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It’s the Audience, Stupid!. Writing for Reader Expectations Research and Writing Bootcamp , Social Sciences and Humanities Dr . Heather Blain Vorhies Fall 2013. Tollbooth Syndrome.

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It s the audience stupid

It’s the Audience, Stupid!

Writing for Reader Expectations

Research and Writing Bootcamp,

Social Sciences and Humanities

Dr. Heather Blain Vorhies

Fall 2013

Tollbooth syndrome
Tollbooth Syndrome

“But when our readers are people in the working world, people who need to be informed or convinced or persuaded of the rightness of our perceptions, we need to send them persuasive instructions for how to put all this information together.”

(George Gopen 155)

Writing for an american audience
Writing for an American Audience

Reader Expectations

Reader expectations
Reader Expectations

  • Argument and information will be organized in a hierarchy

  • Each paragraph will treat one controlling idea

  • The main subject and main verb will be towards the front of the sentence (when possible)

  • The writer will present his or her argument immediately

  • The Army Way of Writing: Tell me what you’re going to tell me, tell me, and then tell me what you told me


  • Glossing is often called reverse outlining.

  • Use it for reading and for critiquing your writing and others’.

  • Annotate a reading paragraph by paragraph, looking for:

    • What is the purpose of this paragraph in the text? (What does the paragraph do for the article?)

    • What is the main idea of this paragraph?

An exercise donald murray
An Exercise (Donald Murray)

  • Think of 5 questions your reader will need answered in order to understand your research. Write these 5 questions.

  • Answer these questions (1-2 sentences).

Graduate level writing
Graduate-Level Writing

Transitioning from Student to Scholar

Graduate level writing does not report
Graduate-Level Writing Does Not Report

  • As graduate writers and scholars, your job is not to report.

  • Rather, your job is to convince fellow scholars that your approach is viable and reasonable.

  • Your writing will instruct your reader how to interpret the information.

  • What sentences in the introduction of our sample do more than “inform”?

Engaging in scholarly conversation
Engaging in “Scholarly Conversation”

Scholars build upon each other’s work

Sample text

  • What is the problem?

  • Why is this a problem for the field and discipline?

  • What is the history of the problem?

  • Where should we go in the future?

Template sentences
Template Sentences

  • Template sentences help establish the relationship between ideas

  • These are sentence patterns that recur over and over again in academic writing

  • “There is a growing concern that X may have an impact on X.” (Popper)

  • “Studies of X have indicated ______. It is not clear, however, that this conclusion applies to ______.” (Graff and Birkenstein)

An exercise
An Exercise

  • Why does your work matter? Write a paragraph (3-4 sentences) that explains the importance of your most current research interest.

    • Why does this research matter to your discipline?

    • Why does this research matter to other disciplines?

    • Why does this research matter outside of the university?

Campus resources
Campus Resources

  • Writing Fellows: one-on-one writing consultations for graduate students


Web resources
Web Resources

  • Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center Website

  • University of North Carolina Writing Center Website

  • Helen Sword’s The Writer’s Diet

Print resources
Print Resources

  • The Sense of Structure: Writing From the Reader’s Perspective (George D. Gopen)

  • Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (Joseph Williams and Joseph Bizup)

  • Understanding Style: Practical Ways to Improve Your Writing (Joe Glaser)

  • Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts (Joseph Harris)