Conservatism of Expectations

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I’ve spent the last few years working on a book about graduate writing. That process is now drawing to a close: Thriving as a Graduate Writer will be published in June! Between now and then, I’m going to use this space to share brief excerpts. In addition to my discussion of principles, strategies, and habits for effective academic writing, the book has short ‘asides’ that allowed me to engage with topics outside that main narrative. Over the next four months, I’ll share my favourites of those asides. As always, I’d love to hear what you think!

Book Cover showing title: Thriving as a Graduate Writer

Conservatism of Expectations

It’s hard to talk about meeting reader expectations as a graduate writer without attending to the conservative implications of prioritizing established expectations. Rather than conform to expectations that feel allied to outdated and inequitable systems, some graduate writers may wish to write differently, in ways that confront or subvert the norms of standard research communication. Resisting those expectations can take many forms: normalizing World Englishes; refusing white supremacy in language; understanding subjectivity in research imagination; drawing upon Indigenous research epistemologies; integrating multimodal research into doctoral theses. Any one of those endeavors could easily be hampered by the replicative nature of doctoral education. And writing in a manner that requires adherence to existing academic practices can be demoralizing; making changes to those practices is central to why some people undertake graduate work. As a result, some writers may choose to discount those norms during graduate work. It’s worth noting that some writers may share those critical commitments while being uninterested in challenging existing norms. Despite wishing change to happen, these writers may feel that their academic work is already unfairly scrutinized or that it isn’t their job to transform academic writing practices. What’s more, some writers in this situation may feel particularly anxious to gain access to a hidden curriculum that others seem to assimilate more easily. Given that range of attitudes and pressures, I think there is value in laying out established conventions in a way that leaves the writer the freedom to choose their own path. Certainly, working around norms—or making norms work for you—is easiest when those norms are well understood. I don’t want the ideas contained within this book to be an impediment to writing in ways that support the work that feels urgent to you; instead, I hope they can be deployed in the service of the academic work that you want to do in the way you want to do it.

Thriving as a Graduate Writer will be available in early June from the University of Michigan Press. To pre-order your copy, visit the book page. Order online and save 30% with discount code UMS23!

One response to “Conservatism of Expectations

  1. As always, your posts make beautiful sense. Intelligent, insightful and well crafted. No wonder your book is being published!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s