Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Writing Style

I posted this to the team forum this morning. They are wasting time obsessing about who is going to write the hell out of each bullet point and wondering why their grade last round was not what they had hoped. I truly believe what I wrote below. There is a time and place for list based writing, like an RFP response for example, a how to manual, or guide. At the graduate level, however, you have to take a position, synthesize the facts and and add to the discourse. The style may vary based on the area of study, but regurgitation is not the path to an A. It just isn't.

Since I have no professional insight on the topic of this class, I will offer you this, as a writer...

I think the biggest mistake people make in writing is being too literal. So when I hear the team obsessing about each bullet point, I think, well they have to be in the paper but not as a hit list. I think a true sign of a professionally written paper, a graduate level paper is synthesis. Can you blend, braid and explain a complex idea in a complex and fresh way. Can you make meaningful connections. Can you take a concept and present it in a fresh way. can you combine "bullet points" in a single section of the paper seamlessly.

Teacher, I am willing to bet understands all of this material. I bet she can lecture on it in her sleep. There is no reason to spoon feed it back to her. That merely demonstrations that you can paraphrase from primary sources. Setting up a paper with headings that equal the bullet points is not exactly what she has in mind, I am willing to bet.

The papers I have been most successful with at UOP, and in thinking about it now, were the ones with vague guidelines, where I simply tried to tell the story. I took what I had read and thought about and applied it. It is harder and it is scarier I think, because it means taking a risk. It means taking an opinion and really selling it in terms of the writing. It means not pulling punches and not hedging and second guessing. When I read back over last weeks paper, I was like - ok, I get it, I see how I managed something I thought I was failing at...

So I think we need to read her lists, think about them critically and then apply them as we tell our story. What is it that we are going to do with the knowledge we have enmassed together. A "term paper" in my experience does not merit an A... I would not, if I were in her shoes give a "term paper" an A. If I got a paper, which merely answered the questions I asked in the order I asked them, would not give that an A either...

We need to, in the business setting, surprise and delight her.

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