Writing in the Disciplines Panel Fall 2019

Writing in the Disciplines Panel Fall 2019

Articles Blog


♪ [opening music] ♪ ♪ ♪>>Jessica Pisano: Welcome
to the Fall 2019 Writing in the Disciplines panel. For those of you who don’t know
me, my name’s Jessica Pisano. I’m the writing program
coordinator. And every semester for the
past four years, we’ve invited faculty from across campus to
speak with first year students about what writing looks
like in their disciplines. This semester I’m excited to
introduce: Evan Cuozo from Education, Marcus Harvey
from Religious Studies, Melissa Himelein from Psychology and
Linnea Linton in Engineering. I didn’t know what order
they would sit in so that is not the right order.
I apologize. Well, writing studies is a
distinct field with its own disciplinary conventions
and body of research. The skills that you’re learning
in Lang 120 are skills that you’ll be able to transfer and
apply into other classes that you’re taking as well. Too often we think about English
class as disconnected from our majors and our intended
course of study. So, this panel is just one of
the ways that first year writing instructors are trying to help
you make those connections between what we’re doing in
class and what you’re gonna be doing in other classes
and in your majors. As you listen to the faculty
panelists, I invite you to consider what you’re learning
in Lang 120 and how those skills and ideas might transfer
into other various disciplines. I’ve asked that each of the
panelists speak briefly with you about their writing
in their disciplines. And then we’ll use the remaining
amount of time to respond to your questions. To save time, I’ll ask that
each introducer- each panelist introduce themselves. As you listen, consider
what questions you have for the presenters. You might want to jot them down
so that you can remember them when it’s time for
question and answer. We’ll end promptly at 1
so, please try to stay for the entire event if you can. If you have to leave for
another obligation, try to exit really quietly. And now, I’ll turn it
over to our panelists.>>Evan Cuozo: Hello,
I suppose I’ll start. My name is Evan Cuozo, I’m
in the Education department. So, my main role here is,
training Math and Science teachers so, if any of you think
you want to be Math or Science teachers, I’m your guy. My research background
is as an Atmospheric and Environmental Scientist. I study and teach classes on air
pollution and climate change. So, most of the writing that
I’ve done is through the lens of a natural scientist. So, writing journal articles
and really writing to inform and writing to describe the kinds
of research that I’ve done. As I’ve shifted more into the
Social Sciences in the Education department, I’ve come to see
writing in a broader context of a form of communication that
is supposed to educate, that is supposed to teach something. So, writing isn’t just about a
word count or even structure. It really should be designed
to teach somebody something. And so, there are right ways and
wrong ways of communicating and there are more effective
and less effective ways of communicating. And so, when I think about
writing broadly, that’s the context for which I think of it.>>Melissa Himelein:
I’m Melissa Himelein. I’m in the psychology department
and I hold a variety of other roles on campus currently. In terms of writing in
psychology, let me pause and see- how many of you have
thought about maybe an interest in psychology or possible major? It is one of the larger majors
on campus, so. Okay great. So, let me say a little bit
about what writing in psychology would look like here. For- starting at the sophomore
level, or 200 level classes, I would say that there’s roughly 3
types of writing projects that you might be asked to do. The first would be more of
a traditional lab report. So, similar to what Dr. Cuozo
mentioned, this would be description of a lab experience
or a research experience. And that tends to be written in
a pretty structured, formulaic manner with intro, method
results, discussion, and then that type of writing would
potentially grow into upper level electives. It might become individual
research and then, if you chose to get involved in the
undergraduate research program, that’s the kind of writing that
would be your final paper, maybe as a senior. A second type of writing
that you would experience in psychology classes, I would
just put in the category of reflection and reaction papers. So, a professor might ask you
to read an article and then for example, talk about maybe a
summary of the argument that the author had let’s say on Nature
vs. Nurture of some attribute, like aggression. And then, you might be asked
to apply that to examples in your own life. A great thing about writing
in Psychology is we can apply pretty much anything to
examples in our own life. So, you get to do a lot of that. And then, I would say a
third category is kind of an all-encompassing other category. So, there might be things like,
case studies where you are asked to read an anecdote about an
individual and then, based on what you’re learning in the
