the same level of knowledge and expertise in the field as you do, who are engaged by the question you address, and who want to read your writing and be surprised in some way.How Writers Think about GenreThe term genre refers to categories of writing that follow certain conventions of style, structure, approach to subject matter, and document design. Table 1.3 shows different kinds of genres.TABLE 1.3 Examples of GenresPersonal Writing Academic Writing Popular Culture Public Affairs, Civic Writing Professional Writing LiteratureLetterDiary/journalMemoirBlogText messageE-mailFacebook profilePersonal essayLiteracy narrativeStatus updateTweet Scholarly articleResearch paperScientific reportAbstract or summaryBook reviewEssay examAnnotated bibliographyTextual analysis Articles for magazines such as Seventeen, Ebony, or VibeAdvertisementsHip-hop lyricsFan Web sitesBumper stickersReviews of books, films, plays, music Letter to the editorNewspaper editorialOp-ed pieceAdvocacy Web sitePolitical blogMagazine article on civic issue Cover letter for a job applicationRésuméBusiness memoLegal briefBrochureTechnical manualInstruction bookletProposalReportPress release Short storyNovelGraphic novelPlaySonnetEpic poemLiterary podcastThe concept of genre creates strong reader expectations, placing specific demands on writers. How you write any given letter, report, or article is influenced by the structure and style of hundreds of previous letters, reports, or articles written in the same genre. If you wanted to write for Reader’s Digest, for example, you would have to use the conventions that appeal to its older, conservative readers: simple language, strong reliance on anecdotal evidence in arguments, high level of human interest, and choice of subject matter that reinforces the conservative values of individualism, self-discipline, and family. If you wanted to write for Seventeen or Rolling Stone, however, you would need to use quite different conventions concerning subject matter, style, and document design. Likewise, the conventions for writing for the Web (blogs, podcasts, Web pages) differ significantly from writing for print.To illustrate the relationship of a writer to a genre, we sometimes draw an analogy with clothing. Although most people have a variety of clothing in their wardrobes, the genre of activity for which they are dressing (class, concert, party, job interview, wedding) constrains their expression of individuality. A man dressing for a job interview might express his personality through choice of tie or quality and style of business suit; he probably wouldn’t express it by wearing a Hawaiian shirt and sandals. Even when people deviate from a convention, they tend to do so in a conventional way. For example, people who do not want to follow typical middle class clothing genres form their own genres of goth, grunge, or hipster. So, by analogy, if you are writing a business memo or an experimental report in APA style, you are constrained by the conventions of the genre. The concept of genre raises intriguing and sometimes unsettling questions about the relationship of the unique self to a social convention or tradition.In the last ten years, the arrival of Web 2.0 has created a whole range of new genres. Blogs, for example, typically feature links to other Web sites and can include uploaded images, music, or videos. Whereas a print article is stable and fixed, the same article published as a blog can turn rapidly into an on-going conversation as readers post comments first to the original blogger and then to each other. A blog, then, becomes a dynamic conversation site—a genre impossible in print. Note too that if you post a response to someone else’s blog, the genre of “blog response” places formidable constraints on outsiders: If you don’t reveal the right insider savvy about the conversation, you can be rudely flamed. This dynamic community of readers and writers—along with the hypertext structure-makes Web genres substantially different from print genres.See Chapter 4 for a fuller discussion of Web genres.FOR WRITING AND DISCUSSION Thinking about Purpose, Audience, and GenreSuppose that you are a political science major researching Second Amendment rights. Suppose further that you generally support the right to own hunting rifles and handguns but that your research has led you to oppose ownership of assault weapons as well as high-capacity ammo clips. Through your research, you have gathered different “means of persuasion” for your position—statistical data, sociological studies of gun violence, political studies of Second Amendment controversies, comparison data with other countries, and anecdotal stories (published in newspapers or on the Web) from witnesses or surviving victims of massacre shootings. You are ready to start writing. How would your piece of writing be different under the following conditions related to purpose, audience, and genre?1.You are an intern for your district’s member of the U.S. House of Representatives. She asks you to write a well-documented argument recommending the position she should take on gun control issues.2.You are an active citizen seriously worried about gun violence. You decide to start a blog devoted to building up public anger against easy access to assault weapons. You now need to write and post your first blog.3.You are invited by your local newspaper to write an op-ed column on gun control. You have 500 words to make your best case.4.You’ve read an argument opposing a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammo magazines on a blog site sponsored by the National Rifle Association. You want to post a counter-argument on this blog site—but you want to be taken seriously, not flamed.5.You seek a broader public for your anti-assault weapon campaign. You decide to send a Twitter tweet as well as create a bumper sticker.CONCEPT 1.3 The rules for “good writing” vary depending on rhetorical context.