Archive | February, 2012

Academic writing

13 Feb

Materials that present academic knowledge have a formality that drives the information being presented in the direction that the author wants it to go. The authors of textbooks and various academic materials are usually people with advanced educations and experience within the field they are discussing, which gives them status/authority, a reason for people to believe them. An authoritative tone paired with an exciting concept or a logical direction of thought can automatically instill a measure of faith in the reader. References to other sources of knowledge, such as other books or articles written by other highly educated people, will also establish an author’s ethos. Because of these things, we as readers tend to take the information as fact.

Spurious Coin offers some perspectives that challenge readers to see the craft(s) of academic writing—that there is a good side and bad side. Most of what we’ve read so far shows that often in times past, people used authority in language to convey knowledge. In other words, those who were considered superior supposedly had all the facts and acted as mediators between their subordinates and knowledge. For example, a teacher had a position of authority by having the only book because the students could only listen to what the teacher said and not be able to see the text for themselves (47). Situations like those of the past allowed temptation for scholarly people to manipulate the minds of the less educated through art of language. Conditions have improved over the centuries, and an emphasis has shifted more toward science rather than social hierarchy as a basis for knowledge, but manipulation still exists.

I’ve noticed that—in many of my psychology books, especially—when writers don’t have supporting information to back up their claims, they will themselves create means of justification in order to maintain their credibility. Even if the information turns out to be true, they’re still using a dishonest approach.

Academic writing involves some measure of persuasion to convince the reader of what is being presented or explained, and good writers use it well to support facts. However, where facts are not grounded or are simply not there, people sometimes go overboard with persuasion, attempting to promote themselves or potentially false information, sadly, undermining the craftsmanship of academic writing. So, although academic writing generally is structured to present truth, it’s always important to double check the content.

Audience analysis

2 Feb

A professional writer’s purpose is to convey useful information, and part of doing that successfully involves having some level of knowledge and understanding regarding the audience. Being able to relate to the audience is practically the point of communicating. If your work doesn’t relate to your audience or meet their needs, they can easily develop negative feelings toward themselves or you, which would defeat your purpose.

In my creative writing class over the summer, I wrote a short creative nonfiction story about some bizarre experiences as a student at Auburn University. The story worked well for my class because, as Auburn students, everyone understood the significant details of the story. To make the story relatable to people unfamiliar with the Auburn community, however, I would need to do a lot more explaining. Everyone is not familiar with Auburn University, or the traditions, or football. So, a story that’s woven together by those things would probably make some feel uninterested or left out—definitely not the goal of writing.

Yesterday, our ethnography group found that among the Starbucks customers we surveyed, there were several different reasons for visiting and leaving Starbucks. Most people came to get coffee and go to class, to study, etc. Others came to get coffee and sit somewhere nearby to study or socialize. One person came specifically to socialize. It was interesting to see how at first, I just saw the people as Starbucks customers. Then they became individuals with different coffee preferences, different schedules, and different personalities. It gave a slightly different perspective to audience analysis and probably had something to do with the feeling-like-a-creep thing.

One time I read something about a writer compared to a serial stalker/killer. I don’t remember what I was reading or who wrote it, but it was really funny at the time. Now I think it’s creepy because it actually kind of makes sense. The story described a creative writer’s tendency to carefully watch people everywhere he went to gain inspiration, to know his audience. The audience is basically the reason for writing. So if you don’t know them, then you might just have to (sort of) creep on them to find out more.