Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing Vol. II
Charlie Lowe, Grand Valley State University
Pavel Zemliansky, James Madison University
Pub Date: 2011
ISBN 13: 9781602351967
Publisher: Parlor Press
Conditions of Use
It's important to stress that this is volume two in a series that, ostensibly, is not yet finished (though the first two volumes were published in 2010 and 2011, and the planned third and fourth have not yet appeared). In other words, neither... read more
It's important to stress that this is volume two in a series that, ostensibly, is not yet finished (though the first two volumes were published in 2010 and 2011, and the planned third and fourth have not yet appeared). In other words, neither volume claims to be comprehensive -- but collectively they are compiling an impressive collection of common or likely topics in first-year composition (FYC) classes. TOPICS: Volume two, like its predecessor, focuses on helping first-year students make the transition to college and college writing (E.S. Reid, DasBender), and echoes or complements several of vol. 1's topics, notably invention strategies across a variety of situations (Savini, Charlton, Krause, Boyd), information literacy and working with secondary sources (Haller, Rosenberg, McClure, Stedman, Walker, Krause), and collaboration (Ingalls, Burton & Klint). It also expands into other topics, including reading rhetorically (Bunn, Rosenberg); writing particular genres like narrative (Ramsdell), blogs (A. Reid), ethnography (Kahn), and the essay (Lynch); primary research methods (Driscoll); multimodal design and formatting (Klein & Shackelford); and, though I'd like to see more of this, transfer of knowledge beyond FYC (Singh-Corcoran). In addition, these two volumes don't devote much attention to structure and style (especially in terms of patterns and variations across genres), discourse communities, multimodal composition, visual rhetoric, peer review, or the rhetorical nature of grammar and punctuation choices. It is worth noting, however, that in their CFP for vol. 4 (dated 2011), the editors invited submissions on most of these topics, plus others. INDEXING: Because these are self-contained essays that only rarely cross-reference one another, and because there are multiple volumes, the indexes do become especially important for instructors -- and students. Volume 2 does have an index, but I find much more helpful the online index at writingspaces.org/essays, which codes each chapter with several keywords. It's also worth noting, especially in the absence of an introduction or overview in vol. 2, that writingspaces.org also provides abstracts of each chapter, something the printed versions do not.
I don't want to claim more authority or expertise than I have, but as noted elsewhere, I have appreciated the "rhetorical" orientation of the text -- not something I take for granted, even today, in first-year composition textbooks. While I don't always find the presentation of an idea agreeable -- more because of emphasis or angle than substance -- I do trust these contributors and, in some cases, know their scholarly work outside of this text. I won't say there are no errors (who am I to say?) nor that there are no biases, but then I don't believe that's possible. These writers do have a bias: they think that FYC classes matter, that students can grow as writers, and that a rhetorical perspective on language and inquiry and information can help us engage more productively and empathetically with one another. Even that's not to say that I agree with everything they've said, but then I don't expect my students to embrace wholesale and uncritically everything they read, either. These essays represent genuine efforts by committed scholars and teachers to engage with student writers.
What I most appreciate about these essays is also, ironically, what has at times complicated their usefulness. In short, they're addressed, explicitly and directly, to FYC students. They're meant to be accessible. Initially, I also thought they would be helpful in modeling the "they say / I say" idea of academic argument as an ongoing, Burkean conversation. However, the more I have leaned into "writing about writing" and "teaching for transfer" pedagogies, the less helpful these essays have become: they are neither target genres nor exemplars of scholarly research. I love that they are open-access, and that they are written by a great variety of my colleagues in the field: I deeply appreciate their currency with research and theory in Writing Studies and their relative accessibility to first-year students. I love that the essays are self-contained and can be linked individually from writingspaces.org. I love that they each model MLA-style citation practices. I can imagine that these volumes may be difficult for new teachers to use because there's no clear through-line, no unifying theme or question, no suggestions about how to sequence or structure a course around them. At the same time, some of the essays may prove more helpful for (experienced) instructors than students -- and yet also too specific or idiosyncratic in their angles or examples to be adaptable in all courses. Nevertheless, I do continue to assign certain essays regularly (especially, from vol. 2, Mike Bunn's "How to Read Like a Writer," Randall McClure's "Googlepedia: Turning Information Behaviors into Research Skills," and Kyle Stedman's "Annoying Ways People Use Sources") and fully expect to continue to recommend both volumes to my students. And I look forward to seeing new volumes as they (I hope) continue to appear.
As noted already, I do find most of the essays to be accessible for my students. The writers have all clearly endeavored to write for first-year students.
While I've not read every single word here -- nor have my students -- my overall impression is that the Writing Spaces project doesn't intend to speak with only one voice: that's why there's a different author for each chapter. In that sense, the book might even model the communal, interactive, and collaborative nature of scholarly discourse. I will say, though, that the writers all share a commitment to teaching -- to *reaching* -- first-year writers. And they are also all scholars in rhetoric and composition, with a particular (if not precisely equivalent) commitment to fostering rhetorical thinking.
This volume, and indeed the whole Writing Spaces project, is exemplary for its adaptability and selective usability, precisely because it consists of individual, self-contained (and mostly non-self-referential) essays on a variety of topics. This modularity is, however, best achievable by using the searchable online index at writingspaces.org.
There's no explicit rationale provided to the ordering of the essays in this volume, though a sensitive reader of the table of contents might begin to imagine a sort of logic: what makes college writing distinctive (and FYC classes worthwhile); how to get started with thinking, reading, and writing rhetorically; how to engage effectively and ethically in research; how to work in a variety of genres and technologies. Still, as other reviewers have pointed out, it might have been helpful to include sub-headings, an editorial introduction, and some teacher resources. As noted earlier, the searchable online index (at writingspaces.org/essays) is the most helpful way to navigate the range of topics covered here.
