The Archive of Workplace Writing Experiences is a project developed by two writing professors–Brian Fitzpatrick (George Mason University) and Jessica McCaughey (George Washington University)–with the aim of better understanding not only how and what kinds of writing happen in various workplaces, but also how our students will ultimately adapt when they enter the workforce.
Despite efforts to better prepare students to transfer their college writing skills to the workplace, the transition is unquestionably difficult—and often publicly lamented. One part of this challenge is that students often have surprisingly limited access to professionals working and writing in the fields they wish to pursue. Even more complicated is the tremendous variation in writing genres, requirements, and expectations from industry to industry and organization to organization, meaning that students often end up encountering a necessarily less-than-specific version of professional writing in the classroom.
In an effort to solve this problem, we developed the Archive of Workplace Writing Experiences, an online audio archive of interviews from working professionals in a variety of different industries. The archive and the research that accompanies it is grounded in “transfer” research from writing studies. Transfer is the act of learning skills in one context (in this case the university setting) and adapting or transferring them into a different context (a job). In the audio interviews collected here, interviewees are asked to discuss how and what they write in their specific workplaces, how they translated college writing skills into that field, what “successful” writing looks like where they are, and what students across disciplines need to develop in their writing as they look towards the future. Interviews also explore new ways of considering central transfer concepts like genre and metacognition.
The archive, which is available to students, professors, and the public, serves as a learning tool and as an ongoing repository, but–perhaps most importantly–it is a crucial link between the university and the “working world,” as students hear the voices of those creating real workplace writing and are then better able to develop their own writing.
Who should use the archive?
Students can use the archive as a way to learn more about the writing that happens in the fields they are considering, as well as the skills writers in these fields describe as central to their work.
Professors in various fields are welcome to use the interviews collected in the archive for any number of educational purposes, from “listening” assignments that simply offer their students access to working professionals discussing their progression as communicators in their field to more substantial writing and critical thinking exercises. In the future, our “Resources” page will house curricula, lesson plans, and other suggested uses for educators.
The archive provides employers with previously unavailable insight from individuals about what it’s like to learn to write in a given job or field. It’s our hope that employers, through both the interviews themselves and the analysis and research that stems from them, will gain a better sense of the struggles their employees face, and will be better able to implement tools, strategies, and processes to help ease that transition.
We hope the archive is valuable to you in whatever form you choose to use it, and we welcome your feedback, especially about other uses and development.
Brian Fitzpatrick: firstname.lastname@example.org
Assistant Professor, George Mason University
Jessica McCaughey: email@example.com
Assistant Professor, George Washington University