Graduate Writing Fellow Projects

2016-2017 Projects:

Jingjing Chen

Managing A Committee: Strategies on Effective Negotiation and Communication with Multiple Committee Members

Working with multiple advisors or committee members can be stressful, as inter-personal relationships become complicated, and implicit and even conflicting expectations occur. At this workshop, participants will learn about the strategies to organize and manage a committee effectively. In this workshop, you will learn the skills to set goals and expectations with multiple faculty members via writing as well as other forms of communication, and to negotiate your progress and the evaluation process of the progress with advisors. Tips will also be offered to help you make decisions when there are disagreements among different members of the committee. For graduate students who need to assemble a committee by themselves, this workshop will help you decide whom to invite and how to convey your decisions to faculty members respectfully and gracefully.

Julia Singleton

Grant Writing and the Writing Partner Program

This year, I had two projects I worked on as part of WAC. The first was that I continued my NSF Grant Writing Workshop Series, a two-part series targeted towards graduate students applying for the NSF GRFP. The first workshop in this series provided students with a broad overview of NSF, the grant, and the application process. The second workshop in this series provided hands-on learning for students to read real grants that were submitted along with their reviews in an effort to get inside the head of the reviewer and understand ways to make their own writing stronger. My second project was to continue Lauren Fink's work in the Writing Partner Program. In general, this program is designed to help create and maintain cross-disciplinary writing groups for graduate students and postdoctoral writers. The program underwent several changes this year including a new sign-up system and check-in system with groups. In future years, we will continue offering and refining the Writing Partner Program to fit the needs of the UC Davis graduate writing community.

Mitchell Simon

Panel on Careers in Science Writing and Communication

I’ve noticed a growing interest in science writing and communication careers from fellow grad students. However, information on specific careers that lend themselves to this and how to prepare for them during grad school remains limited. Thus, I invited three science writing and communication professionals to share their knowledge with us.

  • Sarah Brady, PhD works at the California Council on Science and Technology where she advises the California Legislature on several policy issues related to science.

  • Robin Meadows, MS works as an independent science journalist in the Bay Area covering anything related to biology and the environment.

  • Janet Raloff is the Editor in Chief at Science News for Students, and has been reporting at Science News for over three decades.   

Each shared great insight about the nature of their jobs and advice for those hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Sarah Reed & Victoria White

Collaborative Writing

Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from all disciplines were invited to join a conversation about teaching and participating in collaborative writing projects. WAC fellow, Tori White and I developed a two workshop series to engage a variety of audiences, from seasoned collaborators to the simply curious, covering the following: Session 1) Collaborative Writing Pedagogy: Beyond Group Work, and Session 2) Strategies for Co-Authorship: Collaborative Writing Practice.  We reviewed research in the field of education regarding the challenges and benefits of collaboration, and provided practical tools to support a collaborative writing practice. Participants were invited to share from their experiences as students, teachers and co-authors.  

Matt Zajic

“I was Told to Come See a Language Specialist”: A Look at Graduate Writing Consultation Trends from 2012 to 2016

Graduate writing consultations offered by the Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) program provide writing support to graduate and postdoctoral students at UC Davis. Each consultation session begins with an electronic intake form submitted via the online webform. These intake forms provide a wealth of information about how graduate students and postdoctoral scholars make use of our graduate writing consultations, however, these intake forms have received little attention beyond their role as an intake form. This study analyzed these intake forms across a four-year period (2012-2016) to understand how graduate students and postdoctoral scholars make use of these services. Following IRB approval, data were cleaned (including removal of all formal cancelled consultations) and deidentified. Between 2012 and 2016, WAC Fellows conducted 1221 total consultations with 333 unique graduate students or postdoctoral scholars, meaning that 72.7% of all consultations were follow-up visits. On average, students came 3.34 times with 42% of individuals attending one session, 24% attending two sessions, and 7% attending three sessions, with diminishing percentages up 51 sessions (for one individual). Sessions did vary by quarter but not by year, with fall quarter having the most sessions (n = 140) across all four years (with winter and spring roughly equal around 80 sessions apiece). Students from 78 graduate programs have made use of consultations, with programs with the highest frequencies (> 10 visits) being Human Ecology, Statistics, Spanish & Portuguese, the School of Education, the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, and Plant Sciences. Average consultations per WAC Fellow stayed extremely consistent across quarters and years. Students came into sessions with a variety of different goals, though many (28%) of sessions reported not having a specific goal for the writing. Frequently seen goals included improve (11%), review (8%), clarity (8%), grammar (8%), and organization (6%). Students brought in many different graduate school genres, including theses (13%), journal articles (13%), dissertations (12%), fellowship proposals (11%), and course papers (9%). From the overall sessions, students with English as a second language were roughly equal in proportion to students with English as a first language (42% to 58%); however, amongst unique consultations, students with English as a second language represented a higher proportion (67%). Students spoke over twenty different languages other than English, though students mainly spoke Chinese or Mandarin (45%). Students heard about our services through various forms of communication, including email (17%), colleagues (13%), online searching (9%), and graduate program advisers (7%). Better understanding how students have made use of our services can further help not only inform training and professional development of WAC Fellows to meet the needs of our graduate students and postdoctoral scholars but also assist with ways to improve upon the services the WAC program can offer UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars seeking writing support.


