english side menu links to the index page links to english: "the basics" links to page on the process of writing an English research paper links to F.A.Q.s on  plagiarism links to a plagiarism worksheet links to page on starting an English essay link to page on first drafts link to page on crafting arguments link to q and a on introductions link to page on paragraphs and transitions link  to close reading and analyzing quotations link to  working  with critical sources link to writing and ethics link to faculty feedback link to MLA  style link to important terms link to examples with commentary link to resources Interview with Dr. Kevin Pelletier, PhD.
by Kerry Boland and Brittany Clemens, Writing Consultants.
Writer's Web

Learning how to read analytically and communicate effectively are essential life skills that students will employ long after the conclusion of their academic careers. For some students, college-level English classes present unforeseen challenges: The texts might be longer, the meanings might be deeper, and some of the novels might be downright boring to read through. How can students adapt to an environment where they might have to come up with their own paper topics or theses? In the following interviews, Dr. Kevin Pelletier, assistant professor of English at the University of Richmond, discusses how college English professors want students to grow as readers, thinkers, and risk-takers. Main ideas from each response accompany its video.

How are college English classes different than high school English classes?

"A really good college course would challenge the way students understand thinking."

  • Students should not come to college assuming professors will just hand them facts.
  • Ideally, college should help students develop a sophisticated and dynamic theory of knowledge.
  • Professors want students to explore the subject matter and draw their own conclusions or interrogate their own assumptions.

What are some of your biggest pet peeves in student writing?

"What frustrates me is when students are unwilling to take intellectual risks."

  • Writing is not just about presenting information.
  • Exploring and examining ideas in writing requires complex answers.
  • Writing should be seen as a way to innovate how students think, and not just a way to get a good grade.

How can English students develop as literary critics?

"If students open themselves up to new ways of thinking about texts, they'll find that the most interesting scholars in the field are those that ask interesting questions."

  • Be patient, care deeply, and don't worry so much about getting good grades.
  • Spend as much time with your professors as possible. Pay attention to how they go about learning what they know.
  • Let your professors read your work and listen to their feedback.

How can students understand and appreciate older literature?

"Part of what makes a text interesting is how it interacts with its context. If you don't know the context, it's hard to say what makes the text valuable."

  • It's okay to think an older novel is boring. Once it becomes familiar to you, your taste for it will change.
  • Try not to read texts with modern assumptions. Ideas of aesthetics and beauty have changed throughout history.
  • Put yourself into the text's time period and think about why it generated a significant response when it was published. What was happening in the world during that time?

What can help students overcome the challenges of writing an English paper?

"First drafts are just ugly, and that's okay. It's okay to write a messy draft. You're trying to think through the problem. You just haven't figured it out yet."

  • Writing is a complex process and it's difficult to manage all at once.
  • Everyone can improve in their writing. Don't feel pressured to be excellent coming into a class.
  • Write your first draft early, get feedback, and start revising as soon as possible.

Other Disciplines | Writer's Web | Writing Center | Make an Appointment | Library | Department of English
Copyright Info