class, figure out what might be their likely psychological
diagnosis or how a psychologist might choose to
treat that person. Another kind of other experience
might be something more digital. So, although we’re talking about
writing projects, there’s also digital communication that we’re
trying to increase student’s awareness of. So, for example there was a
class last year where all the students did infographics by- it
was a class in adolescence, and so they learned about the
problems of adolescence and then partnered with a middle school
to produce infographics for them to put in a hallway describing a
particular type of problem that adolescents experience and
some resources for how to deal with that. Another type of digital project
might be producing a video clip. I teach a class in helping
skills and as a final project, I ask students to get into pairs
and write up a scenario for themselves but then, in the
video, demonstrate their competence in being able to
respond to somebody with a problem using specific
helping skills. Now you might not think of that
as a writing project but, it’s absolutely a communication
project and it takes some pretty high-level skills to really
dream up a creative scenario and then figure out how you might
be able to respond and usually write some notes and then
perform that for an audience. And then, we also try to do
in our senior seminars, some applied projects that might
be more relevant to workplace situations. So, sometimes in our advanced
seminars people might be asked to do sort of a research
project proposal. That-say you went to work in a
nonprofit and you were trying to get funds for that nonprofit,
you would perhaps be submitting some proposals to various
organizations on trying to secure grant funds. So, we might give students some
practice in an opportunity like that. I teach a senior seminar where
I ask students to do resumes. Again, not something you might
think of as a writing project but, actually writing a resume
I think is one of the most challenging writing
projects that there is. So, that’s a good sort of career
relevant writing project that you might be asked to do. Okay,
I’ve probably said enough.>>Linnea Linton: Hi everyone,
my name is Linnea Linton and I am the associate director of
the Engineering department. And it’s funny that you
mentioned resumes, I’m currently grading the resumes from my E101
class, intro to engineering. So, those of ya’ll who
are waiting on it, I’m working on it. Engineering is an interesting
place to talk about writing because people don’t
automatically think of the word writing when
I say engineering. But at the same time- so I’m a
structural engineer, which means that I work with structures, I
work with buildings, either a new construction, investigations
on existing structures, that kind of thing. And so, the engineering program
here, if you stay all four years is a mechatronics program which
is more focused on mechanical and electrical combined
with computer science. But, the ideas are sort of
similar, so in my line of work, specifically, when I was in
industry I would find myself writing a lot of reports and it
depended on who those reports were aimed at as to how
technical they got, of course. So, I took my thesis which was
a good inch and some odd thick, and turned it into a five-page
journal paper and that was aimed very much at an engineering
audience so I didn’t have to explain, for instance,
what concrete was, what non-destructive testing was, all
the details, they already knew that background so I could just
get straight to the nitty-gritty and talk about the
results of my thesis. On the other hand, when I had
my own company and I would do investigations on existing
structures, the people who were the audience for those reports
or papers would be a homeowner who might have zero
technical background. And so, I would have to remember
to explain that when I say the initials CMU, that means
concrete masonry unity which also means cinder block. But I’m gonna shorten it to
CMU because that’s the correct technical engineering
term for it, right. But, if you know, if I just say
CMU to an engineer, they know that but to a non-engineer
they’re like, “what?” and nobody wants to feel that way
when you’re are writing. So, there’s a lot of clarity
that’s required in engineering, in engineering writing. And again, depending on who your
aimed source is, if you go to the research side of course
there will be similar things like a lab report or results of
your research which can get extraordinarily technical. Which is fun to do sometimes and
also mind-dumbingly dull to read at times. So, depending on whether or
not you’re interesting on what they’re talking about. But then, it’s also a really fun
experience in writing to explain to non-engineers why that crack
over there- that’s not really there, is a really interesting
crack to me as an engineer. Or, why, if you drive across a
bridge and you notice that- we just talked about this in E101
last night, if you notice the beams are actually
bent upward, why. And there’s a very good
engineering reason for that but, so, not only do engineers need
