So far, I have completed my IRB application for approval to conduct research on people as a component of my undergraduate research study. Professor Brewer and I are working on creating a consent form for participants to fill out prior to their involvement in the study. Our sample will be derived from Pace University faculty and students. The Director of Composition, Professor Kristen di Gennaro, has already agreed to allow us to use one of the Composition Faculty Meetings next spring for this study. Additionally, Professor Brewer has arranged for me to attend a session of her composition course next semester. Collaborating with her has provided me with numerous opportunities to carry out my research and complete related tasks.
With the help of Professor Brewer, I have also started to gather articles and read existing research on my topic. In doing so, I have discovered that my perceptions about academic and creative writing might be reversed. Though I started off thinking that creative writing wasn’t receiving enough recognition, much of my research implies that academic writing is actually less valued than creative writing. Going forward, I will be paying more attention to how perceptions of writing change when they are observed outside of the academic sphere. For instance, my research has shown me that academic writing may be more valued in English departments, but creative work is more likely to be appreciated at home or hung on a family fridge. I was skeptical of these ideas at first, but the reading I have done thus far has opened my mind to the possibility that writing classifications are more complex than they originally seem.
The title of my undergraduate research project is “Exploring the Academic/Creative Writing Binary.” The purpose of this study is to investigate faculty and undergraduate students’ perceptions of “academic writing” and “creative writing” in the context of an English Department. Historically, English departments have been divided among experts who produce creative writing and those who produce academic writing (Mayers). However, recent work by scholars across English studies has challenged the academic/creative binary (Gere et al; Goldblatt; Hesse; Mayers). In conducting this research, my thesis advisor and I hope to redefine and illustrate potential overlaps between these categories (academic and creative writing) or to propose new (perhaps more fluid or capacious) ways of labeling and conveying the kind of writing students and faculty produce. Specifically, Professor Brewer and I are going to explore whether these are terms or categories that either groups use, or whether faculty and students’ perceptions of academic and creative writing challenge these categories.
We intend to explore these concepts through a qualitative study. After obtaining IRB approval, we would devote one class of Meaghan Brewer’s English 302 to a workshop where students in the class bring in samples of their own writing and then put them into categories and create labels. Students would fill out a form giving a rationale for how they labeled different kinds of writing before we opened up to a class discussion. We would repeat the same activity in a composition faculty meeting in the English department. These activities are modeled on activities described in research by composition scholar Anne Ruggles Gere.
We have already consulted with the Director of Composition, Dr. Kristen di Gennaro, on using one of the composition faculty meetings to collect data. With the help of Professor Brewer, I have also started to collect and read existing articles on my topic in order to start forming the foundation of my literary criticism portion of this study. Additionally, I have started to fill out the IRB application and intend to have it submitted within the next two weeks.