Having completed my research project, I am able to reflect on the process to see what I have learned. In terms of research writing, I learned that while it shares some similarities with the typical writing that I do for my undergraduate classes, research writing also has a few unique qualities that make it stand out. For instance, I usually approach writing like I do most things in life, start at the beginning and work my way to the finish. However, when working on this research project I found that it was best to jump around. In fact, the introduction was the last part I wrote. Additionally, I am used to stating my thesis in the first paragraph of whatever I am writing, but for this research, I put this information in my conclusion. Each time I worked on this project I made changes in some way and as a result, I learned that drafting is a crucial element of research writing. I constantly moved things I had written to different areas, changed the examples I was using, and formed different opinions on what I was studying.
In terms of research content, I had unexpected results that taught me a lot about the ways in which writing is thought about in university English departments. For this study, I asked students and faculty to bring in samples of their own writing and then asked them a series of questions about categorizing them, specifically in relation to the terms “academic” and “creative”. In doing so, I hoped to analyze how these terms create a writing binary in order to propose more fluid ways of thinking about writing.
To summarize my results, faculty members used “academic” and “creative” more frequently than students to label their writing. However, they also viewed these terms in a less binary way and saw them as overlapping categories whereas students typically described them as being entirely opposite. Faculty did not hesitate to point out issues with the writing binary, but it was a larger challenge for students to make that leap. Students could understand shared characteristics of creativity and academia, but did not feel comfortable implementing such qualities in their writing assignments because they didn’t feel it fit into the “academic” writing box. If these obstacles are to be overcome, it is important that we continue to analyze ideas about writing as well as make attempts to shed light on the problematic nature of the “academic” and “creative” writing binary. As a result of this study, it is evident that students, myself included, could benefit from a more open-minded approach to writing. Some ways that faculty can help make this a reality are by facilitating more discussions about genre, creating activities that demonstrate atypical examples of categories and labels that can be attributed to writing, and by giving writing assignments that can be fluid and interpreted in many ways like genres are in real life.
Though this study was informative and exciting to carry out, I did hit a few minor obstacles along the way. For example, there were a few cases in which I had to reschedule activities for this project due to Pace University closing in poor weather conditions. As a result, I had some timing issues to meet deadlines during the spring semester because I had to write about data that I hadn’t fully collected and analyzed yet. If I were to do this study again, I would want to give myself more time in between drafts to do research so that I could gather more responses and read through them more carefully. I would do this by conducting my research activities at an earlier point during the academic year.
Nevertheless, these small timing issues were resolved easily with the help of my faculty advisor, Meaghan Brewer. Professor Brewer and I communicated via email on a weekly basis and met each time I had a deadline approaching or had gathered new data for this study. She also accompanied me to conduct the research activities with the group of students and faculty that we used. Working on this project was a challenge as it was my first time carrying out a research project, but Professor Brewer was able to collaborate with me in a way that made obstacles easy to overcome. It took initiative on my end to contact her in order to schedule meetings or ask questions about the research process. I also had to sort through large stacks of data that I collected from the research activities so that I could share my findings with her before we could move forward to the next step. However, I found that my initiative was well-rewarded and that Professor Brewer was more than willing to assist me when I needed it. Because she is extremely educated on writing and genre, she was able to help me find articles and books that I could read to provide me with enough understanding and background to add my own input on the binary between “academic” and “creative” writing.