to be able to write well, but at the same time- and I think tied
very closely to that- they need to be able to speak well
to get their ideas across. Now if a mechatronics engineer
designs a part and they cannot communicate, first of all
what the point is for that part, second of all how to make that
part, and third of all what’s required from other parts to
make that part work in its most efficient way, then
there’s no point, right. So, being able to communicate
well in written form, in technical form but also in a
meeting to express what you need information wise, what your
hoping to get to ask and listen to what other people
need, that to me ties in very closely with
writing. How’s that? Deep breath. [laughs] Thank you.>>Marcus Harvey: OK, I’m
Dr. Marcus Harvey, I’m in the department of Religious Studies
and that means I’m involved in the academic study of religion. I’m not a preacher, I’m
not a pastor, none of that. A lot of people assume that
that’s what religious studies people do, that is not
what we do, so let’s be clear about that. My area of research focus’
primarily on African indigenous religious systems and I approach
that work as a phenomenologist of religion, which is a
big fancy sounding word. What that means basically
is that I’m interested in understanding these religious
systems from the perspective of practitioners themselves, right,
rather than posing a ready-made framework of study onto them. My focus is on allowing the
religious data that I study to teach me and inform
the conclusions that I make about them. My field is very
interdisciplinary, right. So, what that means is that
you will find anthropologists of religion, historians of
religion, psychologists of religion, etcetera. And what that means as far as
writing is concerned is that it’s very possible that for
instance, me and my particular area of phenomenological
religion, may be writing an article or a book chapter or a
book that’s gonna be read by maybe a psychologist
of religion. And so, the question of
audience is really a big question in my field. And, the goal then is to really
produce writing that is of course academically sound and
technical but also, capable of entering into conversation with
other religion scholars working from other disciplinary
perspectives. And that’s a tall order but, I
think that that is what makes religious studies writing,
in many ways, distinctive. And I’ll just share one last
thing before I shut up here. So, to underscore
the importance of the academic study of religion. So about nine years ago, there
was an earthquake in Haiti, some of you may have heard about
this, it was devastating. I think, I can’t recall what
the actual ranking of it was. It was pretty devastating. And not long after the
earthquake occurred, a very prominent conservative voice
in this country, Pat Robertson, jumped on TV on his show
the 700 Club and offered an interpretation for why the
Haitian earthquake occurred. And he was very clear, he said,
y’know- and you can find this on YouTube- this is not-. So, he says, y’know a long time
ago something happened in Haiti. You know some people got
together and made a pact with the devil. And they said, Devil if you
will- and he’s referring here to enslaved Africans in Haiti. And he said y’know Devil, if
you will free us from French slavery, we will serve you
forever, Pat Robertson said. And he said that, the Devil
said, well African Haitians, you have a deal. Now what Robertson was referring
to without explicitly naming it was the Haitian Revolution of
1791 which was galvanized, or launched by a Haitian,
voodoo, ceremony at a place called Bois Caïman. Where in, very powerful, very
important voodoo deities were invoked in order to provide
the energy for this 13- year revolution. Which became the only successful
slave revolution in the history of the Atlantic world and
resulted in the erection of Haiti as a free, independent,
African nation, right. But, were it not for Religion
scholars we would have no other interpretation of Haitian voodoo
apart from what Pat Robertson threw at us in 2010. And so, writing in my field
becomes all the more important because of people like
Pat Robertson and the legacy that he represents. So, I think I’ll stop
there. Thank you. [applause]>>Pisano: So, now we’ll
open it up to questions. Any questions for
any of the panelists?>>Himelein: Yeah?>>Audience member: How many
of you actually enjoy writing?>>Himelein: What
a good question.>>Linton: I do. I actually
do, as an engineer. I’m crazy. I like writing.>>Cuozo: It depends on
where in the process. So, I’m about to
start a manuscript. I’ve done some of the research
and I have a blank page and it’s terrifying and it’s awful
because the first few thousand words I write are going to be
garbage and I’m gonna have to throw them out. But, once I have a draft, the
editing process or self-editing process where you’re moving
blocks of text around and trying to solve this puzzle. How can I communicate in
this very linear way, right? Left to right, top to bottom. How can I communicate all the
thoughts and interconnections that I see in the data?