• 1.3 Use varying rules for “good writing” depending on the rhetorical context.So far we have said that writers must address two types of problems: subject matter problems and rhetorical problems. As we have suggested, rhetorical problems, which influence the writer’s decisions about content, organization, and style, often loom as large for writers as do the subject-matter problems that drive their writing in the first place.In this section, we focus on one important example of a rhetorical problem, an example that will interest all new college writers: Are there “rules” for good college writing? If so, what are they? In our experience, many writers come to college guided by writing rules they learned in high school: “Never use ‘I’ in a formal paper.” “Have a thesis statement.” “Use good transitions.” “Put a topic sentence in every paragraph.” But are these really good rules to follow? Our answer: “Sometimes yes, sometimes no.” You’ll be able to appreciate this answer for yourself through the following thought exercise.A Thought Exercise: Two Pieces of Good Writing That Follow Different “Rules”Read the following short pieces of nonfiction prose. The first is a letter to the editor written by a professional civil engineer in response to a newspaper editorial arguing for the development of wind-generated electricity. The second short piece is entitled “A Festival of Rain.” It was written by the American poet and religious writer Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk. After reading the two samples carefully, proceed to the discussion questions that follow.David Rockwood A Letter to the Editor1Your editorial on November 16, “Get Bullish on Wind Power,” is based on fantasy rather than fact. There are several basic reasons why wind-generated power can in no way serve as a reasonable major alternative to other electrical energy supply alternatives for the Pacific Northwest power system.2First and foremost, wind power is unreliable. Electric power generation is evaluated not only on the amount of energy provided, but also on its ability to meet system peak load requirements on an hourly, daily, and weekly basis. In other words, an effective power system would have to provide enough electricity to meet peak demands in a situation when the wind energy would be unavailable—either in no wind situations or in severe blizzard conditions, which would shut down the wind generators. Because wind power cannot be relied on at times of peak needs, it would have to be backed up by other power generation resources at great expense and duplication of facilities.3Secondly, there are major unsolved problems involved in the design of wind generation facilities, particularly for those located in rugged mountain areas. Ice storms, in particular, can cause sudden dynamic problems for the rotating blades and mechanisms which could well result in breakdown or failure of the generators. Furthermore, the design of the facilities to meet the stresses imposed by high winds in these remote mountain regions, in the order of 125 miles per hour, would indeed escalate the costs.4Thirdly, the environmental impact of constructing wind generation facilities amounting to 28 percent of the region’s electrical supply system (as proposed in your editorial) would be tremendous. The Northwest Electrical Power system presently has a capacity of about 37,000 megawatts of hydro power and 10,300 megawatts of thermal, for a total of about 48,000 megawatts. Meeting 28 percent of this capacity by wind power generators would, most optimistically, require about 13,400 wind towers, each with about 1,000 kilowatt (one megawatt) generating capacity. These towers, some 100 to 200 feet high, would have to be located in the mountains of Oregon and Washington. These would encompass hundreds of square miles of pristine mountain area, which, together with interconnecting transmission facilities, control works, and roads, would indeed have major adverse environmental impacts on the region.5There are many other lesser problems of control and maintenance of such a system. Let it be said that, from my experience and knowledge as a professional engineer, the use of wind power as a major resource in the Pacific Northwest power system is strictly a pipe dream.Thomas Merton A Festival of Rain1Let me say this before rain becomes a utility that they can plan and distribute for money. By “they” I mean the people who cannot understand that rain is a festival, who do not appreciate its gratuity, who think that what has no price has no value, that what cannot be sold is not real, so that the only way to make something actual is to place it on the market. The time will come when they will sell you even your rain. At the moment it is still free, and I am in it. I celebrate its gratuity and its meaninglessness.2The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities. It fills the woods with an immense and confused sound. It covers the flat roof of the cabin and its porch with insistent and controlled rhythms. And I listen, because it reminds me again and again that