Writing Project 1: Literacy AutoEthnography

Writing Project 1: Literacy AutoEthnography

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Phase One | Phase Two | Evaluation Criteria | Rubric


PURPOSE Applying what you learned from course readings and from studying the reading and writing you do in your classes, you will explain why and how you read and why and how you write. Here is your guiding question:

How do I, as a freshman at St. Edward’s University, practice reading (and writing) for all my classes across different disciplines and across areas of study?

AUDIENCE You are writing for graduate students who are studying how college freshman approach reading and writing. They are interested in strengths and weaknesses, in how different professors prepare you for reading differently—and how, if at all, that affects your reading processes and, in turn, your writing processes. They are interested in how you approach reading and writing assignments differently in different classes—and why.

FORM Your final text should synthesize the articles read in class and the data gathered about your reading and writing habits; it should reveal both an understanding of the articles read in class as well as thoughtful reflection on yourself as reader/writer, using a tone and style appropriate for your audience.


This writing project asks you to consider the reading and writing practices you’ve used since beginning your semester at St. Edward’s University with the goal that you might become more aware of the choices you make and the practices you use as a writer and reader—as someone actively constructing texts not simply reporting on or about those texts. 

First, you’ll examine yourself and your own reading and writing processes across the disciplines at SEU; then, you’ll analyze these practices and processes in light of readings we complete as a class to determine whether—and how—your process changes depending on what you read and what you write.

We want you to use your actual reading and writing assignments, as collected and represented in your SEU Reading and Writing Log, to thoroughly consider what works for you in your writing and reading processes, as well as where you would like to get more out of these literacy activities. That is, how might your writing (or reading) process vary depending on the situation? How can your reading (or writing) process improve for the academic situations you anticipate working through this semester?


PHASE 1: SEU Reading & Writing Log

As you’ve likely figured out, you cannot successfully complete this first writing project without collecting key data from your reading and writing experiences. In Phase 1 of this project—which will cover several weeks—you will be collecting data that you can use to write the assignment. You are required to keep a log of all of your reading and writing activities for at least your FSTY 1310 lecture and this FSTY 1311 course.

The purpose of your SEU Reading & Writing Log is simple: organize and reflect on all the reading and writing assignments you will complete in your first month as a Hilltopper. In addition to keeping you organized, this log will help you see clearly the variety of materials you are being asked to work with as a college student. We will provide you with a template that you can copy and paste, but you are free to adapt and change this to fit your needs. 

Don’t be overwhelmed by the log (which you’ll find below). Once you get the hang of it, filling in the information will not take much time, and you’ll be getting help from us as you work on your first few entries.  To help you get accustomed to the material, here are some explanations for each requirement. 

OVERVIEW. This first section is just a quick overview of the reading (or writing) assignment. We want to know the course you are completing the reading (or writing) assignment for, the name of the reading (even if it is just a chapter in a book), the genre of the assignment, as well as what you think is the purpose of the assignment. Below is an example. 

Course: ENGW 1302

Title: “Being a Writer vs. Being an Academic” by Peter Elbow

Genre & Purpose: Journal article from College Composition and Communication. In class, we have been talking about what it means to write like a college student, and my instructor keeps talking about novices and experts. I think this article is supposed to explain those terms again.

INSTRUCTIONS. This second section asks you to track how much time (in minutes) your professor spends discussing the assignment (and for reading assignments, this may not be any time at all). We also want to know what your professor said about the assignment, which is why you will see a summary section. Finally, what is your professor looking for you to get out of the assignment? What is your professor expecting you to accomplish with the assignment? How do you know about these expectations? This information will go in the final entry. Again, here is an example for you.

Time: <10 minutes

Summary: She said something about using Rosenberg strategies for working through the article. She wants to know the major points on what he says is the conflict between writers and academics. 

Expectations + Evidence: Need to bring a list of the conflict points with page numbers for class discussion. She showed an example in class of how she wants this done. Said that we’ll need to use this to write the project, so I need to learn what those conflict areas are.

SUPPORT. This third section will vary from assignment to assignment, but we are hoping to capture how you are seeking help for your reading and writing practices. Any time you talk to someone about the assignment, jot down a note here. Nothing is too informal. If possible, also track what you were discussing with each person.

Peer: Jamie (roommate): last night, complained about my confusion, don’t get what he is saying or why there are weird numbers in different places. Angela (classmate): before class starts, she asked me what points I found; we compared notes.

Other: Writing Center person (yesterday): we were working on paper for another class, he asked about how I’m reading, mentioned this article, he wanted to see what I was writing on the pages (don’t know why).

FEEDBACK. This final section captures any feedback you get on your reading or writing assignments. Like the other sections, we want an overview of what was said, but we also want to know how you did on the assignment, and how much you understand the instructor’s feedback.

Summary: No comments on how I read. Just talked about reading in class.

Performance: I didn’t have some of the points discussed today. How did I miss them?

Understanding: She did say there is good reason to be confused. Made me feel less dumb. Lots of other people in the class were lost too.


PHASE 2: Connecting Your Log to Our Readings

Once everyone has logs from several classes covering several assignments, we’ll begin the analysis portion of the is assignment. 

The articles we read in these first few weeks have very particular ideas about how reading and writing practices should unfold for college students. We read a collaboratively written piece outlining the 8 Habits of Mind you should use during your college career, and we read an informative piece that explains how college readers (should) read. We read about the reasons why “good readers” don’t read “good” enough, especially when they have to write about what they read. When taken together, these assignments allow us to explore what it means to construct or compose meaning as readers and writers. 