That part is so fun. But, it takes a
while to get there. So, right now I’m not enjoying
it but, in about a month it’ll be fun.>>Himelein: I like to
say I enjoy having written. [laughter] But, I think if you’re question
is a little bit about writers’ block kinds of experiences. What’s always helped me is
doing a little bit at a time. I’m somebody that, especially
when I’m trying to get started or especially when I have a
deadline coming up, I do a lot better if I do 30 minutes a
day or, 60 minutes a day. Sometimes before I adopted this
method I used to say oh, I can’t write unless I have
like a whole day. So, it would take months
to get to that whole day. And then, I would spend a lot
of that day trying to remember, what is it that I’m
supposed to be writing? And then that would have me
reading all sorts of things and I would manage to
fritter away time. And it would be 9 o’clock
on that day and I still wouldn’t have done much. So, I have learned that doing a
little bit every day and someone once told me, stopping
mid-sentence is ideal because then when you start up the next
day you have a place to start. Like oh, I can finish that
sentence, I can do that. And then that keeps you
going so, that’s helped me a lot more enjoy writing. I can definitely enjoy it
in short verse. But those full days, I’m not
someone who can do it that way.>>Harvey: Yeah, I would echo
much of what has been said. I do have a love for writing
but, what I tell all of my students is that, writing
is a discipline that requires you to suffer. [laughter] I won’t- I don’t want
to dress this up. I mean, writing is a form of
suffering that can, I think result in profound
levels of growth intellectually and personally. So, I love writing but at the
same time, I respect what it requires of me. And what it requires
is quite a bit. And I think that you all will
discover that in short order.>>Linton: One of the things
I’ve found helpful, actually when I get very stuck is, if I
have a large report to write or a large journal article,
something like that. I just start with a
complete brain dump. Here are all the basic points
I need to remember to cover. And then- I you know- clearly
that’s gonna be maybe three lines, maybe a page and a
half depending on the size of what I’m doing. But then at least I don’t
have to necessarily worry oh I haven’t forgotten
to talk about X. And then even while I’ll be
“officially writing” sometimes I’ll come back in
and be like oh! I have to remember
to add that in. So, I’m adding, I’m taking
away from that list. But hopefully, at the end of
whatever I’ve done that list is gone and everything
has been incorporated.>>Audience member: Within each
one of your respective fields what would happen if you didn’t
have the writing skills to communicate what you’re
trying to get across? Like, what would the
repercussions be like?>>Harvey: Well in my
field, you would not get a PhD, for number one. As I’m sure is probably true in
all of our fields because the PhD Degree requires
you to produce a book- length original
study. Right? Mine was about 450
pages long, total. That was a very
painful, violent process. But, it was writing, it
was relentless writing, relentless research,
relentless writing. And I think that that exercise
proves, it’s intended to prove number 1 that you are a
proficient researcher and that you’re capable of articulating
your research kind of going to some of the earlier points in
intelligible, coherent ways that other audiences
can make sense of. If you can’t do that, doesn’t
mean you’re a bad person. It just means that okay maybe
this isn’t the field for you. But I think that given the way
that higher education has been constructed in our society,
writing is really considered to be a core skill and if you
lack that skill, I think you’re gonna have a
pretty hard way to go.>>Himelein: And I would just
say that I agree with everything Marcus has said, especially
the pain. [laughs] But, I also want to emphasize
that writing is really developmental and you can
improve in your writing and your facility and your comfort with
writing throughout your life. So, I think about the process,
for me, of writing a journal article at this time in my life,
I bet it takes 10% of the time that it took me when I
was a graduate student to do the very same thing. Which says, writing skills just
keep developing and of course, I do that sort of professional
writing that I still do today of journal- writing a
journal article. That is a fairly repetitive
skill and so, you get increasingly comfortable and
you master it to some extent. So, I think if somebody has
the motivation to be say, a psychologist and you say,
I struggle with writing, maybe I can’t be a psychologist. I would say no, you
can learn how to write. If you wanna be a psychologist,
you’ll figure it out. And we have a ton of
resources on our campus. The Writing Center but also your
faculty and most people will give you opportunities to do
drafts of writing projects so you can learn from
repeated practice. I think it’s just like any other
skill, you really have to practice at it a lot. So, yeah it would definitely
impede your ability, probably, to do any of our jobs if
you said nah I don’t wanna learn how to write. But, it would probably impede
your ability in a lot of areas if you had that sort of
mentality of I don’t wanna learn how to do X right, so.>>Cuozo: And so, in addition to
