Home » Module 4 - Writing as mimicry » Writing as mimicry

Writing as mimicry

As always, thank you for your patience. I’m getting these modules up as quickly as I can. I’ve never taught the course or content this way so hopefully my slowness will actually be to everyone’s benefit. Plus what even is time?!

Folks! We have so many tools at our disposal to support our writing and I want to share that even I, a professor and academic forget to use them sometimes. This is all to say that you’re all doing great! We’ve got nowhere to get to, we’ll just keep practicing to increase our comfort with writing and thinking.

The tool I forgot and remembered (time loops! fuck linearity!), comes from Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ Undrowned. 

Gumbs uses a rhetorical strategy of identifying a specific writing genre (in this case it’s marine biology guidebooks) and then mirroring (or modeling) after that genre to write in her own type of guidebook. This is a deliberate strategy to expose process and give an example of how a typically dry clinical form can be flipped on its head.

So in the spirit of Alexis Pauline Gumbs, here’s a look into my process: I will start breaking down the learning objectives for each module at the beginning. Today’s topics include:

Transparency about the institutional expectation

Comp/rhet concept of genre

How we can use it WFE


I want to give you some background about this course because I *think* it’ll help us think through how we connect with “Writing for Engineering.” WFE is staffed by the English Dept (aka not engineers) and the curriculum is not crafted in collaboration with GSOE. What does this mean for all of you? It means we (I) have to guess what “writing for engineering” is and what is applicable for you all.

So the assumption we’re all making (English Department, Grove, the field of writing for engineering) is that writing like an engineer assumes the rhetoric and style of an academic genre. What do I mean by that? The type of writing you are expected to be proficient at is a very small niche (research articles, lab reports) within the field, and so while it’s good to know about the IMRD (Introduction, Methods, Research, Discussion) sections in an academic text, you probably won’t see any of this beyond your college experience unless you decide to stay in academia. 

But you’re still being asked to write this way in other courses, so we should practice it. Let’s practice though, with the understanding that WFE is a performative genre (like most things in academia).

Which brings us back to the writing concept of genre: the form that we model our writing after; the style we choose to communicate in in order to deliver a particular message. 

Did you know that it is common practice to mimic writing styles in academia? We mimic what people have done before us and change the content. Academics rarely write from scratch. We follow a formula not dissimilar to a math equation. For “technical writing” (and WFE falls under that umbrella), we follow a specific set of moves and steps to communicate our information. 

This is a helpful tool! We can use a formula to make the writing easier. I’m not an engineer, but let’s say that technical writing is similar to fundamentals that you start with in any of your fields: there’s certain code that’s a baseline and you build from there.

Luckily for us, Dr. Budsaba Kanoksilapatham created a worksheet that shows the different moves and steps in a typical academic research paper. Each “move” is the information you’re trying to claim/establish and each “step” is how to support the move. The PDF is attached.

For this week’s assignment, I would like you to go into https://arxiv.org/, an open-access engineering research database, and find an article that is interesting to you. Then I want you to pick one of the four sections outlined by Dr. Kanoksilapatham and note where you see the steps and the moves happening. This is probably better suited to printing out and highlighting, but I don’t expect you to do that, so just figure out a way to show me the moves and steps (screenshot with notes, photo with highlighting). The best place for these to go will probably be into our Google Drive folder. The link to that is on the right side of our course site.

Finally in the comments of this module just write a few sentences about what you found by using this method of search and find.

Next week we’ll take a look at some writing that’s actually happening in the world in your field. Thanks everyone!


Gumbs, Alexis Pauline, and Adrienne Maree Brown. Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals (Emergent Strategy). AK Press, 2020.

Kanoksilapatham, Budsaba. “Rhetorical Structure of Biochemistry Research Articles.” English for Specific Purposes, vol. 24, no. 3, 2005, pp. 269–92. Crossref, doi:10.1016/j.esp.2004.08.003.


  1. I am in my 3rd year of studying Engineering, and from my personal experience, I find writing for scientific papers or lab reports hard to write. Writing lab reports are very time-consuming. Just recently, one of my professor want us to write 50-page lab report for 1 credit class. it’s like every instructor want students to write their work in a certain manner. For instance, during my EE courses, I wrote procedures in present tense, but my chemistry teacher wanted everything in passive voice and past tense. There are different rules to write for every single course. That always confuses me. Plus, most of scientific research papers or articles are typically written with complex and heavy words.
    I find the search tool (mention in module) quite useful to find and read scientific papers. It has all the different branches of Scientific research and one can choose from the topic they like more than the others.

