integrating “personal” and textual sources

I was thinking: When we require students — as we do here in WR 121 — to write a paper which integrates two textual sources and one personal source, isn’t that actually a more difficult assignment than had we required them to integrate three textual sources? In other words, doesn’t adding personal experience/knowledge to the mix require the student to do a better job of organizing, focusing, and cohering?  Hasn’t it got to be harder to integrate two different types of sources than only one type — the more diverse the sources the more skill require to integrate them into one rhetorical act?  Or maybe not?  Or does it depend more on the sources themselves and the aim of the essay?  Anyway, just a thought.

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4 thoughts on “integrating “personal” and textual sources

  1. I agree that it’s harder for them to integrate a personal source and one or more textual sources in one paper. My 102 students are struggling with that right now. One part of the problem is that some of them have never integrated a textual source because they’ve written only personal papers in 101. I ask them to integrate textual sources in 101, but some of my colleagues consider the “self” to be a “text,” so they don’t ask for more academic sources at all. I have one student, as an example, who writes fine expressive, descriptive papers and who did well in 101 with a teacher who asked only for narrative, personal type writing, but who is frustrated that she’s struggling with any kind of academic writing that she’s asked to do at this point. Anyway, I’ll write more about it on my site, so you can look there if you want more. You’ve got my wheels turning.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Shannon! This discussion is helping me fine-tune what I’m going to say in my paper.

    That’s a helpful distinction: that there are personal narratives and personal responses to a text. (What a great term — “tone spike”!) So maybe a good English 75 sequence would be 1) personal narrative, 2) personal response to text, 3) integration of textual and personal sources, and finally 4) some form of traditional academic paper (research paper, argument, etc). Or some sequence along those lines.

    Of course, that sequence could work for English 101 too, but I would hope that by then the first two could be skipped.

    Now, in all of this, I want to be careful not to devalue personal writing as a genre or to suggest that personal writing is always easier than traditional academic writing. At advanced levels, personal writing can be a much more difficult genre, of course. But when it comes to first-year college writers, we’re mainly talking about writers who will find it easier to integrate their own experience and opinions than to integrate others’ opinions and arguments. So it does make sense, doesn’t it, to start students out with at least one paper in which they practice the vital basics – i.e., focus, organization, development — before moving on to working with sources?

    Of course, another trick is that when you are teaching English 102, you are dealing with students who have come from various other courses with various other emphases. So it’s hard to figure out where to start with them. Some will be ready and experienced integrating sources, some won’t have done it at all yet.

    More later. Thanks again, Shannon!

    [This response is cross-posted on Shannon’s blog http://shannonhopkins.wordpress.com/2007/11/19/academic-versus-personal-writing-ii/%5D

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