those transactional consequences of you can’t do your job, you
can’t get your job, you can’t be promoted in your line of work
and the personal consequences of growth and learning how
to structure an argument or structure a claim. In the sciences specifically,
even if you aren’t worried about the consequences to yourself
or to your career, there’s a consequence to the field. It doesn’t do any good to have
hundreds of scientists studying a question that’s already been
answered or going down a dead end that has been confirmed
to be a dead end. So, it’s through writing
that science advances. It’s how we tell each other what
we’ve done, what worked, what assumptions we’ve made. So, scientists can come after
us, revisit those assumptions, try the experiment under
different conditions, or ask a slightly different question. And, that’s what science is
about is progressing forward. And without writing,
it can’t progress.>>Linton: So, I am a licensed
professional engineer. I had to take two
big giant scary tests. I can get a PhD in engineering
but, in the world of practicing engineers, a PE is sort of
the equivalent of a PhD. So, if I am not
clear in a report. If I say something that is wrong
to the point of being dangerous, I can lose my license which
means that I no longer am able to practice engineering. End of story, done,
goodbye, good luck. At the same time, there have
been cases where an engineer was not clear about, for instance,
what strength of concrete needed to be used, what specific type
of metal needed to be used and people can die. I’m not saying that to be scary
or anything but, the one thing that just jumped into my brain
was on a-there was a space ship where the units were like metric
but actually imperial or vice versa on the length of a screw
and that penetrated a heat shield and that
spaceship exploded. So, there can be some extremely
dire consequences in engineering if you’re not a
clear communicator. But at the same time, it’s
also important that it’s not all hellfire and brimstone. Not everybody’s gonna die just
because I used the wrong word. So, it’s also part of helping
people understand what’s going on in a very technical field in
a way that isn’t very technical but doesn’t talk down to
people at the same time. If that helps. Because, when I would write a
report and say this crack in your basement is caused by this
reason, you don’t need to worry about it or, we need to keep an
eye on it or, you need to get out and we’re gonna replace
your foundation and you cannot stay here. I needed to be very clear about
which level we’re at at that because it has ramifications for
life and safety issues. Yeah.>>Harvey: I would just
add quickly to Melissa’s point. In my experience, something that
has really helped me grow as a writer has been
reading, voraciously. And there’s this really
interesting kind of mysterious process that happens where in
the more you read- the more carefully you read,
you know your writing gradually begins to improve. I can’t really explain that
psychologically but something is happening there, so.>>Linton: Osmosis.>>Harvey: Yeah,
something like that. It’s very interesting. But yeah so, I would strongly
encourage you all to commit yourself to being
disciplined readers. And in so doing your writing
is I think almost guaranteed to improve over time. Yeah, so.>>Pisano: Just real
quickly, when I think about ramifications, Professor Harvey,
I also think about your story about responding. You need to be able to write
to respond to current events, right. And make sure that all
perspectives are heard. So yeah, a lot of ramifications.>>Harvey: Absolutely.
That’s a good point, very good point there.>>Pisano: Other questions?>>Cuozo: Here on the left
or right, whatever side you’re looking at.>>Audience member: Within your
discipline when you’re writing, I guess for you all individually
I guess, but how many drafts do you tend to go through? What is your editing
process look like?>>Cuozo: Lots.>>Audience member: Like when
do you decide when you’ve had enough or when to stop?>>Cuozo: When it’s
accepted for publication. [laughter] So, a couple years ago I
was writing a- this is just one example, I was writing
a paper with some researchers at Chapel Hill. I think the version we submitted
was version 23 or 24. So, that’s how many times we
had circulated the manuscript among the authors. So, a lot.>>Harvey: I would say,
that’s a good question. I would say- I think along that
line it’s helpful to think of writing as a corporate
kind of thing. And by that what I mean is of
course you know you’ll sit by yourself maybe in a carrell
somewhere or in your room and you’ll write- you’ll hammer
out a draft but then you invite others to help you
refine that draft. And that’s where writing
becomes a corporate exercise. And it’s in that sort of
corporate revisional stage that you produce these
multiple drafts. I’ll share a quick funny story. So, when I was doing my
dissertation, it took me forever to finish the first chapter
which is about maybe 40 pages or so. And the day that I finished it
my brain- and I was exhausted, my brain said, “look man this is
good to go, send it in you know to your committee,
it’s fine. You’re fine. You’re fine.” And so,
I trusted my brain. [laughter] And, I sent it in. I sent it in. In about- about 4 or 5
days later I get the- and I’m thinking that, “man this
thing is almost pristine. I have really nailed this.”
