By Claire Roth, (MA 2017, SWLF) WIC GTA
A few weeks into our Fall 2016 WIC Faculty Seminar, discussion turned for a moment toward the different writing projects participants worked on beyond their academic pursuits. Our curiosity led to the design and distribution of a survey asking past seminar participants about their non-academic writing. We collected data from 42 participants on their writing experience as well as their thoughts on why non-academic writing is important. Thank you to all our survey participants! You surpassed our greatest expectations. The graph below shows the distribution of faculty writing experience across the relatively arbitrary categories we provided.
Communication and reflection clearly dominate the nonacademic writing life at OSU with email, letters, and journaling pulling impressive numbers. The distinction between personal letters and personal email suggests that the traditional post is not dead on our campus, though we suspect a survey of students would show otherwise. Social media and online writing also appeared in high numbers, but the gap between apps is substantial with Facebook at the top and YouTube at the bottom of the group. We were pleasantly surprised to see the number of creative writers in our midst. Just over 20% of faculty responding have experience writing poetry, and personal/autobiographical essays are close behind. Writing for the public also pulled in substantial numbers for reviews, letters to the editor, newspapers, and more. Engaging in some of the more public writing categories suggests that survey participants write for more than personal satisfaction alone.
When asked what motivates their academic writing, most described their motivation in terms of a need or desire. A clear majority pointed to personal reasons e.g. “desire to stay in contact,” “need for personal reflection and interpersonal connection,” “catharsis,” and “the necessity of expression.” Still others described motivations dependent on a larger audience than family and friends, pointing to “engagement,” “need to communicate information,” “activism,” “desire to teach others,” “communicating science to different audiences,” and “a desire to be heard.” Clearly, the faculty at OSU are active writing community members. No matter the reason behind the writing, we can boast of a rich and diverse writing life for faculty across our campus.
We decided while looking over the responses to leave the survey open for additional participants. We want to know more about the writing culture at OSU and are convinced this survey can bring in more data. Because of different communication and survey policies, we will not be emailing the link to new groups. Instead, we add the link to the survey here for our readers. If you want your non-academic writing life added to our picture of the OSU writing culture, please complete the anonymous survey and suggest it to any of your colleagues who might also want to contribute. Thanks!