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  • Preparing Graduate Students for Academic PublishingResults from a Study of Published Rhetoric and Composition Scholars
  • Jaclyn M. Wells (bio) and Lars Söderlund (bio)

Introduction: How Do Faculty Write?

This project began in casual conversations between two friends, former graduate student peers, grappling with the same basic question: how do faculty members in our field write? The conversation began after we learned that we had both recently read Paul Silvia's How to Write A Lot (2007). Hoping to kick-start our scholarly productivity, both of us had turned to this lighthearted self-help-style manual and tried much of Silvia's advice about forming writing groups, creating writing schedules, and recording time spent and words written to stay accountable. We sought Silvia's advice because we realized that even as professors we wanted to know more about academic writing and publishing than we had learned during our otherwise robust graduate educations. When we chatted about Silvia's book, we agreed that it and similar self-help books offered some solid tips but that much of the advice seemed superficial or irrelevant to our field and our experiences as faculty writers.

We begin by describing our casual conversations because we believe it matters that this project began in the behind-the-scenes way it did. With each other, we expressed embarrassment about our writing habits, anxiety about the review process, and a general sense that we really should know more, by this point, about how it all works. We agreed that our doctoral program had [End Page 131] provided exceptional instruction and mentoring in both writing and professionalization, yet some of the realities we faced as faculty members still took us by surprise. We stumbled onto our research question—how do faculty in our field write?—in this way because that question is not discussed openly very often, or at least not as openly or as often as we would like. Without those open discussions, faculty may believe that they, like us, are alone in their anxieties about how much more they should know about writing and publishing. Further, graduate students may hesitate to ask important questions about faculty writing and publishing, perhaps partly because they are unsure what to ask.

Research about faculty writing practices may open the dialogue, build greater knowledge about effective strategies, and ultimately improve graduate writing instruction and preparation for faculty careers. However, little research currently exists. In English studies, and in rhetoric and composition in particular, scholars examine the writing practices of students, professional and technical writers, and more, but we rarely turn our attention to faculty writers. Without that attention, we may lack information for graduate students trying to prepare for writing as faculty members.

To fill this gap in knowledge, we interviewed twenty rhetoric and composition scholars who have published in a variety of areas in the field and who currently work at a variety of institutions across the country.1 Our interviews focused on the "real story" behind faculty writing and academic publishing, with the goal of finding the all-too-often unspoken rules and realities that we may unintentionally leave out when we prepare graduate students for writing as faculty members. By investigating the practices and experiences of successful faculty writers, we hoped to unearth strategies for faculty writing and publishing, including the strategies faculty writers use to navigate the harsh realities of academic publishing and institutional requirements for obtaining jobs, tenure, and promotion. We argue that we may better prepare graduate students for faculty careers if we share with them the types of real experiences and strategies that we discovered in this study. In part, then, we see this article as one answer to the questions raised in the 2015 special issue of Pedagogy (see Cassuto 2015) about how we may better teach graduate students and prepare them for the current landscape of the academic profession. While we primarily seek to improve graduate writing instruction by sharing candid insider perspectives on faculty writing experiences, we also believe our findings may be useful to people like us, current faculty hoping to improve upon what they are already doing. And of course, such insight into the practices of successful faculty...


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pp. 131-156
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