Writing in the English Discipline: Language, Lit., and Pedagogy

Journal Overview and Citation Practices

Through Penn State Berks, The Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research is a multidisciplinary, online journal that is open to U.S. and international students. The focus of the journal, as the title suggests, is on service learning and community-based research; these terms, however, are not understood universally. The journal therefore offers these definitions: service learning—“a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities” (servicelearning.org) and community-based research—“a partnership of students, faculty, and community members who collaboratively engage in research with the purpose of solving a pressing community problem or effecting social change" (Strand, Marullo, Cutforth, Stoecker, Donohue. Community-Based Research and Higher Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003).
As service learning and community based research is applicable across the content areas, this journal contains information from a variety of subject areas, including but not limited to the following: community-to-student relationships, service learning as a method to reach at-risk students, and the benefits service learning offers as a means to enhance educational experiences.
I am currently working on an undergraduate research thesis concentrated on service learning’s use in public high schools.
The Undergraduate Journal of Service Learning and Community-Based Research: http://www.bk.psu.edu/Academics/journal.htm

“Learning from Exceptional Children” Lindsay Finn, Marquette University
http://www.bk.psu.edu/Documents/Academics/Finn.pdf

Regarding the influence of culture and society, I found it very interesting to consider whether or not “typical” societal values are supported or challenged at my service learning site. Many of the ideas that we have about people with disabilities come not only from our own interactions with these individuals but also from what society says about individuals with disabilities. These values are often so ingrained in our minds that they are hard to avoid. One of the most interesting insights regarding this concept relates to the idea of the disability hierarchy. In class we were introduced to the idea of the disability hierarchy as the perception some individuals have that it is better or worse to have one type of disability versus another (Snow 2005). In some respects, the disability hierarchy can help perpetuate discrimination against those that have particular disabilities, such that one person may be considered and even treated as if he/she is more likely to succeed based on qualities that one thinks have more value than someone who is perceived as having a less impairing disability. Kathie Snow, in her essay The Disability Hierarchy, suggests that this often results in individuals developing a stratification of pity, or a “level of pity [that] is equivalent to where a particular disability sits on the hierarchy” and interacting with these individuals according to their allotted pity (2005, 2).

The author begins by sharing with the audience what she found to be interesting, which invites the readers to consider critically what will be presented throughout the rest of the paragraph, such as the question of whether the reader agrees with how the author claims individuals come to perceive disabled citizens. Next, the author makes a fairly broad claim (society influences our perceptions of disabilities), seemingly without outside, authoritative support; most readers won't push back at this specific claim, but this idea, putting forth a broad claim without support, can be risky. Sweeping generalizations invite opposition, which detracts from the intended message. Moving on, the author introduces a term, and then begins to explain its meaning. At first, she does not introduce the term's direct source, citing it it parenthetically instead. She does, however, offer some background of credibility by saying the concept of the term was presented to her in her university course. Citing a source parenthetically before formally bringing them into the work gives the author a chance to explain the term's meaning before introducing what her source has to say about it, as it is difficult to have an expert comment on a term that has not yet been defined for the reader. Still, however, the author could have given credit to the expert and then referenced her for a quote later. I was taught that this is more of a stylistic thing, determined largely by one's area of study; either way is correct. Finishing with a direct quote, the author looks to support her line of thinking by reaffirming that the disability hierarchy is a real component of society's perception toward individuals with disabilities. Overall, the author puts forth the majority of her own claims, and uses an expert to support her stance. This is a typical and effective practice for this genre.

The journal makes it clear that all submissions will be rigorously reviewed, and that only superior work will be given consideration for publication. Furthermore, professors are strongly encouraged to mentor students honestly and critically, endorsing only those students’ works who demonstrate professional level quality.
I believe this publication to be a competitive one, which is good for its viewers—it also attracts entries from credible and prestigious universities, which I feel also speaks to the quality level of the journal’s publications. These standards hold undergraduate students to high level expectations, while also supporting their individual academic pursuits. Even so, it is clear that this entry level position into the world of research is likely to be met with skepticism; the analytically written entries rely on scholarly research from a variety of credible sources to build their work, as it should be. This position, of one working up from the bottom, gives the impression that most students are writing in a questioning, softer approach, which is contrasting from the authoritative, expert stance offered in some areas of research. These students expect to be read by other students, but also by other colleges and researchers; it is important that the tone of work is just right—confident and professional, yet not commanding or imperious.

