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Posts tagged ‘research’

Writing Nonfiction

Eight preparatory steps necessary to successfully write a nonfiction book:

  1. Choose your topic.

The first thing you want to do as you prepare to write a nonfiction book is choose a topic for your project carefully. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it really isn’t.

  1. Create a Content Plan

Create an outline or a table of contents for you book. This ends up looking like a table of contents—actually a rather detailed table of contents with chapter titles and subheading titles. You might prefer to just create a simple outline or a bulleted list.

Whatever your method of choice, create something that looks like the structure of a book—a table of contents. And know what content will fill that structure as you create your manuscript. That’s your map.

Then, when you sit down to write each day, you know exactly what to write. In fact, the more detailed you make this plan, the more quickly and easily you will write your book. You will spend little time staring at your computer screen wondering what to write or what comes next. You will know. It will be right there in your writing plan. You’ll just follow the map—your table of contents—to your destination.

  1. Determine What Research You Need

You might think you can write your book “off the top of your head” because you are the expert on the topic. Inevitably, though, you will discover a need to search for something—a URL, a quote, the title of a book. These things can slow down your process. This is where preparation can help keep your fingers on the keyboard typing rather than perusing the Internet.

For each item in your plan—or your detailed table of contents, brainstorm the possible research you need and make note of it.

As you write, if you discover you need more research or interviews, don’t stop writing. Instead, create brackets in your manuscript that say [research here] and highlight them in yellow. Later, do a search for the term “research,” and fill in the gaps.

  1. Create a To-Do List

Look over your content plan. Take all the research items you listed and put them on a to-do list.

Make a list of URLs, books and articles to find. Look for anything you need to do. For instance, does your research require that you visit a certain location? If so, put “Visit XX” on the to do list.

Don’t forget to put interviews on this list. You want to conduct your interviews now.

  1. Gather and Organize Your Materials

Gather as much of your research and other necessary material as you can prior to the end of October. Purchase the books, copy the articles into, copy and past the URLs into a Word doc, or drag them into Scrivener’s research folder, for instance. Get your interviews transcribed as well—and read through them with a highlighter, marking the quotes you think you want to use.

If you are writing memoir, you might want to gather photos, journals and other memorabilia. If you are re-purposing blog posts, or reusing any other previously published or written material, you want to put all of this in one place—an online folder, a Scrivener file or a Word file.

Generally, get as much of what you need to write your book in an easily accessible format and location so you aren’t searching for it when you should be writing. Use piles, boxes, hanging folders, computer folders, cloud storage…whatever works best for you.

  1. Determine How Much Time You Need

Each nonfiction book is different and requires a different amount of time to write. A research based book takes longer to write, for example, because you have to study, evaluate and determine your opinion of the studies. You have to read the interviews you conducted, choose appropriate quotes and then work those quotes into your manuscript.

If, on the other hand, you write from your own experiences, this take less time. With the exception of drawing on anecdotes, an occasional quote or bit of information from a book, the material all comes from your head. You need only sit down and write about a process you created, your own life story or your area of expertise.

  1. Create a Writing Schedule

Last, create a writing schedule. You now know how much time you need to write your book. Now find those hours in your calendar and block them off. Make those hours sacred.

  1. Put a Back-Up System in Place.

Yes…this is my last tip, because you just never know what happens. Your computer crashes or dies. You accidentally delete your whole manuscript. Your child dumps milk all over your keyboard.

You want a back up of your project. Always save it to your computer’s drive and onto a thumb drive or, better yet, into the cloud, for safe keeping! Make these plans in advance as well. You can use, or Google Drive, for example.

The Oxford Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science


The Simonyi Professorship Chair for the Public Understanding of Science was founded in 1995, by a donation from Dr Charles Simonyi. It is currently held by Professor Marcus du Sautoy, and based at Oxford University’s Mathematical Institute and Department for Continuing Education.


The aim of the Simonyi Professorship is to contribute to the understanding of science by the public. The chair is intended to be filled by a scientist of distinction in their field of expertise, and the Simonyi Professor may hold the post while also pursuing their scientific work. Just as important as scientific accolade is that he or she has a talent and interest in communicating science to a wide audience.

