Multigenre: An Introduction
by Lisa Langstraat
"A multigenre paper arises from research, experience, and imagination. It is not an uninterrupted, expository monolog nor a seamless narrative nor a collection of poems. A multigenre paper is composed of many genres and subgenres, each piece self-contained, making a point of its own, yet connected by theme or topic and sometimes by language, images, and content. In addition to many genres, a multigenre paper may also contain many voices, not just the author's. The trick is to make such a paper hang together."
~~ (Romano, Blending Genre, Altering Style i-xi)
Multigenre writing projects respond to contemporary conceptions of genre, audience, voice, arrangement and style by enabling students to tap into their knowledge about new media literacies, rich rhetorical situations, and the multiple perspectives that are inherent in any writing activity.
In short, multigenre projects entail a series of generic documents that are linked by a central premise, theme, or goal. They may forward an argument, trace a history, or offer multiple interpretations of a text or event. They are rigorous forms of writing, involving all of the elements of a traditional research paper: research and citation, coherence and organization, purpose and aim of discourse, audience awareness, and conventional appropriateness. Thus, while multigenre projects certainly teach students valuable, transferable strategies and expectations for writing, they go further. As Nancy Mack explains, multigenre writing:
- Presents multiple, even conflicting perspectives of one event or topic.
- Provides a rich context for an event or topic.
- Demonstrates sophisticated understanding of audience needs and interests.
- Permits meaning to dictate form, rather than vice versa.
- Demonstrates a sophisticated knowledge of various genres and uses of language.
- Integrates factual information into a meaningful text, verses copying or simply recall.
- Permits the author to highlight personal interests and special expertise.
- Stimulates critical analysis and higher-level thinking skills.
- Makes coherence and unity a genuine rhetorical problem to be solved.
- Requires research skills and knowledge of source documentation.
- Can make full use of new media literacies.
- Is almost impossible to plagiarize.
- Results in an interesting, engaging product.
- Demands careful reading and response.
Multigenre writing is thus informed by a multitude of rhetorical considerations including a complex understanding of genre theory. Teachers who engage in multigenre assignments must be prepared to sequence assignments/project pieces carefully, to engage in new kinds of response and evaluation strategies, and to learn to trust their students abilities and creativity. The results of this preparation, engagement, and trust are consistently surprising, heartening, and rhetorically sophisticated.
For additional information, see the following links:
Multigenre Projects Main Page ¦ Introduction to Multigenre ¦ Multigenre Projects Table of Contents ¦ Return to Writing Gallery
Your Multigenre Web
Everything you need to know to succeed.
The purpose of any paper is to explore and learn about a subject and to extend our thinking. The multi-genre web accomplishes that purpose, but it also gives you the opportunity to express the idea/subject in a less linear way than a regular paper. Writing is thinking, and each time we write, we are teaching our brains to think. In addition, when we publish our writing on the web, we are sharing our ideas, our feelings, our thinking with others, which creates a web of human understanding.
What is a genre?
A genre is a type of writing. A poem is a genre. A traditional research paper is a genre. A newspaper editorial is a genre. So are plays and diaries and cartoons and billboards.
What is a multi-genre essay?
It's a collection of pieces written in a variety of genres, informed by your research on a particular subject, that presents one or (more likely) more perspectives on a research question or topic. A multi-genre paper is personal, creative, and can’t be copied from some othersource. It involves you, as a writer, making conscious decisions about what information isimportant and how it should be presented to the reader.
What are some genres I might use?
You could write an editorial, a poem, a dialogue between characters, a letter, a debate. You could include a collage, a poster, a book, a CD cover. You will have much choice about what to include. But beware -- this should not be a haphazard collage of disjointed stuff; you must connect the genres and what they represent with a central, significant theme (a thesis). Your creative efforts must be informed by solid research, including research about the genres themselves.
But I've never done anything like this before. What do I do?
As you research, you'll need to consider an audience or audiences who would be interested in your topic, and you need to consider what genre/s would be effective for communicating with those audiences. In other words, what genres will "speak" to the people whom you want to reach? (Those are the ones you can use in your multi-genre project.) And why? You'll need to be fully engaged in your research -- don't approach it as if you were on a scavenger hunt to find information to spit back in an "academic" paper, because you're not. Instead, you'll need to think about what you want to do, for whom, and how best to do that.
Creating a central theme:
We want to encourage our students to choose themes/subjects/ideas/concepts from across the curriculum. What this means is that you may want to write about an idea that you studied in history or in science or in health, and not just in English. All topics must be researchable. Therefore, a very personal topic, such as your dog, would not be a good choice. While you could research information about a breed of dog, there would be little else you could research.
Also, a good topic will be one that has a human element: humanity in conflict with society, science, itself.
All topics must be approved! Do not begin work until you have verified your topic with your teacher.
Click here for some specific topic choices for Sheboygan Falls students.
Questions to ask about your topic:
1. Am I truly interested in this topic?
2. Do I have access to enough information?
3. Is the subject limited enough?
4. Is there a human element to the topic? Can I personalize it? Could I create a character who would represent the main problems, struggles, or ideas of this topic?
