Emotions, Play and Graduate Student Writing
While playfulness is important to graduate writing to shift students into new ways of thinking about their research, a key obstacle to having fun is writing anxiety. Writing is emotional, and despite a growing field of research that attests to this, emotions are often not explicitly recognized as part of the graduate student writing journey. Many students experience writing anxiety, particularly when receiving feedback on dissertations or papers for publication. Feedback on writing-in-progress is crucial to meeting disciplinary expectations and developing a scholarly identity for the writer. Yet many students are unable to cope with the emotions generated by criticism of their writing. This paper presents pedagogical strategies—free-writing, negotiating negative internal dialogue, and using objects to externalize feelings—to help students navigate their emotions, while recognizing the broader discursive context within which graduate writing takes place. Reflections on the pedagogical strategies from nineteen Masters and PhD students attending a course, Graduate Research Writing, were used to illustrate student experiences over the semester. The pedagogical strategies helped students to recognize their emotions, to make decisions about their emotional reactions and to develop agency in the way they responded to critical feedback. By acknowledging the emotional nature of writing, students are more open to creativity, originality, and imagination.
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