Primary goals

The task of communicating science to the layman is not a simple one. In particular it is imperative for the post holder to avoid oversimplifying ideas, and presenting exaggerated claims. The limits of current scientific knowledge should always be made clear to the public. Once done so, however, there is also a role for presenting speculative ideas, which can convey to non-scientists some of the excitement of doing true science.

From Charles Simonyi’s Manifesto

“The chair is for ‘Public Understanding of Science’, that the holder will be expected to make important contributions to the public understanding of some scientific field rather than study the public’s perception of the same. By ‘public’ we mean the largest possible audience, provided, however, that people who have the power and ability to propagate or oppose the ideas (especially scholars in other sciences and in humanities, engineers, journalists, politicians, professionals, and artists) are not lost in the process. Here it is useful to distinguish between the roles of scholars and popularisers. The university chair is intended for accomplished scholars who have made original contributions to their field, and who are able to grasp the subject, when necessary, at the highest levels of abstraction. A populariser, on the other hand, focuses mainly on the size of the audience and frequently gets separated from the world of scholarship. Popularisers often write on immediate concerns or even fads. In some cases they seduce less educated audiences by offering a patronizingly oversimplified or exaggerated view of the state of the art or the scientific process itself. This is best seen in hindsight, as we remember the ‘giant brains’ computer books of yesteryear but I suspect many current science books will in time be recognized as having fallen into this category. While the role of populariser may still be valuable, nevertheless it is not one supported by this chair. The public’s expectation of scholars is high, and it is only fitting that we have a high expectation of the public.:

Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique

How can you give a good manuscript critique? When you critique a manuscript, you want to do a good job. You want the writer to be able to tell easily what you think. You want to give them both ways to correct and ways to enhance the manuscript. Here are ways that will guide you and insure you give a good critique.

When you critique a manuscript, make your notes stand out:

  • Put in blue text at least three Blue Ribbon passages or highlight in blue – my name for words, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, or scenes that are especially well-written. In this particular manuscript, these parts win First Prize – the Blue Ribbon.
  • Put in red text, highlight in yellow, and/or cross out words you believe should be deleted .
  • Use a different color font for your remarks from the one the writer used.
  • Use all caps for your input. WHAT A STRONG BEGINNING!
  • Note punctuation and grammar errors.
  • Point out where the writer needs to show, not tell. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
  • Write questions in the manuscript when you think of them.
  • Or do your own thing. Be creative.

Write the following questions at the beginning of the manuscript you’re about to critique. It will help you focus on the story’s strengths, as well as give the author places that need enrichment. If you’re the author, ask yourself these questions about one of your own manuscripts.

23 Questions for a Critique

After reading a manuscript, answer these questions.

  1. What does the main character want?
  2. What was he willing to do to get it?
  3. What kept the main character from getting what he wanted?
  4. Does he get what he wants? How?
  5. What are the mistakes that the main character makes?
  6. What are his flaws? (He’s got to have flaws.)
  7. What is the lowest point in the story?
  8. Did the main character change? How?
  9.  What does the main character learn about life from his experiences in this story?
  10. Do you know what each main character wants?
  11. Does each main character have a distinct voice of his own?
  12. Can you tell when a different character is talking?
  13. What do you want to know that the writer is not telling you?
  14. Does it make sense? If not, note in the manuscript which parts that don’t make sense.
  15. Does the main character face his conflict or run away?
  16. Does the main character save himself by human means or is he saved with unbelievable circumstances that seems like magic?
  17. Mark where writer needs to show, don’t tell.
  18. Can you write a short summary of the story? Do it.
  19. What are three main errors-main punctuation and grammar errors-for the author to correct?
  20. Point out any pet words that the author uses over and over again? A thesaurus might have other words to use in place of them.
  21. What are three Blue Ribbon passages?
  22. What questions come to mind as you read the manuscript?
  23. After reading the story, can you write a short (25-100 word) summary? Do so. If not, tell the parts of the story that are missing.