2015-2016 Projects:

Jingjing Chen

Managing A Committee: Strategies on Effective Negotiation and Communication with Multiple Committee Members

Working with multiple advisors or committee members can be stressful, as inter-personal relationships become complicated, and implicit and even conflicting expectations occur. At this workshop, participants will learn about the strategies to organize and manage a committee effectively. In this workshop, you will learn the skills to set goals and expectations with multiple faculty members via writing as well as other forms of communication, and to negotiate your progress and the evaluation process of the progress with advisors. Tips will also be offered to help you make decisions when there are disagreements among different members of the committee. For graduate students who need to assemble a committee by themselves, this workshop will help you decide whom to invite and how to convey your decisions to faculty members respectfully and gracefully.

Lauren Fink

Continuing and Expanding the Writing Partner Program

The Writing Partner Program (WPP) was started by a former WAC fellow, Daniel Moglen , who successfully maintained it for two years. Though he retired from being a fellow, there was much enthusiasm to keep the program going and growing. With the guidance of Dr. Alison Bright, I facilitated the WPP during the 2015-16 academic year. A new website was created and additional funding was accrued through a partnership with the Davis Humanities Institute. Using that funding we were able to offer food and incentives at WPP events throughout the academic year. We held writing retreats for all groups, helped individual groups book private writing time in rooms on campus, held a workshop on “Forming and Maintaining Writing Groups,” and set larger goals for next year! As I transition into a different WAC role, I am happy to announce that Julia Singleton will be facilitating the program for the 2016-17 year.

Julia Singleton

NSF Grant Writing Workshop Series

The NSF Grant Writing Workshop Series was a two-part series targeted towards graduate students applying for the NSF GRFP, a fellowship program specifically for starting graduate students.  The first workshop provided students with a broad overview of NSF, the grant, and the application process.  It covered the parts of the application focusing on the writing components and what reviewers look for in each application.  The second workshop in this series provided hands-on learning for students to read real grants that were submitted along with their reviews in an effort to get inside the head of the reviewer and understand ways to make their own writing stronger.  This workshop will likely be continued in future years with added components to help graduate students through this grant writing process.

Lina Yamashita

Graduate Students’ Self-Efficacy With Respect to Academic Writing and Seeking Help

During the 2014-15 school year, Judy Wexler and I conducted a survey of 136 graduate students at UC Davis to understand their needs with respect to writing and their experiences with writing and seeking help. Two findings from the survey were particularly surprising. One was that 40% of students reported having little to no confidence in seeking help on their writing. The other was that 25% of students reported having little to no confidence in academic writing. To further explore students' self-efficacy with respect to academic writing and seeking help and ultimately develop strategies for building students' self-efficacy regarding academic writing and seeking help, I conducted interviews with 7 graduate students in Fall 2015. The interviews indicated that strategies for building students' confidence in academic writing include offering tips on how to deal with negative feedback and encouraging students to seek out models of good writing in their respective disciplines. Strategies for building students' confidence in seeking help include offering tips on how to ask for help from students' advisors as well as how to be clear about what kind of feedback students want from different people and demonstrating empathy toward students who have not shown their writing to others, and framing the writing "consultations" as conversations.

Matt Zajic

Exploring Writing Instructor Attitudes and Actions towards Disability and Accessibility

The purpose of this project was to develop further understanding about postsecondary writing instructors’ attitudes and actions concerning disability and accessibility (including universal design, or UD) with regards to college writing courses. Using an instrument developed for understanding postsecondary faculty attitudes and behaviors towards disability and accessibility—the Inclusive Teaching Strategies Inventory (ITSI; Lombardi, Murray, & Gerdes, 2011)—along with optional follow-up semi-structured interviews, this project extends prior literature by focusing on college-level writing instructors, a group not previously targeted in prior research. The ITSI was developed to assess postsecondary teaching faculty’s understandings of disability in relation to pedagogy and access (Lombardi & Murray, 2011; Lombardi et al., 2011). The ITSI contains eight subscales: accessible course materials, accommodations, course modifications, inclusive assessment, inclusive classroom, inclusive learning strategies, campus resources, and disability law. Items are asked twice with slight differences to assess both attitudes and behaviors concerning accessibility topics (Lombardi & Murray, 2011). Key preliminary findings highlight the need to adapt the ITSI to more fully consider accessibility and disability within the college-level writing classroom. Across the 41 postsecondary writing instructors surveyed, most subscales demonstrated low overall reliability, suggesting the need to consider the content within each subscale specifically related to the college-writing classroom context rather than large-lecture classroom contexts (for which the survey was originally designed). However, low reliability may also stem from the limited sample size, and follow-up research is needed to address this concern. Across items, postsecondary writing instructors demonstrated a high degree of variability, suggesting other factors may influence both the attitudes and the behaviors behind considering issues of disability and accessibility within their courses. Semi-structured follow-up interviews showed that individual differences in awareness and knowledge about disability and accessibility may help contextualize broader survey results. Results from both the survey and the interviews suggest that looking to individual factors at the instructor and department level may help understand how instructors think about (or do not think about) disability and accessibility in the college-level writing class. Future research will be looking to better contextualize the individual differences, to recruit instructors across different writing programs to better assess reliability concerns with the ITSI, and to think about what forms of professional development may best serve college-level writing instructors regarding best practices for disability and accessibility.