Blog Post 7 - Berkenkotter's Experiment

Blog ยป Blog Post 7 - Berkenkotter's Experiment

Posted on 19 Apr 2013 02:31

In the paper Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer, Berkenkotter wrote extensively on the writing process, using an accomplished writer known as Donald Murray to analyze the underlying processes that writers undergo when developing a particular argument or idea. In order to accomplish this task, she frequently recorded Murray's thoughts when writing over a several month period, making him read aloud his thoughts as he went about coming up with ideas for a story or article in a natural setting, with no particular time constraints or other limitations in place. Recording this information into a table organized by the percentage of time revising, editing, etc, she hoped to capture a firsthand glimpse into what writers truly think about when writing and identify key traits or activities that separate good writers such as Murray from others.

I think that this experiment, though somewhat flawed, was both greatly interesting as well as insightful as it clearly showed the development a piece of writing undergoes normally, free from much of the pressure and environmental issues of an average experimental setting. By allowing Murray to develop his ideas naturally and go through his own, unique progression of writing, the study came as close as one could be to gaining a true, clear picture of the writing process.

Some issues with the experiment, however, involve the fact that alot of the underlying ideas that show up in the writing process come from times when Murray is not writing, basically when he is driving, eating, etc. So much of our inspiration and epiphanies don't always spontaneously come up when we want them to, but rather happen over the course of the day. Since the experiment could not adequately capture those thoughts, it lacked a crucial part of the writing process that would have otherwise made the experiment a perfect analysis of the writing process. Another issue involves a lack of other test subjects who would most likely possess somewhat if not completely different processes when it comes to writing. Since the whole experiment took hundreds of hours to complete, such a task on a larger scale would be quite unfeasible. However, this unfortunate lack of data among various writers instead of one writer in particular greatly limits the scope of the research and causes the results to completely rely on the data of one person rather than a group.

All in all, I think Berkentotter's experimental study into how writers function raises some thoughts and ideas as to how writing flows within the mind, an unwritten plan only accessed by writers and unseen by the reader. It not only gives an insightful approach as to how a professional writer would normally write, but also reveals key information that could lead to a greater understand of how writing works beyond the words on the paper.

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