Decisions and Revisions, The Story of a Writer

Blog » Decisions and Revisions, The Story of a Writer

Posted on 18 Apr 2013 11:34

In, “Decisions and Revisions: The Planning Strategies of a Publishing Writer” Carol Berkenkotter details a study which she did on writer Donald M. Murray. Berkenkotter, Professor of Rhetoric at Michigan Technological Institute, was interested specifically in how writers process and organize information as they compose literature. She proceeded by getting her information by studying the habits, thoughts, and normal everyday processes that Murray went through all day in three stages and over a period of 62 days.

He had Murray turned on a tape recorder every time he went into his study and any other time when he worked on writing. He thought out loud and said everything that crossed his mind when he was composing. If Berkenkotter was going to have usable results for his study, he needed to know everything that happened to accurately examine his style of writing. Therefore, in addition to having the audio recordings, Murray sent him the actual texts which he compose. Next, Berkenkotter asked Murray to come to his university and compose a piece of writing with a specified an audience, subject, and purpose. Murray only had one hour to accomplish this stage. Finally, Berkenkotter visited Murray at his home and observed him as he composed an article for a professional journal. She then asked him a variety of questions about what decisions he had made as a writer and furthermore how he himself perceived his actions. 

Through close examination of all the data which she had acquired over those 62 days, Berkenkotter was able to separate each stage into the main components which she was interested in this study: planning, evaluating, revising, and editing. Once Berkenkotter broke down the percentage of each step she found Murray to have used, she proceeded to describe some of the different methods Murray used to come up with. For the planning stage, she found Murray to have used two different types such as first planning what he would write(the main goal) and then planning out how he would reach out to his specific audience. Additionally, she found that the stages of revising and planning blended together in a way of re-conceiving because often when Murray would revise, he would re-plan the paper as a whole.

Berkenkotter concludes by noting the different processes which Murray exhibited while writing. Murray constantly evaluated himself, asking himself if he was making sense or if his point was being made clear at all. He constantly cycled through all four steps, evaluating, then editing, then revising, then planning again, and so forth. She concluded by noting that although Murray showed him many ways and methods of which he writes, every writer is very different and more studies should be done like this on different writers if ideas and principles about how literature is composed are to be formed in a more concrete way.

The methodology used by Berkerkotter is very useful to me as I look into completing a form of research on an engineering community. In my research, I may be completing a survey asking engineers to rate how important they view their job as in relation to the benefit of the world, how important the whole field of engineering is to the world, and finally, how important engineering as a whole is important to the world. How Berkenkotter examined her data was most amazing and the extent of work she was willing to put herself through was really impressive. I hope that in my research I will be willing to go to the same full extent until my results are clear and either prove or disprove my hypothesis.

Leave a comment

Add a New Comment
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License