Never Give Up!
Joan Y. Edwards

Hyphenating Prefixes


A reader who works with legal transcription has the following question:

There seems to be a trend towards having the prefixes and suffixes separate from the modified noun instead of being attached or hyphenated. What is proper?  Some examples are non negotiable, post surgery, post doctorate, age wise.

The examples given present a variety of forms, not all of which represent a prefix+noun combination.

The prefix non- is added to nouns of action, condition, or quality with the sense of “absence, lack of,” or simply “not.” for example, non-Catholic.

Non- is affixed to adjectives to make them negative. Whether to add a hyphen depends upon whether American or British usage is being observed. The OED hyphenates many words that M-W shows written as one word. For example, M-W gives nonnegotiable, but OED has non-negotiable.

When it comes to another word in the reader’s list, however, both the OED and M-W agree with postdoctorate, although both prefer postdoctoral.

The prefix post- means, “after” or “behind.” It is added to adjectives without a hyphen: postcolonial, postsurgical. Post can be used on its own as a preposition meaning, “after”: “Your mouth will be extremely dry post surgery.” In this context post is a separate word. Added to a noun to create a descriptor, however, post would require a hyphen: “Post-surgery care is vitally important.”

The suffix -wise means, “in the manner of” or “as regards,” as in clockwise, lengthwise, foodwise, etc. This combining form is never separated from the word it’s added to, either by a hyphen or by a space. It can have other meanings, of course. For example, a person is said to be “pound wise, but penny foolish.” In this context wise is a word that means “possessing wisdom”; it is not a suffix.

Hyphenation is not an exact science. Authorities differ regarding the necessity of a hyphen, but I’m reasonably sure that all agree that suffixes aren’t free agents that can stand apart from the words they belong to.

Five Steps to Completing Your First Draft

Follow these stages of preparation and production to assemble a first draft of written (or spoken) content.

  1. Identify Your Purpose
    What is the reason for writing the content? Are you objectively presenting information? If so, is it for educational purposes, or for entertainment — or both? Are you writing to help someone make a decision, or encouraging someone to take action? Identifying your goal for the content will help you shape the piece.
  2. Identify Your Readership
    Who are your intended readers (and your unintended ones)? What is their level of literacy, and what is their degree of prior knowledge of the topic?

Imagining who your readers are will help you decide what voice and tone to adopt, how formal or informal your language will be — though that factor also depends on your approach (see below) — and how much detail or background information you provide.

  1. Identify Your Approach

Should your content be authoritative, or is it the work of someone informally communicating with peers? Are you offering friendly advice, or is your tone cautionary? Are you selling something, or are you skeptical? Should the content be serious, or is some levity appropriate? Determining your strategy, in combination with identifying your readership, will help you decide how the piece will feel to the reader.

  1. Identify Your Ideas
    Brainstorm before and during the drafting process, and again when you revise. If appropriate, talk or write to intended readers about what they hope to learn from the content. Imagine that you are an expert on the topic, and pretend that you are being interviewed about it. Write down the questions and your answers to help you structure the content. Alternatively, present a mock speech or lecture on the topic and transcribe your talk.

Draft an executive summary or an abstract of the content, or think about how you would describe it to someone in a few sentences. Or draw a diagram or a map of the content.

Using one or more of these strategies will help you populate your content with the information your readers want or need.

  1. Identify Your Structure
    Craft a title that clearly summarizes the topic in a few words. Explain the main idea in the first paragraph. Organize the content by one of several schemes: chronology or sequence, relative importance, or differing viewpoints. Use section headings or transitional language to signal new subtopics. Integrate sidebars, graphics, and/or links as appropriate.

Incorporating these building blocks will help you produce a coherent, well-organized piece.

