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Malachowski 1 Emily Malachowski ENC1101 Writing Self-Study 27 February 2013 Analysis on my Writing Habits: What Did I Learn is Best for Me? Background Over the past few weeks, my English class has been reading essays and having discussions regarding our personal reading and writing habits. Learning about others’ habits has been helping us to learn about our own. In Carol Bernkenkotter’s article, “Decisions and Revisions,” she made some discoveries regarding her subject, Donald Murray’s, reading and writing habits. He did a think-aloud writing study over the course of six months. Through this study, Perl discovered that Murray had intricate style goals and his “protocols shed new light on the great and small decisions and revisions that form planning” (227). In Sondra Perl’s article, “The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers,” she studied Tony’s habits. Through having Tony be observed when writing, Perl discovered that he “displayed consistent composing processes” (204). Close studies like these help writers to learn more about themselves and can potentially be used to help improve their overall writing. I analyzed my writing habits for a week to conduct my own study to benefit myself. What I’m Investigating Two questions I wanted to investigate were as follows: Do I work better when my material is on a computer screen or on a concrete object (such as a book)? Do interruptions negatively impact the productivity and intensity level of the activity? I conducted a study, analyzed and interpreted the results, and did some research to learn more about my writing habits. All of this work helped me to determine that the material I work from does not affect how well I do, and interruptions are actually a positive aid to my work.


Malachowski 2 How the Study was Conducted Over the course of a week, I diligently recorded any activities that I did throughout the day, which involved reading or writing. I made a chart, and I recorded the date, the time period of the activity, any interruptions, and I rated how I felt about each activity. The three categories I used to evaluate my activities were Intensity (which measured how concentrated I was on my work I was), Affect (which measured how confident I felt in the activity I did), and Productivity (which measured how much work I got done in that time). I rated them on a scale of one to five – one being the least of the category and five being the highest. I also made columns for what material I was working with and what interruptions/distractions I encountered. The materials used range from textbooks, to notebooks, to PowerPoints, to computer screens. Most often, the distractions were my roommates, my cell phone, and the television. Here is an excerpt of my chart to give an idea of what it looked like: Date: Feb 5 3:00PM 4:00PM 5:00PM

Name of Activity

Intensity on 1-5 Scale Gov HW/ 3 Math Quiz Math 4 Quiz Studying 3

Affect on 1-5 Scale

Productivity Material/ on 1-5 Scale Technology

Interruptions

4

5

4

3

Webcourses 2, textbook, MathLabsPlus MathLabsPlus

Phone, Facebook, Roommates Phone, iTunes

4

3

Notebooks

Phone

After spending the week recording my activities, I devoted some time to analyzing the charts. The information collected would then be used to analyze my writing process. I decided to come up with something that would not only analyze my habits, but also help me in the future to write to the best of my ability. I wanted to see if there was anything I could change about my habits, such as getting rid of all distractions or changing the material I use to work, to improve


Malachowski 3 the quality of my overall reading and writing activities. Potentially, others can read my conclusions to help improve their writing quality as well. What the Study Revealed For convenience, I will reiterate the questions that I’m investigating again: Do I work better when my material is on a computer screen or on a concrete object (such as a book)? Do interruptions negatively impact the productivity and intensity level of the activity? In order to analyze the outcomes of my study to answer those questions, I composed a chart to better understand and interpret the data: Material Electronic (PowerPoint, Word, Webcourses 2, MathLabs Plus, etc.) Concrete (Notebook, Textbook, Index cards, Worksheets, etc.)

Average Intensity 3.24

Average Affect 3.36

Average Productivity 4.16

3.26

3.42

4.16

Before analyzing the data, I hypothesized that I would overall feel better about my work when not using an electronic material. I feel as though it’s easier to have 3D material in front of you to write on and flip through, as opposed to a 2D image on a screen. However, this hypothesis was wrong once I computed the numbers. On average, I felt pretty much the same intensity, affect, and productivity as I did for electronic and concrete materials. I was surprised to find this out, because I generally like to read things on paper as opposed to on a screen. The average intensity between the two categories of material differs by just 0.02. The average affect differs by 0.06. The average productivity is exactly the same between the two. I concluded that the material used has little to no effect on how I perform on my work; it is merely a preference. The


Malachowski 4 next chart displays the data involving my distractions and how they affected my productivity and intensity: Distraction No Distractions

Average Intensity 3.57 3.20

Average Productivity 4.22 3.90

Before interpreting this data, I figured it would make sense that I would be more focused and productive with no distractions – it seemed logical. What I found was quite the opposite. I seem to be more focused with distractions, averaging at a 4.22 out of 5, as opposed to a 3.90 out of 5 with no distractions. The difference is 0.32. The intensity has about the same amount of difference, 0.37. I was more into my work when I had distractions as opposed to when I didn’t have them. This may seem rather contradictory to common belief, but I concluded that I, personally, feel better about my work and do better with distractions. Why do I do well with distractions? Once I figured out that I do well with distractions, I was compelled to do some research and figure out why this is. It didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t find much on the topic, but I happened to find a post written by Justin Buzzard on his on blog. He claims that his “best ideas” often happen while he’s distracted. Buzzard points out, “healthy distraction feeds focus.” His posting helped make sense of why I do better when I’m distracted. If I don’t have outside distractions, I’m going to get bored with what I’m doing and I will create internal distractions. The outside distractions keep me focused and provide temporary relief when I’m stuck on my assignments. So What? Why should any one care what I find in my study? Well, chances are, there are many people out there with writing and learning styles similar to mine. Many kids are college students


Malachowski 5 who get distracted easily but still prefer to work along side their friends, in a distracting environment. Most people think that they can’t work well with distractions, so they wait to find a time where they are certain the will not have any. This creates many inconveniences for the student. However, based on my study, these people could try working in an environment with moderate distractions and seeing how they perform. I’m not saying they should bring their laptop to a club or a concert to try to write a paper, but they could sit down in their living room while everyone goes about their daily routine and still write a quality paper. Conclusion When I initially started this project, I was certain of what the outcome would be – I figured I would find out that my work is better on concrete objects and that I work best with no distractions. This was not the case. I learned a lot more about my writing process than I expected, and these things could have only been discovered through the analysis of my project. I feel like this study will help me in the future, not only for this class, but also for all classes where I will have writing assignments. A student should always be open to doing research about themselves that will only improve the quality of their work.


Malachowski 6 Work Cited Berkenkotter, Carol. "Decisions and Revisions." Writing about Writing: A College Reader. By Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 216-30. Print. Buzzard, Justin. "2 Secrets to Better Work: Focus & Distraction." JustinBuzzard.net. N.p., 15 Mar. 2012. Web. 24 Feb. 2013. Perl, Sondra. "The Composing Processes of Unskilled College Writers." Writing about Writing: A College Reader. By Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 191-215. Print.


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