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Martin

Dear Dr. Malcolm Campbell,


I have always loved reading. Being able to experience different worlds and emotions
without consequence is a privilege and a blessing. Through markings on a page, readers are
taught to see the world through another persons perspective and knowledge is shared. I have
always loved reading, yet been intimidated by writing. University Writing has made writing not
only manageable, but a privilege, just like reading. Assignments including our blog posts and the
flash writings in our daybooks are the primary cause of this, but the Student Learning Outcomes,
topic proposal, extended inquiry project (EIP), and ePortfolio have also helped me grow as a
writer.
Writings are a record of human progress, on a societal and personal scale. I love going
back through things I wrote in elementary, middle and high school to see not only how my
grammar has improved, but also how my ideas have become more complex. While I didnt
anticipate a semester of writing to be enough time to cause great change, I see progression from
my writing in August to now. One of the most obvious places I see this is in my blog. Early in
the semester, it took me a long time to write blog posts. They each started basically the same
with an introduction of the type of piece and the author/speaker. It wasnt until September 22
(Dude. I wrecked my car. High five.) when I posted my first blog post without an assignment
dictating what I wrote that this started to change. After that point, a smattering of my posts still
reflected the formulaic style I followed towards the beginning of the semester, but this became
less and less frequent until it stopped altogether following my post on October 26 (Why 30 is not
the new 20). This was not a conscious decision, but rather a result of me becoming more
comfortable in these informal writings and focusing more on my own conclusions rather than
those outlined in the pieces I was responding to.

Martin

Informal writings had the greatest impact on my confidence as a writer. One of our
assigned readings articulated my general fears of writing best in saying: As long as you have
not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good (Why Writers are the Worst
Procrastinators). Starting an assignment is always the hardest part of essay writing for me
because of this. I want so desperately to create something good, something Im proud of, that I
cant start. Ill sit down and rewrite the introductory sentence so often I could have written the
whole paper in the same amount of time. Informal writing, either through blog posts or flash
writings, taught me how to start essays: You just write and write and write until all of your
thoughts are articulated. Then it is only a matter of going back through to edit the paper into
sophisticated English. I used this method to write my annotated bibliography and the extended
inquiry project.
At the start of the semester, the Student Learning Outcomes acted as a guideline: I was
expected to learn rhetorical knowledge, critical reading, composing processes, knowledge of
conventions and reflective processes. Translating the outcomes was a beneficial activity because
it required that I understand the purpose of the class early on. Now as the close of the semester
approaches, I see that this list is also a record of my progress through this class. I have learned to
use and identify each of these outcomes.
I learned rhetorical knowledge through informal writing. In daily flash writings, I wrote
in several different genres which I then had to identify at the end of the semester for my
ePortfolio. These genres included questioning, creative, analytical, and reflective writing. I used
different tones between each of these categories of writing. The tones I used between different
formal writings also varied. In writing my topic proposal, I used casual language in comparison
to the final draft of my extended inquiry project.

Martin

The extended inquiry project was the most important thing I wrote this semester. Not
only did it carry the highest grade weight, it was also proof of my growth as a writer. It was the
accumulation of several assignments starting with an interest inventory and ending with a ninepage paper arguing in favor of the creation of international laws to regulate bioengineering. I
think a large part of why this paper proved so important to me is because I enjoyed my topic of
inquiry. I found it to be a worthwhile cause to explore because I could see its importance to
humanity as a whole.
Just because I enjoyed the topic and found great benefit from the process of constructing
this paper does not mean I found the assignment easy. When I first started the first draft, I used
my newly found technique of speed writing to get words out before editing. I created something I
thought I was proud of; looking back on it, I want to laugh. I remember that as I wrote the first
draft I was thinking about the tones of other authors I had read recently like the author of an
article we read in class about social media. Those authors sounded jovial in their expression of
facts. Rather than create my own style of writing, I tried to mimic theirs. I soon realized my
writing sounded forced and wasnt progressing how I wanted it to. In art classes in high school, I
used to face a similar problem. I would want to settle on the first idea I came up with rather than
engage in further exploration. Then, my teacher would push me to keep thinking. This was also
the case in writing the first draft of my paper when I sent requests for help to my peers and to
you. I sent you the following email: As I have been working through my EIP, I have found that
I am addressing the audience directly and overall writing less formally than I ever have for an
academic essay. Here is an example of the informal tone I am talking about that I have
adopted in my paper: Do I have your attention yet? Because what I am about to discuss with you
has global implications. Bioengineering... to which you responded that I should avoid drawing