In Class Prep Work for Project 1

The articles from my chosen academic journal include in their works cited page a range from about six to thirteen sources. As it is currently, my piece has five sources. Unfortunately, however, the journal requires articles under a 3,000 word limit, and mine is already a couple hundred words beyond that. So, I need to evaluate what information is critical to the article’s message and examine the sources I used to make that message effective. Any additional sources will not be primary, but rather secondary, as my current sources already are. Additionally, these articles are/will be used to construct an argument that is made on the basis of other experts’ findings. In searching for additional or better sources to use, I will be looking to find articles with the most up-to-date findings that are made from credible and reliable authorities.

Definition Practices

http://www.bk.psu.edu/Documents/Academics/Praska.pdf

In “Organizing in the Somali Community: The Implementation of a Tenant’s Rights
Program for Minnesota’s Somali Renters” by Joe Praska of the University of Minnesota, definitions are incorporated and used for a variety of purposes. Looking at specific examples, an author’s employment of a definition can be shown to affect how an audience responds to the writing.

1. Ferguson and Stoutland define community development as “building a capacity to improve the quality of life among residents of low – and moderate – income neighborhoods” (1999, 65). (Praska 2)

Here, the definition is put forth as blatantly as writing allows, in specifically declaring how experts define community development. Using the concept of prestige abstraction, Praska shares the terminology that is used among experts in cited field of study to establish a shared understanding with the audience. This eliminates any confusion that another interpretation of the terminology might suggest, and it allows the audience to share in the common ground that was used to support the research and understood among the experts of the field. Clarifying such terms at the beginning of an article is extremely important, as it allows for the audience and author to move forward through the rest of the article with the same building blocks of understanding; without this early clarification, the research may be taken out of its intended meaning, purpose, or use.

2. For these reasons, the author has put together a program that partners two existing non-profits, one a locally-based tenant rights organization and the other a more nationally recognized teaching and social services provider, to formally educate this rising rental population on how to intelligently traverse Minnesota’s rental housing market. (Praska 2).

This sentence employs the use of an apposition, which signifies the audience unfamiliarity with the local non-profits that are about to discussed, hereafter referenced as Organization A and Organization B (Giltrow et. al 138). The author states that two non-profits exist, and then states the definition of each which also highlights the differences between them. No sources are needed here because the definition of each organization is merely an explanation of what each organization does/is known for. This approach is very helpful to the reader, as the author makes it clear by uses of the commas (or other grammatical structure) that the included information is important for understanding.

3. Ytrehus (2001) describes four approaches for looking at housing needs: spatial physical normative tradition; cultural relativist approach; the market oriented position; and the universal standards tradition. The spatial physical-normative tradition takes on an objective and scientific lens and focuses on housing needs as defined by “physical and spatial terms.” The cultural relativist approach dismisses the objective lens and judges housing needs based on historical and cultural traditions and norms. The market oriented position takes a stance based on economic theory and defines housing needs through the preferences of actors, such as homeowners, in the market. This approach argues that the most rational way to approach housing needs is through the traditional rules of supply and demand. The universal standards tradition incorporates the three other approaches into a comprehensive definition reflecting overall societal goals and is thus considered to be the best approach. It states that “the basic needs of all humans must be satisfied in order to give equal opportunities.” (Praska 3).