But when I get it back from my committee you know, this was you
know 6 other people who had laid eyes on this thing. I mean there was a whole
universe of issues that I had missed because I had insisted, I
think wrongly, on not allowing that chapter to be a
corporate kind of thing. Had I done that I think I would
have produced a much stronger- I would have submitted a much
stronger draft initially. So yeah, I would
just offer that.>>Himelein: My process with
writing is again because I do those short bursts I tend to
like start the next day and maybe- I don’t allow myself to
go back to the beginning because then I might never
get any further, but. So, if I’m on page 2 when I
stop, I’ll start on page 2 the next day. I’ll read that. I’ll allow myself to revise the
paragraphs above and then I’ll keep going. Then I you know stop again and
the next day do a little bit more with a little revision. So, I am revising
all the way through. Then when I finish I do 1-
like 1 day, 1 session kind of revision of everything
and then I make sure to share it with friends. So, I think having people-
readers you trust to say please give me feedback, not
people who will just say, “oh that’s wonderful.
Yeah, terrific.” But people that you know
will really dig deep into it and ask
you questions. That’s really helpful. And I will say that even when
I’m writing an email, now I don’t- if it’s late at night I
don’t always follow this but I try not to let myself send a
first draft of anything because I sort of- especially with email
actually because it could be circulated widely. I actually have a little mantra
of, “how would this look on the front page of the
Asheville Citizen-Times
” before I hit send. And if I think it would like
completely humiliate me then I you know don’t send, right. So, even then I will- you know
I try, I have tried to train myself, always go back
and re-read an email. So, I think always you’re
going to do a few drafts. You don’t want to be the
person that- I mean 23 sounds horrible to me. [laughs] I’m so sorry but- and I think
there can be a problem on the other end, right that you
just like never let anything go because you get to obsessive
about it and you don’t want it- you won’t want to
go in that extreme. So, somewhere between 2
and 23 is probably good. [laughter]>>Linton: Well and
for me it depends what I’m writing because if it’s a
report that is basically the same thing that I’ve
written 37 other times, I can cut and paste. I can
change a few things. I can make sure that I edit it. But, the one thing that I
absolutely never did was PDF and send it right away.
Exactly like you’re saying. I always sat on it for
absolute minimum, 2 hours. Walked away, did something
completely unrelated, came back to it, read it again and said,
“I totally put the wrong name in there,” you know which matters. If it’s something brand new to
me I follow kind of my own weird mix of whatever
everyone else has said, bits and starts
that kind of thing. But, I wholeheartedly
agree with asking someone else to review it. When my husband writes marketing
materials or a paper for his work no matter what he’s doing
and I don’t even understand necessarily what the
exact meat behind it is. But, I am being his uninformed
consumer of his product. And so, I’ll read through it
and say, “hon, you need a comma here” which is
our ongoing battle. We have this constant
battle about where commas go in our
house. That’s fine. But, I’ll make sure to say,
“this isn’t- I don’t know what you mean here or what
exactly is that acronym?” and that kind of thing. And it helps him look at it with
fresh eyes and remember, “oh yeah, not everybody
knows what CMU is,” that kind of thing. So, yeah.>>Cuozo: And 2 quick
things on the revision process. When you have a completed draft
and you’re going through the revisions typically the rule
of thumb is you’re looking to make it shorter. You’re looking to remove
words or clauses or say things more clearly. The second thing is when you
have someone else look at it. If they don’t understand
something that’s your fault as the writer. They’re responsibility
isn’t to understand; your responsibility
is to explain. So, that can be hard because if
you get very attached to a piece of your writing, you can feel
like you’re being attacked. But, you can’t dismiss
what somebody says about your writing, especially
when it comes to the clarity of the writing. If you find that you have to
explain, out loud in words what you meant then you didn’t
put what you meant in writing. So, those are just two
things I would say about revising and editing.>>Himelein: That’s
a very good point.>>Linton: I think there was
another question in the middle, somewhere? Yeah.>>Audience Member: I was just
gonna ask, like do you guys have any tips for like a really
