Restoring our knowledge about writing approaches and strategies, we must find that there are at least three approaches of writing: product, process, and genre oriented; go on to the strategy, of course, without any doubt, we find in our memory that strategies are highly pointed out by what approach is being adopted. Those things are “things” in our perspective on writing, whether in teaching or practicing writing itself.
We saw writing as both process and product. We have idea that genre, or text type, is one of the conventional approaches in writing. As well, we also saw that these three approaches are different one another; consequently, we teach students writing in different way, in accordance with the approach we implement in the classroom. Do we think that we teach students writing as a partial activity of creating text? This reflects that our practice of teaching writing is not totally integrated with the philosophy of writing itself, that is, write to communicate.
I suppose that writing is best taught as an integral activity of communication, which begins from genre, process, to product. An integral activity means that the activity of writing is done based on the integration of the three approaches. I believe that there must be reasons and ways to integrate these three approaches in teaching and practicing writing. And for that sake, in this short article, I would like to share the way and the reason of integrating those three approaches at once. Writers like Hyland (2005) or Clark (2003) might had proposed explanations of how this could be; however, for more practical perspective, I think it is imperative to share with you what I believe should be conventionally called as integrated approach.
Keywords: writing approach, product approach, process approach, genre approach, GBA, integrated approach.
Approaches in Writing: An Overview
Criticizing the term writing as product and writing as process
The word writing, in English, is both noun and verb. As noun, writing is a physical entity, a paper, whatever it looks like; as verb, writing is an activity of creating a written text. In English, either as verb or as noun, we use similar word, writing in this case. I reach to an idea that this is the simplest way to understand writing as a product (noun), and writing as a process (verb).
However, understanding writing as a final (or even instant) product and writing as recursive process through this way does not work for other language. In my native language, we differentiate writing as product and writing as process. The difference is in the word, if in English “as process” is writing, in Indonesian it is menulis; if in English “as product” is writing as well, in Indonesian it is tulisan. Thus, it is quite difficult to teach writing (in Indonesian) that “menulis” is both process and product: I believe students will say “menulis and tulisan are different things.”
Based on the differences, I suppose to “push out” the term writing as process and writing as product, on reason that that term is unusable in Indonesian. I look writing and text as different things. The use of word writing twice in two different meaning is illogical in Indonesian; therefore, the concept is worth usable in English and not in other language.
I really understand that the concept core of product and process approach is not the word writing itself. The concept of these approaches is that writing based on the product form expected (product), and writing looked from some structural and recursive steps in the process of creating the product (process). Saying things above is to criticize the use of term writing as product and writing as process; the better term is product oriented writing and process oriented writing.
Product, Process, and Genre Oriented Approach
One day, my brother asked me to follow a test for public service job. I said that I did not know the procedures. My brother explained me, from the application writing to submission, and the test. I asked my brother about the example of application letter, then my brother gave it and then I started to imitate the sample, of course with some adjustment. That time, I looked an application as a physical entity, independent written text, formal, having permanent structure that cannot be changed by anyone, as a tool regardless the writer; simply, a product, that’s all.
At very now, I am still on belief that an application letter is like that. My understanding is going developed by the memory; until I find a distance between application letter and love letter. I still remember, I wrote one letter for three different girls, they were my girlfriends. Nothing was different except their names in each letter. Consequently, they all broke me up: because each girl found the letter was weird. One of them, even, said “I don’t know to who this letter is for… I don’t remember that you have given me roses.” I was so surprised and that made me understand that I was wrong to write same letter for different purpose, different addressee, besides my fault to have more than one girlfriends.
Two memories related to letter make me easy to differentiate how product and what process differ from one to another. In product oriented writing, no matter who are the writer and the reader, it is strictly depended on the formality or the pattern of the writing itself. Product oriented writing is the synonym of the text is the goal, regardless how we write it.
In product oriented writing, we use model to imitate. We look at the model and try to imitate the structure or the pattern, with some needed changes, and then we compare the produced (imitated) with the model, to know if our text has fulfilled the standard. At the same time, we write for creating a text, regardless the reader will be. In contrast, the process oriented writing approach suggests us to look at the steps in writing that text. The steps begin from stating the purpose of the text will be, topic selection, generating ideas, prewriting, writing, revising, editing, evaluating, and publishing (Hyland, 2005:11). At this point, I myself may think that an application letter could not be written in this way; but I know I am wrong, and you know that too. The reason is that an application letter has permanent structure; we could not change the syntax just because the syntax does not match our personal purpose, for instance. We are disabled to write the sentences or to order paragraphs as we like, as we think we are creative.
