Essay: Psychological Reactions to Writing Revisions: Comparison

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Psychological Reactions to Writing Revisions: Comparison and Contrast of Two Articles

Although it is an important part of the writing process, revision may be one of its least discussed components among both students and seasoned writers. Perhaps this is because, for many writers, revision is seen as an acknowledgement of their mistakes. For others, it is simply boring, not as fun as the creative aspect of the writing process. Still, revision is vital; without revision, many authors' works would not have made it to publication. In addition, revision not only concerns the author with editing and stylistic features, but also the composing and re-composing of ideas. Thus, it is only through revision that many authors are able to communicate at all, only through revision that they have developed and honed not only how they express their ideas, but the ideas themselves. In order to address this vital component of revision, Fran Lehr and Germano et al. have written articles that attempt to identify revision as part of the writing process. Through a summary and comparison of these articles, as well as analysis of both their content and style, readers can gain a better understanding of the role of revision in the writing process, as well as steps that can be taken in the future to make that role clearer and easier to obtain.

In Germano et al.'s 2007 article, "Revision as writing, Writing as Revision" the authors turn the focus on "the writing practices of teachers and scholars" (para. 1). The purpose of this article is to convince the rather scholarly audience that revision is not just something for students; instead it a skill required by even the most seasoned academic professional. The primary function of the article is to introduce a session on the same topic that will be held by the Modern Language Association, as well as to gather participants. The article is of vast significance, however, because it targets a group for whom rewriting may seem the most derogatory form of writing -- professional writers. Germano et al. clearly identify that revision is a tool that writers need to have in their writers' kit when they state, "Revision is a lifelong writing skill that writers practice in order to develop in their chosen fields. The writer is one who writes, but the real writer is one who revises" (Germano et al. para. 2). Thus, the rhetorical tactic chosen here is an interesting and most likely effective one. The authors try to convince seasoned, scholarly professionals that revision is not something done by those who do not have writing skills, but instead by those who have the greatest writing skills. This multi-faceted appeal to logos, ethos, and pathos is an attempt to draw scholars and those with a great deal of education into the view of the authors, that re-writing is necessary at any stage. Thus, the appeal focuses on the audience's emotions, or desire to be thought of as prestigious in the academic community, as well as logic, by suggesting that re-writing will produce better manuscripts, and ethos, as the writers are themselves scholars.

After making this appeal to their audience, the authors attempt to establish the great significance of their work. They argue that "revision' isn't merely a process applied to writing, it's writing itself," not just for the undergraduate, but also for the graduate student and seasoned scholar (Germano et al. para. 3). The article concludes with an appeal to this audience to attend the session since, "as profession[al] writers, we scholars are bound within a discourse of writing…rewriting" (para. 4). In sum, it can be argued that the problem Germano et al. propose is the psychological fear of revision by scholars, and the suffering of professional scholarly writing because of this fear. The attempt to solve this problem is two-fold, according to the authors. While they seem to suggest that acknowledging re-writing not as a shameful, but as a necessary part of the writing process is the first step, the second step, they argue, is attending the seminar that they will be holding.

Fran Lehr, in her "Revision in the Writing Process," sees a similar problem when concerned with the area of revision. Lehr cites previous scholars that suggest students have a negative psychological opinion of the writing process because they see writing as punishment, or something that they must do in order to prepare their writing for its intended audience, the teacher or professor. Lehr argues that it is often textbooks that propagate this idea, presenting revision as a tedious task for students. The problem, as Lehr defines it is that "students often see revision not as an opportunity to develop and improve a piece of writing but as an indication that they have failed to do it right the first time" (para. 1). This "attitude" toward revision as correction or punishment is detrimental to students because revision is not intended to be only correction; it is, instead, meant as the process by which writer's ideas are struggled with and grasped until they can be put on the page with confidence. As Lehr puts it: Revision, however, is the heart of the writing process -- the means by which ideas emerge and evolve and meanings are clarified" (para. 1).

Leher goes on to define this problem by showing just how much students tend to revise. She cites research, which suggests that "novice writers" revise only through editing, which is much different than revising. These writers do not make "global changes" (para. 1). That is, they do not change major parts of their pieces by introducing new ideas, omitting ideas, re-writing, starting over, etc. Instead, they are simply concerned with the act of editing and polishing a piece. In fact, the author even suggests that these traits are common not only with elementary and secondary students, but also with undergraduate students at the college level. The students were most concerned with polishing usage and making "surface level changes" than with entering into any real revision.

Thus, Lehr's article attempts to solve the problem of students' attitudes toward revision just as Germano et al. try to solve the problem of professionals' attitudes toward revision. Leher's approach is through teachers, who are the audience of her piece. Although she notes that teachers can expect students to devote more of their time to writing and revision, Lehr argues that "merely requiring students to revise or just to spend more time revising will not necessarily produce improved writing" (para. 1). Instead, she favors "direct teacher intervention," which can take many forms such as making comments on students' papers that encourage them to revise by changing or elaborating on their ideas. Other forms include teachers' asking questions of their students and students' writing together with teachers and other students (Lehr para. 1). In a brief literature review, Lehr goes on to make specific suggestions that teachers can undertake in order to encourage their students to fully take hold of the writing process, even the revision component. Teachers can "provide more specific comments and design writing activities that allow students to establish purpose in their writing" (para. 2). Students who discuss the positive parts of their writing, have the opportunity to publish in some sort of classroom anthology, and perhaps even using computers or technology to improve their revising tactics can become better revisers under the guidance of their teachers, according to Lehr (para. 3-6). To conclude Lehr argues that "revision, whether done with computers or with pen and paper, will go beyond correction only if teachers emphasize the whole text over its parts. When this happens, students discover the power of writing as a means of shaping ideas and clarifying meanings rather than as a way of correcting errors or fulfilling a class requirement" (para. 7).

Thus, both Germano et al. And Lehr's articles are strikingly similar, although their audiences are quite different. Both are not only concerned with the fact that revision is not being accomplished as more than a surface-level attempt at editing, but they are both also concerned that this is for psychological or attitudinal reasons. They both believe that the connotation of revision is what discourages students and processionals from undertaking one of the most important aspects of the writing process. In addition, both articles emphasize the importance of revision in the writing process and the fact that it is crucial at any level. Although both articles are persuasive, where they part ways is in their rhetorical design. Germano et al. is targeted at an audience of professional scholars. While this is also true of Lehr's article, which focuses on teachers, Germano's article is attempting to persuade professionals of the error of their ways. Lehr's article only attempts to persuade teachers that revision is a problem in student writing, and teachers must adopt teaching methods that address this problem. Thus, Germano et al.'s article uses appeals to ethos and pathos, inciting the scholars' emotions by essentially calling them out about their own reservations about writing.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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