Information Sheet # 144
September 2, 2004
WRITING IN EIGHT INCH STILETTOS
According to the latest issue of the New York Times Book Review, Pamela Anderson's first novel, Star, is now #13 on the best seller list, moving up from 15th spot the previous week. Earlier this spring a cover story on Ms. Anderson in Stuff magazine reported that writing the novel was going "really well." Her secret? "I only write it when I'm wearing my eight-inch stilettos. I put them on and suddenly I feel smarter."
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Using a Blackboard Web Forum To Teach Paraphrasing, Summarizing, Proper Citation/ Documentation, and So Much More-All in One Assignment
Step #1: Students use a Blackboard web forum to discuss a topic they are studying in the class.
Step #2: Using the transcript of their Blackboard discussion, students write a paper reviewing the transcript. The assignment should require that the papers include passages which summarize, paraphrase, and quote from the students' transcript. Quotes should be properly cited, using whichever documentation system appropriate for the discipline. [Or an instructor could ask students to devise their own citation system for this particular assignment-creating a system so that someone not affiliated with Coe could find the transcript. Once students have constructed their own citation system, they could then compare their creation with existing academic formats (MLA, APA, CBE, Chicago, Columbia, etc). ]
Step #3: The papers are posted to the forum and read by other students in the class. The student readers review their peers' texts to determine how well each writer handled the summarizing, paraphrasing, quoting, and documentation of sources. What makes this assignment potentially effective is that the readers are not only familiar with the issues but with the exact language used in the transcripts for initially discussing these issues. Everyone is drawing on ideas and words from a small community of writers--and thus they can quickly identify instances when their own writing has been misappropriated.
Step #4: As students compare and discuss their findings, they should gain a better understanding of what is involved in the fair, accurate, and precise handling of sources. This assignment can help students not only learn about the mechanics and formal rules for documenting sources but also appreciate the ethics of a proper respect for sources and how we use those sources.
[The original idea for this assignment came from a posting by Nick Carbone (at that time an instructor at Marlboro College) in a listserv for Writing Center administrators.]
Writing as Therapy
While cleaning out folders in a filing cabinet a few weeks ago, I came across some notes on an April 1999 New York Times article summarizing a study that originally appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study tracked individuals with mild to moderately severe asthma or rheumatoid arthritis. One group of patients wrote for twenty minutes a day for three consecutive days about their most traumatic experiences. Four months later, just over 47% showed significant improvement in their health and under 5% showed worsening of symptoms. On the other hand, the control group wrote for 20 minutes on three consecutive days about their plans for the day. Among these patients, only 24% showed improvement while almost 22% of got worse.
Dr. Smyth and others suspect that the writing task may
be effective because it lets patients synthesize and make
sense of their experiences. . . the writing allows patients
to alter the way they think about an event, giving it order
and structure. This process . . . . is very different from
the intrusive and upsetting rumination that often follows
traumatic events, a process that has been shown to have
physiological effects, among them increases in heart rate
and in the levels of stress hormones.
"Writing . . . is like driving a
car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights,
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