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Ali Valerio
Dr. Galbreath
ENC 3502
24 September 2015

Archival Analysis: Evolution of the Composing Process

The artifact that I am analyzing is called the Bulletin of the Board of Education, created
by the Massachusetts Department of Education. It was made in 1921 and discusses the teaching
of penmanship in schools. This textual resource is interesting because it involves writing
processes, but those processes look quite different today. Penmanship is not so much seen as a
valuable skill, but it is still a form of the composing process. This process and societys emphasis
on writing is constantly evolving.
I am looking to make meaning out of the interactions between students and this type of
composing process with which they engaged in the 1920s. I am also looking to study the
interactions between teachers and students when teachers created strategies and practices for
teaching this process. This connects well to my interpretive strand of methodology, which says
that meaning is constructed via the interaction between humans or between humans and
objects (17). This generates research questions such as: how does the composition process
change over time? How is the composition process impacted by technology? How does the
composition process (and the teaching of it) change with different student ages? How does
teaching the composition process change the process itself?
This research is evidently significant to writing and literacy studies. Janet Emig is a
composition scholar whose work analyzes a different kind of composing process. She focuses on

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the composing process of twelfth graders, where she makes a case for elements, moments, and
stages within the composing process which can be distinguished and characterized in some
detail (33). She devises a study in which twelfth graders attempt to verbalize their composing
process by composing aloud. She believes that composing aloud, a writers effort to externalize
his process of composing, somehow reflects, if not parallels, his actual inner process (40). She
also notes that composing aloud captures the behaviors of planning and writing (42).
Sondra Perl is another scholar who discusses the composing process. Like Emig, she
concentrates on students, but her area is in the composing process of college students who are
seen as unskilled. Perl also wonders whether writing processes can be analyzed in a systematic,
replicable manner (17). Her research design involves the development and use of a meaningful
and replicable method for rendering the composing process as a sequence of observable and
scorable behaviors (18). These distinct perspectives illustrate that composing processes can
appear dissimilar for students at different levels and in different social realities. This is supported
by my rhetorical artifact which analyzes composition processes in a very different way.
I thought that doing a rhetorical analysis of this artifact would be most beneficial for my
research interest. Understand the rhetorical situation of this particular text can best help me
further my research. The bulletin was created in 1921, and it discusses penmanship within the
education system. It provides aims for the teaching of penmanship, and divides the process into
several distinct elements for teachers to break down to their students. The list involves time
allotment, preparation in penmanship (position and penholding, movement, speed, and form),
blackboard practice, general preparation for teaching penmanship, special preparation for
teaching penmanship, and special preparation for supervising the teaching of penmanship. The

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text also includes outlines for teaching each grade, from first grade to junior high school. The
text ends with discussing scales that are used in measuring, rating, and correcting handwriting.
After engaging with rhetorical analysis and studying this textual artifact, Ive learned that
much of what can be said about the composing process is missing in this text. It is clear that
teachers place higher value on the physical act of penmanship than the writing that students are
producing. This raises questions about how content was perceived in relation to form during this
time period. The discourse matters now because the composing processes of students are
continuing to change. Students are typing on keyboards and looking at computer screens, rather
than gripping pens and following along with their words on the paper. The text doesnt address
the relationship between the composing process (penmanship) and what is actually being written.
Today, the composing process is still very important, but there is added emphasis on what is
being composed.
As the author of this discourse, my role is that of a student who maintains a personal
composing process, and is part of a larger institution of students with their composing processes.
My peers are involved in the studies that generate knowledge about evolving composing
processes, so they also have a hand in the creation of this discourse. Teachers and scholars are
primarily responsible for the initiation of this discourse. They are the ones who teach, study, and
analyze composition processes. They help to form new conclusions about how the composing
process changes, how it can be recorded, and what it looks like today among students. Since they
play such a large role in the forming the discourse, they are the audience for my research and the
ones who will be responding to these findings. Writing and Rhetoric scholars are most strongly
targeted, specifically those interested in composition studies. This is the sub-field within Writing
and Rhetoric which most closely relates to my current research interests.

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Works Cited
Emig, Janet. The Composing Processes of Twelfth Graders. Urbana: The National Council of
Teachers of English, 1971. Print.
Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy, and Patricia Leavy. The Practice of Qualitative Research.
Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2011. Print.
Massachusetts. Dept. of Education. Bulletin of the Board of Education. Boston: State Printers,
1912.
Perl, Sondra. The Composing Process of Unskilled College Writers. Research in the Teaching
of English 13.4 (1979): 317-36. Web. 10 September 2015.