Writing about Writing A College Reader

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  • Edition: 3rd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2016-12-16
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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A milestone in the field of composition, Writing about Writing continues to be the only textbook to provide an approach that makes writing studies the center of the introductory writing course. Based on Wardle and Downs’s research and organized around major threshold concepts of writing, this groundbreaking book empowers students in all majors by showing them how to draw on what they know and engage with ongoing conversations about writing and literacy. The accessible writing studies research in Writing about Writing includes foundational research by scholars such as Nancy Sommers and Donald Murray, popular commentary on writing by authors such as Malcolm X and Anne Lamott, and emerging research from both scholars and student writers. Accessible explanations, scaffolded activities, and thoughtful questions help students connect to the readings and transfer their writing-related skills from first-year composition to writing situations in other college courses, work, and their everyday lives.

The third edition makes studying writing even more accessible and teachable, with a new overview of rhetoric, a stronger focus on key threshold concepts, scaffolded reading guidance for challenging selections, and a new section in the instructor's manual with responses to frequently asked questions.
The conversation on writing about writing continues on the authors' blog, Write On: Notes on Writing about Writing (a channel on Bedford Bits, the Bedford/St. Martin's blog for teachers of writing). Go to

Author Biography

Elizabeth Wardle is Associate Professor and the Director of Writing Outreach Programs in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Central Florida.  Her research interests center on genre theory, the transfer of writing-related knowledge, and composition pedagogy.  She is currently conducting a study examining the impact of smaller class size on the learning of composition students, as well as a study examining the impact of the writing-about-writing pedagogy on student writing and attitudes about writing.
Doug Downs is an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition in the Department of English at Montana State University.  His research interests center on research-writing pedagogy both in first-year composition and across the undergraduate curriculum.  He continues to work extensively with Elizabeth Wardle on writing-about-writing pedagogies and is currently studying problems of researcher authority in undergraduate research in the humanities.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1, Threshold Concepts: Why Do Your Ideas about Writing Matter?

Threshold Concepts: Why Do Your Ideas about Writing Matter?

Introduction to the Conversation

Threshold Concepts of Writing

Genre and Rhetorical Reading: Threshold Concepts That Assist Academic Reading and Writing

Stuart Greene, Argument as Conversation: The Role of Inquiry in Writing a Researched Argument

Richard Straub, Responding—Really Responding—to Other Students’ Writing

Using This Book


Writing about Threshold Concepts: Writing Assignment

CHAPTER 2, Literacies: How Is Writing Impacted by Our Prior Experiences?

Deborah Brandt, Sponsors of Literacy (Tagged Reading)

*Sandra Cisneros, Only Daughter

Malcolm X, Learning to Read

Victor Villanueva, Excerpt from Bootstraps: From an Academic of Color

*Arturo Tejada Jr., Esther Gutierrez, Brisa Galindo, DeShonna Wallace, and Sonia Castaneda, Changing Our Labels: Rejecting the Language of Remediation (First-Year Student Text)

*Vershawn Ashanti Young, "Nah, We Straight": An Argument Against Code Switching

*Barbara Mellix, From Outside, In

*Liane Robertson, Kara Taczak, and Kathleen Blake Yancey, Notes Toward a Theory of Prior Knowledge

Nancy Sommers, I Stand Here Writing

Donald Murray, All Writing Is Autobiography

*Lucas Pasqualin, Don’t Panic: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to My Literacy (First-Year Student Text)

Jeff Grabill, William Hart-Davidson, Stacey Pigg, et al., Revisualizing Composition: Mapping the Writing Lives of First-Year College Students

Writing about Literacies: Writing Assignments

CHAPTER 3, Individuals in Community: How Do Texts Mediate Activities?

James Paul Gee, Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction (Tagged Reading)

Tony Mirabelli, Learning to Serve: The Language and Literacy of Food Service Workers

Ann M. Johns, Discourse Communities and Communities of Practice: Membership, Conflict, and Diversity

*Perri Klass, Learning the Language

Lucille McCarthy, A Stranger in Strange Lands; A College Student Writing across the Curriculum

Sean Branick, Coaches Can Read, Too: An Ethnographic Study of a Football Coaching Discourse Community (First-Year Student Text)

Donna Kain and Elizabeth Wardle, Activity Theory: An Introduction for the Writing Classroom

Elizabeth Wardle, Identity, Authority, and Learning to Write in New Workplaces

Victoria Marro, The Genres of Chi Omega: An Activity Analysis (First-Year Student Text)

Writing about Individuals in Community: Writing Assignments

CHAPTER 4, Rhetoric: How Is Meaning Constructed in Context?

*Doug Downs, Rhetoric: Making Sense of Human Interaction and Meaning-Making

Keith Grant-Davie, Rhetorical Situations and Their Constituents (Tagged Reading)

*Jim Ridolfo and Dànielle Nicole DeVoss, Composing for Recomposition: Rhetorical Velocity and Delivery

James E. Porter, Intertextuality and the Discourse Community

Christina Haas and Linda Flower, Rhetorical Reading Strategies and the Construction of Meaning

Margaret Kantz, Helping Students Use Textual Sources Persuasively

*Jim W. Corder, Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love

*Annalise Sigona, Impression Management on Facebook and Twitter: Where Are People More Likely to Share Positivity or Negativity with Their Audiences? (First-Year Student Text)

Dennis Baron, From Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technologies

*Natasha N. Jones and Stephanie K. Wheeler, Document Design and Social Justice: A Universal Design for Documents

*Komysha Hassan, Digital Literacy and the Making of Meaning: How Format Affects Interpretation in the University of Central Florida Libraries Search Interface (First-Year Student Text)

Writing about Rhetoric: Writing Assignments

CHAPTER 5, Processes: How Are Texts Composed?

*Stacey Pigg, Coordinating Constant Invention: Social Media’s Role in Distributed Work

Sondra Perl, The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers (Tagged Reading)

*Alcir Santos Neto, Tug of War: The Writing Process of a Bilingual Writer and his Struggles (First-Year Student Text)

Mike Rose, Rigid Rules, Inflexible Plans, and the Stifling of Language: A Cognitivist Analysis of Writer’s Block

Joseph M. Williams, The Phenomenology of Error  

*Michael Rodgers, Expanding Constraints (First-Year Student Text)

Carol Berkenkotter, Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer, and Donald Murray, Response of a Laboratory Rat—or, Being Protocoled

Anne Lamott, Shitty First Drafts

Nancy Sommers, Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers

Writing about Processes: Writing Assignments

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