the whole world runs by rhythms I have not yet learned to recognize, rhythms that are not those of the engineer.3I came up here from the monastery last night, sloshing through the corn fields, said Vespers, and put some oatmeal on the Coleman stove for supper. . . . The night became very dark. The rain surrounded the whole cabin with its enormous virginal myth, a whole world of meaning, of secrecy, of silence, of rumor. Think of it: all that speech pouring down, selling nothing, judging nobody, drenching the thick mulch of dead leaves, soaking the trees, filling the gullies and crannies of the wood with water, washing out the places where men have stripped the hillside! What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in a forest, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the ridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows!4Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.5But I am also going to sleep, because here in this wilderness I have learned how to sleep again. Here I am not alien. The trees I know, the night I know, the rain I know. I close my eyes and instantly sink into the whole rainy world of which I am a part, and the world goes on with me in it, for I am not alien to it.FOR WRITING AND DISCUSSION Comparing Rockwood’s and Merton’s WritingWorking as a whole class or in small groups, share your answers to the following questions:1.What are the main differences between the two types of writing?2.Create a metaphor, simile, or analogy that best sums up your feelings about the most important differences between Rockwood’s and Merton’s writing: “Rockwood’s writing is like . . . , but Merton’s writing is like. . . .”3.Explain why your metaphors are apt. How do your metaphors help clarify or illuminate the differences between the two pieces of writing?Working as a whole class or in small groups, share your answers to the above questions.Distinctions between Closed and Open Forms of WritingHere now is our own brief analysis of the differences between these two pieces. David Rockwood’s letter and Thomas Merton’s mini-essay are both examples of nonfiction prose. But as these examples illustrate, nonfiction prose can vary enormously in form and style. When we give this exercise to our students, they have no trouble articulating the differences between the two pieces of writing. Rockwood’s piece has an explicit thesis statement, unified and coherent paragraphs with topic sentences, evidence to support each topic sentence, and strong transitions between each paragraph. Merton’s piece, in contrast, seems to ignore these rules; it is more artistic, more creative, more like a story. (Among our students, one group said that Rockwood’s piece is like riding a train on a track while Merton’s piece is like floating down a river on an inner tube.) One way to label these differences is to say that Rockwood’s piece is thesis-based while Merton’s piece is narrative-based. But another way to distinguish between them is to place them on a continuum from closed-form prose to open-form prose (see Figure 1.2).Closed-Form ProseRockwood’s letter illustrates tightly closed-form prose (far left on the continuum), which we can define as writing with a hierarchical structure of points and details in support of an explicit thesis. It is characterized by unified and coherent paragraphs, topic sentences, transitions between sentences and paragraphs, and forecasting of the whole before presentation of the parts. Once Rockwood states his thesis (“Wind-generated power isn’t a reasonable alternative energy source in the Pacific Northwest”), readers know the point of the essay and can predict its structure: a series of paragraphs giving reasons and evidence in support of the thesis. We say that this form is “closed” because it doesn’t allow any digressions or structural surprises. Because its structure is predictable, its success depends entirely on the quality of its ideas, which must bring something new to readers or challenge them with something contestable. Closed-form prose is what most college professors expect from their students on most occasions; likewise it is often the most effective form of writing in professional and business settings. (Note that the five-paragraph essay, common in many high schools, is a by-the-numbers approach for teaching closed-form prose.)Open-Form ProseIn contrast, Merton’s “A Festival of Rain” falls toward the right end of the closed-to-open continuum. Open-form prose resists reduction to a single, summarizable thesis. It is characterized by narrative or story-like structure, sometimes with abrupt transitions, and uses various literary techniques to make the prose memorable and powerful. Although Merton is gladdened by rain, and clearly opposes the consumer culture that will try to “sell” you the rain, it is hard to pin down exactly what he means by “festival of rain” or by rain’s “gratuity and its meaninglessness.” The main organizing principle of Merton’s piece, like that of most open-form prose, is a story or narrative—in this case the story of Merton’s leaving the monastery to sleep in the rain-drenched cabin. Rather than announce a thesis and support it with reasons and evidence, Merton lets his point emerge suggestively from his story and his language. Open-form essays still have a focus, but the focus is more like a theme in fiction than like a thesis in argument. Readers may argue over its meaning in the same way that they argue over the meaning of a film or poem or novel. Consider