In this example, the author actually compacts into one paragraph four distinct approaches that are used to determine housing needs, and offers a formula definition of each respective approach.
First, the author attributes the entire paragraph of information to one expert in the field, and then continues with the research without referencing the source again—which is not needed or necessary when beginning with that format. Covering each approach one by one, the author uses a consistent pattern of presenting the approach (term to be defined) first, followed by a short explanation of what the approach is (its definition) and closing with the limitations that are imposed on the approach. Now, in reference to these limitations, the author employs verbs such as “defined” or “defines” (i.e. “The spatial physical-normative tradition takes on an objective and scientific lens and focuses on housing needs as defined by ‘physical and spatial terms.’”) In specifically analyzing a text for it use of definitions, such verb usage can be confusing. However, the author here means more generally that the preceding definition is constrained by those definitions of other terms. So, for example, read the example sentence again with a clearer verb choice: “The spatial physical-normative tradition takes on an objective and scientific lens and focuses on housing needs, as specified/understood/known by “physical and spatial terms.” Again, “the spatial physical-normative tradition” is the approach, or the term to be defined; “takes on an objective and scientific lens and focuses on housing needs” is how the author signifies this approaches’ separation from the others (its unique definition); and “as defined by ‘physical and spatial terms’” are the constraints on that definition that are necessary to accompany it in the given context in order to have a full understanding of its meaning.

Overall the definitions tended to occur at the introductions of new concepts to clarify meanings and offer deeper understanding, which I as a reader would appreciate. Furthermore, while some definitions were used for technical terms, it was generally the case that definitions were being employed to establish a common ground of understanding. Lastly the author utilized several different methods of incorporating definitions into his writing, which shows a more advanced level of writing, one that anticipates what the audience will need given the situation.

Style of Dense Passages

*NOTE*Journals from this point forward will be based on articles from the journal of The Sigma Tau Delta Review, which is described as an annual journal that publishes critical essays on literature, essays on rhetoric and composition, and essays devoted to pedagogical issues.

http://www.english.org/sigmatd/publications/index.shtml#review

The following passages are from an essay by Jared Seymour, “Between Fact and Fancy: The Ethical Aesthetic in Dickens’s Hard Times.”

http://www.english.org/sigmatd/pdf/publications/review.pdf
1) Pulsford contends that while the novel claims to be the cooperation of reason and imagination, “it remains an aesthetic, acceptable to its contemporary critics, committed ultimately to its own preservation rather than to the perspectives of unaesthetic political discourse” (158). (Seymour 99)

Pulsford asserts that while the novel claims to bring together the concepts of reason and imagination, it remains an appealing work, accepted by its modern critics, dedicated above all else to its own safeguard rather than to the views of unappealing political conversations.

2) The aesthetic is the vehicle through which the novel, particularly its continuum of “fact” and “fancy,” is navigated, unraveled, and ultimately put forth as the most truthful way of engagement. (Seymour 99)

The principles guiding the artistic work of this novel, especially the range between “fact” and “fancy”, are the methods used to map out, investigate, and suggest as the most truthful way of interaction with the text.

3) Therefore, while the novel provides a scrutinizing critique of middle-class political economy, it also turns its aesthetic principle against labor unions, the social establishment that would provide practical solutions to the problems of industrialism. (Seymour 102)

Therefore, while the novel provides an especially close examination of the middle-class interplay of production (buy and selling) with government (laws and customs), it also turns its artistic principles against the organized associations of workers of like trades, which function as the social force that offers practical solutions to the problems associated with the development of industry, or the processing of raw materials and manufacturing of goods, on an extensive scale.

In this article particularly, abstractions and nominalizations serve to simplify the writing by packing a lot of meaning into fewer words. For example, though it may be easier for the unfamiliar reader to understand that industry is really just the processing of raw materials and manufacturing of goods, it is less wordy to sum up this process with one word: industrialization. With such terms and concepts, writers are able to convey a lot of background knowledge and meaning without having to bog down their writing. Again, for example, think of how much extra writing would be required to explain the depth of the meaning behind the nominalization of “middle-class political economy”. These complex terms and abstractions are used for a reason—to keep writing succinct while keeping meaning deep—though their use also runs the risk of being less accessible to their audience. Even so, when confronted with such challenges, it is the responsibility of the good reader to take the initiative to understand such terms, and therefore, the message of the passage. This is not to say that the writer should not take care to write with the readers’ needs in mind, but it is important to remember that reading is an interaction and exchange between the reader and audience, one that requires effort on both sides.

