Paul Kei Matsuda

Read Everything

One of the stock pieces of advice that I give gradaute students is to "read everything." Of course it's impossible to read everything that has ever been written, but I do expect researchers to have read everything--literally everything--on subtopics within the field on which they are writing.

When I start a new project, I usually begin by collecting all the books and articles that have anything to do with that topic. I prefer to buy those books--especially those that are often cited in one of my own fields--rather than check them out from the library or through the ILL. I need to have all my intellectual tools at my disposal. That has always been my preference--even when I was a poor graduate student. Building a good professional library is an important investment.

I scan through them to explore the intertextuality--which sources get mentioned more frequently and how. I then collect more sources if I don't have them handy. Without this process, it wouldn't be possible to come up with viable research questions or to know what questions or concerns reviewers and readers might have.

Reading everything is especially important at the beginning of a researcher's career. One of the problem of novice researchers trying to read selectively is that they are not likely to have developed appropriate criteria for choosing what is important and what is not. The discernment in reading scholarly books and articles can come only from an extensive knowledge of the field, which is, after all, a synthesis of the diverse bodies of knowledge held by everyone who identifies herself or himself as a member of the field.

A novice researcher who doesn't try to read everything is like someone watching Star Wars Episode III without having watched the other five episodes. The main plot and some of the details might still be entertaining, but the person's appreciation of the film is necessarily limited by the lack of background knowledge and intertextual awareness.

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The Politics of Second Language Writing: In Search of the Promised Land

I just heard from the publisher that The Politics of Second Language Writing: In Search of the Promised Land will be available in the next few days.

This book grew out of the Fourth Symposium on Second Language Writing (2004), which focused on the impact of institutional politics and policies on second language writing instruction. It is also the first book in the Parlor Press Series on Second Language Writing.

I've really enjoyed working with Christina and Xiaoye, co-editors of the book, on this project. Their committment to the field of L2 writing and their determination to move the project forward have really helped in producing this volume.

I've also found working with Dave Blakesley, the founder and publisher of Parlor Press, a real pleasure. A researcher of rhetoric and composition himself, he really understands both publishing and academic worlds. I'm really looking forward to continuing our productive relationship.

But most important, we were fortunate to be able to work with contributors who provided excellent manuscripts and responded well to our and reviewers suggestions and comments. They are: Danling Fu, Marylou Matoush, Kerry Enright Villalva, Ilona Leki, Ryuko Kubota, Kimberly Abels, Angela Dadak, Jessica Williams, Wei Zhu, Guillaume Gentil, Kevin Eric DePew, Xiaoye You, Deborah Crusan, Sara Cushing Weigle, Jessie Moore Kapper, Christine Norris, Christine Tardy, Stephanie Vandrick, and Barbara Kroll.

I can't wait to see this book in print--and in Adobe eBook format.

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A Professor and a Pilgrim

This article reminded me of my pilgrimage to the University of Michigan, where I went through the archives of the English Langauge Institute and the Bentley Historical Library. I also spent a week at Peter Fries's house going through the personal archives of Charles C. Fries, some of which is now available at the Bentley Historical Library.

There is definitely something to be said about being there and touching the real artifacts.


Update: Symposium 2007 in Japan

Here is an update: The 2007 Symposium on Second Language Writing is going to be at Nagoya Gakuin University, Japan. Professor Miyuki Sasaki has generously agreed to host the Symposium at her institution's new campus.

The dates are set for September 15-17, 2007. The information will soon be available at the Symposium web site.

This time, we are going to be soliciting proposals from everyone--there won't be a separate graduate student conference. Our goal is to make it possible for as many people to participate as possible.

I'll post more information here soon--stay tuned!

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Last update: January 6, 2008