As a science major, I have not taken a writing class in three years, and so shifting gears back into the writing skill set was a challenge with the Discourse Community Analysis project and Advanced Writing in general. I have also never taken an online course at Northeastern, so I was not entirely sure what to expect. Moreover, I enrolled in the class very late as I had not originally intended to take it. These three factors caught me off-guard for the assignments of the first project. However, I feel that the way Professor Garneau designed the course made it easier for me to transition back into writing. The initial tasks helped me organize my thoughts for the final project. For example, analyzing the website through the DCA worksheet assignment prompted me to think about different design elements, web layouts, and language of the journal I chose.
The online format of the course certainly demanded me to adjust the way I approach class assignments. In my experience, time management is an essential skill in the real world and certainly in this class as well. It is helpful to follow the syllabus closely and know exactly what is due, how long it will take, and when the deadline is. I had a similar experience in a math class where problem sets were all due online, and this helped me handle this class format. Other than that, I believe I am on the internet to check for class updates often enough and that I have the basic skills to navigate through Blackboard content and use MS Word.
With respect to my specific discourse community, i.e. academics at a university, I think they have a high regard for colleagues and peers. Professors have told me directly that chemistry PhDs have a common bond – no pun intended – because they have all suffered enough through graduate school to earn their doctorate. On a more serious note, this is evident through the exclusive memberships of organizations like the American Chemical Society (ACS).
This project also highlighted some of the misconceptions the public may have about science. Scientists are not recluses who shutter themselves in a lab with no human contact. Quite the opposite, they communicate on a daily basis to share their ideas, proposals, findings, and critiques on research. Since they do this in a specific forum – be it conferences, press releases, publications – the public often does not see the communication take place.
Looking at my own performance moving forward in this project, I think I managed my time well and used criticism constructively. This is true with regards to the transition from project draft to the final product. Applying changes from the peer reviews to my draft early was helpful in getting a second opinion from both of my peers. This gave me more confidence in the edits I made and took away the pressure of waiting until the last minute to submit my final project. The amount of changes I made from start to finish shows that I tried to be flexible in accepting criticism professionally, instead of taking it personally. Overall, I feel that the peer reviews helped me grow as a writer and gave me a different vantage point as an author looking through a viewer’s perspective.