The PDF of the entire book is basic -- there are no links to chapters from the table of contents, for example -- but there are no problems with navigating or reading the file. The website, writingspaces.org, is especially helpful, with options to search on keywords and to open or download individual chapters.
I have found no egregious or troubling grammatical issues.
I agree with another reviewer who noted that, while there are no obvious or egregious cultural insensitivities here, it would be a welcome addition in subsequent volumes to address more directly and explicitly the ways that language (generally) and writing (specifically) interact with social constructions of race, ethnicity, gender, and other cultural and political markers of identity.
Writing Spaces provides a refreshing alternative to the traditional composition text, and its approach makes it very well suited to the new terrain of open textbooks. Instead of providing the usual monolithic soup-to-nuts introduction to... read more
Writing Spaces provides a refreshing alternative to the traditional composition text, and its approach makes it very well suited to the new terrain of open textbooks. Instead of providing the usual monolithic soup-to-nuts introduction to college-level writing, the editors offer a smorgasbord of essays on a variety of writing topics penned by over two dozen different composition instructors. This leaves the instructor who decides to use this text in their class free to assign one or two or more and combine these readings with additional ones from volume I and a variety of other resources. In a world in which costs do not make composition instructors feel forced to assign a singular text that serves as a rhetoric and also often as a handbook and reader, Writing Spaces is quite at home.
The essays contained in the book are authored by a number of distinguished subject-matter experts and as such should be considered to represent an accurate sampling of knowledge in the field.
The book is generally free of topical discussions that would limit its longevity; however, there are a couple of essays that because of their subject matter (MLA style, use of technology) have become outdated or may be on the verge of becoming so. The beauty of the volume is that this does not really matter; the instructor could easily select replacement materials, or the editors could choose to update the volume.
The essays in the book are authored by academic writers. Many of them are written in a lively style that should be easily accessible to first-year students, but some are more closely suited to more advanced students or to being published as journal articles designed to be read by the authors' peers. Most could be edited for conciseness.
The text is not designed to be perfectly consistent, and this is a strong point. Rather than the unified narrative of a textbook by a single-author (or team of authors), it offers a variety of perspectives on the writing process, and this should work well to provide students with a broader view of the field than the one they might more often receive. The variety of perspectives is also likely to be of great interest to the instructor, providing a window into the divergent ways in which their various colleagues think and teach.
The book is designed to allow the instructor to select which essays to assign, making it highly modular. However, many of the individual essays are somewhat lengthy. Units of shorter length might be preferred.
The book is presented as a collection to peruse. Its usefulness would be further enhanced if it were organized by topics and/or if it included some commentary by the editors on why they included the selections they did and why they chose to arrange them in the order in which they appear.
There are no technical problems with the interface. However, it is very text heavy and could make better use of visual rhetoric. This could make it less than ideal for accomplishing the task of engaging today's students, who have become accustomed to textbooks that are more attractively designed and to reading in graphically-oriented online formats.
The essays are well written and have been proofread carefully.
I found nothing offensive, although I would term the text generally more neutral than it might be. More often than not, it avoids examples that are couched in terms of gender, ethnicity, etc.
Despite some drawbacks due to wordiness, length of articles, and graphic presentation, the fresh approach offered by this text makes it well worth a try.
The text covers a variety of topics commonly found in contemporary first-year writing (FYW) courses: process, rhetorical context (particularly audience and genre), citation, multimodal writing, and collaborative writing, just to name a few. Most... read more
The text covers a variety of topics commonly found in contemporary first-year writing (FYW) courses: process, rhetorical context (particularly audience and genre), citation, multimodal writing, and collaborative writing, just to name a few. Most of the authors use and cite contemporary scholarship for their essays. It’s a useful text for a FYW course. There is no index or glossary.
With some exceptions, there are no issues of accuracy. Where accuracy fell short were in sections addressing citation style and digital writing. Since 2016, MLA has been in its 8th edition – the text, due to publication date, follows the 7th. However, some chapters, particularly "Everything Changes, or Why MLA Isn’t (Always) Right" by Janice R. Walker, acknowledge that citation style is time-sensitive; therefore, with supplemental materials such as handouts or handbooks, this issue of accuracy is easily rectified.
Though by no means obsolete, as stated above, some discussion feels dated; this is most apparent in the sections discussing the internet and digital writing. In places, however, the text brings attention to this issue, particularly regarding citation style. In the grander scheme, the “shop talk” is current for today’s FYW class. More locally, some of the links to websites mentioned in the text are no longer live. They would need to be updated (See pages 263 and 284, for example.)
For the most part, the text is easily accessible to its target audience. It includes good definitions of FYW jargon that students will understand and provides good modelling of topical tasks. With that said, a handful of chapters feel like they are written to a completely different audience, namely, other instructors. Some read as assignment prompts. Some feel like a justification of a professor’s individual assignment. Students, if assigned these chapters, probably wouldn’t pay attention or would skip the reading altogether.
Although written by various authors from different institutions, the terminology used and approaches to teaching writing taken are all consistent with current practice in the field.
As this text is made up of individual essays each written by a different author, this text is highly modular.
As a whole, there’s no particular organization or subheadings, although there appears to be an attempt towards the end to group together chapters on collaborative and digital writing. It may have better served the text to have included groupings of chapters under common themes (e.g. citation, process, collaborative writing); however, it’s something instructors could easily do themselves in their syllabi. The essays themselves are internally consistent, coherent, and cohesive.
