by Jenae Cohn
Jenae Cohn is a PhD candidate pursuing a Designated Emphasis in Writing, Rhetoric, and Composition in the English department at the University of California, Davis. She is a graduate writing fellow through the University Writing Program’s Writing Across the Curriculum program and her research interests include digital rhetoric, materiality, and the history of the book. She can be contacted via e-mail, Twitter, and her personal website.
Never before had I seen an article filled with more numbers than words on one page. I was in the second-year of my PhD program in English and was working as a graduate writing consultant (“tutor”) through my university’s Writing Across the Curriculum program.
As someone who had trained as a tutor in an undergraduate writing center in college, I knew the techniques for skimming a long paper, seeking out the main points, and identifying the areas of higher-order concerns. In college, I had dealt with a variety of papers from disciplines across the curriculum, operating under the assumption that, as Pemberton (1995) puts it, “many aspects of text production… are ‘generic’ in nature and, for the most part, extend across disciplinary boundaries” (p. 367). Yet for the first time, I was confronted with the fact that there were disciplinary differences – and big ones – that I had never encountered before. I didn’t know what to do. After all, I was new to WAC as a pedagogy to use in tutoring and I didn’t thinking that my writing center knowledge alone was enough to equip me for the new challenges of reading and commenting upon the conventions of academic disciplinary prose at the graduate level.