Blogging and Developing Scholarly Writing Habits: Thoughts on Wolcott, H.F. (1990). Writing up qualitative research.
Wolcott, H.F. (1990). Writing up qualitative research. London: Sage.
"Student writing most often is done on a hurried, one-shot basis, with neither time nor motivation for the reflection and revisions that lead to better writing. The entire process of drafting and revising is short-circuited in the tasks and timelines confronting students. We want them to become accomplished writers, but do not provide opportunities for them to practice what we have discovered necessary to accomplish it (p. 23)." I would also add the limited feedback we get about our writing.
This line really struck me. I believe that it is inherently true that those who prepare scholars do indeed want students to develop passions for writing, but the preparation does seem inadequate. While I can only speak to my educational upbringing, I feel that there may be others who have had similar experiences.
Throughout my schooling, I did just as Wolcott suggests - I wrote for deadlines. I wrote papers or poems as assignments - not because I loved writing. Those written pieces rarely ever experienced the writing process, and if they did, it was merely to receive peer feedback. Little if any opportunities existed for authentic experiences. I can recall one experience where I wrote a poem for a poetry contest. I came in second and my piece never reached publication. I lost, mind you, to a peer who wrote his poem in homeroom that morning. While it is obvious that time does not equate to quality writing, this example does show that as students we write for deadlines and for our teachers. The only writing for personal reasons would be the occasional diary entry that I wrote every once in awhile. Writing habits were not modeled nor were they practiced. So, it begs the question - how can we teachers model authentic writing habits and practices to develop students as writers? Will blogging change such practices?
I'm thinking aloud here, but it seems like blogging provides a space where thoughts can be captured and instantly published. Others may view and offer feedback and commentary. On the other hand, I wonder what such experiences will do for the perception of publication? Meaning, Wolcott mentions that publication tests our patience regarding gratification. The publication (dare I say writing) process is long and arduous. Blogging seems to reject those notions. For example, these thoughts will be published in a matter of minutes. They will be in a first draft form - a zero draft is probably more accurate. I will read over it once to double check spelling and grammar and make minor, if any, revisions. Then, with the click of a button, I will publish my piece. Now the likelihood of many reading this entry is slim, but my thinking as writing will be available for the public eye. Blogging allows for instant gratification with regard to publication. How will such possibilities change our perceptions of writing and our writing habits?
At the end of Wolcott's quotation, I added my own thoughts about writing and scholarly preparation. As doctoral students, we receive little if any feedback on our writing. We continue to engage in the writing practices that became engrained long ago in our primary and secondary education. We still write for deadlines. We write for courses; we write for our comprehensive exams; and we write for our capstone experience - our dissertation. Our papers are turned in at the end of the course (meeting a deadline) and, if we are lucky, we may receive a few marginal comments as feedback. My first experience with feedback came from a submission for a book review. Needless to say, this experience was my first hazing into the scholarly writing process (is there a difference between the scholarly writing process and the writing process in general), and I was crushed. Never had I received feedback in such a manner as I had in this blind-review process. The experience was truly eye opening. Should such experiences be our first introductions into scholarly writing? Surely we must be able to weave experiences to develop us as writers before we get punched in the gut with our first review; and while that first punch may still happen, at least we will have had some experience with giving and receiving feedback.
This past semester I took a writing course that focused on writing about research, and it truly changed my practice as a scholar. In this course, I learned how to develop better writing habits, give and receive feedback, and write for a scholarly audience. Such an experience should be a part of every scholar's preparation. We should not be left to rely on the poor habits that we developed throughout our educational experiences.