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a readers attention to the reading experience. I had asked my peers prior to sending this email
how they felt about my use of a foreword in my essay informing that some of my sources were
dated. They told me in similar words they didnt think it was necessary and in fact that it took
away from the reading experience. I listened to your advice and the advice of my peers by
starting my first draft over. The first draft I submitted for grading was the result. I have learned
that in writing you need to be just as flexible as in art: how you start may not be your best work.
You must therefore be willing to explore new angles. Taking new angles is a demonstration of
composing processes, or finishing a piece, even through circuitous or indirect means. Starting
over was one way I remained flexible in my writing.
I also remained flexible in that in writing both the first and final drafts of my EIP, I did
not write from beginning to end. Instead, I would write an idea then insert it where it made the
most sense in my paper. I thought this would make my writing difficult to follow, so I made a
margin outline between my first and final drafts. I was pleased with the path of my margin
outline, but saw ways the flow of my paper could be further improved. The first full paragraph
on page three of my final EIP paper demonstrates an area where I rearranged information to
improve the progression of my paper.
I am glad I made my first draft of the EIP over seven pages long. When I went back to
write my final draft, the only new paragraph I wrote was a conclusion because I didnt have one
before. I was able to surpass the page requirement of the assignment just by reading through
what I had already written and expanding on what wasnt clear.
One thing I struggled with throughout the semester was integrating quotes. By the final
draft of my EIP, I had a better grasp of how and when to do this. For example, I was reading a
National Geographic Magazine one day for fun when I came across an article entitled DNA

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Revolution. In this article, they reported advances in bioengineering, including research on


golden rice. Golden rice is a subject I had already explored in my paper using a different source.
Reading the National Geographic article introduced me to another voice discussing the
advancement of this research. I integrated what this author said as further evidence in my paper. I
did not just paraphrase the information listed as I did in my first draft, but also introduced the
author. Improving my ability to integrate quotes is an example of knowledge of conventions.
Learning to make connections between sources was one of the most important things I learned to
do as a result of research for my EIP.
The topic proposal was a difficult assignment because it was difficult for me to decide on
a topic. I wanted to explore something that held great importance to humanity at large and
related to my field of study. I have long been interested in medical advances, especially in
regards to the creation of human organs using stem cells, so bioengineering ended up being a
logical area for me to study. I was hesitant to declare bioengineering as my topic despite my
interest in it. I thought: Ive already researched this topic on my own time. Surely I cant
explore it further, especially for an assignment? I could and I did. The topic proposal showed
me I could write academic essays about topics special to me, even if they didnt apply to my
field of study. The topic proposal was a reflective process as I explored what interests me and
discovered there are no limitations on what I can explore through writing. After deciding on a
topic, the proposal proved straight forward.
I learned through blog posts and flash writings that the key to starting a written
assignment is to just write. It was actually a flash writing on the annotated bibliography that led
me to this epiphany. The evening before the class with this flash write, I worked tirelessly to
produce a single annotation. In fifteen minutes in class, I produced the same amount of work. For

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my following two annotations, I quickly wrote down what was important then took another
sitting to edit the results. The annotated bibliography assignment was especially helpful to me as
a writer and even as a thinker because, like the blog posts, it pushed me to analyze rather than
summarize sources. To complete this assignment, I utilized critical reading and reflective
processes. I looked deeply not only at what was written in the articles I explored, but also at how
the ideas expressed related to my topic as a whole. I analyzed the articles for content and
credibility then reflected on my findings in my annotated bibliography.
The peer review process proved the most helpful in editing my topic proposal, likely
because this was the first assignment we peer reviewed and everyone was less overwhelmed with
other classes at the start of the semester. I always appreciate comments I receive on my writing;
in this course, I wish I had received more. One suggestion I have for this class moving forward
would be to have a graded peer review assignment outside the ePortfolio. Maybe I left too many
comments on the works of others; maybe, instead of providing helpful suggestions like I thought
I was, I was trying to make their writing more like my own. It would have been helpful to know
if the peer review I left on others work was appropriate. This would also be helpful the other
way around. If those in my group had a stronger extrinsic motivator, maybe I would have
received more comments.
The ePortfolio has been an important assignment to emphasize reflection. I see not only
my progress as a writer in the compilation of my works in the ePortfolio, but I am also drawn
back to the emotional reactions I had to each assignment through my daybook entries.
Completing this ePortfolio has shown me how my writing and thinking has progressed since the
start of this semester.
My greatest take away from this class is an ability to start new assignments. Starting

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essays has long been the greatest difficulty in my writing. Through informal writings, I learned
the best way to start something is to just sit down and do it. I learned many tools for approaching
long research projects, including through an annotated bibliography to help me analyze and think
on sources. Thank you Dr. Campbell for teaching me these skills. Thank you also for a
wonderful semester full of exploration and growth.
Melissa Martin