When and how do we acquire the skills, voice, critical perspectives, and confidence needed for successful writing? Specifically to write successfully a dissertation and, for that matter, the book that follows the dissertation?
Years ago as a first-year college student, I tested out of composition class, but all students at my university were required to take at least one semester of writing, so I took an advanced writing class. It’s possible that I may have been required to write an argument, but I don’t remember any such formal assignment. Maybe I’ve conveniently forgotten it since it would have been a painful process for me. I came to the university understanding only vaguely what would be required in the demanding, competitive world of a good, large university.
I think I was a decent writer at that time, but not very analytical. I had a lot to learn.
I recall a few assignments from that class–two had to do with describing a place. I suppose I remember those assignments because it was the kind of writing that I had always enjoyed, but I wonder if in that class I was ever assigned to do something I didn’t already know how to do, something that would help me write an extended argument.
Throughout my undergraduate years, I never felt confident as a writer, and years later, when I was ready to write my master’s thesis, I recall being very unsure about what I was supposed to do. And that feeling was magnified even more by the time I began my dissertation.
I remember being afraid, but my strengths of curiosity, love of learning, and perseverance were helpful… at times…when I remembered to call on them.
Student writers in undergraduate school and graduate school, dissertators, academicians, and professional writers all need to know how to use different rhetorical strategies and how to write in specific discourses.
Learning those skills is hard work, and teaching those skills and the type of writing in which those skills are learned is a bear, especially in terms of the paper load.
Is it a student’s responsibility to teach herself? Maybe, but when is she or he told that it’s her job or how does she pick up on the cues of what kind of writing will serve her best?
How did you become a good writer? I’d love to hear from you!
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach