Here we have reblogged the first of a three part series on outsourcing graduate student writing support. Although situated in a North-American context, the discussion raises important issues for institutional writing specialists, doctoral students, supervisors and consultants everywhere as cash-strapped institutions increasingly combine with entrepreneurial markets to provide writing support to doctoral scholars. The posts are written by Shannon Madden and Jerry Stinnett in response to an article in College Composition and Communication. We don’t necessarily endorse all the arguments they advance (how could we, since at least two of the editors at DoctoralWritingSIG occasionally work as consultants?!) but we do think these issues deserve attention. We hope you find the series stimulating.
Empowering graduate student writers and rejecting outsourced mentorship
By Shannon Madden and Jerry Stinnett
In this 3-part series of installments on the WCJ Blog, we reject the outsourcing of graduate writing support to inexpert consultants in the private sector and call instead for university stakeholders to attend more systematically to the needs of graduate student writers.
As faculty members and former graduate students ourselves, we like many others have experienced the need for more writing support at the graduate level (see also Caplan & Cox, 2016). Very often, graduate students across the disciplines receive little feedback on their writing projects or instruction in advanced genres even though coursework, conference presentations, job applications, and theses and dissertations are all grounded in specialized disciplinary communication practices (Carter, 2007). As a response to this problem, Daveena Tauber’s (2016) recent article in College Composition and Communication offers a model for private writing consultation as a way to support graduate students as they navigate advanced writing tasks. Tauber advocates expanding the definition of successful academic employment to include writing consulting as a means of helping graduate student writers succeed in the university and of relieving the “job crisis” facing Ph.D. students in the humanities.
While Tauber’s approach attends to some of the problems facing graduate student writers, her model also exacerbates many of the same issues it purports to mitigate. Continue reading