Writing Lives Pathway

Writing Lives Badge
Writing Lives Badge

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Practicing auto-ethnographic research methods common to the social sciences, this badging pathway helps you examine and understand how writing, in all its forms, functions in your daily life.  After some preliminary reading and research about writing in the lives of young people, you will come up with a focused, significant research question to explore through data collection methods of self-study like journalling, think-aloud protocols, daily logs, and/or artifact analysis. You’ll spend at least a week collecting data that helps you answer your question on your writing habits, tools, genres, mediums, emotions, etc. and then analyze that data to “find your findings” about the role of writing in your daily life.


Final Project for Writing Lives Pathway

For the SciCom pathway, your goal will be to summarize and analyze existing scholarly and popular sources surrounding the topic (Level I), engage in your own inquiry around the topic (Level II), and create a multimedia project that represents your critical interpretation and new understandings about the topic (Level III). In particular, you will develop a podcast (with accompanying show notes) to share your experience of being a writer with other CMU students.

Your group will be collaborating around your topic, and your final project is meant to be an individual effort. That said, I know that the creative process — as well as the affordances of the digital tools and culture — may lead you toward co-authorship. In fact, I imagine that this will happen many times for us.

So, if you plan to develop a co-authored final project, you will need to articulate that clearly in your research plan and get approval from Dr. Hicks. Otherwise, please plan to collaborate with your group around the topic, but to develop your own final project.


Group Reading, Viewing, and CMU Contact


Level I Activities

In Level I, your main goal is to summarize and analyze existing scholarly and popular sources surrounding the topic.

Level I, Task 1: Learning more about the Writing Life

  • Discuss the video and article with your group. Annotate these and keep thinking through what you have found. Do some more searching on the topic through the Library and Google Scholar. Save what you have found to Zotero.

Level I, Task 2: Writing-to-Explore the Writing Life

  • What does writing look like in your life? When do you write? Where do you write? Why do you write? What tools do you use?  What genres and media do you write in most?  What are your perceptions of your writing?  How have those perceptions changed over time? Write a 100-150 word response to those questions.
  • Read the following short articles that address writing in young people’s lives.  As you read, digitally annotate, looking for main ideas, key points, statements that you agree or disagree with, things that bother you or excite you, and anything that sparks your interest.  What in these readings would you like to know more about and study?  What here connects to your own writing life?  Also, pay attention to the contexts of the different sources.  Mark when they were written.  Who are the authors?  Do some research to find out about them.  Note the authors’ purposes and  the audience they were writing for.  Where were they published and why does that matter?  What kinds of evidence do the authors use to support their claims?   Read and answer these questions in your annotations. Finally, write a 100-150 word response summing these articles up.
  • Return to your first response. How is writing in your life similar to or different from what you’ve read about writing in the lives of contemporary young people? Write apx 300 words that reference the reading above and places your writing life inside the larger picture of writing in young people’s lives. Integrate the sources, responsibility using paraphrase and direct quotations, in-text citations, and a works cited list.

Level I Submission Items:

  • LI,T1: Links to your annotated article and TED Talk
  • LI,T2: Writing to Explore (500 words, GDoc or Word)

Stop Sign Image STOP: Submit your work to Bb and check in with your instructor.


Level II Activities

In Level II, your main goal is to engage in your own inquiry around the topic.

Level II, Task 1: Immerse Yourself in Research

  • Find additional sources about the specific aspects of what it means to be a writer that you want to explore. Get as much information about it as you can. Use at least four credible sources. At least two of these sources must be academic or trade sources found via CMU Library research and two can be from other sources, including popular media. Include an MLA or APA style bibliography of all your sources.
  • Using the your answers to questions about what you’d like to know more about regarding writing in your life, narrow your focus to a single question that you will explore in more detail by collecting primary data on your own writing practices.
    • For example, if you interested in the ways likes and comments on your Instagram page affect your emotional wellbeing, you might ask, “How do I feel when I review comments or favorites on my Instagram posts?”
    • If you are interested in the places or genres in which you use texting language, you might ask, “In which contexts do I use text language? Are these uses more dependent on my audience, the context, my purpose, or the writing tool that I’m using?”
    • If you are interested in the differences between self-sponsored and school writing in your life, you might ask, “How does my writing process (or mood or confidence) change when I write for academic and personal purposes?”
  • After you have completed your research, write a brief response: What insights (aha! moments) have you gained from taking the time to really experience citizen science? What insights might matter the most to your overall topic and might appeal to your audience?
  • Find some podcasts about writers and writing and listen to at least three (3) episodes. A few places to start:
  • In a few sentences for each, write about two or three possible directions for your podcast, each focused on one main impression, that your essay or guide might take.
  • Carefully read back over all your fieldnotes looking for evidence that supports each of the possible directions you brainstormed.
    • Now, highlight each of those directions in your response in a different color highlighter.
    • When you find good evidence to help you develop your direction and focus, highlight it in the same color that you used in your brainstorming paragraph.
    • If certain observations, ruminations, descriptions, or photos could be used to develop more than one angle, highlight them using multiple colors.
  • Download and install Audacity. Search for some tutorials on YouTube. Get familiar with recording yourself. Try to import music or a sound effect. Have someone else record, too, so you can get multiple voices. Record. Play. Have fun. Export as an MP3 or WAV file. Write about this in apx 100-150 words.

