A Change in Voice

Much of the writing I’ve done in the past few years has been for academic essays in school. These pieces seem to have a fundamental contradiction: I write about subjects that in all honesty I know hardly anything about as if I’m an expert researcher. I understand that this style of writing is useful in a class setting because it allows students to demonstrate their knowledge to professors. But it seems totally useless for anything other than that. Who wants to read dense, formal writing by an author who doesn’t have the expertise to say anything trustworthy and substantial?

I’ve engaged with and learned about a lot technical subject matter over the course of this semester: mapping software, health disparities, socioeconomic inequality, and academic research on urban accessibility, among other things. Although all of this has been really interesting, I don’t feel like I have the same authority as the professionals to make arguments about ideas in these fields.

A solution to this problem is to reorient the essay to be about my journey as a lay-person, seeking to learn about the subject matter. Since this is a new perspective for me to write from, I’ve been studying models in science journalism to see how other writers assume this voice. One idea is to lay out a premise and say something like, “So I decided to find out more…” and jump into a conversation with an expert, letting them use their authority to talk about the ideas. Although it’s uncomfortable to break out of my old habits, I think that this project will be a good opportunity to become more versatile as a writer.

2 thoughts to “A Change in Voice”

  1. Hi Deniz,
    Having just workshopped your website this week, I feel that this was a smart shift to make in your project! It is definitely coming together more naturally now. The science writer blog seems to fit your topic perfectly – it allows you to contribute to a research topic without limiting you to the conventions and trappings of the scientific research genre. Taking a layperson stance definitely dispels the pressure and scrutiny that might not be needed for this specific project. It also allows you to insert yourself, and your own opinions more readily than if you had to stick to facts, plain and simple.
    I feel that in my own capstone, I had the issue with being too informal perhaps. It seemed like all I was doing was inserting my opinions so I can appreciate the struggle of trying to balance the two. What helped for me was making the preface that seriously laid out my motivations for creating the project.
    I wonder if adding a blog post about your journey through your research (investigating the topic, speaking to experts, and making graphs) could be its own blog post on your site. I know you were wondering how to add more content – I think if it’s in blog format, it makes sense to go through your personal process (obviously in a tone that matches the rest of the pieces). What do you think?
    You also mention that this new direction will help increase your versatility as a writer, and I totally agree. Is this sort of investigative journalism something you’re interested in pursuing in the future? In class, you said that you might continue posting to this site even after the Minor, and it made me wonder if this genre is of professional interest to you. If so, you definitely seem to be on the right track!

    -Che

    1. Hi Che,

      It’s interesting that you thought that your voice was too informal at first. I think that our problems might be more similar than they might seem: we’re both trying a new type of writing, in a new genre. Capturing the right voice is really hard because it means that you have to go against your previous instincts. But for me at least, I think that it’s a good learning experience even though it’s been uncomfortable.

      I think that some writing about the process of making the graphs would be a good idea, either as a blog post or in the “About” section of the website. I’m planning to write a post about my thoughts about the blog format, so hopefully all of your questions will be answered there!

      I’m glad that you support the change of direction for my project, and thanks for the suggestions!

      Deniz

Leave a Reply