Monthly Archives: June 2013

What writing does



I thought I’d begin this blog by posing the question:  What does writing do in academic contexts?  Usually we ask the question:  What is academic writing?  Or: How do we write? But it’s worth thinking about what writing does.  When I write a paper for publication, what does that do?  It establishes my credibility as a scholar, it tells me I am worthy, it builds my confidence.  When a student writes a thesis, what does that writing do?  If done according to the discourse requirements, that writing allows the student to have a voice, to feel a sense of belonging, to succeed and earn a qualification.  If that writing does not meet the discourse requirements, then different things happen.  The student will feel alienated, experience loss and fail.  Writing can then be an enabler of success and a destroyer. (And we still wonder why writing is always difficult in academic contexts?)

The point of all of this is not to reify writing into a god-like being but rather to show how we perform academia through writing.  Every time we write something we’re coming on stage, saying our lines, moving in and around the other actors as prescribed, and making sure we’re acting for the audience in a way that they will ‘get it’. The problem with academic writing is that there are few directors telling us what to do.  It’s something we have to learn as we stumble along in the performing.

Look at the paper or chapter you’re working on now with eyes that can see the ‘performance’ and then spend a few minutes free writing on that.  See if you come up with any insights that might help you with your writing.