But this is wrong, since we have to do some “exercises” before we write the application. I believe that we often throw some “damaged” applications to garbage beneath our desk, just because we make mistakes in writing the application, especially if it is a handwritten application.
As process oriented writing suggests, that the reader should be paid attention, we do this consideration when we write an application. Write an application to a manager of an enterprise is different to write an application to a headmaster. The way we write an application through some steps, as well as we do in process oriented writing. So what is different between them? Nothing is different until we consider the genre of the writing itself.
Genre is familiarly recognized as text types; but actually genre is more than text types. Understanding genre as merely text types is quite limited, or too limited. In the GBA, genre emphasizes the social aspect of the text (Lin, 2006). Text type, including the pattern and the linguistic feature in the text, to my understanding, is still product oriented. As mentioned previously, nothing is different when we look at my memory of “two letters” and the differences appear when we consider what genre the letter is.
Considering genre means considering who the writer is, who the reader is, and what the purpose is. GBA looks writing as a response to the social condition, and this contains meaning that writing is a social process (Hyland, 2005). The text type is determined by the social function of the text is being written: if the writer’s purpose is to entertain the reader, the text must be narrative; if the writer tends to argue something, the text must be argumentative. Thus, the social function determines the text type, and text type determines the schematic structure and the linguistic features of the text itself. Therefore, the understanding of genre as text type is no longer making sense to me; it should be understood as the social function of text.
Based on genre, we write as response to the social condition. Our product is in line with the social needs, social interests, social problems; text is then a social consumption. For the example, a writer intends to report an event in the past to the reader because of one or other thing happened related to the event; the writer must write a narrative (Labov, 2007). Other example, when a writer wants to argue a case, because there is an warm issue related to that case, the writer should write argumentative.
Either narrative or argumentative, or other genres recognized and conventionally accepted in this world, can be written in both process and product approach. However, we do not want to write a narrative as a plagiarism of another narrative, as well as argumentative. We want our narrative or argumentative is tasted originally, therefore, process oriented approach is worthy. Nevertheless, since each text has its schematic structures, it is not avoidable that at the end of writing we look at the product, not the process. We have to make sure that our text fulfills the schematic structure as it is intended and expected as particular genre.
I was wrong when I wrote one love letter for three different girls (I remember that the letter was written based on my friend’s love letter). I should have to consider that the reader is different, and because the letter is personal. I treated the letter similarly with the application, because of that I did not consider who the reader was. Although, through genre spectacles, both application and love letter are letters, but those letter are different for some cases. Firstly, the addressee is different; secondly, the purpose is different.
Now, I understand that those letters should be considered as:
Application letter: has permanent structure, formal, product oriented. However, it needs pre-writing, re-reading, revising, and editing as we find in process oriented writing.
Love letter: has no permanent structure, personal, process oriented. However, the genre as personal letter should be taken into account. Different love letter might have different purpose, different reader, and so that different content. It can be written as process oriented, and also genre oriented.
Let us return to the three approaches above. My points in this section are: (1) product oriented focuses on the final product or text, (2) process oriented focuses on the process in producing the product, and (3) genre oriented focuses on the social function of the text itself. Therefore, if I am allowed, I show you my diagram of these three approaches.
Figure 1. Conventional Approaches
If the writer focuses on the steps in creating the text, the activity of writing is considered as process oriented. Whereas, if the writer focuses on the text without giving emphasis on the steps in creating the text, the activity of writing seems to be product oriented. Meanwhile, if the writer focuses on the social function of the text, how the text works to the readers, and what type of text is appropriate to write based on that condition, the activity of writing is genre oriented.
We write to be read, at least for ourselves. Writing with one of the approaches above is completely partial, not total, yet. Foremost, we teach students to write to be read; we might teach students writing as partial activity, not in totality. Thus, in the following section, I propose a new perspective in writing practice and writing teaching; I like to call it integrated approach, when these three approaches are combined in one single writing activity. This perspective is based on the fact we write, not only the steps in physical writing process, but also steps in cognitive writing process.
Integrated Approach of Writing
Integrated approach of writing means writing through three approaches. This approach is usable in teaching and practicing writing, that is, ask our students or ourselves to write with a complete insight: focusing on product, focusing on process, and focusing on social function.
