Getting Your Head Around Academic Writing

In my own experience of teaching academic writing to undergraduate students in a number of creative practice disciplines (i.e. students who have a ‘practical’ component that is studio based) there seems to be a certain reluctance by the students to invest into writing in the same way as they do into subject specific skills.

This is actualy something I researched into further as part of my docotral thesis, which was all about the role of writing in undergraduate design education in the U. One of the findings was that students do not seem to see writing as a skill that needs to be practiced, but rather something almost instantenous: you write it and then it is done, so then you hand it in. The idea of re-writing bits, editing others out, going out to do a bit more research, overall all the preparation work and the honing of this as a skill – all things the students would do if the outcome is something studio based, whether thrown pot or animated film – is one that does not seem to occur to them, because they see it as removed from their practice.

As part of my PhD I introduced some assignments to students of Three Dimensional Design at Manchester Metropolitan University that were aiming to link their practice to written tasks, and were located in the studio rather than on the Contextual Studies/History of Art and Design side. These were not academic essays, but rather were meant to accumulate into a reflection on their practice, actual and aspirantional. Some details can be found in this case study written for the Writing PAD network.

Recently I have been thinking about exploring the idea of making in order to ‘get your head around’ more academic processes/research/writing a bit more – especially in the context of making artist’s books. More details about this project as it develops.

Thinking about this has made me realised that I have used little strategies like that in my own work (as a student and since then) to order thoughts or turn content into something more tangible (will probably post some examples on this blog in future categorised as ‘Alternative Presentations’).

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