Monday, August 31, 2009


Occasionally I learn that a student was writing a paper for class while watching television, talking on the phone, conducting a conversation through text messaging or otherwise engaging in more than one task at a time. I then stare at the student in disbelief. Now, maybe it is just a generational thing, that younger students feels they must be able to do more than one thing at a time, versus people like me "of a certain age." You probably can do more than one thing at a time, but the important question is: can you do it well?

The New York Times recently had a column on multi-tasking. Based on it and my understanding of the writing process, you cannot multi-task and write a thoughtful, analytical, scholarly paper. As Ruth Pennebaker wrote on August 30, 2009:

Last week, researchers at Standford University published a study showing that the most persistent multitaskers perform badly in a variety of tasks. They don’t focus as well as non-multitaskers. They’re more distractible. They’re weaker at shifting from one task to another and at organizing information. They are, as a matter of fact, worse at multitasking than people who don’t ordinarily multitask.

“Multitaskers were just lousy at everything,” said Clifford I. Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford and one of the study’s investigators. “It was a complete and total shock to me....”

Initially suspecting that multitaskers possessed some rare and enviable qualities that helped them process simultaneous channels of information, Professor Nass had been “in awe of them,” he said, acknowledging that he himself is “dreadful” at multitasking. “I was sure they had some secret ability. But it turns out that high multitaskers are suckers for irrelevancy.”

The full article can be found at:

Writing is a thoughtful process. It involves thinking through your paper, organizing it, writing, editing and editing again. It can be done in "chunks" of time, but these work periods need to be long, uninterrupted and focused.

Keep writing!