also the extent to which Merton violates the rules for closed-form prose. Instead of using transitions between paragraphs, Merton juxtaposes narrative passages about his camping trip (“I came up here from the monastery last night . . .”) with passages that make cryptic, interpretive comments about his experience (“The rain I am in is not like the rain of cities”). Unlike paragraphs in closed-form prose, which typically begin with topic sentences and are developed with supporting details, the paragraphs in Merton’s piece have no clear hierarchical structure; paragraph four, in fact, has only twenty-nine words. Features of open-form prose often appear in personal essays, in popular magazine articles, in exploratory or reflective writing, or in character profiles that tell stories of a person’s life. Open-form prose usually has an artistic or aesthetic appeal, and many examples are classified as literary nonfiction or creative nonfiction. FIGURE 1.2 A Continuum of Essay Types: Closed to Open FormsFlexibility of “Rules” along the ContinuumAs you can see from the continuum in Figure 1.2, essays can fall anywhere along the scale. Not all thesis-with-support writing has to be top down, stating its thesis explicitly in the introduction. In some cases writers choose to delay the thesis, creating a more exploratory, open-ended, “let’s think through this together” feeling before finally stating the main point late in the essay. In some cases writers explore a problem without ever finding a satisfactory thesis, creating an essay that seeks a thesis rather than supporting one. Because exploratory essays are aimed at deepening the reader’s engagement with a question and resisting easy answers, they often include digressions, speculations, conjectures, multiple perspectives, and occasional invitations to the reader to help solve the problem. When writers reach the far right-hand position on the continuum, they no longer state an explicit thesis. Instead, like fiction writers, they embed their points in plot, character, imagery, and dialogue, leaving their readers to infer a theme from the text.Where to Place Your Writing along the ContinuumClearly, essays at opposite ends of this continuum operate in different ways and obey different rules. Because each position on the continuum has its appropriate uses, the writer’s challenge is to determine which sort of writing is most appropriate in a given situation. Most college papers (but not all) and much professional writing are written in closed form. Thus if you were writing a business proposal, a legal brief, or an academic paper for a scholarly audience, you would typically choose a closed-form structure, and your finished product would include elements such as the following:• • An explicit thesis in the introduction• • Forecasting of structure• • Cohesive and unified paragraphs with topic sentences• • Clear transitions between sentences and between parts• • No digressionsBut if you were writing, say, to express your conflicted relationship with a parent, your first discovery of evil, or your life-changing encounter with a stranger, you would probably rely on juxtaposed narratives and stories, moving toward the open end of the continuum and violating one or more of these closed-form conventions.What is important to see is that having a thesis statement, topic sentences, good transitions, and unified and coherent paragraphs is not a mark of “good prose” but simply of “closed-form” prose. What makes closed-form prose good is the quality of its ideas. In contrast, powerful open-form prose often ignores closed-form rules. It’s not that open-form prose doesn’t have rules; it’s that the rules are different, just as the rules for jazz are different from the rules for a classical sonata. Whether the writer chooses a closed-form or an open-form approach depends on the intended audience of the piece and the writer’s purpose.FOR WRITING AND DISCUSSION Thinking Personally about Closed and Open FormsDo you and your classmates most enjoy writing prose at the closed or at the more open end of the continuum? Recall a favorite piece of writing that you have done in the past. Jot down a brief description of the kind of writing this was (a personal-experience essay, a piece of workplace writing, a research paper, a blog post, a persuasive argument) and explain why you liked it. Where would you place this piece of writing on the closed-to-open continuum? Are you at your best in closed-form writing that calls for an explicit thesis statement and logical support? Or are you at your best in more open, creative, and personal forms? Share your preferences with those of classmates.Chapter SummaryThis chapter has introduced you to three useful rhetorical concepts connected to the demands of college writing.• • Concept 1.1 Subject matter problems are the heart of college writing. The starting place of college writing is a subject matter problem that interests both the writer and the reader. Writers write because they have something new, surprising, or challenging to say in response to that problem. Writers can pose their own problematic questions about a subject or become engaged in controversies or issues that are already “out there.”• • Concept 1.2 Writers’ decisions are shaped by purpose, audience, and genre. To articulate purpose, writers focus on what is new or contestable in their intended work or, at a more general level, consider their rhetorical aim. To think about audience, they analyze how much their readers already know about (and care about) their subject and assess their readers’ values, beliefs, and assumptions. Writers attend to genre by thinking about the conventions of content, structure, and style associated with the kind of document they are writing.