Composition Coaching

Composition Coaching provides high-quality guidance for taking your project to the next level, so you can create a successful end product; consistent celebration of your milestones, skills, and discoveries, so you can enjoy your work; and holistic support for navigating complex feelings, relationships, and goals, so you can come out of this process stronger.

Monthly coaching

Sign up to receive monthly coaching starting in March

“Fundamentals of Research Writing.” Ground your reading, planning, drafting, and revising in the “four corners of research writing”: stakes, research gap, thesis, and evidence. This monthly coaching plan uses the Four Corners guide (included in the package) and small cohorts to help bring your project to life at any stage. The Fundamentals package makes explicit many writing aspects which you may have just had to intuit in the past. It also provides affirmation and a community for making progress. $40/mo

“Strategy Coaching.” Address conceptually challenging and emotionally difficult decisions about your research writing with individualized support, one-on-one together. This monthly coaching package adapts in focus to meet what’s weighing on you. For example, clients have worked through challenging aspects like: beginning to write a dissertation chapter, planning your thesis by creating figures, deciding what (or whether) to publish based on writing you’ve already done, constructing a research gap that contributes to existing scholarship, and working through feeling like your scholarly ideas aren’t being received by the field. Our sessions give you the space to work through your next steps and keep you on track. $100/mo

Special projects

Email me about your special project, availability beginning in March.

I am available to provide developmental editing on special projects, including book manuscripts and revise-and-resubmits. Developmental editing is the most focused version of coaching, in that it meets your project in the revision stage, after it's already been drafted. A typical set-up includes a mix of synchronous meetings and written comments. In synchronous meetings, we collaboratively develop your ideas. In the written feedback, I can provide marginal notes that describe my experience as a reader and point to bigger questions/suggestions for the text. I also write an extended reflection that offers affirmation of your writing, encouragement in your process, observations about how the writing (especially across chapters, when relevant) develops 2-3 big focal aspects, and suggestions for how to refine those aspects further in clarity, depth, and connection to real-world and scholarly implications. $100/hr

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Who will I be working with?
Who will I be working with?

Hi! i'm Will Penman. I received my Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA in 2018. I currently teach research writing at Princeton University. I founded Composition Coaching in mid-2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.


In my own research, I've studied anti-racism, religion, and artificial intelligence from a rhetorical perspective. I've had four articles accepted in peer-reviewed journals, I've presented at more than a dozen conferences, and I've been awarded multiple grants. I'd say my favorite paper that I've written is probably "A field-based rhetorical critique of ethical accountability," which was published in 2018 in Quarterly Journal of Speech, because the reviewers were excited about its potential, and because QJS has high status in the field of rhetoric.

Experience teaching and coaching

I am an award-winning teacher with 8 years of experience teaching research writing to small groups of motivated students. In that time I've guided over 450 research projects from start to finish, including personal meetings with each writer and detailed, individualized comments on each draft. I've led special sections for multilingual students and have worked for 2 years (going on 3) at Princeton University. I have developed useful concepts and processes for research writing including the "four corners of research writing," and my anti-racist approach helps all writers attend to systemic nuances of academic writing. I've additionally consulted one-on-one with almost 100 students (undergraduate, Masters, and PhD) on their existing writing projects in fields as diverse as business, architecture, rhetoric, engineering, history, molecular biophysics, theology, and machine learning.

Awards and accomplishments

In 2017 I was awarded a Graduate Student Teaching Award from Carnegie Mellon's English Department.

I'm proudest of what my students have been able to accomplish.

Several of my students have succeeded beyond what the first-year undergraduate writing requirement would expect. In early 2020, my student Grace Liu, a first-year at Princeton, had her seminar paper accepted for presentation at the British Society for the History of Science conference (canceled due to coronavirus). Titled “‘A few small inconveniences’: Environmental, ethical, and socioeconomic anxieties over personal transportation technologies in 1830s British caricature,” Grace's paper was conceptualized, carried out, drafted, and revised in my class. In summer 2020, Rebecka Mähring, a rising sophomore at Princeton, saw her seminar paper from my class accepted for presentation at the Northeast Popular Culture Association annual conference: “Reshaping sociotechnical imaginaries in Cold War era ads.” After I worked with Rebecka to revise her project further and prepare for the presentation, she was nominated for an NEPCA student paper award.

In 2018, my student Epifanio Torres conceptualized and carried out a paper in my class that compared frameworks for regulating AI. From 2019-2020, I mentored Epifanio weekly to revise the paper, submit it to a scholarly journal, and navigate revisions. I came alongside as a co-author in the process. In early 2020, while Epifanio was a sophomore, our paper was accepted for publication in the interdisciplinary journal AI & Society, as “An emerging AI mainstream: Deepening our comparisons of AI frameworks through rhetorical analysis.” [Link]

I helped Epifanio publish in a peer-reviewed journal based on his first-year seminar paper.


I've received consistently enthusiastic feedback on my teaching through course evaluations. (Research shows that students tend not to give women and people of color their due in course evaluations, so my high scores should be read with that in mind.) At Carnegie Mellon, my sections stood out even in a college and department that emphasizes teaching.

Across all nine measures of teaching, my research writing courses from Fall 2013 through Spring 2017 received higher scores on average than even the Carnegie Mellon English Department.

Likewise, at Princeton my students have been extremely positive in assessing my ability to support their research writing. Their comments emphasize how much I care and how helpful our sessions are:

  • "I definitely understand the writing process better after this class. My writing has become a lot more methodical and I'm able to better understand what techniques of writing work and which don't through critiquing the work of me and my classmates."
  • "The feedback was very useful, and consistently struck a balance between highlighting exemplary ideas and pushing for more through constructive criticism."
  • "The feedback was very useful. Dr. Penman did a great job stimulating my thinking and leading me in productive directions without ever giving me one 'right answer,' and leaving me to make important discoveries on my own."
  • "I've really loved the stakes, research gap, thesis architecture that we've used this semester. I think this has been the most fundamental change for me in my writing, and it has really improved. I also really appreciated Dr. Penman's help in allowing me to organize/structure my methodology and analysis, really helping me tell a concrete story."
Supporting your project

I've had direct and indirect experience writing and reading in a variety of fields. With my background in rhetoric, I've also studied how scholars write across disciplines. There are only a few fields that I wouldn't feel comfortable guiding people in: math, some kinds of philosophy, and law. You're also welcome to email me if you're feeling unsure or hesitant: