Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Interview with Dr. Jay Bickford

The EIU Writes staff has begun a new project. This project will force us to leave the Writing Center's safe confines and venture out from Coleman Hall's maze-like corridors into Panther Country.

Our plan is to interview faculty and staff members from all over Eastern's campus. We will ask them questions about the importance of writing in their field, their own writing, and their teaching of writing. Our goal is to encourage a campus-wide conversation about writing.

The blog's first victim is Dr. Jay Bickford of the School of Education, whom I had the pleasure to interview. Snippets of the conversation are found below.

I've always heard that strong readers make strong writers. What do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

Man, I could talk about that all day. As far as my own work goes, I try to read authors that disagree on the same event or historical figure. I try to read all the biographies I can about a historical figure.  

Do you have any personal writing quirks? A certain place to write, time of day, anything like that?

I have all sorts of little quirks. I have to sit so I’m laying way back, almost like I’m in a lawn chair. I try to drink a lot of water so I have to get up and go to the bathroom. I try to get up and take quick breaks. 

What were your best and worst writing experiences?

My worst writing experience was my dissertation. It was very complicated. It started out as a real interest, and then it became a real labor. I burned myself out from it. After I did my dissertation, I did the book, and I was done.

As for my best writing experiences,  I really enjoy stumbling across something that others have not found. It's great to make a significant contribution to the field.

How is writing in the field of education research different from writing in the humanities?

In education you’re looking for precision. You want to be explicit and precise. Also, in education research you want your comments to be empirically grounded.

Do you have any grammatical or syntactical miscues you often make? The kind that you are a little embarrassed to find in your writing?

Writing as an education researcher, all of the writing should be in the active voice. You have to avoid the passive voice, euphemisms, idioms and colloquial expressions. When I edit I find lots of little errors when it comes to subject-verb agreement. But, my biggest mistakes are when I unintentionally choose complexity to impress my readers over clarity to facilitate my readers comprehension. That’s my biggest struggle. 

How important is clarity in writing in your field?

It’s incredibly important and it is very much undervalued. Like in any field, clear writing indicates clear thinking. Something I tell my students all the time is "stupid doesn’t teach." You have to think things through. So if you write something clearly, you show that you have thought it out. 


1 comment:

  1. Sean, you are awesomeness in the flesh. Dr. Bickford's interview is lively and insightful. It was a real joy to read.
    By the way, I l.o.v.e. this sentence:
    "This project will force us to leave the Writing Center's safe confines and venture out from Coleman Hall's maze-like corridors into Panther Country."