Howard defines "patchwriting" as "copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one-for-one synonym-substitutes." (213) To underscore her contention that this is a transitional technique rather than an intellectual crime, she refers to Glynda Hull and Mike Rose's article "Rethinking Remediation: Toward a Social-Cognitive Understanding of Problematic Reading and Writing." Hull and Rose describe a seemingly incoherent summary written by Tanya, a seriously underprepared and at-risk student who constructed her summary by drawing bits and pieces from disparate parts of the original, changing a word here and there but otherwise copying whole chunks verbatim.
The result seems incoherent because she chooses pieces that have relevance for her own life, not necessarily those relevant to a reader's understanding of the original or any argument she may be trying to make. Yet Hull and Rose note that this strategy is unnervingly similar to what expert readers and writers do: "Interact with the text, relate it to your own experiences, derive your own meaning from it." (150)
After wrestling with our own concerns about . . . all those markers of illiteracy, it struck us that something profoundly literate is going on here. A fundamental social and psychological reality about discourse--oral or written--is human beings continually appropriate each other's language to establish group membership, to grow, and to define themselves in new ways. . . .
A powerful pedagogic next move with Tanya, then, would be temporarily to suspend concern about error and pursue, full tilt, her impulse to don the written language of another.
("Rethinking Remediation" 151)
It's interesting how much this sounds like the relentless linking strategies that some authors use on the WWWeb, in which their own words are nearly extinguished below a mass of links to other people's work
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