I’ve come to a pivotal point in my understanding about writing in different disciplines. When I first began college, I never saw writing as a class I needed to take beyond an introductory level, something that could be taught in general and applied more specifically to different disciplines. Eventually, however, I decided to minor in Writing and Rhetoric, as I was appealed by the opportunity to improve my communication, stylistic, and analytical skills in writing. Even back then, I didn’t experience a change in my perspective on writing—while I felt that minoring in Writing and Rhetoric would improve my writing skills, I certainly felt that I wouldn’t have much of an advantage over my peers. I now know that Writing is not a skill that can be generalized, with different facets applied to writing works for different fields; writing is, in fact, different for each field in which it is used.
Writing was Never Mass-taught as One Single Skill
According to David Russell in Academic Writing in the Disciplines, before education became widely available to the public around the 1870s, writing was a skill that tied into public speaking—it was simply a way of recording down what a person would say anyway, thus there was no formal need for training in writing, as writing could be seen as transcription. After the 1870s, however, writers within specialized disciplines began creating works which were meant to be used to communicate between other professionals within the same discipline. Thus, instead of being mere transcription of spoken words, writing became more specific to each field in which it was used, creating unique jargon and writing styles. As education became more widely available, however, the specialized writing styles used within each of these fields never became part of the curriculum, but was instead learned as a student progressed through his or her academic career.
Why Can’t Writing Be Generalized?
The type if writing used for comparing a modern-day work to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is far different from the type of writing used to write a lab report. Each work has a completely different structure and level of formality. The lab report requires more technical, complicated words, while the analytical paper needs to discuss literary elements. The lab report has various sections including a hypothesis, materials section, procedural section, etc. while the essay has a thesis with a subsequent body whose goal is to prove the thesis. For plain reasons writers can see, academic writing is inherently different in each unique discipline and should not be generalized.
How Can Educational Systems Stress the Difference in Writing Between Disciplines?
Before college, I was never formally instructed how to write a formal lab report, I was simply required to meet minimum requirements and present my achievements of these minimum requirements in the form of a professional document. Any skills I have on creating a lab report were simply picked up by receiving feedback from those who are skilled in creating lab reports, and looking at other professionally published lab reports for an idea of how to structure my lab reports. If any college major department finds that their students’ works of writing do not meet the requirements that future employers will have, perhaps major departments should consider creating a class to teach their students how to write within their own discipline, and not simply require a 101 level writing class as the only writing requirement to complete a major.