College Composition Weekly: Summaries of research for college writing professionals

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How I Select Articles

The Selection and Summary Process at CCW

Kenneth Burke told the world long ago that every selection is a de-selection, and I’d venture to guess that no one knows this better than a composition scholar. For the express purpose of holding in check the tendency toward de-selection, CCW invites interaction. Here are some of the issues I foresee and ideas for how to maximize the inclusiveness of the site:

Article Selection: I had originally set myself a goal of one substantive summary a week, but have tended to average one every two weeks (retirement means MORE writing projects, I’ve found out). This plan obviously won’t allow me to include every article of interest. My choices will probably be governed by three factors:

  • The possibility that in some journals, some articles are considered “major” or “lead.” This won’t be true in every case, and even where it seems true, the distinction can be fairly arbitrary. But what this possibility means in practice is that I will focus on sustained arguments and discussions rather than exchanges or other, shorter pieces (although of course such briefer contributions might cohere into substantive topics themselves).
  • My own interests. I will work to prevent personal bias from being a major driver of my choices, but we all know that we come to reading with buttons that zing a little more loudly when pressed by some stimuli than others. Choosing the first, or “lead” article in each issue will somewhat ameliorate this factor.
  • What seems under-represented. As CCW builds a base, it will be possible to spot exclusions and to remedy them.

Safeguards: Readers will be able to interact with the site to remedy this selection bias: They can point out trends and exclusions in the article selections and suggest adjustments, and they can post their own summaries of articles that have been left out.

Selection Inherent in the Summary Process Itself. It goes without saying that a summarizer both consciously and unconsciously chooses what to include and leave out. It’s also axiomatic that the situated visions of different readers and hence summarizers will lead to different readings and perhaps lead some readers to see those different interpretations as misreadings. My goal is to present what I thought I read as neutrally and accurately as I can. Inevitably, readers will see things I missed and understand points and claims differently from the way I understood them. I consider this part of the process.

Safeguards: Readers can challenge, expand on, and even repost their own versions of articles included on the site. The comment section is specifically intended to invite such discussion. I would be delighted with a lively interchange about whether I completely missed the point made by Author A or Authors B and C.

A Final Caveat

In my experience, scholarly discussion among composition professionals is almost always thoughtful and civil. But it is possible that problems may arise. I know, for example, that spam can plague sites (“It’s true! My brother-in-law made $50,000 a week working at home!”). WordPress, the host of this site, has a spam detector that I hope will eliminate the most troublesome intrusions of this sort. In general I have faith in the ability of composition professionals to address other kinds of inappropriate or problematic exchanges in constructive ways. I would like this site to welcome a large range of views, even unpopular ones, as long as they adhere to what I consider basic scholarly standards: respectful representation of others and a willingness to consider alternative points of view.

But to be on the safe side, I do reserve the right to moderate comments. If unanticipated problems arise, I may consult readers to determine optimal solutions. I will be grateful for readers’ goodwill and help.

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