Level II, Task 2: Research Proposal

  • Review information about Project Planning from Writing Commons.  Describe the podcast that you will make in detail in a project proposal (at about 250 words). Answer the following
    • Mode: What are the characteristics of the genre of a blog post? What are the types of structures that writers use? What counts as evidence in this community?
    • Media: What do you need to learn about using audio, video, images, maps, hyperlinks or other digital writing tools? How does this media enhance your overall argument?
    • Audience: Move beyond a “general audience,” and describe who, specifically you are writing for. What do they believe? What counts as evidence for this audience? Considering the demographics (age, regional location, income level, etc.) and psychographics (values, interests, concerns, affiliations, etc.), carefully describe the rhetorical audience for this object and set of instructions.
    • Purpose: Choose an active verb. What are you trying to do with your writing? Write more about this verb and how your project is going to guide your work on this project.
    • Situation: What do you know about this genre? This topic? What will you have to learn about the technology that you plan to use?

Level II Submission Items:

  • L2,T1: “Immerse Yourself” essay (Summary and Analysis Paper or approximately 750 to 1000 words, GDoc or Word). Include info from:
    • Additional sources, academic and popular
    • Your experiences from the field, including highlights from your field notes
    • Share a link to your first trial recording with Audacity
  • L2,T2: Project Proposal (250 words, GDoc or Word)

Stop Sign Image STOP: Submit your work to Bb and check in with your instructor.


Level III Activities

In Level III, your main goal is to create a multimedia project that represents your critical interpretation and new understandings about the topic. For this pathway, you will create a podcast (5-10 min long, apx 1000 scripted words).

Level III, Task 1: Prototyping

  • Using everything you have learned and experienced, you will make a draft of your podcast. Your podcast is meant to inform a lay audience about your project and its impact and importance.
  • Bring to class your podcast and your show notes for the episode. Give a group or group(s) of students in the class your stories and ask them to read/listen to it. Ask for their impressions of each.
  • Carefully observing what people did, answer the following in a Google doc (500 words):
    • Summarize their reactions to using the podcast and show notes for the episode
    • Describe your purpose, audience, and format
    • State some of the most important choices you made about production and revision
    • State how you used peer and instructor feedback to revise
    • State whether or not you think mapping provided useful context for your story/argument. Why or why not?
  • Ask for peer review on your podcast show notes for the episode. See peer review guidelines.

Level III, Task 2: Finalizing your podcast

  • Revise and polish your podcast, according to the feedback you received.
  • Prepare any additional materials you may need for the teach-in.

Level III Submission Items:

  • L3,T1: Prototyping your podcast and show notes for the episode, and documenting feedback (500 words)
  • L3,T2: Final, published podcast and show notes
  • Reflection in Flipgrid

Stop Sign Image STOP: Submit your work to Bb and check in with your instructor.


Required Artifacts For Submission:

Level I

  • LI,T1: Links to your annotated article and TED Talk
  • LI,T2: Writing to Explore (500 words, GDoc or Word)

Level II

  • L2,T1: “Immerse Yourself” essay (Summary and Analysis Paper or approximately 750 to 1000 words, GDoc or Word). Include info from:
    • Additional sources, academic and popular
    • Your experiences from the field, including highlights from your field notes
    • A link to the first draft of your infographic
  • L2,T2: Project Proposal (250 words, GDoc or Word)

Level III

  • L3,T1: Prototyping your podcast and documenting feedback (500 words)
  • L3,T2: Final, published podcast and infographic
  • Reflection in Flipgrid

Student Examples


With sincere appreciation to my colleague from the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Stephanie West-Puckett, I have adapted many of these materials from her Writing 104 course.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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