Future students in the “College Writing for Transitions” class at Eastern Mennonite University may recognize a familiar name and face when they thumb through the required handbook. Among the nearly two dozen exemplary student texts featured in forthcoming sixth edition (2015) of The Everyday Writer will be Martha Bell’s essay “The Mystery of Chronic Lyme Disease.” Her essay will model correct use of APA format, a style common in certain types of academic writing. Bell’s essay will also be featured in the next media edition of The St. Martin’s Handbook.
Both texts, widely used in first-year writing courses in American universities, are written by Andrea Lunsford, a Stanford University professor recognized as one of the founders of the modern discipline of composition studies.
A first-year student deep into her spring semester studies, Bell says she was “shocked” to learn that her essay had been selected for the next edition of the handbook. “I had almost forgotten that my paper was even given to the publisher and I didn’t think it would be selected,” the nursing major said. “I am honored that something I wrote and spent so much time on will be published.”
Bell’s accomplishment is “a huge recognition,” both for her personally and for the EMU writing program, says language and literature department chair Mike Medley. “Martha’s paper shows how our writing program encourages first-year students to begin thinking about their vocation and engaging in research related to their college majors.”
The quality of the student paper also reflects the first-year writing program’s cohesive focus, developed by rhetoric and composition specialist Vi Dutcher, as well as the collaborative instructional efforts of faculty and reference librarian Stephanie Bush, Medley said. Small classes, capped at 16 students, also create opportunities for individual attention and feedback, he added.
“College Writing for Transitions” is a required course for all majors that develops critical skills in writing, reading, research and analysis. For their culminating research paper, students are encouraged to explore a topic related to their future career.
The pre-professional focus is one particularly appreciated by Carolyn Lengel, Bedford/St. Martin’s executive editor for English, who worked with Lunsford to select the essay.
The nursing field was not represented in previous editions of the book or in digital resources, Lengel said. “So many students planning to enter such professions aren’t aware of how important writing will continue to be in their lives and careers.”
Improvement to textbook suggested by EMU faculty
The impetus for this new student example came from EMU faculty concerns regarding the handbook’s current model for APA documentation, Lengel said. The current model is a literature review that summarizes, rather than quotes, sources. Following correct APA style for summarization, no page numbers are cited.
“The EMU faculty requested that a future student APA model in The Everyday Writer include quotations as well as summaries,” Lengel said. “When I told Vi Dutcher that I’d be interested in sample student writing that her faculty considered exemplary, the EMU faculty responded with a student writing contest.”
The contest was open to all 160 students enrolled in “College Writing for Transitions” last fall. Bell, a student of Marti Eads, won first place. Though the first- and second-place winners were forwarded to the publisher, there was no guarantee they would be selected to replace the current student model.
“Martha’s paper is an exemplary model of APA style and formatting,” Lengel said, adding that she was “surprised and delighted” by the contest and pleased with its positive results.
The current edition of The Everyday Writer includes 22 pieces of student writing “from social-media writing and PowerPoint slides to memos, cover letters, and researched writing in various disciplines and in four documentation styles,” Lengel said. “We don’t change the work in every edition, and I hope we’ll be able to use Martha Bell’s piece for some time to come!”
Bell is a 2013 graduate of Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Va., which also emphasizes developing student writing skills.