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Matthew Wilson

University of California, Santa Barbara


9 June, 2017

Dear Matt,

I had touched on the idea of academic reading and writing in previous quarters this year,
but this class really helped me distinguish the difference between college writing and what I
learned in high school. Like most college classes, the material for this class was dense and at
times confusing, because I was introduced to foreign and more abstract concepts. Genre analysis
was completely new to me, and from the readings and writing projects, I now have a firmer grasp
on the function of genres. I learned how to analyze a piece of writing from the authors intended
purpose and target audience, improving my skills of rhetorical analysis.

Working on back to back pieces of writing placed on me a new type of pressure that was
also new to me, and though at times it made me despise writing, it was helpful for me to see
where my biggest writing flaws were and how to fix them. As I reflect on my journey as a writer
through this class, I learned how to more effectively write first drafts, value quality of writing
over unnecessarily added fluff, and improve on developing a well thought out thesis.

I learned from this class that good writing really takes patience and through editing and
changing. From the reading Shitty First Drafts, I learned not to scrutinize my essay as I wrote the
first draft, but to let information flow through my mind and jot down the ideas before going back
and revising them and giving them cohesion and structure. This contrasts greatly with the
methods I utilized in high school, where I used to spend hours on my first draft over word choice
and sentence structure, then barely revise it afterwards. Though I got by in high school, I realized
that college has higher standards and I had to put in more effort to use critical thinking to
organize ideas into a quality paper. From Simplicity by William Zinsser, I learned to eliminate
redundancies and delete irrelevant filler words. My essays always contained a lot of fluff, and
unnecessary wordiness that detracted from the main points of the paper and ultimately confused
readers. I used to think that sounding fancy resulted in more intelligent and better writing, which
resulted in me diluting my ideas with excessive amounts of (for lack of a better word) bullshit.
Zinssers paper taught me that good writing doesnt attempt to bury the argument and its main
points under extraneous fluff and sophisticated vocabulary.

Perhaps most important lesson I learned was that writing and developing a competent
thesis is actually very difficult. Unfortunately, I did not realize this until I started to edit my
previous pieces for the final portfolio. In WP1 I tried to use the problem and stasis model to
introduce my thesis but I ended up clouding and diluting my thesis, developing it more in the
concluding paragraph. In WP2, my thesis was very bland and didnt provide an actual argument.
Because the thesis model taught to me in high school was basically to reiterate the teachers
prompt and make a statement, in wp2 I fell back into my old habits, where I didnt really have an
actual argument and instead just compared the conventions of each academic discipline. This
made my paper just a compare and contrast essay, with no real problem or purpose.

Not only did this course help me realize the steps I needed to take to become a better writer, I
also learned how to be a better analytical reader. Bunns Reading Like a Writer gave me tips to
more effectively read dense academic writing, and smoothed my transition from high school to
college level readings. Before this course, I would spend hours reading documents assigned by
professors, pouring over each individual sentence and in the end not even understanding the
main point of the scholarly article. I chose 3 academic peer review journals (2 for wp2 and 1 for
wp3) and effectively applied the methods I learned for easier reading. I also found it easier in the
other classes to read dense academic texts by using the methods from the reading.

WP3 was the work I was most proud of, but at the same time it was the most difficult to
improve upon. Admittedly, I did not edit my translated work much, but the metacognitive
analysis was severely revised. I used your comments and advice from my peers to effectively
state my purpose in translating a scientific journal entry into a short horror story I later posted on
the Reddit r/nosleep thread. My intention to post the story online was to actually be a part of the
community and see how nosleep readers would respond. In the metacognitive reflection, I more
clearly stated the purpose of my translation and better identified the audience of my translation. I
also made more directly references to the scientific study in my translation, and pointed them out
in my reflection. I used

WP2 was my worst writing project, because there was not argumentative thesis and the
overall paper was just an analysis of discipline conventions, but there was no bridge between the
conventions. In this revision, I significantly took your comments in to consideration and went
back to the drawing board to re-establish the base of my essay by rethinking my thesis. From
there, I built up an argument that was opinionated and debatable, and developed my points using
evidence of conventions and they purpose they serve to each disciplines audience. My peers
advice regarding how to clean up my essay by cutting down on redundancies and unneeded fluff
combined with Zinssers Simplicity also helped my polish this essay to more clearly show the
relationship between the two disciplines. If I had more time and allotted page count, I would
probably add more evidence and analysis of conventions that I didnt mention. However, I am
still very satisfied at this edit, and it showcases my progress as writer. I utilized concise language
to convey a new and improved thesis to present a better paper full of the various aspects of genre
analysis that I have been practicing this whole quarter.

Overall, this course has taught me new aspects of writing and changed my perspective on
what is good writing and what is a mere dilution of writing. Through my growth as a writer, I
have also become a better reader. Writing 2 forced me to operate on a very tight schedule, as I
had to pump out drafts and edits every week, something I have never had to do before. However,
this forced me to constantly think about how I could improve. I also greatly appreciated the
brutally honest, specific, and concise comments you gave me regarding my writing projects.
These comments really helped me realize the flaws in my writing and see my drafts in a more
critical way. Thank you for all your help guidance these last 10 weeks, and thank you for helping
me with the tools to be an improved writer.
Sincerely,
Jennifer Ding