This paper was presented to MLA in 1992.
In teaching technical writing to approximately four hundred students over the past six years, I have noticed differences in my female and male studentsâ€™ approaches to their long report assignment. The major paper for the class is a study of a problem or situation that the student thinks will be useful in their work experience, although sometimes their choice has to fit into an overarching scenario, such as setting up a new business.
How topics chosen
Topics are generated by the students with approval being contingent on the feasibility of the study for a semester long project and a ten to fifteen page final paper.
I have found that topics which are stereotypically female– superior-subordinate relationships, personal and professional credibility, family-career balances, and gender issues– are never chosen by my male students, though I have several papers on these topics each semester.
I have also found that my studentsâ€™ methods of argumentation are slightly different. My female students often intersperse personal comments or relate the material to themselves within the text while my male students, despite their personal involvement with the subject, do not.
Even with these two differences, the language of the two groups was not as differentiated as I expected. Few of my students paid any attention to the directions to avoid sexist language; both female and male students used male inclusive language. In this paper I will present the topic, argumentation, and language differences and similarities that I have found in my classesâ€™ writings and present theories to account for them.
To be continued…