This is the fifth blog post in a series featuring the scholarship of research teams who participated in the CEL 2019-2021 research seminar on Writing Beyond the University: Fostering Writers’ Lifelong Learning and Agency. This blog post showcases a multi-institutional collaboration by Ann Blakeslee (Eastern Michigan University), Jennifer Mallette (Boise State University), Rebecca Nowacek (Marquette University), J. Michael Rifenburg (University of North Georgia), and Liane Robertson (University of South Florida).

6 people standing in front of a white board, posing for the camera.

The team has been studying how new professionals, who have been in the workplace for less than five years, navigate workplace writing. As they embarked on this research, the team recognized that universities claimed to be preparing graduates for the workplace, but instructors and scholars didn’t actually know much about the working world new alumni were entering and the writing they’d need to do in those contexts. The team was curious about graduates’ writing experiences and what had prepared them for their professional writing tasks.

In exploring their questions about new professionals’ writing, the team’s emerging research indicated differences in participants’ assumptions about workplace writing while in college. Most interesting were the ways participants responded to their new environments: some with or without built in mentoring and support, some who drew on mentoring or confidence built on previous experiences, and other factors.

Depending on the site at which the research took place, some participants were encouraged to draw their writing processes, while others did no drawing. The researchers saw similarities between interview responses and the drawings for those participants who did so, creating opportunities to analyze across word-based and visual responses, and in some cases, functioning as an invention strategy during the interviews that helped surface their tacit knowledge about their writing.

The team learned that writers and their workplace contexts are intertwined, so their study of workplace writing couldn’t separate the human factors (e.g., dispositions, identities) and the contextual factors (e.g., conditions in different workplaces informing different writing tasks). No two workplaces are alike, but workplaces that provide new professionals support, mentoring, and appropriate resources are more likely to foster their employees’ writing success.

The team’s research is featured in a chapter in the forthcoming edited collection, Writing Beyond the University: Preparing Lifelong Learners for Lifewide Writing. We’ll showcase their additional publications on the Center for Engaged Learning website as they become available.

Jessie L. Moore is Director of the Center for Engaged Learning and Professor of English: Professional Writing & Rhetoric. With Peter Felten, she edits the Stylus Publishing/Center for Engaged Learning Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching and the Center for Engaged Learning Open Access Series.

How to cite this post:

Moore, Jessie L. 2022. “Navigating Workplace Writing as a New Professional.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. May 4, 2022.