Limiting the topic:
We begin with the general idea and move to the specific. See an example of the selecting process below.
|General Subject Area|
|Focus or Special Interest|
How concentration camps affected people's lives.
|Auschwitz||People sent to Auschwitz often lost family members, lost faith in God, and lost a sense of self.|
Choose your topic from the list of SFHS topics or from one of the links below:
Links to lists of topics: from Old Dominion University
More topics links:
|Parts of your Multi-Genre Web|
|Section||Description||Links & Help|
|1. Title Page|
No black backgrounds. No graphic backgrounds. You may add a photo if it is not a copyrighted image. Be sure you check.
|This cover page includes the following information (centered, in this order):||How to open your web page, make a new page, and make a bookmark. click here|
|2. Table of Contents||This page will help your reader navigate your web. Each title is a hyperlink to one of your genre pages.|
This page also needs a link to the title page.
|Example: Table of Contents|
Follow the example for this table of contents. Do not deviate from these instructions.
|This preface, forward, or introduction will greet readers and give a bit of background information about your project. You'll need to introduce the subject and anything you think the reader should know about you and/or your project before they read it.||For help writing your opening/preface click here.|
Your body consists of at least seven base pieces from at least seven different genres. You can repeat genres only after you have completed the initial seven.
There must be a minimum of five in-text hyperlinks in the text overall. They may be scattered among the seven genres or clustered in one or two pieces as you deem appropriate. These links must be to information that is relevant and that adds to your readers' understanding of your subject.
Drawing and design are in addition to the seven base pieces. Think of the presentation quality of your web.
To unify the separate pieces, use some type of repetend or unifying device.
|The body of your multi-genre web is composed of the various pieces you create to help your reader understand your subject. Here is where multi-genre happens. Some of the pieces will be written, some visual, and some a combination.|
This part of your web may include several pages linked to the opening page. It will be important for you to create a logical order. In other words, as the writer you have to be aware of how your reader will read your web.
Each of these pages must be linked back to the table of contents page.
You may also choose to link these pages to each other in some logical way.
Imbed hyperlinks into the text.
Setting up pages
|4. Epilogue||This is your conclusion. It should have its own page. Link this page back to the table of contents page.||For help writing your epilogue click here.|
|5. Annotated Bibliography|
You must have four (minimum) sources from a variety of information types.
|This list of your sources includes a brief description of the source and its value to your project. Link this page back to the table of contents page.|
An annotation is a note that is included with the bibliographic citation that gives a brief summary of the source and sometimes a judgment of its value.
Your annotations should be between 30-50 words.
| Falcon Skills & Style Handbook on Citing Sources|
Directions for annotated bibliography : How to set up the page.
Types of Genres:
The genres here are linked to examples or descriptions. Use real life examples as models whenever you can.
Before you select a genre from this list, ask yourself, why am I choosing it? What do I want to be able to say or express through this genre? If you can't answer that question, you are not ready to work on it.
Getting ready to research:
make a list of what you already know about this topic
make a list of what you need to know or want to find out
use a KWHL chart to help you plan
create a concept map of related ideas or use a brainstorming web
make a list of ideas you have about where to find the information you need
Types of sources:
Choose a variety of sources. You must have at least four different sources from the following list.
|Radio Transcripts*||Videos||Internet sites|
|Personal interviews||*These sources are easily found using the Electric Library||Encyclopedias|
Taking notes is important, and many people have found success with 3 x 5 note cards. A system for using note cards is detailed in your Falcon Skills & Style Handbook. The main thing to remember about note cards is that you have to have the following information on each card: 1. the title of the source, 2. the page or other marker for identifying just where the information has come from, 3. the context of the note (what the discussion or paragraph or situation is about), and 4. one note only: either a direct quote, a summary, or a paraphrase.
Use a dialectic approach where you take notes and comment about each note.
Another note taking option is to open a Word document and transcribe your thoughts there as you read from print or online sources. Be sure that you keep track of everything you get from sources, so you won't accidentally pass off borrowed information as your own writing. This is plagiarism, and it's stealing.
Preparing information for your annotated bibliography:
Make a note card for each source, or keep a log of sources in a Word document. For each source, consult the MLA guide to see what information you need. For example, what you need for an Internet site is different from what you will need for a magazine article. Your Falcon Skills & Style Handbook has an abbreviated MLA guide for your convenience. For a book, you will need to record the author, the title, the date of publication, and the publishing company. Be sure you know exactly what you need and keep a complete record of each source that you consult. Later on, you will use this information in your annotated bibliography.
Use of repetend:
Repetend is something added to your multigenre web project that repeats or continues. The purpose of repetend is to create unity among the various genre pieces and to give the writer an editorial voice that the reader can easily relate to.
Because multi-genre essays are unique and non-linear, they require a lot of work from a reader. You, as a conscientious writer, do not want to let your reader get confused as they move from genre to genre. If you provide your reader with reoccurring images or phrases, or a running commentary or even a narrative or story, you will create unity that will help your reader better understand your central theme. This can be much like making sure to weave your thesis throughout a traditional essay paper. The multi-genre web, however, offers a lot more creative possibilities.
Repetend options are given below. Each student must find some way to incorporate repetend.
Ways to incorporate repetend in your multi-genre web:
include the same phrase, sentence, or passage in each genre page as a heading or somewhere else in the text
include a description or design in each piece (written or graphic), placed strategically for easy recognition
include a running commentary from you, the writer, following or preceding each genre piece
create a character and follow his/her reactions to pieces
create a character involved somehow in each piece of writing--an ongoing little story
create a cartoon strip at the top or bottom of each genre page that comments on the ideas presented
How do I decide what works for my paper?
Think about your specific topic. What is the strongest image associated with that topic? What words could powerfully express that image? You could use those words to help you decide what should be emphasized and repeated throughout your web. You might want to just start writing. After you begin to read through your writing, circle or highlight language and images that might serve as strong repetitions.
If you're not sure if what you're doing is stealing someone else's ideas, check out this site listed below.
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