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.

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Current Coaching: Winter Mix-n-Match

This winter may offer a unique stretch of time to work toward your writing goals, since many US universities are out of session in December 2020 and January 2021. If you have the capacity to work on research writing, I want to give you the flexibility to craft your own perfect plan, so I’m opening up coaching options with a Winter Mix-n-Match.

With the calendars below in mind, put together whatever kind of coaching activities you’d like whenever you’d like them. I’ll coordinate with you and do my best to accommodate your ideal schedule. Feel free to just dip your toes into research writing coaching, or go full bore and map out all the coaching you need to get this project submitted. A high level of coaching support could make a big difference, if now is the main time that you’ll be writing this school year.

Instructional activities

Guidance on the features of strong research papers.

The 4 Corners of Research Writing: Stakes, Research Gap, Thesis, Evidence (pdf download, $15): Ground your reading, planning, drafting, and revising in what I call the "four corners" of research writing. Detailed, illustrative documents explain how stakes, research gap, thesis, and evidence play out in academic research articles, with suggestions for taking the 4 corners of your project to the next level.
Highly recommended as a complement to other activities.

My 4 Corners (1 hr, shared session, $40, includes The Four Corners of Research Writing pdf download): Bring a project to work on, and settle in as we work through assessing and upgrading one of your own 4 corners.
Repeats well.

Equitable Writing Workshop (90 min, shared session on fixed dates, $25, includes handout): We cannot single-handedly make academia equitable, but doing our part does involve actively developing our own efforts. Each Equitable Writing Workshop offers a small concrete strategy.

  • On Tuesday, Dec 22 (10am Eastern), our topic is “Crafting equitable stakes: Drawing in diverse perspectives on significance.”
  • On Tues, Jan 19 (11am Eastern), our strategy is “Crafting equitable evidence: Thanking those we depend on.”

Good for long-range development and wholeness.

Support activities

Encouragement, affirmation, and emotional processing.

Independent Coworking sessions (1 hr, two-person independent session, $10): Be partnered with another person based on your availability. During your shared zoom call, make progress on your own projects.
Highly recommended to pair with at least one My 4 Corners session.

Get-to-know-you (1 hr, $80, includes the 4 Corners of Research Writing pdf download): Take stock of your research writing past and present. Before our meeting, respond to a set of reflection questions. Then, we discuss one-on-one, in order to reflect on your project in the wider context of your career and institution, and to lay the groundwork for making shifts in your writing process.
Best for beginning an extended time working together. (Note: I'll be taking this February 2021 off from coaching and will resume in March 2021).

Personalized Planning (45 min, $75): Address conceptually challenging and emotionally difficult decisions about your research writing in a supportive one-on-one environment. What do you want to write next, when?
Great if you want to feel invigorated rather than avoiding writing.

Feedback activities

A fresh set of eyes for your writing.

Quick Take (asynchronous within 1-2 days, $25): Provide me with some context for a paragraph or so of text, and receive thoughtful advice about how it's proceeding. People often choose delicate areas, like part of the introduction or the literature review.
Pair with instructional activities beforehand for conceptual background on my suggestions.

Abstract Analysis (asynchronous within 1-2 days, $50): Step back from the details of your project to work on how you're pitching it to readers overall. Abstracts are high stakes but sometimes become an afterthought.
Useful for conference/journal/anthology submissions, and also for gaining insights into the 4 corners of research writing for your project at a textual level.

Complete Review of article/chapter (asynchronous within a week, $250): Now that you have a full draft of your paper or book chapter, I offer 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.
Pairs well with Support activities before/after.

Which activities would you like to plan out? Sign up for winter coaching.

Sample mix-n-match paths (based on real client stories)

Sebastian's winter goal: Create some structure for myself over the break so I can make progress on my second dissertation chapter.

  • $40 My 4 Corners meeting (Dec 7) - Looking for help thinking about this chapter's analysis. The included 4 Corners of Research Writing download will give me a conceptual model for writing my chapters
  • $10 x3 Independent Coworking Sessions (Dec 28, Jan 4, Jan 11) - Very flexible dates, but wanting to make sure I'm actually working before the semester starts.
  • = $70 total

Katherine's winter goal: Begin a potentially long-term coaching relationship.

  • $80 Get-to-know-you (Jan 6) - I have some other things to finish in December, and I want to take some time off, but when January starts, I'm ready to get going! The included 4 Corners of Research Writing download will be helpful. As a postdoc, I definitely have some complex feelings about academic writing.
  • $25 Quick Take x3 (Jan 13, Jan 15, Jan 20) - I'm planning to get some initial notes down based on our meeting and want to see how those are going. Also wanting to push myself to get feedback on something that I know isn't "finished." I'm used to just getting criticized by my PI for that.
  • $25 Equitable Writing Workshop (Jan 19) - I'm intrigued by this, I've never thought of intentionally thanking people before.
  • $75 Personalized Planning (Jan 27) - Finish out January strong by assessing my progress and determining my next steps, especially with some big deadlines coming up for the lab. Considering ongoing coaching when you start back up in March.
  • = $255 total

Abbey's winter goal: Get advice on this article before I submit it to a journal by Jan 15. (Hoping to get departmental funding for this coaching.)

  • $15 x2 The 4 Corners of Research Writing: Stakes, Research Gap, Thesis, Evidence (immediately; extra download so I can gift it to a colleague for Christmas lol, which I'll need rung up separately from the departmentally approvable stuff) - I feel like I've just been writing this article by feel. I'd love a better sense of how I should be doing it.
  • $250 Complete Review (Jan 4) - I've presented on this article in 2 different forms and rewritten it so many times, I just need someone to help me see what it's "really" doing well. This will give me enough time to revise based on your feeedback to meet my goal.
  • $75 Personalized Planning (Jan 11) - I process things verbally, so this will be a good chance to debrief your comments.
  • = $355 total

Patrick's winter goal: Help my husband Tim get published

  • ?? This is a gift for my husband. I don't know exactly what activities he would want, I just found this and thought - better you giving him advice than me, if you know what I mean. He's a PhD student in psychology and he's super smart, but he has a lot of pressure to publish and is really overwhelmed about how to do that.
  • = $100 total

Create your own winter mix-n-match to sign up for coaching.

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.”

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.”

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: