Last month, my faculty mentor Professor Brewer and I received our approval from the IRB to conduct activities with people for the purpose of this research project. In order to do so, we had to provide final drafts of a consent form for participants as well as the questions that we would be asking them. After fulfilling this step, I completed the literature review section of my research as well as outlined my methodology in preparation for my research activities. Together, these sections have totaled roughly 10 pages. I have also developed a complete bibliography of the sources that I used to build my research question. My problem-solving process has been heavily reliant on drafting. I start by writing what I know and including any quotes or references that I know will be useful. From there, I work through any questions by reading and reviewing with my advisor to make improvements. Communicating with Professor Brewer is a crucial component of my research and we have been able to successfully discuss the study and have meetings when necessary which has helped me overcome obstacles that I come across while writing. Additionally, Professor Brewer helped me secure a time where I could sit in on one of her classes and a Pace University English faculty meeting in order to conduct my research activities for this study. The idea for this research project came from a paper that I wrote in Brewer’s class myself last year, so she has been able to give me honest feedback and help me see the progress I have made. As I learn more about writing and the ways it is perceived in schools, I have more initiative to understand how these perceptions came to be so that I can change the binary way some people think about writing.
My largest challenge and concern with this study so far is that my scheduled research activities were recently delayed. Originally, I had planned to visit a session of Professor Brewer’s ENG 201 class on Monday, March 4 in order to conduct a portion of my study. However, campus was closed on that day due to poor weather conditions, so I was unable to go through with it. We rescheduled for March 11, but I was hoping to have more time to review the results from that activity so that I would be better prepared to ask questions and take notes at the English faculty meeting I am attending on March 27. However, I am confident that these steps will get done and provide me with a lot of great information that I can use to build research findings and a conclusion for this study. I have already learned a lot from this project so far such as how different definitions of genres can change a student’s attitude toward writing by providing different guidelines to follow. Additionally, I have been reading research on the writing binary from the 1980s which taught me that scholars have been debating these writing trends for decades, and with each study there is a new perspective introduced. One thing that stood out to me most in going through my sources for this project was how many students are reluctant to take risks in their writing. The strict rubrics and policies in place for college writing assignments have caused many students to limit themselves in their writing due to the belief that certain assignments can only be done one way or only have one purpose. In my research, I hope to explore this further and encourage less rigid ways of thinking in college writing classrooms.
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.