  2. I was quite surprised after I finished this method of search and find. I ended up reading an article called ” Shear-driven solidification and nonlinear elasticity in epithelial tissue” and started to look through the introduction section of the paper. All the steps in the introduction section from Dr. Budsaba Kanoksilapatham worksheet that shows the different moves and steps in a typical academic research paper were all present in the paper. They were also all there in the same order of the different moves. Now that I saw this guideline from Dr. Busaba , I wished it was there when I was writing my senior design project as it was very direct and told you all the important information that should be in a research paper including the steps.

  3. I found the method of search and find very useful when reading an article. Using this method, we can follow along each detail of the article, step by step. This method simply help us to comprehend a lot better any engineering article, by breaking down the information into sections. Also, we can read the article in a more organized way which allows us to improve our reading skills. This is the first time for me to seeing this method, never thought about following sections or guidelines when reading. The method search and find can make a scientific paper, a well written and developed paper.

  4. By using the search and find method, it is possible to study a particular article closely. Using this method on the article, “Combining Switched TMAs and FDAs to synthesize dot shaped beampatterns”, I found that FDA having the ability to block electromagnetic wave has proved wrong and it has been proved theoretically using the scientific equations. Through this method it is possible to divide an article into different steps based a specific section.

  5. I have always hated science articles. They were always so confusing to read and ultimately gave me a headache. It was hard enough trying to understand the content of the research, but it was even harder trying to gather specific information. Every time I was given an assignment that required scientific research, I would internally cry because I knew I would have to read, and re-read, and re-read once more. Dr. Budsaba Kanoksilapatham’s worksheet was definitely something new. Although I have seen ways to outline a research article before, none of them were as clear and as thorough as Dr.Kanoksilapatham’s worksheet. I read an article called “An Algorithm for Generating Gap-Fill Multiple Choice Questions of an Expert System” and was intrigued when I found out that it followed the steps that Dr.Kanoksilapatham mentioned. I glanced at other articles and noticed the same pattern. In the future, I’ll definitely use Dr.Kanoksilapatham’s method to gather information. Its really useful for organizing information (since it’s practically an outline) and makes it easier to process information. I can break down larger sections into smaller ones and understand information without developing a major headache.

  6. As instructed, I found an article from math section titled, “Equation of Mirrors to Log Calabi-Yau Pairs Via The Heart of Canonical Wall Structures” by Hulya Arguz. The content seemed far too advanced for me to understand; however, I noticed that the writer did a good job on covering all the methods and steps of writing an introduction as outlined by Dr. Budsaba. However, I found something interesting and this raises a question in me. The article was 40 pages long and 5 pages of which was only the introduction. In standard college level writings, we are usually limited by page count restrictions and word count restriction regardless of if we are writing an essay, a journal or a research paper. It’s the hardest to provide a solid foundation of the topic and the most amount of information in the least amount of writings that’s possible and that’s exactly what college wants us to do. Now, I understand that mastering the ability of expressing a lot in a few words is writing proficiency skill in itself but is it really possible to follow the guideline of Dr. Budsaba when the freedom and creativity is limited by the prompt? I have been taking many writing classes and have written many essays in my life and I have said before that I prefer more freedom in academic writing and I believe that this is an incredible guideline to follow if anyone is willing to improve on their writing strategy but to accomplish that, we need to be allowed more space to explore and roam around.

  7. The method that Dr. Budsaba Kanoksilapatham made was extremely helpful when I was reading the research paper I chose to work on. The method helped me realize that I can look for specific details in research papers if I know where to find them. All in all, the method is something that all people should learn of before reading research papers in order to make their reading experience easier.

  8. When I was utilizing this method to comb through a cloud computing article I found, i found it interesting seeing how authors closely follow this formula. Obviously some steps weren’t present and a couple were out of order, but based on what I saw in my article and what others noticed in theirs, it is eye-opening to see how the industry of scientific papers works. Additionally, this method can be helpful when reading through an article for research purposes, as it pin-points some of the common locations that important information will be located.

  9. I always read the title of the scientific articles and didn’t read the text because there are many difficult words in articles, so I have a headache. After reading Dr. Budsaba’s method, I thought it would be easier to read scientific articles. There were many long writings, so I thought it would take too long to read, so I chose a short article and read it while looking at the guidelines, but I started to get confused. I thought all the articles would have followed the guidelines, but the article I chose was not. The order was all mixed up, so I’m not sure if what I marked is right. However, Dr. Budsaba’s guidelines will help me write in the future.

  10. The method of search did seem very useful and applicable for future purposes. From previous experiences, research papers would be fun but stressful at times due to the fact of ability to find reliable sources. The context did seem very unique and was a little difficult to understand, however, it did change a glimpse of my approach to topics.

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