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
Multigenre research paper is an alternative to the traditional five paragraph essay commonly used in secondary education. It emphasizes the use of multiple genres to represent a given or chosen research topic. A genre is a specific type of art including literature, speech, drawings, music, etc. With this type of project, students are expected to research their given topic and then present the information they gathered using a variety of genres, with an emphasis on writing and composition. The genres created to represent the topic can be put together through the creation of a theme and bracketed by an introduction and conclusion. This creates a unified research paper that avoids the structure of a traditional five paragraph essay.
While some educators may argue that certain genres are not scholarly and/or appropriate to the social studies classroom, the option of utilizing narrative thinking may give students, particularly those who have difficulty connecting with the material, a way to relate to the topic under consideration. Students will have more options in the ways they choose to think and write about a specific topic by having the opportunity to choose multiple genres to write in. The power to choose which genres they include in their papers, mainly based on the particular topic and writer preference, will also create a greater sense of ownership in the written product. In addition, allowing students to choose the genres that they include in their multigenre research papers will help them to recognize that each piece of writing has a specific purpose and audience.
According to Camille A. Allen, there are four main benefits for students who create a multigenre research paper:
- Students Become More Interested in Content: Method helps students remember the content because they become invested in it by focusing on areas of interest and connecting the material to their own interests and skills.
- Students Gain a New Attitude Toward Learning: Students have the opportunity to make choices about topics and genres and how to present their material in a meaningful way. They are actively involved in the creation process, not simply given a topic and then passively write on it based on research. Students have the opportunity to take risks and be creatively in charge of their own learning.
- Students Build Self-Confidence: Students spend time evaluating themselves and their peers and see the value of bouncing their ideas off of others. They also take ownership of the multigenre paper they create and recognize the difficult process that both they and their peers went through in order to create such a paper.
- Students Learn to Think: In order to be successful, students are required to communicate with their teacher and peers while composing a multigenre research paper. They get practice asking questions concerning how they will write and present their information.
Students also gain experience by discussing, with others, their possible genre ideas for their topic and work on editing their papers through peer revision.
According to Nancy Mack, other benefits to a multigenre research paper include:
- Requires that diverse types of writing be generated for a theme.
- Stimulates critical analysis and higher level thinking skills.
- Integrates factual information into a meaningful text versus copying or simple recall.
- Creates coherence among the parts of a problem to be solved.
- Requires a bibliography, footnotes, and careful documentation of sources.
- Permits the author to highlight personal interests and special expertise.
- ^Allen, Camille A. (2001). The Multigenre Research Paper: Voices, Passion, and Discovery in Grades 4-6. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
- ^Mack, Nancy. (2002). The Ins, Outs, and In-Betweens of Multigenre Writing. The English Journal, Vol. 92, No. 2, Multigenre Teaching, 91-98
- Dickson, R., DeGraff, J., & Foard, M. (2002). "Learning about Self and Others through Multigenre Research Projects". The English Journal, Vol. 92, No. 2, Multigenre Teaching
- Glasgow, Jacqueline. (2002). "Radical Change in Young Adult Literature Informs the Multigenre Paper". The English Journal, Vol. 92, No. 2, Multigenre Teaching
- Grierson, Sirpa T. (1999). "Circling through Text: Teaching Research through Multigenre Writing". The English Journal, Vol. 89, No. 1, Research Revisited
- Kittle, Penny. (2008). Write Beside Them. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann
- LeNoir, W. David. (2002). "The Multigenre Warning Label". The English Journal, Vol. 92, No. 2, Multigenre Teaching
- Tchudi, Stephen (Ed.). (1997). Alternatives to Grading Student Writing. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English