Across the Disciplines: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Language, Learning, and Academic Writing

Bartholomae and Matway, The Pittsburgh Study of Writing

The Pittsburgh Study of Writing

APPENDIX C: Faculty Interview Responses (Taking the Next "Disciplinary" Step)

  • B. K. (Psychology) notices that "report writing" is the genre students know best when they come into her classes. "They are able to read and summarize what they read," she says. In the Research Methods course, she and her team of TAs have begun to emphasize argumentation in their writing assignments, so that students gain the ability to "integrate, to think beyond what they're summarizing and form an argument."
  • S. C. (English) says that English literature majors are good at writing the 5 page critical essay. Assigning longer papers (term papers) will not necessarily move them beyond that. That is, the 20 page paper that is a collection of four "5-page critical essays" is not necessarily an advance in learning. His goal is to teach them to complicate the kind of argument represented by the 5-page essay (by considering alternative points of view, or by varying critical style and approach), so that the "long paper" is a different intellectual exercise than the short paper.
  • R. L. (Political Science) is also concerned to take students out of a "term paper" mode. He works primarily through shorter assignments that put students into positions where they are responding to the news, imagining solutions to real problems, taking positions on quite specific policy issues, even projecting themselves into the role of presidential advisors. R.L. says that he wants to teach students how to pay attention to the news; he wants them to think that they can take a position on current events, he wants them to take a position on what they read (and not just process it as information). He wants them to be aware of how much thinking is based on unwarranted assumptions. His writing assignments are designed to allow students to experience first hand the "pleasures of the extended argument."