slow reader and writer? Especially when it comes to
looking over like really in-depth research papers and
like how to go about that in a way that like allows
you to process it better? Does that make sense?>>Himelein: I would say that I-
I’ve had that question from so many students and a lot of times
what people understand is being very slow is, what I
think, is really normal. Because, I think we get so
used to reading on the fly. Most of what you read
on your phones or, is going to be short bites. But, to read like say, a journal
article, and to read it well takes a long time. And I think a lot of times
students especially say when they get to upper level classes
and maybe we’re asking them to dig into primary sources, which
are much denser, students will come and say, “yeah, I don’t
have the time to do this.” And, I’ll be like, “well, how
much time did you really spend”” “Well, thirty minutes on this
journal article.” And I’m like, even if it’s a ten-page journal
article, it might take two hours to read, to really understand
if you’re really having to dig into each piece. And I think the same thing with
writing, I have students that will sometimes say to me, “Oh my
gosh it took me a whole hour to write this page.” And I think,
that’s first draft, that sounds about right to me, I mean. So, I don’t know if that- if you
would still, with that in mind, consider its slow but I would
say your probably doing your job, if you’re going slow.>>Couzo: One specific strategy
that I use and teach is with journal articles or a piece of
complex text, in the sciences anyway, there’s usually
not more than one main idea in a paragraph. And so, read, paraphrase each
paragraph in a sentence and then you have a thirteen or fourteen
sentence summary of the paper. Do that in reverse, and you’ve
written a journal article. What is one thing you want to
say in this paragraph, followed by the next thing and the next
thing and then you flesh out the details and you site your
references or provide the quantitative information.>>Harvey: Yeah, I mean
I would just basically echo what has been said. I do something very similar,
Evan, with my students, especially first year students. I would add to that though, it’s
also helpful to, when you’re reading, to underline in the
text itself if you can terms that are repeated because often
those terms clue you in as to what the author is up to. Why he or she or they are making
this particular linguistic choice and how these
terms relate to the central argument, right. So, and also, I would just say
that taking notes as you read, I mean I think this is a kind of
a laborious process of course, but it’s a way of getting to
know a piece of reading intimately, right. And that requires time and
intellectual patience and so, I don’t know that being able-
that reading a particular text quickly is a virtue at all. I mean it is- I’m not sure how
much can be gained from that. So, I would just encourage you
to be clear in your own thinking as to how you’re attacking a
particular reading assignment. What note taking structure are
you adopting and how well is it serving you, right. I would focus on that rather
than, “oh I’m a slow reader or a slow writer.”>>Linton: I have the opposite
problem that I’m way too fast of a reader and I miss details. And so, I end up having to go
back and read things two or three times just to make
sure that I didn’t miss the main point. And its frustrating because
my eyes just really go fast. It does have the benefit if I’m
reading like a murder-mystery book that I don’t remember
who did it so I can read the book again. [laughter] But, at the same time,
that’s not useful in an academic setting.>>Audience Member: I was
going to ask to follow up to this question. You say, so you
talked about the difficulties, the suffering, right, of the
writing and the processes and all that, time that takes to do
the reading and the writing and you talked about some of the
consequences if it doesn’t come out right, right, which are
external but I wonder what is it that motivates
you intrinsically, eternally? Where do you find the motivation
to be willing to undertake this level of work and effort and
discipline and stuff like that?>>Couzo: To me it’s a puzzle,
like there are pieces that fit together and there is a
right way to fit them together. There is a best way to
structure your writing. And I enjoy that process once I
know what it is I want to say. That’s looking at writing as a
whole, or looking at a piece of writing as whole
within a sentence. Constructing a well-crafted
sentence is fun, right? Its little pieces, its
understanding grammar, and it’s- so I do a lot of computer
programming and you have to be very clear in what you tell
the computer to do because it doesn’t understand context. And so, I’ve been able to
