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Multimodal Mondays: Interviewing Writers in Other Disciplines and Professions

posted: 2.17.14 by Andrea Lunsford

Do your students understand enough about writing they will do for their major or in their eventual career? This assignment suggests ways to get your students involved in collecting information about writing in various disciplines—and in professions outside of academia as well.

This multimodal assignment will require some time for students to plan and complete, so plan due dates accordingly!


Conduct an interview with a senior student, faculty member, or professional about writing

Background reading before class

Ask students to prepare for class by reading  relevant content about field research and conducting interviews from your handbook or rhetoric:

The St. Martin’s Handbook, 7e:  section 11b, “Conducting field research”

The Everyday Writer, 5e: section 16e, “Conduct field research”

Writing in Action: section 13e, “Conduct field research”

EasyWriter, 5e: section 37e, “Doing field research”

Everything’s an Argument, 6e: section in Chapter 17 on “Collecting data on your own”


In class

What kinds of writing will your students do in their major field or in their chosen future profession? Begin by asking students to jot down two lists in class: one for all the kinds of writing they expect to do in their final year of college, and one for all the writing they imagine they will be doing five years after graduation. Discuss the lists your students create, asking questions like these:

  • What majors and professions have the longest lists? the shortest?
  • What additions or changes do you suggest for others’ lists?
  • How important will writing be in your future life? Why?

Explain that students will be doing field research to follow up on the lists they have created in class. They will identify an interview subject—a senior with the student’s planned major, a faculty member in the discipline, or a professional in the field the student wants to pursue—and talk to that person about the writing he or she does for work or for school. The final interview should be available as a resource for future students in some form—video, audio, or writing, for example. (Students with shared interests or the same major could work in pairs on this project if they like.)

For examples of the kind of project they will create, you might send students to Andrea Olinger and Alexandra Cavallaro’s blog post, which provides links to video interviews with faculty in many disciplines.



Students will create and submit three different parts of this assignment:

  • Invitation emails. Identify at least two possible interview subjects and write invitation emails to each person requesting an interview. The invitation should specify whether the interview will be conducted in person, on the telephone, via email, online, or in some other way, and it should also explain how the student will capture the responses—audio or video recording? in writing? (Remind students that they can request an interview with an online expert they have never met.)
  • Interview questions. Compose questions for a 5-10 minute interview, making sure they encourage specific, detailed responses from the interviewee.
  • A record of the actual interview. Conduct the interview and record the responses in some way—with a phone camera, an audio recorder, pencil and paper, or some other means. If the responses are captured in writing, students should show the results to the interview subject to confirm that their records are accurate.

Share the interview records with the class (and with your larger academic community, if possible).


Follow-up questions for reflection

Ask students to reflect on the activity, using questions like these as prompts for discussion or writing:

  • Which of your classmates’ interviews gave you the most useful information? Why was it useful?
  • Which of your interviewee’s responses surprised you most? Why?
  • Based on what you learned in the interview, what changes would you make to your original list of the writing people do in this major, discipline, or profession?
  • What recommendations would you give to students with the same major and/or career goals to prepare for the writing they will need to do in the future?

Want to collaborate with Andrea on a Multimodal Monday assignment? Send ideas to for possible inclusion in a future post. 

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