From: Daily Writing Tips


“Species” and Its Descendants

An assortment of diverse words stem from the Latin word species, which had two distinct meanings, one of which is “a particular kind, sort, or type”—the pertinent sense for the following terms.

special: This word, coming into English from Old French, originally meant “better than ordinary” but later acquired the additional senses of “marked by a distinguishing quality” and “limited in function, operation, or purpose”; the noun specialist carries the latter connotation in describing someone with a narrow set of skills. The variant especial, taken from an Old French term meaning “important” or “preeminent”—treated in Modern French as spécial—originally had the same meaning as special but later acquired the additional senses of “particular” and “peculiar,” as well as “intimate.” The adverbial form, especially, is now much more common than the adjectival form.

specie: This technical term for coins, as opposed to paper currency, stems from the phrase “in specie,” meaning “in the actual or real form,” which in turn derives from an identical-looking phrase in Latin that means “in kind.” (The notion is that coins actually have monetary value, whereas paper currency merely represents such value.)

species: Species denotes a distinct type of life-form, but this biological sense was preceded by multiple now-rare connotations such as “appearance,” “notion,” and “resemblance.” Originally, it was associated with a classification in logic.

specific: This word, meaning “particular,” “precise,” or “special,” is an antonym of generic, just as, in biology, a species is more, well, specific than a genus. (Like species and specific, genus and generic are related.)

specious: This term has undergone the most deviation from its original sense, which is “fair” or “pleasing.” (It stems indirectly from the Latin word species by way of speciosus, which means “good-looking” or “beautiful.”) Now, it pertains to superficial attractiveness or false validity or value.

spice: This unexpected descendant of special, which denotes plant products used to season foods, derived from a later sense of species in Latin of “goods or wares,” pertaining to spices as a commodity. The additional, centuries-old, figurative sense of “something that provides relish or zest” survives, but the meanings “sample” and “trace” do not.

The second sense of the Latin term species, derived from the verb specere, is discussed in this post.