This approach is based on the cognitive aspects in writing reflected on the process and the product of writing; it is also based on the real condition of writing, or better writing. This approach, in contrary with the brief explanation above that the product oriented is the first and genre is the last, is started from the genre statement, and then process, and then product. The elements of each approach in this integrated approach are not fully inserted; just like a car in the Transformers transforms itself to be a robot, some parts of its are “hidden” behind its physical appearance.
Firstly, when a writer is going to start writing, he constructs in his mind what makes sense to him to write it, a reason to write, or at least a desire to write; even, writing is completely a thinking process (Flower & Hayes, 1981:366). A writer starts writing with thinking, he thinks about for what that is written, for whom it is written, and how it should be written.
Looking at that condition, a writer is actually starting his writing with genre. He tries to set up the genre from asking the purpose, the audience, and the text types. Let us say that the writer is going to explain how the building collapses, and he wants to explain that to the public as the reader or the audience, he then decides to write an explanatory or expository. We will return to this example later on, this is only beginning.
Secondly, the writer thinks how to access his memory, to find out information related to the case of building collapse, as what Flower & Hayes (1981:372) mentions as internal representation of knowledge. The writer generates ideas by accessing his memory, knowledge, experiences, theories from literatures, analogies, assumptions; simply, the writer access short and long term memory. Those ideas are then organized according to the schematic structure of the text type he is writing about; he may make a list of content before he develops it more. The writer, after writing it, then thinks that his writing must be read again, to find what does not work in his writing. Of course, a good writer will think that he does not make one writing and assume that it is perfect (Galko, 2001). This means that the writer will do what is conventionally called revision.
Return to the example, the writer collects information from available sources. He interviews people responsible to that case, he reads literatures of architectures, he collects, organizes, and synthesizes theories, memories, and analogies. After having a good point to start writing, he then uses, for instance, list of content to build his schematic ideas to develop later on.
He is now developing his ideas structured before. He writes articulately, he makes many details to clarify his writing. At the last period, he knows that he needs to read it again, to find out what works, and what does not work, or what works confusingly. What he is now doing is called revision. And these steps cover the process of writing; therefore, up to this point, the writer has through two approaches. My reason to say that is that the writer does steps from planning, generating ideas, pre-writing writing, and revising; those are steps we know in process oriented writing.
Revising is not the last part in this approach. When the writer feels enough to revise his writing, no he looks again on the text he has written. He compares his text with other texts that have similar genre. He is doing this to make sure that his text will be conventionally accepted, not rejected, because his text will be a public consumption. This is the third step in this approach, comparing text. Let us say the writer, after revising and editing his last draft, he then compares his text with another text which is written as also explanatory. He finds that his text is same, or different in some parts, to other text. This could be reason that his text is needed to be revised again, or is ready to be published then.
Based on the brief description above, we can list some steps in the integrated approach of writing as follows
1. Stating Genre
– Deciding purpose
– Deciding audience
– Deciding text type
2. Starting Process
– Generating ideas
– Accessing memory and sources for information
– Organizing ideas
– Developing ideas in pre-writing
– Developing more in writing
– Checking mistakes and unclearness or confusions (recursive)
– Revising (recursive)
3. Optimizing Product
– Comparing text
– Finishing: publishing or re-optimizing
Well, I know this may not be fully scientific, but I belief this perspective needs to be taken into consideration. This is integrated approach, simpler, but effective. If this approach is graphed into a diagram, it looks like:
Figure 2. Integrated Approach
Is that simple? I think we need to care what approach is more simpler than difficult and confusing our students or ourselves. Writing is not always captured in a complete picture, but writing is not also a fragile; I mean that this perspective is open to correction and criticism.
Clark, I. L. 2003. Concepts in Composition: Theory and Practice in the Teaching of Writing. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Flower, L., & Hayes, J. R. 1981. A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing. College Composition and Communication, Vol. 32. No. 4, (Dec., 1981). Pp 365-387.
Galko, F. D. 2001. Better Writing Right Now: Using Words to Your Advantage. Learning Express Publisher.
Hyland, K. 2005. Second Language Writing. Cambridge University Press.
Labov, W. 1997. Some Further Steps in Narrative Analysis. The Journal of Narrative and Life History.
Lin, Benedict. 2006. Vygotskian Principles in a Genre-Based Approach to Teaching Writing. NUCB, JLCC, 8 (3) 2006.