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Vivian Pham Writing 101 Fall 2013 A Reflection Looking over the freshman year requirements during the

summer, thoughts surrounding a full-year writing course came with a sense of dread. The thought of having to write papers that would most likely have nothing to do with biology or chemistry piled on top of studying for quizzes and exams was stressful. Weekly readings and big papers seemed like the last thing any student would want. However, this fall semester course proved to be different from the expectations. The break from pure science was much needed. Writing allowed me to express my thoughts and helped me organize information, a skill that is useful in any class. Coming into the course, I believed my writing skills to be decent but by the end I was able to improve and identify my weaknesses. Over the course of the semester, I improved in writing to an audience and in my rhetorical analysis of text, but my biggest achievement was expanding my writing process. In contrast, the semester revealed that I struggle to correctly incorporate APA citations in addition to critically analyzing information. Rhetoric has always been a topic of interest for me since my eleventh grade AP English class. I found it amazing to breakdown a paragraph, revealing a perspective on what was the author's purpose or audience or tone. Simple things such as word choices can implicate much. I believe that this course helped me exercise rhetorical analysis through both the analysis paper and the weekly readings and discussions. Talking about the weekly readings and writing a blog helped on a small scale to learn the importance of identifying an audience and the meaning of texts. With the rhetorical analysis paper, exercising these skills on a larger scale helped me

understand the principles of good writing even more. Understanding rhetoric was key to audience-focused writing, a skill that I greatly improved on this semester. The awareness of an audience changed how I approached the planning of my writing, making sure that what I was putting down would be interesting and relatable. "The Man Under the Mask" pushed me to be more creative as I was trying to address a comic book character as if he was a real celebrity that every college student would know and be interested in knowing. For example, "science, to Bruce Wayne, was about the people and his spendings reflected his belief," a philosophy most healthcare science students should understand ("The Man Under the Mask," p.3). However, I think this skill was best used in " Rumor Spreads Disease" where I had to cut down a broad collection of information to address the concerns and questions parents. Statements such as, "children are messy, picking up interesting things off the ground, touching almost anything and, subsequently, touching their own and each other's faces and hands," were used to connect parents to the idea of microbes, and from microbes to vaccines ("Rumor Spreads Disease," p. 9). Typical parents may not know or be interested in the minor details of vaccine composition and safety so I tried to place the information in a context that would make it relatable to parents. This improvement in audience-focused writing will help me in the future, especially in scientific research writing, where organization of information for an audience is extremely important. Better writing can be achieved by more planning before writing. For years, I always thought I did better jumping right in, seeing where the words would take me. However, being forced to post drafts and having others assigned to edit my paper, in conjunction with my professor's edits and inputs, improved my writing even more. For my profile paper, posting the drafts online was a conventional way for everyone to discuss their work. It helped me to talk my ideas out loud with my friends in class and outside of class. I thought my subject was risky,

especially since Batman is a fictional character and I wanted to write as if the comic world was a part of reality. Through discussion, however, I was inspired and was given many ideas on how to set everything up and what I wanted to say. Working online was effective because it was easy for me to access my peers' work and edit different papers, which not only helped my peers but also helped me write my own. The constant revisions helped me look at my paper from different angles and work out what I needed to change or improve before submitting the final draft. For my rhetorical analysis paper, we were given a set of pre-writing questions. This exercise helped clarify where I wanted to take my paper. It is easy to just dive into writing and realize two pages later that the ideas have run out. The pre-write forced me to analyze what I wanted to do with the story and with my paper. Marking up the story and mapping out an outline for my paper helped my writing flow better. Similarly, for my research paper, it was a long process figuring out what I wanted to write and how I wanted to write it. Starting with the proposal and annotated bibliography, these two projects helped set a good foundation for what I wanted to touch upon in my paper. In addition, writing an introduction in class was a good way to keep myself on track and to avoid major mistakes and clichs. Again, working with my classmates by helping them set up their paper was key to my own discovery of where to begin. I believe that all the work I put in before finalizing my final draft was the key to the success of my writing this semester. Without these little activities, it would have been much harder to figure out how to write these papers quickly without compromising clarity and focus. While this past semester has given me much improvement, I have also realized my weaknesses. In many of my papers, the biggest issue was APA citations. Despite checking and rechecking and looking over the handbook and websites, APA mistakes were always present somewhere. It is something that I must improve on, until it becomes as natural as MLA citations.

In addition to APA mistakes, I have realized that it was difficult for me to critically analyze my research. While I have the facts I want to present, I do not have the words and thoughts to follow. This weakness was especially problematic for my research paper. After I finished researching information on vaccines, vaccine controversies, and published papers about vaccine safety, I felt that it was very difficult to navigate the collection. It was hard to divide what I wanted to say from what I read and learned and wanted to cite. I felt that my paper may have been too reliant on the information collected and did not provide enough explanation for the readers. For example, in "Rumor Spreads Disease" I tried to explain that a court case was not an admission of guilt by the vaccine companies but rather a simple system set up to protect companies from unavoidable and reasonable mistakes. I used Natural News as an example of a source that twisted this system and "stated that this acceptance is a clear admission by the U.S. government of the MMR vaccine causing autism," but I did not elaborate on how this was not the reality ("Rumors Spreads Disease," p. 6). This issue hurts my writing because instead of a well-written paragraph or paper, it becomes a list of facts, a collection of quotes. For improvement, facts and quotes should be incorporated after my own words are written, avoiding the trap of simply writing around quotes. One of the first things I learned about writing is that it is an art. There is more to writing than simply putting down the exact thoughts running through the mind; instead, it is a precise, deliberate string of words to convey a larger meaning. Writing is never perfect, requiring more and more drafts to improve. In this freshman semester writing course, I learned not only about writing but also about myself and the way I work. Knowing my strengths and weaknesses helps me in future writing to remember what I've learned and to improve upon my failures.