Writing-as-Thinking: The Key to Organizing, Analyzing, and Synthesizing Information

Saturday, 14 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Cathilia Flores, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM
Students, STEM or otherwise, frequently believe that writing is solely an academic endeavor and that after freshman comp, they will never need writing again.  Sadly, this attitude sometimes stays with them until they are required to publish their research—and then they panic for lack of practice.  One of the core causes of this trend is the belief that writing is simply a matter of conveying information and nothing more.  This belief focuses on an end product and does not account for the writing process, which is a process of thinking and refining thinking through systematic revision.  It is key to the development of critical thinking. Without fully making use of this process, students and professionals alike are shortchanging themselves by not utilizing writing to enhance and strengthen their information organization, visualization, analysis, and synthesis skills—to enhance their thinking and subsequently their research.  If professors and PIs want their students and lab members to develop critical thinking skills, they should be modeling and encouraging the use of the writing process and writing-as-thinking.  But some still think of “good writing” as merely the proper usage of grammar and have yet to know the untold benefits of writing-as-thinking.  There are even many professional researchers who do use writing as a thinking tool but are such automatic experts at it that they do not articulate it well to their students or assume that students do not need to be taught and modeled these strategies explicitly.  On the contrary, students as well as professionals can all benefit from a robust understanding of the writing process and its use as an essential cognitive tool. This poster aims to present clearly the writing process and its connections to thinking and critical thinking.  It will also present an easy-to-grasp visual summary of the latest and most compelling research on writing-as-thinking as well as several simple methods for teaching students to make full use of writing throughout their academic and professional careers.  Examples will be STEM focused.  Through my teaching assistantship as a university writing instructor, I practice all these strategies with my undergraduate and graduate STEM major students with positive results.