When you write, you’re acting and composing within a set of parameters: you, the writer, have both an assignment and a reader who will respond to it. This set up provides a triangle of sorts: in the field of writing, we call it the rhetorical situation, in which any writer with a purpose, an audience, and a text can decide strategies and techniques to use.
Most students coming to Stetson are familiar with the idea that a writing assignment is expected to let you speak your mind or to fulfill some expectation or other: Did you do the reading? Did you understand the reading? What did you think about the reading? In high school, the instructor may well have been interested primarily in your completion of the task. Here at Stetson, we want you to show us how you’re thinking about the subject matter.
As a part of the academic community, you are now a participant in a tradition of thinking that goes back centuries, and as part of that tradition, your responsibility to the world of the idea is much greater. Your writing has significance in college; it has a place and a relevance that it may not have had before. You are now a contributor, not a passive observer or regurgitator of facts. The challenge may be substantial as you grow in your abilities to express what you’re thinking in a way that’s interesting and relevant to your audience.
It may be helpful to realize that incoming students demonstrate very specific characteristics in their writing. This table’s left hand column represents some of the most common perceptions about writing for students who join us in their first year. The right hand column includes some of the same perceptions from writers in their senior year.
|Entering College Writers||Experienced College Writers|
|Think of writing as a task to get done||Think of writing as an intellectual challenge|
|Tend to see ideas as separate||Tend to look for relationships between ideas|
|Generally focus more on editing surface elements like punctuation and grammar||Generally focus more on deeper issues of relevance, development, and support|
|Often see instructor's suggestions for revision as reminders||Tend to see instructor's suggestions as prompts to continue thinking about a concept|
One note of caution: learning and retaining all the skills it takes to move from “entering college writer” to “experienced college writer” is not easy. It generally takes time and effort for the course of your college career, and, if your courses do not require a lot of writing, you may not develop as much as you’d like to. Seeking out opportunities to improve your writing will pay off well in the end.