Friday, June 1, 2012

A Well-Instructed Desire: Writing Majors and Research as Citation Conventions

Last night I posted a Facebook status that came out of the chapter I'm currently drafting for my dissertation. I felt the need to clarify it a bit. The chapter I'm in the midst of writing is based on my interviews with, and surveys of, undergraduate writing majors at two institutions. It's remarkable the way citation and procedural concerns (attention to issues of form and format) define their definitions of "research." By saying that "students are not born wanting to use perfect MLA format" (the comment I posted last night), I mean that their anxiety and concern about conventions indicate that (even if they--or I?--don't always achieve flawless execution) they sure do know it's supposed to be on their radars. All of which suggests to me a well-instructed desire--not an innate desire--that reveals something about what students pick up from teachers regarding our communicated values. In other words, I think students want to give teachers what we tell them we want: papers that look pretty.