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The article by Sommers is focused on revision strategies. The author remarks that this aspect of writing has not been receiving sufficient attention from scholars (Sommers 378). Sommers sees a possible explanation for such a state of affairs in writing models being linear and disconnected from revisions (378). Because the models of writing are based on speaking, they exclude revisions as such. Thus, Sommers regards such an approach as “a parody of writing” (378). Further, the author describes a case study approach she employed to analyze the revision strategies of students and adult writers.
The group of student writers consisted of twenty first-year students whereas the group of adult writers included academics, editors, and journalists. Every participant had to write three essays: persuasive, explanatory, and expressive (Sommers 380). For each work, there had to be two revisions, thus resulting in nine papers from every individual. The researcher counted, analyzed, and categorized the changes that participants made.
In the process of analyzing students’ attitudes to revising, Sommers found out that they did not like using the word “revision,” mentioning that their teachers preferred such a term (380). Instead, they used the following definitions: “scratch out and do over again,” “reviewing,” “redoing,” “marking out,” and “slashing and throwing out” (Sommers 380-381). The major concern of this group’s definitions was vocabulary. Students viewed revising as a “rewording” activity (Sommers 381).
The reason for such an attitude was that they understood words as units of written discourse. As a result, they entitled word choice with the quality of determining the failure or success of their papers. The primary aim of their revision was to find a more suitable word or phrase (Sommers 381). Another concern of student writers was repetition (Sommers 382). According to Sommers, such a problem occurred because their writing imitated speech in which individuals did not tend to pay much attention to words that were reiterated (382).
One of the main goals of the study was to identify differences in the interpretations of the revision process by students and experienced writers. The latter defined their revision processes as “rewriting” or “revising” (Sommers 383-384). Not only their interpretations were different from the students’ ones but also the approaches to revising. In particular, adult writers reported their purpose of revising as looking for the “form or shape” of arguments (Sommers 384).
Experienced writers employed such phrases as “finding a framework,” “a design,” or “a pattern” for their thoughts (Sommers 384). These participants explained that in the first draft, they usually tried to “define their territory” (Sommers 384). Meanwhile, in the second draft, they started noticing the general arrangement of development and choosing what to incorporate in the final version and what to avoid.
Apart from analyzing the form of their writing, experienced writers also had “a concern for their readership” (Sommers 384). Also, they considered the revision as a “recursive process” (Sommers 386). With its help, they could concentrate on different levels of writing and choose various agendas for each draft.
Research by Sommers offers a new view of the revision process. The author analyzes the attitudes to revising expressed by two different groups of writers. She identifies that depending on the experience, authors’ approaches to reviewing their written works differ. The more mature the writer is the higher appreciation of revising he or she has.
Sommers, Nancy. “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 31, no. 4, 1980, pp. 378-388.