“Writing is the way we create meaning, the way we create identity and authority, the way we communicate to others.”
~Bill Williamson, Professor of Rhetoric and Professional Writing
Writing is in the name of our department, so clearly it is core to our work and identity. Simply put, writing is the way we create meaning, the way we create identity and authority, the way we communicate to others, and writing is our principle medium for expression.
Members of our scholarly and professional community write in many languages, including English and other modern languages, as well as images and other visual and symbol-based languages. We write in the languages appropriate to our audience, purpose, content, culture, and context.
The writing that students in RPW do completely depends upon the nature of the communication challenges and contexts they face. In a course that explores concepts tied to the study of rhetoric and professional writing, students might write scholarly papers of one sort or another. In a course that explores communication practices, students might design documents in different media (e.g., print, digital, video, audio) that serve a variety of purposes (e.g., instruction, information, reporting, grantseeking). So in any given semester, the same student might design an interactive tutorial, a proposal, a print booklet, and a web site.
Good writing does many things. It demonstrates awareness of audience needs and expectations, helps fulfill one or more purposes for writers and audience members alike, is appropriate to the context within which it is designed to be encountered (e.g., workplace, home, Internet), and reflects appropriate professional values and ethical responsibilities.
Like other elements of RPW projects, evidence is appropriate to the communication situations we address. Scholarly writing incorporates scholarly, peer-reviewed publications, original research, and critical thinking, among other things. Writing in other contexts might include these as well as data generated during usability studies; documents and specifications from product vendors; visual content (e.g., photographs, illustrations, animations, data charts) appropriate to the audience and purpose; or resources from other popular contexts (e.g., periodicals, books, documentaries).
RPW classes generally follow either The Modern Language Association (MLA) or the American Psychological Association (APA) citation conventions. However, depending on the context of the work students produce, they may also need to learn and follow the citation standards for literally any other profession or discipline.