So Much Great Research, So Little Time . . .
One of the joys of being a writing professional for 26 years–first as a graduate student, then as a faculty member at a regional campus of IU, and now in retirement–has been a chance to share in a wide-ranging, eclectic exploration of literacy: how it is gained, how people experience it in lived practice, how it can be used for social change, how it can be expanded. But as my immersion in both student writing and faculty life deepened, I came to know the feeling of receiving my new College English or Computers & Composition but all too quickly losing it under stacks of assessment reports, course proposals, committee minutes, and, of course, student drafts waiting for my review. Summers seemed taken up with administrative work, home repairs, and perhaps a paper focused on a particular personal interest. I began to sense that I was losing touch with what my colleagues were doing. The free-wheeling intellectual adventure that began when I read my first provocative journal article as a master’s candidate in 1988 seemed to have narrowed to a mantra of “I’ll get around to that later.” I know that not every teacher and composition scholar found him- or herself in this same spiral. But I know that many of my own local colleagues did.
Now one of the pleasures of being retired from actively teaching and running a writing program has been the ability to step back into that intellectual current. At the same time, now that I’m not teaching, how can I make this newfound freedom to read and research more than a hobby? Is there a way to use it to contribute to the field?
It occurred to me that there may be many snowed-under writing professionals out there who would welcome a practical, easy-to-access window on some of the challenging, even mind-bending, and always applicable work being done in the field. True, compositionists can skim the tables of contents of their journals, choosing what seems most relevant to them to read in depth–when they can make time. But what if, at a few minutes’ glance or two, readers could get a sense of trends and directions they might not have homed in on, or a better sense of the arguments and conclusions of articles they can’t get to yet? Hence, the CCW idea.
The CCW Idea
CCW provides summaries of articles from the composition scholarship, beginning with major sources like College English, CCC, Composition Studies, WPA Journal, Computers & Composition, and others. In addition, the site will sometimes include literacy research from areas on the periphery of composition per se, such as research on literacy acquisition published in journals like Reading and Writing Quarterly.
Summaries in CCW are not meant to replace scholarly reading in the journals, where the arguments are fully developed. The project goal for these summaries is to include more detail about methods and structure than the author-provided abstracts in some journals while simultaneously allowing busy readers to take in the concepts, premises, and contentions of the author(s). I hope that the summaries will fuel responses like “Wow, that’s a new idea I want to know more about,” and “That’s a fascinating conclusion–I want to know how these writers got there.” But there will be some readers who are just glad to have a glimpse of what people who share their intellectual goals are thinking and doing and saying. I hope the site will serve them as well.