• • Concept 1.3 The rules for good writing vary according to rhetorical context. Good writing can vary along a continuum from closed to open forms. Closed-form prose has an explicit thesis statement, unified and coherent paragraphs with topic sentences, and good transitions. Closed-form prose is “good” only if its ideas bring something new or challenging to the reader. At the other end of the continuum, open-form prose often uses narrative techniques such as storytelling, evocative language, surprising juxtapositions, and other features that violate the conventions of closed-form prose.BRIEF WRITING PROJECT Two Messages for Different Purposes, Audiences, and GenresThe purpose of this brief write-to-learn assignment is to let you experience firsthand how rhetorical context influences a writer’s choices. The whole assignment, which has three parts, should not be more than two double-spaced pages long.• 1. A Text Message to a Friend. Write a cell phone text message to a friend using the abbreviations, capitalization, and punctuation style typically used for text messages. Explain that you are going to miss Friday’s social event (movie, pizza night, dance, party) because you have to fly home to attend a funeral. Ask your friend about another time for a get-together. (Make up details as you need them.)• 2. An E-Mail Message to a Professor. Compose an e-mail message to your professor explaining that you are going to miss Friday’s field trip because you have to fly home to attend a funeral. You are asking how you can make up for this missed field trip. (Use the same details as in item 1.) Create a subject line appropriate for this new context.• 3. Reflection on the Two Messages. Using Items 1 and 2 as illustrative examples, explain to someone who has not read Chapter 1 of this text why a difference in your rhetorical context caused you to make different choices in these two messages. In your explanation, use the terms “purpose,” “audience,” and “genre.” Your goal is to teach your audience the meanings of these terms.2 EXPLORING PROBLEMS, MAKING CLAIMSWHAT YOU WILL LEARN• 2.1 To “wallow in complexity” in order to determine your thesis.• 2.2 To write a strong thesis that surprises readers with something new or challenging.• 2.3 To begin a typical closed-form introduction with the problem, not the thesis.• “In management, people don’t merely ‘write papers,’ they solve problems,” said [business professor A. Kimbrough Sherman]. . . . He explained that he wanted to construct situations where students would have to “wallow in complexity” and work their way out, as managers must.—A. Kimbrough Sherman, Management Professor, Quoted by Barbara E. Walvoord and Lucille P. McCarthyIn the previous chapter we explained how writers become engaged with subject matter problems, how writers think rhetorically about their purpose, audience, and genre, and how the rules for good writing vary along a continuum from closed to open forms. In this chapter we show how writers think rhetorically about their subject matter during the process of exploring a problem and determining a possible claim.* Because this chapter concerns academic writing, we focus on closed-form prose—the kind of thesis-governed writing most often required in college courses and in civic and professional life.*In this text we use the words claim and thesis statement interchangeably. In courses across the curriculum, instructors typically use one or the other of these terms. Other synonyms for thesis statement include proposition, main point, or thesis sentence.CONCEPT 2.1 To determine their thesis, writers must often “wallow in complexity.”• 2.1 “Wallow in complexity” in order to determine your thesis.As we explained in the previous chapter, the starting point of academic writing is a “good, interesting question.” At the outset, we should say that these questions may lead you toward new and unfamiliar ways of thinking. Beginning college students typically value questions that have right answers. Students ask their professors questions because they are puzzled by confusing parts of a textbook, a lecture, or an assigned reading. They hope their professors will explain the confusing material clearly. Their purpose in asking these questions is to eliminate misunderstandings, not to open up controversy and debate. Although basic comprehension questions are important, they are not the kinds of inquiry questions that lead to strong college-level writing and thinking.Instead, the kinds of questions that stimulate the writing most valued in college are open-ended questions that focus on unknowns or uncertainties (what educational researcher Ken Bain calls “beautiful problems”) rather than factual questions that have single, correct answers.* Good open-ended questions invite multiple points of view or alternative hypotheses; they stimulate critical thinking and research. Our way of thinking about problems has been motivated by the South American educator Paulo Freire, who wanted his students (often poor, illiterate villagers) to become problematizers instead of memorizers. Freire opposed what he called “the banking method” of education, in which students deposit knowledge in their memory banks and then make withdrawals during exams. The banking method, Freire believed, left third world villagers passive and helpless to improve their situations in life. Using the banking method, students being taught to read and write might learn the word water through drill-and-skill workbook sentences such as, “The water is in the well.” With Freire’s problematizing method, students might learn the word water by asking, “Why is the water dirty and who is responsible?” Freire believed that good questions have stakes and that answering them can make a difference in the world.