Using all that we read in class, Phase 2 is a time for you to explore yourself as a writer and reader in different contexts. Remember, the purpose of Writing Project 1 is for you to learn some (new) things about your actual writing and reading practices, things that you might not be aware of, and to (better) understand those practices in light of the terms and concepts we discuss in class: 8 Habits of Mind, rhetorical reading, reading strategies, composing, constructing. You get the idea.

Analyzing Your Data 

(1) Go back to your SEU Reading and Writing Log. Look at the notes and ideas you left for yourself. 

  • How were you reading for your various classes?
  • How did different instructions and/or preparation affect the effectiveness of your reading?
  • What role did your reading (or re-reading) play in the preparation for any writing assignments?
  • What seems to cause you to use different practices for different kinds of reading assignments? for different kinds of writing assignments?

(2) Make a list of all the words or phrases you used to talk about reading and writing. How do your terms (and their explanations) compare to those we are reading about in class? 

(3) Reflect on what you do and how you do it. Look for the patterns in your reading practices and writing process. You’re trying to generate a code to understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. 

You might want to include information about your context (where and when you wrote, what distractions you faced, your attitude, any deadline, any distractions), and you may want codes that correspond to the writing/reading process at large (planning, brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, pausing, etc.). The purpose of the code is to help you understand what is happening when you write and how the instruction, support, and feedback you received on each of these processes and practices did or did not contribute to changes in what you did. 

How detailed should your analysis and coding scheme be? Too vague, you won’t learn anything. Too detailed, you may never finish coding. But, once you have a code, use it on your log. Label particular moments according to what you think is happening. You might want to highlight the parts that correspond to your code; for example, all your planning thoughts in yellow. You might create your own short-hand code and write directly on the log. Use track changes, comments, or highlights to code in your word processor. 

(4) After you have coded your transcript, then you want to consider what is interesting about what you found: what jumps out at you? did you do some things a lot? did you do other things rarely? how do your practices and behaviors and internal thoughts compare with those ideas and concepts we read about in class?


Starting with (4) above, you’ll want to use a pattern you saw in the data to drive your final project. You are not expected to talk about everything you find. In fact, you won’t have nearly enough space to share everything you learned from the readings or from the logs. Instead, you want to focus on a particular set of details (what was interesting or unexpected in your findings) so that you can tell a coherent story about your reading and writing on the Hilltop.

For your project to mean something to the audience, you’ll need to discuss specific details about what you learned because of your SEU Reading & Writing Log. The content of the piece should be driven entirely by what you learned from the analysis because you will be pointing to your coding sheets and data as evidence. You’ll then “make sense” of these findings by using the terms and concepts we’ve discussed in class to explain what your practices mean in the context of our ongoing conversations. You can assume that your audience will encounter these same readings, but we can’t assume they’ve already read them. So, in using these terms and concepts, you’ll want to integrate our readings, blending their ideas and arguments with your own and quoting carefully.


The purpose of this assignment is for you to step back and consider yourself as a writer and reader, applying what you learned from the readings to better help you understand why and how you write—and how you might write (or read) differently, or perhaps even understand yourself differently as a writer and a reader. A second purpose for this assignment was for you to try and learn some things about your actual writing practices and to reflect on what you learned by using terms and concepts we’ve discussed in our readings

After you finish this project, ask yourself: Did that happen? Did you deeply engage in the brainstorming activities in this assignment, and were you able to apply what you learned to understand yourself better? Does your finished project convey your insight about what we’ve discussed in class and your findings from the auto-ethnography study? That is, does your paper demonstrate that you learned something when you completed this assignment? Does the text convey some of your insights and findings in an interesting and clear way to readers? If not, that will likely show up in the depth (or lack thereof) in your writing. You were also instructed to decide who you wanted to communicate with, and write appropriately for them. Were you able to do that?

A Caveat 

Your natural inclination may to be “go through the motions” when completing this assignment, not really attempting to learn something about yourself as a writer or reader. When other students take this approach, they have very little to say about “results” or “insights.” These students tend to say pretty clichéd things like “I am distracted when I write. I should try to write with fewer distractions.” In general, if the “insights” of the paper were obvious to you before you conducted this research, then you have not fully engaged in the project and are unlikely to receive a good grade on it.



Content and Focus (85%)

Does the final Writing Project 1…

  • discuss specific details about what the writer learned because s/he tracked reading and writing activities in the SEU Reading & Writing Log?
  • discuss what the writer learned from analyzing this log?
  • include a title that explains the controlling idea of the literacy autoethnography?
  • explain how course readings affected the writer’s understanding of her/his own reading and/or writing practices?
  • use the terms and concepts discussed in class?
  • enter only related conversations—that is, those most closely connected with the observations made by the writer?
  • use sources deliberatively and effectively: demonstrating the significance of each incorporated source for writer’s learning or larger purpose?
  • quote and paraphrase carefully, not haphazardly, choosing a limited number of quotes and fully analyzing those quotes for readers?
  • engage readers by offering and controlling a limited number of ideas?

Nuts and Bolts (15%)

Final, polished Writing Project 1 should…

  1. include a Works Cited (or References) list for secondary sources quoted and/or discussed in the project.
  2. use MLA 2009 guidelines (or the citation style preferred by your major) for all parenthetical citations and reference pages.
  3. be meticulously proofread according to Standard American English.
  4. avoid what Dr. Loewe terms dropped quotes. Dropped quotes must die. Really. -10 points for each dropped quote.
  5. range from 1500 to 2000 words.