Graduate Students’ Co-Authored Papers Appear in Composition Forum

In the fall of 2022, students in Dr. Paul Butler’s Research Seminar in Rhetoric and Composition began a process that would continue beyond the classroom: co-authoring two papers, both eventually published in Composition Forum. 

FORWARD met with RCP PhD student Dalel Serda, a member of the seminar, to learn more about that collaborative process. 

Could you tell me a little bit about the graduate research seminar? 

The seminar was a very small, close-knit group of students. The work was highly collaborative, not only in the writing, but also in figuring out the research and learning about these seminal research projects that shaped rhetoric and composition practices today—and pedagogical practices. I remember having really diverse conversations and reactions to the research that we were reading.

What was the publication process like? What was it like working on a paper with so many co-authors? 

I’d never worked on a collaborative piece such as this. Having Dr. Butler’s reputation worked in our favor, because the editors paid a lot of attention to his name being in the query and were for the most part quick with their communication. Composition Forum is a journal that we were all happy to be a part of. We were grateful to Dr. Butler for his leadership. He was really good about having constant communication; the course ended and we were still in a lot of communication that was very easy to follow, in that it was very open, and transparent communication that involved everybody every single time. We met virtually through Teams through the summer; he gave us very clear deadlines that we all worked hard to meet. We were refining aspects of both articles, we were editing down substantially. So it was instructive to go through that process and have such a clear vision from the editors, but also Dr. Butler’s interpretation of what they wanted was much clearer than I would have had if I were working on my own. It was also interesting to try to achieve a similar tone with all these various authors—and that was creative and fun. Dr. Butler was very good about us all going line by line, sentence by sentence, word choice by word choice. I learned about the value of combing through my own work. 

Could you tell me a little bit more about the content of the papers, and how it fits with your own work? 

The first publication was a retrospective on Janet Emig, and she was an important voice in Rhetoric and Composition, and Composition Studies, specifically because she, as the article says, helped our discipline move into using case studies, and also helped us think about the idiosyncratic nature of the writing process. In terms of my own work and how it affected me—it affected me substantially, because Dr. Butler helped us hone in on what we all thought was important, which is the underexplored use of verbal articulations. I had always paid attention to that in my classes, but working on this piece made me conceptualize all of that verbal dialoguing in a completely different way. In the last version of the article, part of the final additions and collaborations we came upon had to do with what this verbalizing of thinking has to do for students who are minoritized or marginalized. And that was important to conclude as a group—and for me personally, since my work has always been about marginalized communities in general and students in particular—especially when it comes to RCP. 

The other piece was a review of a book that endeavors to demystify the publication process for people like all of us in that class that were new to the publication process. It was enriching to have the project of reviewing it for other people that were in similar situations. All of us had to be flexible with the way we thought about our own writing. Eventually we really took ownership of the entirety of both pieces, and it felt like a genuine co-authoring experience. 

Anything else you’d like to add about the process? 

During my master’s at another institution, I didn’t have co-authoring experiences that led to publication as the result of a class or a collaboration with a faculty member. I want to reiterate that this course is really valuable within the English department, and I hope that it continues to be offered, and that students from across the spectrum take advantage—having that on the CV is useful.