Daily Writing Tips, Posted: 30 Sep 2016 09:09 PM PDT

On Promoting Literacy and Skilled Communication

A long-awaited federal study found that an estimated 32 million adults in the USA — about one in seven — are saddled with such low literacy skills it would be tough for them to read anything more challenging than a children’s picture book or to understand a medication’s side effects listed on a pill bottle, according to USA Today.
Overall, the study found, the nation hasn’t made a dent in its adult-literacy problem: From 1992 to 2003, it shows the USA added about 23 million adults to its population; in that period, an estimated 3.6 million more joined the ranks of adults with low literacy skills. “They really cannot read … paragraphs (or) sentences that are connected,” says Sheida White, a researcher at the U.S. Education Department.
The findings come from the department’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), a survey of more than 19,000 Americans ages 16 and older. The 2003 survey was a follow-up to a similar one in 1992 and, for the first time, allows the public to see literacy rates as far down as county levels. In many cases, states made sizable gains. In Mississippi, the percentage of adults with low skills dropped 9 percentage points, from 25 percent to 16 percent. In every one of its 82 counties, low-skill rates dropped — in a few cases by 20 percentage points or more. By contrast, in several large states — California, New York, Florida and Nevada, for instance — the number of adults with low skills rose.
These statistics are not surprising; they are shocking, numbing to be exact. How could this country, be so ‘advanced’, yet be so illiterate? Does it mean that literacy is not really important? Can we, as a country, continue to ‘advance’ without being able to communicate? Or, are the illiterate masses just dead-weight and can be ignored like sticks on a woodland trail?
Let’s begin to ponder this by agreeing on a definition of literacy. The United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) defines literacy as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society.”(NRC 2012) But, let’s also look at other definitions that are in use.
Various government agencies label individuals who can read a couple of thousand simple words they learned by sight in the first four grades in school as literate. Other sources may term such individuals functionally illiterate if they are unable to use basic sources of written information like warning labels and driving directions. The World Factbook, prepared by the CIA, defines literacy in the United States as “age 15 and over can read and write.” In most, if not all, cases, the literacy rates are not entirely measurable.
This, then, is the first issue of contention when discussing literacy, “What is the definition of literacy?” I submit, as a leader of a non-profit group founded to promote literacy, the UNESCO definition comes closest to describing literacy. Literacy is more than just being able to read and maybe comprehend a few words or sign your name on a document. It includes an important factor, life-time learning. As a literate person, you can read the newspaper, read magazines, read candidate literature, so that when you go to the polls to vote, you are an informed voter. As a literate person, you provide yourself with the tools necessary to access information, interpret that information and use it to “participate fully in the wider society.”
It is in being able to interpret accurately information, where one in seven adults in America runs into trouble. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) says these people can only read at the level of children’s picture books. True, some of the advertising and even candidate literature seems to be not too far above that level. Though this sounds cynical, the point is the people who write this information know their readers aren’t capable of reading at any higher level. Case in point, in marketing material I received, one of the recommendations was “Your script should be simple and clear enough for a six-year-old to understand.” For as long as I can remember, educators have said newspapers are written to the eighth grade level. Where does that leave one in seven adults in this country? In the dark, unable to read information about current events, not knowing, or at least not reading first hand, news about the NSA debacle or the current changes to health care in this country, for instance.
Healthcare, is a topic that concerns nearly every adult. Many U.S. adults lack health literacy or the ability to read and follow the kinds of instructions routinely given for self-care or to family caregivers after medical procedures or hospital stays. Physicians routinely discuss medications with their patients when they prescribe them. But, do patients understand the physician? Many do not. This is dangerous. Consider a patient in severe pain who may have been prescribed narcotic pain medication that can be toxic at higher levels, but it doesn’t work well immediately; so, the patient takes more pills. The patient is unable to read the warnings distributed with the medication, stating that taking more medication than is prescribed is harmful. The patient is unable to read and/or comprehend the list of side effects and information as to symptoms of overdose. Because the patient can’t read or interpret this information, his/her life is now threatened unless there is immediate intervention.
The website is yet another stumbling block for people who lack literacy efficiency. Reading, understanding, interpreting and choosing the right plan for them could be an impossibility, assuming they were able to navigate the website to get to the marketplace listing the over 100 plans available. Assuming the person gets to the plan market place, he/she will probably just pick one, with no understanding of the plan, it’s coverage or cost. This person is unlikely to ask for help. Most people, who are illiterate, hide their handicap well, through years of practice. At any rate, this person now has a plan but has no idea what it covers. How many people are in this situation? Over 32 million adults, the NAAL study found.
Data from the NAAL and other surveys and assessments are likely to underestimate the problem of literacy in the United States. Literacy demands are increasing because of the rapid growth of information and communication technologies, while the literacy assessments to date have focused on the simplest forms of literacy skill. And, it’s getting worse. The reading skills of American adults are significantly lower than those of adults in most other developed countries, according to a new international survey. What’s more, over the last two decades Americans’ reading proficiency has declined across most age groups, and has only improved significantly for 65-year-olds. The study of 160,000 people by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which is composed of two dozen developed nations, found that U.S. adults had reading levels that were below average.
