Composition Coaching is a writing coach service for scholars. Create a compelling research product, enjoy your work, and come out of this project stronger.
Composition Coaching provides:
- high-quality guidance for taking your research project to the next level;
- consistent celebration of your milestones, skills, and discoveries; and
- holistic support for navigating complex feelings, relationships, and goals.
I offer monthly coaching, a downloadable guide to work at your own pace, and support for special projects.
Small next steps
To receive interesting links and learn about new coaching opportunities, sign up to receive my newsletter (sent every 2 weeks). You can also see tips and commentary on academic writing by following Composition Coaching on Twitter: @guidingwriters
Monthly coaching is great for building steadiness into your routine. It includes a synchronous writing workshop/planning session, regular encouragement, and an opportunity to get feedback on your writing every month.
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. The focus of this monthly coaching package adapts 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
Downloadable guide: The Four Corners of Research Writing
Learn from four detailed, illustrative chapters at your own pace. Each chapter goes into depth on the "four corners" of research writing as they play out in academic research articles. Use the "four corners" framework to gain a conceptual model for scholarly writing, see detailed examples from published scholarship, and develop confidence in your own work.
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.
What clients say
-Rebecca, Assistant Professor of Communication, Sports Communication, Lenoir-Rhyne University
"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."
-Nick, PhD Candidate, Health Geography, Kent State
"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."
-Jennifer, Assistant Professor in Rhetoric
"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."
-Christy, PhD student, Cultural Studies, McGill University
"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"
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 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.
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.
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."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.