*Cognitive psychologists call these beautiful problems “ill-structured.” An ill-structured problem has competing solutions, requiring the thinker to argue for the best solution in the absence of full and complete data or in the presence of stakeholders with different backgrounds, assumptions, beliefs, and values. In contrast, a “well-structured” problem eventually yields a correct answer. Math problems that can be solved by applying the right formulae and processes are well structured; they yield single, agreed upon “right answers.”Learning to Wallow in ComplexityThis focus on important problems explains why college professors want students to go beyond simply understanding course concepts as taught in textbooks and lectures. Such comprehension is important, but it is only a starting point. As management professor A. Kimbrough Sherman explains in the epigraph to this chapter, college instructors expect students to wrestle with problems by applying the concepts, data, and thought processes they learn in a course to new situations. As Sherman puts it, students must learn to “wallow in complexity” and work their way out. To put it another way, college professors want students to “earn” their thesis. (Earning a thesis is very different from simply stating your opinion, which might not be deeply examined at all.) Because college professors value this kind of complex thinking, they often phrase essay exam questions or writing assignments as open-ended problems that can be answered in more than one way. They are looking not for the right answer, but for well-supported arguments that acknowledge alternative views. A C paper and an A paper may have the same “answer” (identical thesis statements), but the C writer may have waded only ankle deep into the mud of complexity, whereas the A writer wallowed in it and worked a way out.What skills are required for successful wallowing? Specialists in critical thinking have identified the following:CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS NEEDED FOR “WALLOWING IN COMPLEXITY”• • The ability to pose problematic questions• • The ability to analyze a problem in all its dimensions—to define its key terms, determine its causes, understand its history, appreciate its human dimension and its connection to one’s own personal experience, and appreciate what makes it problematic or complex• • The ability (and determination) to find, gather, and interpret facts, data, and other information relevant to the problem (often involving library, Internet, or field research)• • The ability to imagine alternative solutions to the problem, to see different ways in which the question might be answered and different perspectives for viewing it• • The ability to analyze competing approaches and answers, to construct arguments for and against alternatives, and to choose the best solution in light of values, objectives, and other criteria that you determine and articulate• • The ability to write an effective argument justifying your choice while acknowledging counterargumentsWe discuss and develop these skills throughout this text.Seeing Each Academic Discipline as a Field of Inquiry and ArgumentIn addition to these general thinking abilities, critical thinking requires what psychologists call “domain-specific” skills. Each academic discipline has its own characteristic ways of approaching knowledge and its own specialized habits of mind. The questions asked by psychologists differ from those asked by historians or anthropologists; the evidence and assumptions used to support arguments in literary analysis differ from those in philosophy or sociology. As illustrations, here are some examples of how different disciplines might pose different questions about hip-hop:• • Psychology: To what extent do hip-hop lyrics increase misogynistic or homophobic attitudes in male listeners?• • History: What was the role of urban housing projects in the early development of hip-hop?• • Sociology: How does the level of an individual’s appreciation for rap music vary by ethnicity, class, age, geographic region, and gender?• • Rhetoric/Composition: What images of urban life do the lyrics of rap songs portray?• • Marketing and Management: How did the white media turn a black, urban phenomenon into corporate profits?• • Women’s Studies: What influence does hip-hop music have on the self-image of African-American women?• • Global Studies: How are other countries adapting hip-hop to their cultures?As these questions suggest, when you study a new discipline, you must learn not only the knowledge that scholars in that discipli source..
Differences in Writing
Differences between the Processes of Writing in Closed-Form vs. Writing in Open Form
In open form prose, the scenes involve conflict and issues in the plot while in closed-form prose, a thesis statement is clearly outlined in the last sentence of the introduction, and all paragraphs of the essay are connected with thesis itself.
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