General Academic Style

This wiki post will be comparing the articles of Alexis Catanzarite, “The Failed Subversion of the Patriarchy in Salman Rushdie’s Shame,” and Erin Sharpe, “’This Man … Doth Present Wall’: The Enactment of Objectified Labor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.

http://www.english.org/sigmatd/pdf/publications/review.pdf

Catanzarite’s article is written with the utmost sense of formality, where the discursive I does not appear at all. This article is based strictly upon what the text is believed to say, not what essayist’s feelings or reactions to it. For example, consider the following quote: “…Shame…seeks to interrogate and re-image gendered constructions by giving voice and action to the disempowered female.” Here, it is clear that Catanzarite’s focus on what the text says, not herself as an expert or even Rushdie as the author, points to a stance that takes the text’s message as her basis of argument. This is done well by offering the reader emphasis clues to her important points, such as the marks of “ultimately” or “even more importantly”.

Sharpe, on the other hand, though maintaining the rules of the journal’s formality, uses the discursive I to map out with direct clarity the plan of her argument: “I explore not only the final act, with special attention given to the play-within-the-play, but also the mechanicals’ preparations for their performance, specifically their concern with the audience’s response.” This does not make her argument weaker, but rather just speaks to the more explicit style of making her intentions clear with the audience. A distinction must be made, however, that Sharpe’s argument is not based on what the text says, but Sharpe’s interpretations of it, for she says, “I would argue that…” This difference of styles points to the fact that the overall purpose of a writer largely dictates a writer’s style.
As with Catanzarite, Sharpe also uses easily identifiable emphasis markers, such as ultimately. Moments of doubt are signaled too, “Then again, perhaps….”

Each article is effective with its respective purpose in mind. This fact must be kept in mind when considering style, as the purpose of a work can and should dictate the author’s chosen style, as that will determine the success of the piece.

Knowledge-Making Cues

"From Dominance to Companionship: Animals in Behn and Defoe"
Hannah Biggs
http://www.english.org/sigmatd/pdf/publications/review.pdf

• This article is quantitative, as the author is using textual evidence to assert her claim that human relationships with animals transformed in literary works from the 17th to the 18th century, with that transformation being one from a violent domination over animals to the compassionate caretaking of animal well-being.

• Following the form of most writing done on literary analysis, Biggs’ article does not have a methods section. However, the following passage most clearly states what Biggs’ intentions are with her paper, and so will be used as the example for this question:

“In comparing Aphra Behn’s 1688 text, Oroonoko, and Daniel Defoe’s 1719 text, Robinson Crusoe, readers see one of the first noticeable transitions from how animal-human relationships are represented in seventeenth-century texts compared to those in eighteenth-century texts. Although similarities between animal and human interactions remain in both Oroonoko and Robinson Crusoe in the form of an intense desire to maintain ordered separation between so-called lower order animals and higher order humans, differences in how said groups interact show stark contrast as well.” (PG 46)

I believe that Biggs does make use of agentless expressions. Consider her first sentence in the passage above. Instead of writing, “….I the researcher will show readers….”, Biggs takes herself out of the action, writing instead “….readers see….”

Here, we can also see that Biggs’ is not using the methodological I, as she is rather speaking to what her examples texts are saying, as opposed to writing from what she as the researcher thinks. Indeed, throughout this article, Biggs rarely calls attention to herself as the researcher, and speaks about her claims only through what the text can be found saying. This style of writing is appropriate for Biggs’ purpose, which is to prove her claim through the use of specific textual examples. Citing from what she thinks as the researcher, as opposed to using textual evidence, would not make for as strong of a claim, and her paper would lose some sense of its formality and validity.

• Please see the following passages for examples of modal expressions:
o “However, I am persuaded that his companionship with the animals is more than just a result of loneliness; this new move to animal companionship and a desire for the accumulation of animals (in Crusoe’s case, these are the many, many goats) for one’s own family comes from a profound transition in intellectual and social ideas concerning animal presence in human domestic life.”
Here, writing “I am persuaded” is parallel to saying “I think” which lets the reader know that the researcher may be incorrect, thereby acknowledging his/her limited knowledge.

o “In these early texts, the goal is perhaps not to eradicate the boundaries between human and animal differences; if that were so, Defoe and Behn would not have made such an adamant effort to distinguish between human and animal.” (PG 53)
By using the word “perhaps”, the researcher is acknowledging that we cannot be entirely certain of what the goal was for earlier texts, but that by using our clues from the text we can come to be fairly certain on some claims.

o “In general, animal bodies can be used to racialize, dehumanize, and maintain power relations.” (PG 53)
The expression “in general” is used to show that there are exceptions to how animal bodies are used, and it is not an all-encompassing claim.

