Composition Coaching

Composition Coaching is a writing coach service for scholars. Composition Coaching provides:

Schedule Coaching to Get Your Project Moving

Currently available - Sign up for the By Your Side coaching plan

“I really want to publish more.”
“I need help knowing how to improve my article.”
“It’s overwhelming working on this dissertation chapter.”
“I wish somebody could check in on my progress and help my research stay on track.”

If any of these describe your situation, you’re not alone. Scholarly researchers commonly experience these challenges. I’ve been there myself and I know how to help.

The “By Your Side” coaching program only has a few criteria:

  1. Are you working on a project that requires scholarly writing?
  2. Are you far enough along in your projects that you’ve already gathered your data or identified your evidence?
  3. Do you have relatively open-ended timing and few formal checkpoints?
  4. Can you reliably find at least 5 hours per week to work on your research?

My “By Your Side” coaching program consists of weekly 30-min Zoom sessions. The first session with a new client involves an intake form to get to know your project and writing experience. In each subsequent session, we review your progress since we last talked, resolve issues that are on your mind, set goals, and sometimes improve specific passages that you’ve drafted. Sessions continue for a pre-determined length of time, such as for a semester, with the option to continue as needed. Each session costs $50, payable weekly or monthly. If you are drawing on institutional funds for coaching, I can work with your institution to process them.

With the By Your Side coaching program, recommended times vary depending on your ability to put in time and your goals. Typical outcomes include:

Projects often take more time than clients hope for, but less time than they fear. Rather than focusing on speed per se, our sessions help you gain momentum in actually moving your project forward. Writing becomes less stressful. Insightful argumentation becomes more achievable. And finishing becomes more satisfying!

Special Projects / Developmental Editing

Sometimes you need very specific help that would be best outside of a weekly format. The most common of these special projects is when you’ve received a revise-and-resubmit (R&R) or are in the final stages of preparing a paper or book manuscript. Projects in this stage are still developing their argument.

In these cases, let me be “Reviewer 1” for you – a generous, helpful, affirming response to your deep ideas. The Reviewer 1 package consists of:

As a standalone package, for a roughly 8,000-10,000 word manuscript, the Reviewer 1 package costs $250. For “By Your Side” coaching clients or book projects involving multiple chapters, prices can be reduced.

Email me about your special project

For Labs, Departments, and Groups:

Multi-day workshops get your lab on the same page, build excitement about the writing process, develop shared terminology, and help students/post-docs make concrete progress. Email me - I'd love to hear about your needs and find a solution.

Seminars are one-off learning events to upskill yourself and interested colleagues. Seminars I can offer include:

Download Now: The Four Corners of Research Writing

Purchase the 70-page guide and receive it instantly by email.

Learn at your own pace from four detailed chapters: how do the stakes, research gap, thesis, and evidence provide a template for your next rough draft? My “four corners” framework helps you gain a conceptual model for scholarly writing. Includes detailed examples from published scholarship.

What clients say

“I appreciated how holistic the coaching was ... The affective part of this coaching was a real selling point for me. I think the quality of the writing guidance is also high quality, but for me, affirming my feelings and experiences was, in a way, healing.
-Rebecca, Assistant Professor (Communication, Lenoir-Rhyne University)

“The scheduled meetings and submission deadlines kept me focusing on my dissertation periodically. Otherwise, it could be very easy to delay what I need to do for getting the PhD degree, especially when I had a full-time job. I had been struggled with the way of doing research and was often stuck in doing endless analyses without thinking much about the top-level goals. The discussions with the coach helped me understand how to do research with 4 corners of research writing, and more importantly, why we even do research.”
-Nick, PhD Candidate (Health Geography, Kent State)

“Especially for someone in a small department, this feedback has been incredibly helpful in getting me to see places in my writing that needed to be clarified in an audience-specific way.”
-Jennifer, Assistant Professor (Rhetoric)

“Sometimes some of the other feedback I've gotten has felt dismissive or condescending, which doesn't make me want to engage with the bits that might be useful. This was a really nice change from that”
-Christy, PhD student (Cultural Studies, McGill University)

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've just finished teaching research writing at Princeton University for the last four years. 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 published 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 3 years (going on 4) 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.

Since then, in my teaching role I'm proudest of what my students have been able to accomplish in their research projects.

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 and American Culture Association annual conference: “Reshaping sociotechnical imaginaries in Cold War era ads.” Her presentation was nominated for an NEPCA student paper award. And in early 2021, my former student Byulorm Park presented a version of her seminar paper at the Eastern Communication Association annual conference: “Countervisuality for a gentrifying city center: Structuring systems of surveillance through architecture.” Their success attests to the quality of the guidance I offer.

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: