writing is supposed to consist of big, boring words.
Some Students' Reasoning: Academic discourse is hard to
read, and half of the time when I am writing it, I don't even
know what I'm saying, but I still get a B. Thus, "It's the
stuffy b.s. we use to impress profs."
Some Professors' Reply: Academic writing represents the
use of rigorous logic and the specialized terms of experts.
Tackle the problem directly. As Al DiChiara admits, "a
stilted, ponderous writing style has become an unwanted hallmark
of sociology . . . . [and] perhaps in other disciplines as well."
Also admit that, as students learn to write in an academic style,
they have to engage in a bluff because they still are struggling
to understand its logic, its conventions, and its specialized
terms. However, add next that academic writing is not only a matter
Ask students to practice what Peter Elbow terms "discursive
variation." For example, when Computer Science students are
asked to apply "the concept of downward compatibility"
to "specific operating system versions," they first
are asked to explain this concept "in [their] own words."
When Candance Clements asks her Art History students to analyze
a painting using terms like value, rhythm, and texture, it might
be useful to ask students to define each term in their own words
and to consider why these specialized terms exist at all. Soon
that "stuffy b.s." will be reconceived, as a former
student stated, to be "a more convenient, more accurate language."
MINIMUM CLASS TIME: 15-30 minutes