• Please see the following passage for an example of limiting expressions:
o “Many forms of racialization have, in fact, long relied upon a discourse about human-animal boundaries, namely the dichotomous division of sentient beings into categories of ‘human’ and animal.” (PG 53).
In this passage, the word “many” signifies that not all forms follow the claim, therefore limiting the generalization.

• Reporting expression verb tenses:
o Glenn Elder, Jennifer Wolch, and Jody Emel argue
 Simple present
o When Species Meet, argues that
 Simple present
o In 1735, Carl Linnaeus published Systema Naturae
 Simple past
The researcher here presents sources in the present tense to say that these arguments still stand, and then offers a past publication as an example of when texts began to show the transformation from domination to companionship.

Introductions and Conclusions

“And this is her voice”: The Nexus of Language and Power in Jane Eyre
Maria Conti
http://www.english.org/sigmatd/pdf/publications/review.pdf

The introduction of this essay jumps right into the meat of the issue being analyzed: how voice and speech allows us as readers to assess underlying differences between the respective heroines of Austen and Brontë. Due to the nature of this essay, using text-based evidence rather than conclusions grounded in studies or experiments, modalities and limiting expressions are not necessary—the introduction does not yet make inferences or generalizations. However, as far as the state of knowledge goes, the author assumes (probably correctly, otherwise they wouldn’t be reading the essay) that her audience is aptly familiar with both texts and has a slightly advanced understanding of the conventions used in literature to convey character and offer commentary on social constructs.

The conclusion is written in definite statements; there are no questions into what the author has drawn as conclusions, so a very limited number of modalities are offered. Again, as with this style, the text was analyzed for what it offers to readers, so other than indirectly calling our minds to thinking of what purposes the writing of such texts offer audiences, there is no specific call to action or moralizing statement.

The conclusion of the essay is given in the following quote: “It seems that Brontë similarly sought to dismantle the wider structures responsible for entrenching women in passive roles.”

Though a limited audience may be familiar with either text, Brontë’s or Austen’s, the message does have implications for all social groups. A gender gap still exists within many realms of society, and as participants in society, it necessary that we be aware of and analyze what constructs hold power levels in place. Particularly though, I feel that the social group this essay is directed to is to women who are asked, (indirectly through the study of Jane Eyre’s example) to use their voice to fight structures of oppression and limitation.

Summary of Good Academic Writing in The Sigma Tau Delta Review

My paper for this assignment focused on the media’s, specifically television and film, imposition of limits on homosexuality’s portrayal in the public sector. Most notably, I considered the deleterious effects such a practice—limiting or skewing portrayals of identified groups of people—has on society holistically as well as on specific persons, such as young adults.

In my research journal, good writing is that which considers the perspective of a range of authorities, and which makes use of textual references in an objective manner. I do feel that the articles I chose to study for my wiki posts are representative of good writing, which I believe is the standard for this particular journal.

In my own writing, I have tried to draw upon the practices demonstrated in my journal, which means employing concise language, citing research-based and peer reviewed sources, and presenting a claim that is considerate of the opposing viewpoints, while effectively utilizing rhetoric devices—making it credible and convincing.

Questions for Rough Draft

Questions for class review:
1. I found a few new sources and tried to weave those voices into this paper for the assignment. Does the paper feel patchwork-y? Can you tell where new sources were inserted?

2. I struggle with getting too wordy and making too long of sentences. Did you find any examples of that?

3. Do I offer a wide-enough analysis of television and film to make my argument valid? So, do I look at enough different examples to give a holistic sense of the problem, where it exists, and why it’s a problem?

4. There is a point on page 4 where I ask the audience direct questions. Is that too informal of a style to address experts?

5. Are my transitions from point to point clear, or do they seem abrupt and choppy?

6. Some of the films I reference are getting to be older, perhaps ones that an audience our age—twenty-somethings—would not recognize or be familiar with. However, experts for this field would probably be of the age group that would recognize some of the films. Does that make it acceptable? Or should I have newer examples for the sake of having the most recent information available?

7. Is the synopsis of Broke Back Mountain too long? Should I assume the audience would be familiar with the film?

McLeans

http://www2.macleans.ca/

“Maclean's is Canada's only national weekly current affairs magazine. Maclean's enlightens, engages, and entertains 2.4 million readers with strong investigative reporting and exclusive stories from leading journalists in the fields of international affairs, social issues, national politics, business and culture.”

The audience for this magazine is likely to be those interested in staying up-to-date on current events in a wide range of serious, contemporary issues; everything ranging from technology to travel. The audience is more likely to be educated (some college or beyond), as the magazines considers its topic in a serious and thoughtful way. Those who are looking to simply stay up-to-date without the accompanying thought-provoking questions would look elsewhere for their information. This venue caters to a wide array of interests, so I feel its audience would be broad.

An article from this publication venue that has similarities to my project topic is Jamie Wienman’s “A Golden Age of Taking TV Seriously.” In this article, the author discusses an emerging TV-critical community that seriously considers the issues presented in television and film: “…it certainly is a golden age for shows that are taken seriously enough to be the subject of in-depth critical discussion.” The purpose of this article is to discuss those features of contemporary TV shows that warrant real analysis, such as those that are centered on “certain rules for tone, style and particularly story structure.” The audience of this article seems to be those critics who would take part in such critical discussions, so the author’s style seems informal—he’s talking to equal level peers of the same interests. As far as genre, this article would most likely fall under some form of an entertainment category, though Wienman states it would not be the type to include Gossip Girl episode reviews.

I feel this publication venue would be a good fit for my project two purpose because it reaches a broad audience, which is good, and it seriously covers issues of importance to our society that others may only analyze superficially. It would offer the space necessary for my project two to have an impact on readers. That the publication is based out of Canada and not the U. S. should not be a hindrance, except that fewer Americans may be aware of the website. Even so, the venue offers thoughtful consideration to international issues, so I feel my paper would be well received within it.

Project 2 Revision Plan

My publication is available both in print and online, but is centered out of Canada. While this is obviously a hindrance, as my paper is about American TV viewers and film, the publication seemed interested in topics that affected the masses, including sections about travel, technology, and international news. Therefore, I think the publication will be suited to my topic, as it covers pop culture and mainstream news in a serious manner.

The audience for my venue will have at least some higher education (some college or beyond) because instead of following news simply to stay up-to-date, the venue has thoughtful reviews on how news affects consumers, meaning that those viewers are interested in going beyond simply knowing the news. They are instead interested in knowing the how/why/what questions of the news.

As far as my purpose, I'll want to inform the audience of the problem, hopefully in an entertaining way (I want to capture interest in a subject, homosexual rights, that is talked about a lot). I'll also be trying to persuade them that changes must be made, which will be done by writing journalistically (not "dumbed-down") and cutting the information down to what will be most relatable to them (i.e. more on Modern Family and much less on any older examples).

Project 3

• My genre will be a website, perhaps leaning toward the newsletter format. Using this genre would give me the space to be informative on range or issues, but I’ll need it be jazzier for the targeted audience.
• Teenagers of any sexual orientation who are in a time of exploration and/or development—I’m thinking middle school through high school. This audience will certainly have knowledge on the entertainment industry as far as what’s popular, but I believe they won’t have much experience with analyzing Hollywood for anything beyond the entertainment aspect.
• My purpose will be to inform, persuade, and to teach: Inform the students on the issues that exist in Hollywood as well as make them aware of the resources available to them, persuade them to be tolerant of differences, teach them that different is not synonymous with wrong, and hopefully the Modern Family bit will offer some level of entertainment.
• I think I’ll be able to use some information from Project 2, but probably not as much from project 1. I think teens want short and direct information, similar to what you’d get off a yahoo/msn homepage newsfeed. So, with that in mind, I’ll need to tighten everything down to the nuts and bolts of my purpose.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License