Kozol (2011) stated that given a paycheck and the stub that lists the usual deductions, 26 percent of adult Americans cannot determine if their paycheck is correct. Thirty-six percent, given a W-4 form, cannot enter the right number of exemptions in the proper places on the form. Forty-four percent, when given a series of “help-wanted” ads, cannot match their qualifications to the job requirements. Twenty-two percent cannot address a letter well enough to guarantee that it will reach its destination. Twenty-four percent cannot add their own correct return address to the same envelope. Twenty percent cannot understand an “equal opportunity” announcement. Over 60 percent, given a series of “for sale” advertisements for products new and used, cannot calculate the difference between prices for new and used items. Over 20 percent cannot write a check that will be processed by their bank—or will be processed in the right amount. Over 40 percent are unable to determine the correct amount of change they should receive, given a cash register receipt and the denomination of the bill used for payment.
So, what can be done to improve adult literacy? There is a surprising lack of rigorous research on effective approaches to adult literacy instruction, according to the NAAL report. But, research with younger populations can guide the development of instructional approaches for adults, if it is modified to account for two major differences in the groups.
One is that adults may experience age-related neurocognitive declines that affect reading and writing processes and speed of learning. The second is that adults bring varied life experiences, knowledge and motivations for learning that need attention in the design of literacy instruction for them. Literacy is a complex skill that requires thousands of hours of practice, but many adults do not persist in adult literacy instruction long enough or have enough time to practice outside the instructional setting to reach their goals. The problem of high attrition needs to be resolved for adults to receive sufficient practice and instruction (NRC 2012).
In general, adults have been slower than younger people to embrace the technological revolution that began in the last decades of the 20th century. Technology affects nearly every aspect of life in the 21st century from how we “talk” with our family and friends, to how we shop, to how and where we work. Quicker and more efficient transportation and communication services have made it easier for people, goods, services and capital to move around the world, leading to the globalization of economies. New means of communication and types of services have changed the way individuaOECD,ls interact with governments, service suppliers and each other. These social and economic transformations have, in turn, changed the demand for skills as well. While there are many factors responsible for these changes, let us look briefly at technological developments, particularly information and communications technologies, because they have profoundly altered what are considered to be the “key information-processing skills” that individuals need as economies and societies evolve in the 21st century.
With manufacturing and other low-skill tasks in the services sector increasingly becoming automated, the need for routine cognitive and craft skills is declining, while the demand for information-processing skills and other high-level cognitive and interpersonal skills is growing. In addition to mastering occupation-specific skills, workers in the 21st century must also have a stock of information-processing skills, including literacy, numeracy and problem solving, and “generic” skills, such as interpersonal communication, self-management, and the ability to learn, to help them prepare for the uncertainties of a rapidly changing labor market.
Improving the supply of skills is only half the story: skills shortages co-exist with high unemployment; and better use can be made of existing skills. There is growing interest among policy makers not only in creating the right incentives for firms and individuals to invest in developing skills, but also in ensuring that economies fully use the skills available to them. To that end, the OECD Skills Strategy emphasized three pillars: developing relevant skills, activating skills supply, and putting skills to effective use (OECD 2012).
Four major national literacy efforts now exist in this country. One is the government’s official program, Adult Basic Education (ABE). A second is the U.S. military’s program of remediation for its recruits. Together, these two efforts claim to reach between 2 and 3 million people. The military, however, usually does not accept a person reading at below the fifth grade level. Adult Basic Education is not legally restricted from admitting persons reading at the lowest levels; but, the traditional modes of ABE discourage their participation. Its methods of recruitment, institutional setting, replication of a school-like situation, physical distance from the neighborhoods in which the poorest and least literate people live, as well as the mechanistic nature of the methods it employs, have virtually assured that few of those who read below the fifth grade level will begin, complete, or ever have a chance to hear about its programs.
For those who do participate, the figures for “separation” or incompletion are disastrous. Forty percent of those who enter ABE are “separated.” Only thirty percent of those who leave these programs prior to completion do so because they have achieved their goals. Other reasons given in a recent poll are: inconvenient scheduling of classes, physical distance causing transportation problems, change of address, conflicts with employers, lack of interest … All, with the possible exception of employer conflicts, apply with equal force to dropout rates from public schools. Those who failed in public school are those, too frequently, who will be failed by ABE as well. The other two programs are privately supported. Laubach Literacy serves fifty thousand people. Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA) serves twenty thousand. These and several church-run programs do effective work with those they reach; but those they reach, are very few when looking at the 32 million NAAL found who are illiterate (Kozol 2011).