It would be more convenient if the library holding had the links to individual chapters instead of just the full pdf. It's not an issue, however, since the holding provides a link to the publisher's site, which does. The images in the text were clear, with the exception of those in "The Complexity of Simplicity: Invention Potentials for Writing Students” by Colin Charlton. I found those images hard to read at 100% (zooming in helped somewhat) and did not understand their connection to the text. Also, on occasion, sometimes formatting changes in terms of font color (like on page 284).
There’s a single typo—“world-vievvw”—on page 45. Otherwise, I noticed no errors or issues.
As far as content, nothing stood out as particularly insensitive or offense. Indeed, one chapter – "Writing 'Eyeball To Eyeball': Building A Successful Collaboration" by Rebecca Ingalls – makes explicit that some texts may be alienating of racial and/or gender minorities. Otherwise, generally, no explicit mention or attention to cultural sensitivity is made. However, the text does seem to assume one kind of FYW student, one attending a four-year institution. Although the authors are roughly split 50/50 in terms of gender, there is a distinct lack of chapters written by professors at institutions other than 4-year universities. This is not to say that this text is not useful for FYW students at other types of institutions. Indeed, the editors tell readers that "each essay functions as a standalone text that can easily complement other selected readings in writing or writing-intensive courses across the disciplines at any level." And it does. I noticed an explicit assumption about the student only in "Composition as a Write of Passage" by Nathalie Singh-Corcoran when she mentions a two-semester writing sequence for FYW students; not all institutions have them. While it does not interfere with the content, accuracy, or clarity, it does, even implicitly, assume a particular experience for the students reading this text. With that said, as another review points out, the Discussion Questions at the end of each chapter are a way of getting the student to include his or her own voice into the discussion.
Overall, the text is successful in what it sets out to do: invite “teachers-as-writers . . . to join in the larger conversation about the craft of writing,” as the editors write. I was particularly pleased with how often student writing was at the center of each chapter. The use of real student writing, coupled with the first-person, personal essay approach to much of the work here, makes the text accessible and level with its target audience. The softcover edition was very nice quality. It’s a good size and easy to read. The imaging issues I discussed in the “interface" section clear up here. Interestingly, there is a typo on page 310 (an errant bunch of ‘v’s) that does not appear in the pdf, suggesting the two pull from different versions of the document text. Because I would not personally assign every chapter for my classes, I find the pdf version more economical for classroom use. It’s nice, for those like myself who prefer working off of physical copies, to have the option of the physical book available for both instructors and students. I have used two chapters of this book already in class with (I hope) success. The authors provide a good foundation for lecture and provide ample material for in-class activity and assignments.
I would recommend this text for students focused on writing arguments in particular. The text is a series of stand alone articles related to various acts and processes of the writing process focused on academic writing and with an eye towards... read more
I would recommend this text for students focused on writing arguments in particular. The text is a series of stand alone articles related to various acts and processes of the writing process focused on academic writing and with an eye towards thinking about transfer. Articles cover a range of topics from how to approach a writing assignment to how to conduct primary research to incorporating outside sources via the proper conventions. As a whole, the text covers a lot of ground; however, there is no glossary or index only a table of contents. While accessible, the articles may be too advanced for some students.
Each article is well-researched and covers important areas/aspects of the writing process. The articles do push some of the traditional boundaries of the college composition classroom.
Each stand alone article is relatively free from cultural references instead using examples from student work or analogy to present various tenets and themes related to writing and the writing classroom. Some of the articles do speak to specific types of write (i.e. ethnography) and concerns with current pedagogy in the writing classroom, but each article delves into fundamental elements of the writing situation--elements which seem to evolve only very slowly.
Again, the text is a series of twenty-one stand alone essays, so each essay has its own focus and its own voice. At the same time, each essay attempts to speak directly to students (and sometimes, it seems, students and instructors) using accessible language, first person perspective/experience, and strong examples of figurative language. There is a clear sense of the contributors trying to demystify what it means to be writer in a college classroom.
The individual essays move consistently from approaching the writing assignment to exploring various types of assignments to discussions on information literacy. While no essay directly connects to another nor is there an attempt to connect the essays, there is a sense of evolution of the writing process from idea to product.
Each reading is essentially its own module and there is no external structure alerting readers to the topics covered in each reading other than the title of the article itself. Instructors interested in this text, would be smart to scan the article titles and first pages to get a clearer sense of the aspects of writing covered in each piece. For this text, there is no real shortcut for identifying which subjects are covered in each piece.
While it's clear the articles were arranged in a deliberate order, there is no external organization to the essays. The only thing really tying the articles together, would be the reader finding these connection on his/her own.
There are a few images used in a few of the articles. These are not very clear (printed very small) and were more a distraction than helpful. However, the text itself was clearly presented.
No grammatical errors.
Examples in the articles tend to be pretty culturally neutral; however, the student names given, for the most part, do not suggest much cultural diversity and many of the examples provided would relate more to four-year college students than to community college students.
This was a strong and engaging collection of essays though it takes some commitment to make one's way through each article. I cannot imagine assigning the entire text to a group of students but certainly various articles and exercises would be quite effective .
This book would serve as a decent secondary text in a composition course. The included essays - as outlined in the index - deal with the necessities of a first-year writing course. The book begins with the purpose of such courses, moves to... read more
This book would serve as a decent secondary text in a composition course. The included essays - as outlined in the index - deal with the necessities of a first-year writing course. The book begins with the purpose of such courses, moves to discussions of critical thinking and writing, then to the nuts and bolts of the rhetorical situation, then to researching and using sources, and finally to more complex questions of organization, collaboration, and the personal essay. An instructor might have to supplement this material with essays on best workshop practices and logical fallacies, to name a few, but there is a lot covered here.
This textbook advanced generally good ideas about composition and the practice of rhetoric. The individual essays should be useful to students, and, as writing instructors, all of the authors were quite conscious, of course, of audience. I didn't find anything inaccurate or "wrong" suggested by any of the authors. And while I'm sure individual instructors will find issues with some of the examples, metaphors, or language used to express the ideas, nothing was particularly cringeworthy, and the ideas themselves were sound.
I'm sure this book will stay relevant for a long time. There's an essay on the accuracy of research done with Google and Wikipedia that will probably, in ten years, sound antiquated, and then there's the odd reference to President Obama, contemporary mores, and popular culture that will date it, but the ideas about writing expressed herein should continue to be useful for a while.
No issues with clarity here. This is a book for first-year writing courses written by first-year writing instructors, and is therefore well-written, accessible, etc. If anything, some of the essays (and examples used in those essay) are overly simple. Though by supplementing this text with more complex and challenging readings not about writing and composition, this shortcoming could become a virtue.
Again, there were no issues with consistency. This is a well-edited anthology that could easily be read chronologically.
Despite what I said in the previous section about reading this book chronologically, I suspect most teachers will pull essays from it as it suits their curriculum, and the book lends itself well to such a practice. The essays are in not dependent on each other for comprehension or usefulness. I may even use a one or two in the last several weeks of my current course.
I talked about this in the first section and in the past two about consistency and modularity. Basically, it's organized in a way that makes sense for a first-year writing course to read chronologically, beginning with the purpose of composition and critical reading/thinking/writing, and ending up with more complex meditations on writing practice. I suspect many instructors will recognize the basic structure of their courses in the book's organization. See the index for a clearer idea of what I mean.
The free PDF version of course doesn't contain links to the individual essays, but the book's page in the Open Textbook Library does. Beyond that, I was impressed with the book's quality and consistency of design. It's not going to win any prizes for creativity, but it looks professional, and shouldn't give students any reason to doubt its credibility.
Again, this book was written and edited by writing instructors. Granted I was reading quickly, but I didn't see any glaring grammar errors (or any errors at all, really).
I didn't take offense with any of the book's essays. Again, they're all about best writing practices and therefore aren't trying to get students to think critically about race, class, or gender, to name just a few of the possible areas of critical examination to which composition courses can (and probably should) introduce students. Instructors will likely have to use a different primary text to expose students to exceptional examples of thinking and writing.
I was impressed with the ability of the authors featured in this book to articulate, in their essays, necessary and simple but sometimes elusive ideas about writing practices.
Collection is comprehensive as it offers twenty-one “writings on writing” that cover a wide-range of perspectives on academic writing,offering advice and tips on all aspects of the writing process, primarily geared toward first year composition... read more
Collection is comprehensive as it offers twenty-one “writings on writing” that cover a wide-range of perspectives on academic writing,offering advice and tips on all aspects of the writing process, primarily geared toward first year composition students. Topics include: the challenges of college writing, idea generation, reading strategies, collaboration techniques, counterargument, integrating sources, conducting primary research, revision, writing for blogs, and document formatting. Many of these pieces are useful for writers well beyond the first year composition classroom. The collection does not include an index, glossary, or any handbook-style rules for usage or grammar.
Information is accurate and represents a wide-range of perspectives on academic writing.
Information feels relevant and contemporary. Most of this advice on college writing is relatively timeless, unlike texts that contain citation details that are subject to frequent updates. Also, in comparison to readers that feature articles on current events or debates on cultural and social issues, this material has greater longevity than most issue-based anthologies. A few of the digitally-focused pieces in the collection risk becoming dated more quickly, such as the essay on blogs and collaborative writing technologies.
While the essays are clearly written with excellent examples for illustrating points covered, some instructors might not find this format to be the clearest presentation of much of the material. Essays on MLA style, document formation, and integrating sources offer advice that is more traditionally presented in handbook format.
Style of the essays is consistent throughout. While the collection covers a wide-range of topics geared toward the first year college composition student--and the essays themselves do not cross-reference each other in any direct way--the length, tone, and purpose of the pieces creates a clear unity here. Most essays propose specific exercises and assignments for writing—all offer enumerated questions for discussion and reflection immediately following the text.
As an edited collection of essays, this text lends itself well to mixing and matching with other materials. While the progression of the collection does build a useful scaffold of skills that complement each other by addressing different aspects of the writing process, each essay can stand on its own.
Organization makes sense, as the anthology is roughly arranged from pieces that address college writing in general to those that take on specific aspects of the writing and research process, concluding with a focus on digital technologies for writing and collaboration. This sequence reflects how these skills would logically develop throughout an academic course. A few selections feel out of order if literally using their order of appearance for syllabus design, as I might assign “Invention Potentials” and a “Who I am” essay early in the quarter, along with “Document Design and Formatting”—otherwise the order here is logical and helpful for syllabus planning.
No issues with the interface. Structure is straight forward and display is clear. Readability for some images requires zooming in farther than the average level of focus for reading—but this is not an image-heavy text.
Language feels inclusive and contemporary—nothing stands out as insensitive or outdated in viewpoint.
Overall I love the essays in this collection and will absolutely be working some of them into my composition classroom. What I really like here is that nearly every essay leads seamlessly into a specific type of writing assignment; thus, the collection works well as a basis for structuring a first year composition syllabus. Additionally, information that is often presented in handbook-style “rule” format is couched in essays here (such as tips on integrating sources) and I think this offers depth, reflective engagement, and is a refreshing alternative to bullet-pointed handbook lists. The first essay in the collection sets up the contrast of “rhetoric versus rules,” and this establishes the tone for what follows, as the collection refrains from giving students simplified rules for writing, but instead offers them examples of critical thinking about issues in writing and invites them to think along, rather than memorize a list of rules for academic writing. For me, using the entire collection is unlikely, as I find that students can only handle so much “writing on writing.” While these essays are all ostensibly addressed to students, the subject matter of first year composition makes some of these selections feel more geared toward composition instructors—as I find it hard to believe that most first year students could maintain their enthusiasm throughout twenty-one readings about the nature of college writing. With that in mind, I can imagine adopting this text and pairing it with other readings in which the content goes beyond writing, along with basic handbook material for formatting, grammar, and punctuation review. This collection provides an excellent foundation for a research-heavy course in which students are responsible for gathering their own readings and research that would provide the basis for content beyond these “writings on writing.” Too many outstanding selections here to cover in detail, but a few of my favorite are Catherine Savini's "Looking for Trouble: Finding Your Way into a Writing Assignment," Karen Rosenberg's "Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources," Kyle D. Stedman's "Annoying Ways People Use Sources," and Steven D. Krause's "On the Other Hand: The Role of Antithetical Writing in First Year Composition Courses."
This collection of essays provides comprehensive coverage of key issues in the first-year composition classroom. It addresses core skills––composing as a process, reading as a critical act, writing as a series of rhetorical decisions––elucidating... read more
This collection of essays provides comprehensive coverage of key issues in the first-year composition classroom. It addresses core skills––composing as a process, reading as a critical act, writing as a series of rhetorical decisions––elucidating them and breaking them down into more manageable steps for students new to the scholarly community. It introduces crucial rhetorical concepts such as audience awareness, and demystifies the idea of "academic writing." It also offers students excellent guidelines for composing in a digital landscape (blogging, collaborative writing technologies) and for conducting meaningful research (primary, secondary, ethnographic). In addition, each essay is accompanied by a brief apparatus in the form of a series of questions (for writing or discussion) and a set of notes/citations. How great to have a book that uses the kind of citation system we ask our students to employ! The collection lays out a wonderful array of learning tools that students would undoubtedly find useful throughout their college careers and beyond.
The essay collection (both essays and apparatus) accurately covers the arc of the composing process and touches on just the kinds of questions students are likely to have in a first-year composition course: what does a good thesis include? How can I find my way into a challenging writing assignment? What constitutes a scholarly source? Wow can I engage meaningfully with other viewpoints and synthesize a range of ideas? It isn't exactly a *textbook* in the sense of providing neutral information about a subject––it's more a guidebook or rhetoric handbook––but as a collection of perspectives on writing in the academy it's accurate and informative.
Some essays in the collection are relatively timeless, such as Mike Bunn's "How to Read Like a Writer" and Gita DasBender's "Critical Thinking in College Writing: From the Personal to the Academic." Other pieces addressing aspects of college-level reading and writing that are likely to be more fast-moving and ephemeral, such as Randall McClure's "Googlepedia: Turning Information into Research Skills" and Alex Reid's "Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web," may become dated and will likely need to be updated or replaced regularly. (I noticed a few URLs, such as on p. 233 of McClure's piece; those are unlikely to stay current and will need to be updated frequently or replaced with keywords.)
These essays are written in a prose style that is clear, engaging, and personable. Any jargon or technical terminology is explained in careful detail. I was charmed by the wit and intelligence of the material, which I feel addresses students directly without ever talking down to them, offering tools and motivation that invite readers into the ongoing conversation of humankind.
While of course there are stylistic distinctions from one essay to the next, as a whole the collection is consistent in terms of composition terminology and concepts. It fits together into a coherent whole in the sense that it puts forward a framework for understanding composition processes and then follows that arc throughout. The text seems flexible enough that it could work well in a range of first-year composition courses.
As a collection of essays with brief apparatus, the text is of course entirely modular. For less experienced teachers, it follows (as mentioned above) a sensible composition arc, from foundational skills to more specialized issues, so it could be read in order; for more experienced teachers, it would be flexible enough to allow classes to pick and choose the order and kind of essays they read.
While the aforementioned arc of composition skills and concepts the book puts forward is logical, meaning the book's structure is perfectly straightforward, I think some divisions of the material––sections, subcategorizations, indexes?––would increase the collection's utility. For example, if the arc itself were made more visible (since the essay titles themselves don't always explicitly state the essay's pedagogical focus), then the move from foundational skills and concepts (critical reading) to more specialized issues (blogging) would be more visible to both teachers and students. Grouping the essays according to skills might also be useful: Critical Reading, Writing as a Process, Conducting Meaningful Research.
The book's interface (as a PDF) is quite user-friendly: the hyperlinked table of contents is convenient, scrolling is effortless, tables and images are glitch-free, and navigation is quite smooth. It might be nice to have the notes/citations and reading questions at the end of each selection linked/in the table of contents as well, though I don't know how feasible that would be. (Hyperlinking web addresses within the text would be wonderful too––but perhaps that would make the text go out of date more quickly/create a lot of busywork.)
These essays and the accompanying apparatus (notes, citations) are clearly written and, as far as I could see, free of grammar errors or sentence-level issues. (I think I spotted one set of questions with quotes that were formatted with the question mark inside the quotation marks, though the question mark wasn't part of the original quote...backtracking I couldn't find the page again.)
The essay collection is in no way culturally insensitive or offensive––but it also offers little discussion of how identity shapes one's approach/point of entry into academia. As such it doesn't seem to speak to the range of students likely to be present in today's composition classrooms. The essays seem to assume a fairly uniform student body, with a fairly uniform set of skills and expectations (Stedman is one exception), but today's campuses are *global*. More explicit attention to prior knowledge (what do students bring with them? what do they worry they are missing?) would be welcome, as would more discussion of how academic expectations (of prose style/voice, of familiarity with resources like library databases, etc.) are culturally determined. Perhaps the uniformity is a result of all the pieces in the collection being written by educators from one field (or at least scholarly area), who share some commonalities in background and experience? Feels a bit insular.
I enjoyed reading these pieces. As I read I found myself smiling, nodding, wanting to highlight passages. That said, I'd be unlikely to adopt the book as a whole, primarily because it's a lot of reading *about* something that we want our students to be actively *practicing*. (Akin to having students in a cooking course read cookbooks all semester but never enter a kitchen.) This book would work best used in small parts or as an accompaniment to some other text(s)––a trade book and/or a podcast, for example, so that students could put some of these skills and concepts into action interacting with texts that are about something other than composition itself. Also, I kept wondering what these essays were written in response to: a prompt/invitation? A brief introduction that explains how the collection actually came together would provide some useful rhetorical context. Thank you!
I'm not sure this book is intended to be a comprehensive look at writing. Rather, it is a compilation of essays that's highly modular and flexible. That said, it does cover writing topics about as comprehensively as is possible for this format. read more
I'm not sure this book is intended to be a comprehensive look at writing. Rather, it is a compilation of essays that's highly modular and flexible. That said, it does cover writing topics about as comprehensively as is possible for this format.
I found this book highly accurate, which is rare for a book of this type. Because so much of the writing process is different for different people and situations, it's challenging to make a book on process that's 'accurate' throughout. This one framed issues in writing in the right way, something that I really like for the composition classroom, where many texts are still in the old mode of talking about 'modes' of writing, rather that 'context' and 'genre,' which is a real strength of this text.
My comment above on accuracy applies here. The book is written with an awareness of best-practices in composition pedagogy, encouraging students to think about the rhetorical situation, rather than looking at writing as a process of following rigid rules.
While it varies from essay to essay, the book is overall quite accessible, speaking about complex issues with relevant and easy-to-understand examples. In several essays, I was very impressed with how the writers demystify complex processes; this is exactly what I'm looking for in the comp classroom.
It feels a little unfair to judge the book on this parameter, as it is a collection of essays. However, as a collection of essays, the book had great unity of purpose and vision, and is arranged in a way that makes it flow well for use in composition classes. While terminology is not always consistent, each essay does a good job of situating the reader and helping to explain complex information. The book is consistent in the way it simplifies complex ideas and processes into plain language with clear examples. It's also consistent in terms of being in-line with current Rhet/Comp theory.
It's a collection of essays, so it's super modular. Also, the way it's presented in the library makes this even easier--you can grab a pdf of just one essay, or the whole thing, and all the pdfs include links to helps students or instructors find the rest of the book. This is one of my favorite things about it.
Again, it feels a little unfair to evaluate the book on this parameter. However, as a collection of essays, the flow and unity of approach here is excellent. I feel like if I used this book in its entirety, I would probably change the order a lot less than I would with commercially available readers from the big publishers.
Excellent--pdfs are clean & easy to read.
I did not find anything that was insensitive or offensive here. The examples used are more general or academic. I believe that most comp. instructors will be using readers and/or articles alongside the essays in this text that include a variety of perspectives.
I particularly liked Chapters 1, 5, and 15. I will certainly be using these in my comp. classes. I love how modular the book is, while still having a unified vision and good flow. I love how up-to-date it is in terms of how it talks about the writing process, and how it explains writing in a very accessible way. Overall, this is an excellent collection of essays on writing. I'm so pleased that the authors compiled this into an open resource, and I'm very glad I was exposed to it!
Writing Spaces Vol. II addresses first-year college writing through a series of essays about writing, reading, research, collaboration, publishing, etc. The book has a hyperlinked table of contents that makes it easy to browse around, but there's... read more
Writing Spaces Vol. II addresses first-year college writing through a series of essays about writing, reading, research, collaboration, publishing, etc. The book has a hyperlinked table of contents that makes it easy to browse around, but there's no index because this book isn't organized into distinct topics, but instead explores a variety of broad writing-related topics in essay form such as how to read like a writer and how to analyze a writing assignment by thinking about the topic as a problem. The book is somewhat comprehensive in that it is an in-depth look at a variety of writing issues that first-year college writers will encounter. However, it doesn't provide guidance around mechanical issues that typical first-year writers experience nor does it discuss some of the more typical pre-writing strategies that students might find useful such as brainstorming, listing, webbing, or outlining, but it makes up for this with several chapters that include creative writing strategies and techniques.
This book has been peer-reviewed, and all the chapters that I read were error free except for one typo, which I often find in traditionally published books, too. Every chapter includes a Works Cited list showing the research the authors did to substantiate their ideas.
I find this book to be quite relevant to my students. I listed eight chapters that I'll be using in my classes next term. Some of the chapters included pop culture references, but they were all described and explained thoroughly so future readers or those who aren't familiar with the references will still understand the context. Most of the information included is relatively timeless and won't need a lot of updating; however, any updating that might be necessary would be easy for the authors to do.
For the most part, I found the content to be very clear, and many of the chapters had a friendly, conversational tone, which I think students will appreciate. Most chapters include stories and incorporate student work, quotes, and classroom examples that readers will be able to relate to easily. A found a couple of the chapters to be written a little bit over the heads of my students, so I won't be using those. One chapter, for example, mentions the name of a composition theory but doesn't go far enough to explain it so students understand the jargon and how to interpret it in the context of the chapter. This is an exception though. Most of the chapters are easy to read and understand.
The book is very consistent in terms of content, format, and topics. Readers will easily know what to expect from this book after reading just one chapter because all chapters are set up in a similar format with an introduction (which is often a personal narrative), section headings with detailed information/examples, a conclusion, discussion questions, and a Works Cited list.
Writing Spaces, Vol. II is easily divided up into separate chapters. Each chapter stands alone and doesn't refer back to other chapters. When a reader clicks on a chapter in the table of contents, s/he is taken to a PDF of the chapter that can be saved on the reader's computer or printed out if desired. The PDF has a URL, so it can be hyperlinked in other course materials. Each chapter has headings and subheadings that make the texts easy to skim to find relevant information.
The book seems to be organized starting with broad topics like "Ten Ways To Think about Writing" and "How To Read like a Writer" and then moving into more specific topics like "Introduction to Primary Research" and "Annoying Ways People Use Sources." However, that logic doesn't always hold since Chapter 18 is called "The Sixth Paragraph: A Re-Vision of the Essay," which provides a broad and deep examination of what an essay is, where it came from, and different ways to approach essay writing. I'm not sure the order matters all that much since the titles make it clear what easy chapter will discuss and each chapter can stand alone.
The interface was great for the most part. However, two of the chapters' links were dead: chapters 3 and 21. Everything else looked and worked perfectly.
The book's grammar and layout were accurate and professional.
I noticed that the book does a good job of using both male and female pronouns and names from various cultures. The only slightly specific cultural reference that it's possible some readers might not know is an example that uses Jello as a metaphor. It talks about the difference between the plain Jello at the hospital versus the Jello that relatives make with fruit in it. I'd consider this a small issue since most Americans have at least heard of and seen Jello. However, readers from other cultures may be confused by this. Overall, I was impressed by the breadth of examples and metaphors used in a culturally aware way.
I really appreciated the overall depth and tone of the writing in this book. I'm looking forward to trying it out with my students to see how they like it.
This text seemed like a general overview of first year composition and with the exception of the chapters on research, the chapters are simply too broad for the discipline. It’s almost like each chapter is missing the second half. For example,... read more
This text seemed like a general overview of first year composition and with the exception of the chapters on research, the chapters are simply too broad for the discipline. It’s almost like each chapter is missing the second half. For example, Chapter 6 contains such a rich discussion of rhetoric, but fails to adequately focus the discussion on students writing for academic audiences.
Most the information in this text is accurate—a couple of the sections are a little biased but I actually think that works well considering the context. The author’s take great pains to discuss their own experiences with student writing and often, that is naturally bias but also makes the content a little more accessible to students.
The textbook certainly has the possibility for longevity, but revision would be so daunting since each chapter is written by a different author using their experiences in the classroom to help make their point. Making changes, unless only small, would almost require different classroom experiences and take quite a bit of work.
This book is clear and the personal nature of the author’s experiences with students creates an easy accessible style of prose.
The content in each chapter does match the content in other chapters, but the poor placement of the chapters only makes that consistency accessible if one were to really dig. It should be easy for students to match concepts from one chapter to the other.
The real gems of this text are the chapters regarding research (10, 12-16). Those are put together into a “chunk” that makes sense, but that is the only real obvious unit. The rest of the chapters are scattered and the research information doesn’t outweigh the lack of other workable units, which makes it unlikely that a lot of instructors will adopt it. There is no clear direct logic for laying out the chapters in the order the editors do (with the exception of the research chapters).
See discussion on Modularity and Consistency.
My only complaint here is that the footnotes in the chapters do not appear on the page in which the number first appears. A lot of them are not discussed until the en of the chapter and by then the odds are pretty low that students are going to return to the number to figure out what the footnote is referring to.
I would hope that a textbook about college writing would be free of grammatical errors and, thankfully, this one is.
This book is indeed accessible for a universal audience of first year writing students. In fact, the content is so neutral, there is little possibility for offending anyone, which, in my opinion is exactly what a writing textbook should do. The one chapter in which issues of race and gender are discussed (Looking for Trouble…) is well executed and the author frames the experience in such a personal context, that the reader doesn’t feel led.
Readings cover a wide range of topics that are essential for an introductory composition course, including audience, voice, critical thinking, critical reading, invention, research, and assessing sources. There was some overlap in readings, with... read more
Readings cover a wide range of topics that are essential for an introductory composition course, including audience, voice, critical thinking, critical reading, invention, research, and assessing sources. There was some overlap in readings, with several readings covering the same topics. Overall, the essays on research strategies, assessing sources, and documentation were much stronger than the essays about the writing process. Rather than a primary text, I would assume most instructors would use this book in addition to a grammar handbook and other more challenging academic readings. At times, it seemed the audience was not adequately taken into account. For example, “Composition as a Write of Passage” discussed the goals and outcomes of an introductory writing course, and then included an example assignment that the author uses in her classes, which seemed much more suited for an audience of writing instructors than students. Chapter 11, which covered ethnographic writing, was interesting to me since my students write an ethnography paper in my introductory writing course, but would not likely be a useful reading for students in writing classes that are not engaging in ethnographic writing. A table of contents is included, though the essays don’t appear to be organized in any logical pattern.
The essays appeared to be carefully edited and displayed no errors in grammar or punctuation.
There were several essays with contemporary cultural references (President Obama, the Iraq War, and TV shows like CSI and 48 Hours) that may become dated after several years. Otherwise, the content presented should be relatively timeless.
The overall tone of the essays felt a bit on the informal, conversational side, some of which felt more appropriate for high school students than college students. If anything, it was almost too accessible, falling somewhat below the range of what I would expect college students to be reading. This could have been balanced by including several more academic selections. In some of the readings, there was a tendency to use initialisms (e.g. “FYC” for first-year composition or “RLW” for read like a writer) that seemed unnecessary.
The text seemed consistent with the framework.
Each chapter was a single essay and capable of standing alone. Chapters could also easily be assigned in any order, with an instructor choosing to use only some of the essays.
The book did not appear to have a very clear organizational structure. It would seem to make sense to cluster essays on the writing process together, placing research and documentation in another section, but the essays seemed to be in somewhat random order.
Chapter 3, “Critical Thinking in College Writing: From the Personal to the Academic” and Chapter 21, “Beyond Black on White: Document Design and Formatting in the Writing Classroom” both displayed a “page not found” error message and were not able to be accessed. In Chapter 7, “The Complexity of Simplicity: Invention Potentials for Writing Students,” there were a few fuzzy, barely discernible images that didn’t have any clear relation to the text. For example, one image included a recipe for tattoo ink, but the text was discussing the invention process and how students should determine what topics they should address in their writing. Another strange image that appeared to be a brick wall with flyers saying “Done” was surrounded by the words “brick flyers” and “phosphorus,” again bearing no relation to the surrounding text. Other images had text that was fuzzy and too small, making the text illegible.
There were no grammatical errors.
There were no clear examples of cultural diversity in the text. This could be improved.
This book follows well with the areas I outline within my first year writing course. There are essays which correspond to all of the major topics that I cover each semester. There are also essays which inspire new, appropriate subjects to include... read more
This book follows well with the areas I outline within my first year writing course. There are essays which correspond to all of the major topics that I cover each semester. There are also essays which inspire new, appropriate subjects to include surrounding technology and multimodal compositions.
I did not find any errors or biases in this text.
I can imagine that the technology in this text will need to be reevaluated at some point, but the references to research, Google, and blogging seem to be fairly stable technologies used by our students at this time.
I feel that the jargon used in most of these essays is designed with the students in mind. The questions that the article pose and answer help to make this content accessible for the students who need it.
I found that the articles had overlap in subject and terms, but that consistency of framework shifts among the essays. I appreciated the diversity of topics and information.
This text would be easily divisible. The overlap among topics would make this a simple task, and I appreciate that I would be able to personalize the reading schedule within my own course curriculum.
I felt that some of the articles could be rearranged for better flow from one essay to the next; however, I do not know that this impact the clarity or logic of the text.
I wish that the images were in color, especially within this platform, but they all appear crisp and readable. I did not encounter navigation issues.
I did not find any grammatical errors within this text.
I saw a wide range of cultural topics within the readings, and felt that the information was presented in such a way as to prompt critical dialogue within the classroom. The discussion questions at the end of each essay were also helpful ways for students to join the conversation.
I plan to use many of these essays as supplemental readings in my First-Year Composition course next semester.
Table of Contents
- Chapter 1: Ten Ways To Think About Writing: Metaphoric Musings for College Writing Students
- Chapter 2: Composition as a Write of Passage
- Chapter 3: Critical Thinking in College Writing: From the Personal to the Academic
- Chapter 4: Looking for Trouble: Finding Your Way into a Writing Assignment
- Chapter 5: How to Read Like a Writer
- Chapter 6: Murder! (Rhetorically Speaking)
- Chapter 7: The Complexity of Simplicity: Invention Potentials for Writing Students
- Chapter 8: Writing “Eyeball To Eyeball”: Building A Successful Collaboration
- Chapter 9: On the Other Hand: The Role of Antithetical Writing in First Year Composition Courses
- Chapter 10: Introduction to Primary Research: Observations, Surveys, and Interviews
- Chapter 11: Putting Ethnographic Writing in Context
- Chapter 12: Walk, Talk, Cook, Eat: A Guide to Using Sources
- Chapter 13: Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources
- Chapter 14: Googlepedia: Turning Information Behaviors into Research Skills
- Chapter 15: Annoying Ways People Use Sources
- Chapter 16: Everything Changes, or Why MLA Isn't (Always) Right
- Chapter 17: Storytelling, Narration, and the “Who I Am” Story
- Chapter 18: The Sixth Paragraph: A Re-Vision of the Essay
- Chapter 19: Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web
- Chapter 20: A Student's Guide to Collaborative Writing Technologies
- Chapter 21: Beyond Black on White: Document Design and Formatting in the Writing Classroom
About the Book
Volumes in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing offer multiple perspectives on a wide-range of topics about writing. In each chapter, authors present their unique views, insights, and strategies for writing by addressing the undergraduate reader directly. Drawing on their own experiences, these teachers-as-writers invite students to join in the larger conversation about the craft of writing. Consequently, each essay functions as a standalone text that can easily complement other selected readings in writing or writing-intensive courses across the disciplines at any level.
Volume 2 continues the tradition of the previous volume with topics, such as the rhetorical situation, collaboration, documentation styles, weblogs, invention, writing assignment interpretation, reading critically, information literacy, ethnography, interviewing, argument, document design, and source integration.
About the Contributors
Dr. Charlie Lowe is an assistant professor in the Department of Writing at Grand Valley State University where he teaches first year composition, professional writing, and web design, and he is a strong advocate of open source software adoption and open access publishing.
Dr. Pavel Zemliansky is an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the School of Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication at James Madison University where he teaches courses in composition, rhetoric, and professional communication.