Writing and Research for College and High School English and Writing classes and preparation

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Transforming Lives, instruction on doing research and writing papers

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Transforming Lives: A Socially Responsible Guide to the Magic of Writing and Researching



Ken Wachsberger, Writer, Editor, Researcher


Ken Macrorie’s brilliant essay, Searching Writing, introduced the teaching world to the I-Search paper, the logical result of his belief that students wrote best when they felt personal attachment to their subject matter. Ken Wachsberger’s Transforming Lives: A Socially Responsible Guide to the Magic of Writing and Researching, now in its second edition, shows students how to turn the I-Search paper into a full-length, life-changing research project while demystifying the process of writing and researching, arousing their curiosity, and awakening their dormant passion for expressing themselves through writing.

Features include the following:

  • a wealth of student papers that can be used as role models. These papers include a sample introduction, sample interview write-ups, sample book and article reviews, a sample conclusion, and complete I-Search papers;
  • appropriate assignments in every chapter, from buying supplies to rewarding themselves for a job well done;
  • a selection of the author’s own writing on topics such as the reward system, how to use an appointment book, and how he redressed a grievance against the city of Syracuse with a campaign of angry letters. These pieces are short, humorous, interesting, engaging, fun to read, and inspirational.

Second edition improvements include updated chapters on preparing for an interview and using the electronic library; new pieces on how to write a bibliography and the writer’s space; and a more student-friendly layout in part 2, which features sample student I-Search papers. The Foreword by Dr. Joyce Moore, Director of Curriculum for High School English for Detroit Public Schools, is a revealing complement to the Foreword by Dr. Robert Kraft, founding publisher and editor-in-chief of Issues & Inquiry in College Learning and Teaching, in the first edition, which appears again in the second edition. In her Foreword, Dr. Moore writes:

Having arranged several writing workshops with Ken Wachsberger, author of Transforming Lives: A Socially Responsible Guide to the Magic of Writing and Researching, in which he provided a liberating, sequential, and engaging approach to writing that captivated the minds and hearts of high school teachers, I am convinced of the I-Search process' value as another developmental pathway to academic, technical, and professional writing competency.

Author Ken Wachsberger has been called the dean of I-Search teachers today. He is an internationally respected editor and writer who has taught writing and researching, creative writing, composition, journalism, and writing for self-discovery at Michigan colleges, universities, and prisons for over twenty years.

Sixteen years ago, after reading Ken Macrorie’s groundbreaking essay, Searching Writing, which introduced Macrorie’s theories on the I-Search approach, Ken did his own I-Search paper on how to teach the I-Search paper. His evolving efforts have awakened the passion in young writers of all ages ever since.

“Students often continue their searches even after the course is finished because the information they discovered has affected their lives,” Ken says. “They have visualized the possibilities for the first time.”

When was the last time an English textbook awakened your imagination and held out to you the hope that you could change the lives of your students in a socially responsible way?

Transforming Lives: A Socially Responsible Guide to the Magic of Writing and Researching is that book. It is intended for any developmental writing, Freshman composition, and high school course where good writing and a research project are required. Students generally are expected to be competent in mechanics, grammar, and spelling and ready for the next level of researching when they begin these courses. That’s the assumption. Unfortunately, too many aren’t. That’s the reality. The course that is laid out in Transforming Lives guides students toward the level of writing competence where they should be at the beginning of the semester. At the same time, it teaches them the skills to help them succeed in their research experiences during the semester.

Transforming Lives

  • Is accessible to slower and younger students but challenging to more advanced and older students.
  • Is accepting of any experience.
  • Helps students overcome their fears, including of “red ink” and of  “the blank sheet of paper.”
  • Addresses problem areas of mechanics, grammar, and spelling without dwelling on them.
  • Showcases real student writing, not a professor’s interpretation of what student writing might be.
  • Is visually attractive, physically lightweight, and user-friendly.
  • Is often funny and inspiring but never pretentious.
  • Prevents plagiarism and challenges procrastination.
  • Teaches students everything they need to know to conduct and write up a successful interview.
  • Helps teachers to create a community of writers and researchers.
  • Shows students how to evaluate their own papers from an objective distance.
  • Encourages teacher-librarian and student-librarian partnerships.
  • Makes students comfortable while pushing them further than they’ve ever been pushed before.
  • Raises students’ self-expectations and gives them the confidence they will need to face their first college research papers.

For more information, including on classroom textbook use and the “Transforming Lives through Writing” workshops, send email to info@azenphonypress.com or call (734) 635-0577.

“While it may be self-evident that no learning happens unless a learner is genuinely engaged in the learning, we are slow to surrender the old practices that have lost vitality. Perhaps the ‘research paper’ continues because college teachers just don’t know what else to do. Ken Wachsberger presents to teachers at any level of high school and college a real possibility of what else to do. As a college teacher, it was an answer to me. It could be for you."

  —Robert G. Kraft, founding publisher and editor-in-chief of Issues & Inquiry in College Learning and Teaching, former student of Ken Macrorie, from his Foreword to the first edition.

“Finishing your manuscript, I feel grateful that this book has been written at last. It is wonderfully personal and anecdotal in the spirit of Ken Macrorie and the I-Search. It assumes the goal of life-long literacy, so that research is completely natural and self-fulfilling. It pays attention to the process more than comparable books that introduce formal inquiry. It even addresses the fears students bring with them to college. This is a valuable book…. I gained a lot of respect for your teaching from reading this book. You have a gift for modeling difficult processes, and that is what makes this book an important contribution.”

  —Bill Tucker, professor, English Department, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti

“Ken, when I began this class I thought that I would simply learn how to write a decent paper  — I was very wrong! Your class has given me not only a newly found confidence in my ability as a writer, but also something much more precious—an understanding and maturity that has allowed me to take the steps necessary to develop a healthy relationship with my mom. Through my I-Search project, I realized how important it is for us to be a part of each other’s lives. Thank you for giving me the 'nudge' I needed to embark on this search.”

  —former student

“The book gets better and better each time I turn a page (the second time around)…. It is so student friendly. Everything is explained ‘clearly’ (as opposed to many texts that explain but not ‘clearly’). The interview? I wish I had the time to tell you everything…. Bottom line? Your book is my new textbook for the fall semester and beyond.”

  —Margaret Green, instructor, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, Michigan


Price: $30.00ISBN: 0-945531-04-4

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