translate that into writing for humans, but it’s fun right. Like, should a comma go here
or would a semicolon be better? Should this clause go to
the front of the sentence? Am I being clear which
noun is being described by this adjective? Those questions, to
me, make writing fun.>>Himelein: So, that is such a
good question, I’m sitting here reflecting on it. With regard to reading, so for
me, I love fiction reading and that is just pure entertainment
and so it goes incredible quickly and I never worry about
how much time it takes because I’m just doing it for the
pure enjoyment of it, right. Nonfiction, or you know
professional writing, is a whole different ball game for me. And sometimes I have to remind
myself no, you know, you do have to struggle a little bit, it’s
not the same process for me. Now, I have- my husband reads
tons of nonfiction for fun, I don’t do it for fun exactly. And some of the faculty in the
room will probably find this ironic because one of my other
hats is that I lead a lot of what are called, learning
circles for faculty, on our campus. Where faculty will come together
and read a book about teaching or a current issue and
think about how it can be applied to teaching. And these are always nonfiction-
well not always, but mostly nonfiction materials. And inevitably, when I’m
preparing for learning circle, no matter how much I love the
authors ideas, I find myself flipping to the back of the
reading assignment and saying, how many more pages, ok, not
gonna watch Netflix tonight, and it just never goes away. So, I know in the end, I want to
have read that because I want to go talk about this book with
people and I don’t want to be the idiot in the room
who didn’t do my work, so that holds me accountable. But, in the moment it’s just
not nearly as enjoyable as the process of reading
fiction for me. With regard to writing,
I would say that it’s a very similar thing. If I’m writing for myself,
I still do some journaling occasionally, or some
reflective writing. I find that totally fun and
engaging and entertaining in the moment. Professional writing, you know,
it is more drudgery and I think that my motivation comes from,
I’m just somebody who has a pretty high level of
frustration tolerance. [laughter] I’ve been a lifelong
runner, I’ve run marathons, it’s a lot like marathon
running, you know. Not really fun during it,
sometimes, but boy do you feel great when you finish. So, I think that’s maybe a
personality variable that helps.>>Harvey: Yeah, I would
say, so there’s a book that was published in the 1970s by
a Ugandan writer named Okot p’Bitek and its entitled,
African Religion in Western
Scholarship, it’s a short book. But in the book, he makes a very
compelling case for why and how written scholarship on African
cultural traditions, dating back to at least say, the 17th
century, has essentially misrepresented African cultural
traditions and in ways that even modern-day African communities
are having to respond to and correct. And again, just to underscore
the point, writing is implicated in that misrepresentational
process, which was a colonial colonizing, imperialistic
process. And so, for me in terms of the
question of what motivates me on the internal level, a desire
to participate as an African descended person in this process
of rewriting Africa, rewriting the story of how Africans
understand their own traditions. Countering this very violent
legacy of anti-African writing. Which in many ways defines,
unfortunately, the Euro- western intellectual tradition
on the humanities side? And so, for me there’s much at
stake historically, culturally, and even personally in the work
of academic writing in my field. And that for me is a motivation
that continues to be nourishing.>>Linton: That’s a really
hard question for me, for some reason. Mostly because what I- I
don’t write personally. I have other kinds of hobbies
and so, pretty much every time I write it’s because somebody
has told me I have to. Which is very external. But at the same time, for an
internal reason, I do have a bit of perfectionism going on
like a lot of engineers do. I want it to be right, because
in engineering there are lots of ways to be right, but there’s
definitely a wrong as well. And we want to make sure that we
keep on the right side of right.>>Pisano: Thank you.
Any more questions? I want to thank everyone for
this wonderful panel today. Thank you to the panel. [applause] Thank you, of course, students
and faculty for being here. Students, if you have not signed
in on one of the sign-in sheets, please make sure you do
that so that your faculty, your instructors know
that you were here. Thank you so much and thanks for
your wonderful questions today. ♪ [closing music] ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪

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