Front cover

The New Digital Scholar

Randall and I are so pleased to have worked with John Bryans, Amy Reeve, Brandi Scardilli, and all the good folks at Information Today, Inc. on The New Digital Scholar: Exploring and Enriching the Research and Writing Practices of NextGen Students. We are excited to be bringing a new audience, writing teachers and administrators, to ITI. We think connections between librarians and writing teachers and administrators are crucial to the success of NextGen students. The book fleshes out some approaches to those connections. We hope it is the beginning of increased dialogue between professionals from writing studies and library and information science.

Below is an excerpt from our introduction:

As a range of researchers—from anthropologists (e.g., Blum 2009) to writing studies professionals (e.g., National Writing Project, et al. 2010), from communication theorists (e.g., Hargittai, et al. 2010) to information scientists (e.g., Head and Eisenberg 2009, 2010)—have observed, NextGen students write more than perhaps any generation in history. NextGen students are those secondary and postsecondary students who are frequently writing on Twitter feeds and Facebook pages; sending texts and instant messages on their smartphones, tablets, and laptops; and contributing to wikis and community webpages of all kinds. Both in and out of school, NextGen students are surrounded by and constantly composing text. We would add that they are researching more, too. NextGen students are routinely locked in to digital communication technologies that did not exist just a few years ago. From the web to the mobile phone, these technologies allow students to engage in the multiple activities of writing, reading, and researching simultaneously. This pervasive and amalgamated engagement makes the communication and information behaviors ofNextGen students unique in many ways. Most notably, their immersion in the digital world causes them to see textual information differently. How they perceive, identify, use, and create information affects not only their personal and social lives but also their academic ones.The rise of digital technologies has changed how NextGen students think of research and how they conceptualize research-writing.

Writing researchers have long considered and studied in depth the impact of computer use, multimedia, and the web on students as writers, yet comparably little work has been published on students as writer-researchers in the digital age. For example, most college-level first-year writing teachers are tasked with helping students become better researchers and better research-writers; still, this topic continues to have lower priority in the field of writing studies, as it is often seen as the province of others (namely, library and information scientists or high school teachers) or as a separate unit to be endured (and moved through quickly) in writing courses. Because digital technologies intertwine research and writing, this book takes as its premise that we—as professionals from a variety of fields—cannot ignore, marginalize, or leave to others the commitment to understand and help the new digital scholar.

In its four parts, this collection explores the facets of that commitment. The first two parts address how others have characterized students’ research-writing behaviors and how students themselves conduct research and represent their research-writing practices. Part One reviews published discussions of NextGen students and their engagement with digital technologies for research-writing tasks, and Part Two shares research on students’ actual practices, providing data to inform these discussions. The last two parts address ways to improve students’ practices. Part Three provides a variety of pedagogical ideas, ways to respond in the classroom to what Parts One and Two reveal. The fourth and final part offers programmatic solutions and institutional approaches to preparing students to be successful research-writers. Taken together, these parts advance our understanding of the research behaviors of NextGen students and suggest ways to help them productively find textual information and compose with the information they find.


We invite you to join us on this journey.

Jim Purdy

About James P. Purdy

James P. Purdy is assistant professor of English and director of the University Writing Center at Duquesne University, where he teaches first-year writing, composition theory, and digital writing in the undergraduate and graduate programs. His research on digital writing and research practices and technologies has appeared in College Composition and Communication, Computers and Composition, Computers and Composition Online, Journal of Literacy and Technology, Kairos, Pedagogy, and Profession, as well as in several edited collections. With co-author Joyce R. Walker, he won the 2011 Ellen Nold Award for the Best Article in Computers and Composition Studies and the 2008 Kairos Best Webtext Award.

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