Habits of Mind

Consider the intellectual habits that are most often at work in any process of learning:

  • Curiosity – the desire to know more about the world.
  • Openness – the willingness to consider new ways of being and thinking in the world.
  • Engagement – a sense of investment and involvement in learning.
  • Creativity – the ability to use novel approaches for generating, investigating, and representing ideas.
  • Persistence – the ability to sustain interest in and attention to short- and long-term projects.
  • Responsibility – the ability to take ownership of one’s actions and understand the consequences of those actions for oneself and others.
  • Flexibility – the ability to adapt to situations, expectations, or demands.
  • Metacognition – the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking as well as on the individual and cultural processes used to structure knowledge.

These “habits of mind” will help you as you work to develop the following abilities and knowledge through the thinking, reading, and writing in this course:

  • Rhetorical knowledge – the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes, and contexts in creating and comprehending texts;
  • Critical thinking – the ability to analyze a situation or text and make thoughtful decisions based on that analysis, through writing, reading, and research;
  • Writing processes – multiple strategies to approach and undertake writing and research;
  • Knowledge of conventions – the formal and informal guidelines that define what is considered to be correct and appropriate, or incorrect and inappropriate, in a piece of writing; and
  • Abilities to compose in multiple environments – from using traditional pen and paper to electronic technologies.

These intellectual habits, ways of knowing, and ways of writing were developed by the Council of Writing Program Administrators, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the National Writing Project. For a more detailed account of the habits of mind and experiences read the complete “Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing.”

Five Things to Think about as a Writer 

Context
Write in a recognizable intellectual context (disciplinary, critical, historical, theoretical)

Write for a real person, someone who is engaged in the subject and interested in what you have to say (be honest, be genuine)

Purpose
Write beyond the assignment: challenge yourself, use the essay to improve as a writer

Be motivated (you should have a reason why you are doing one thing and not another)

Articulate your main idea, purpose, argument, claim (the main idea should be clear and distinct)

Be confident. Write with courage, conviction, originality (say “it is” rather “it seems”)

Embrace complexity (go beyond first thoughts, commonplaces and clichés, don’t reduce complexity)

Writing with Sources
Quote only when necessary

Build Credibility/Authority (primary and secondary, quoted in vs. quoted from)

Use appropriate/Relevant Evidence (evidence chosen that makes you more persuasive)

Set up (lead in to suggest how to read) and follow up (discuss/analyze fully each quotation)

Design
Use organization and structure thoughtfully (sections, paragraphs)

Be logical (your sequence of thoughts, what Steven Pinker calls “arcs of coherence”)

Build sentences and work on your repertoire of sentence structures (use of phrases, apposition, semi-colons and dashes, etc.)

Precision and Presentation
Focus (idea), not generalizing, be specific, choose words, clarity (cut irrelevant words/sentences)

Be professional (if your writing is careless you will not be taken seriously)

Document (consistently and accurately, if you have a question ask the professor)

Control grammar, spelling, punctuation (learn your problems and solve them, never make the same mistake twice)

Write with fluency, grace, style (read aloud, leave time in process to work on sentences)