How do the illiterate find out about these programs? There are advertisements in newspapers, on community bulletin boards and in church bulletins. An often seen and used cartoon critical of these announcements says: “If you can’t read this message call 1-800-LIT-ERAT.” On a more serious side, employers assist employees that are found to have low skill literacy by recommending classes given in the company or in a community college setting. However, these are the functionally illiterate and may be more motivated to improve their skills. If they are illiterate, their having a job or any means of gainful employment might be nearly impossible. They would either be unaware or ineligible to participate in any of these programs.
The NRC (2012) said a significant portion of the U.S. population was likely to continue, at least in the near term, to experience inadequate literacy and require instruction as adults: the most recent main National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) (2009) showed only 38 percent of twelfth graders performed at or above the proficient level in reading; this achievement was higher than the percentage in 2005; but not significantly different from earlier assessment years. Although 74 percent of twelfth graders were at or above basic, 26 percent were below basic near the end of high school. When taking into account race and ethnicity, only 22 percent were at or above basic reading levels near the end of high school; 78 percent were below basic. Results were similar for twelfth graders with disabilities: 38 percent were at or above basic reading levels; 62 percent were below basic.
Given these statistics, it is not surprising that, although originally designed for older adults, adult literacy education programs increasingly are attended by youths ages 16 to 20. In 2003, more than half of participants in federally funded adult literacy programs were 25 or younger.
The problem of inadequate literacy was also found by colleges, especially community colleges. More than half of community college students enroll in at least one developmental education course during their college tenure to remediate weak skills. Data from an initiative called Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count provide the best information on students’ difficulties in remedial instruction. The study included more than 250,000 students from 57 colleges in seven states who were enrolled for the first time from fall 2003 to fall 2004. Of the total, 59 percent were referred for remedial instruction, and 33 percent of the referrals were specifically for reading. After 3 years, fewer than 4 in 10 students had completed the entire sequence of remedial courses to which they had been referred. About 30 percent of students referred to developmental education did not enroll in any remedial course, and about 60 percent of those who did enroll did not enroll in the specific course to which they had been referred. Notably, according to the NAAL survey, proficiency in prose literacy was evident in only 31 percent of U.S. adults with a 4-year college degree.
A major problem for literacy programs across the country is funding. While the number of adults seeking help grows year by year, government funding for literacy programs remains low, given the extent of the problem. From 1975 through 1999, the number of adults enrolled in programs funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Division of Adult Education and Literacy increased from 1.2 million in 1975 to 4.3 million in 1999, or by about 118,000 per year. The total annual government expenditure for adults in literacy education programs is approximately $310 per enrollee. By contrast, the government spends about $7,500 per enrollee in the K–12 system and $16,000 per enrollee in the higher education system. As a result, adult literacy programs are often under-funded (ProLiteracy America 2003).
The current Federal appropriation ($571,000,000) coupled with state and local funds ($1.6 billion) allow ONLY 3 percent of the 90,000,000 who could benefit from adult education to access classes and other services. There is an educational services waiting list of a minimum of 100,000 adults, according to the National Council of State Directors of Education (2009). Education grants are available to colleges and universities, but not to individuals, at least in numbers that would be beneficial.
In summary, It is clear that a significant proportion of U.S. adults do not have the
high level of literacy in both print and digital media required for negotiating many aspects of life in the 21st century. More than 90 million U.S. adults are estimated to lack adequate literacy; only 38 percent of U.S. twelfth graders are at or above ‘proficient’ in reading (National Assessment of Educational Progress 2008) and more than 50 percent of recent 250,000 community college student enrollees were referred to at least one developmental (remedial) education course to remediate weak skills during their college tenure, with about one-third of them referred specifically for reading. Furthermore, the estimated 2.6 million adults enrolled in federally funded programs in 2005 showed variable progress in their literacy skills, and their skill gains were insufficient to achieve functional literacy.
There is a surprising lack of research on the effectiveness of the various instructional practices for adults seeking to improve their literacy skills. The lack of relevant research is especially striking given the long history of both federal funding for adult education programs, albeit stretched thin, and reliance on developmental education courses to remediate college students’ skills. Few studies of adult literacy focus on the development of reading and writing
skills. There is also inadequate knowledge about assessment and ongoing monitoring of adult students’ proficiencies, weaknesses, instructional environments, and progress, which might guide instructional planning.
Though there is a dearth of relevant research with the target adult population,
extensive research on reading and writing processes and difficulties of younger students, emerging research on literacy and learning in adolescents and adults with normal reading
capability, and extremely limited research on adult literacy learners is available. Until
the necessary research is conducted with adults who receive literacy instruction outside the K-12 system, I conclude that it is reasonable to apply the wealth of available research on learning and literacy with other populations on the adult population. Findings from this research can provide guidance about the reading and writing skills to target with instruction and principles for designing instructional practices, technologies, assessments, and preparation for teachers.
The contexts in which adults receive literacy instruction are highly varied. People who need to develop their literacy skills receive instruction in many different types of programs, including adult basic education, community colleges, general educational development (GED) programs or ABE programs, workplace literacy programs, university remedial education programs, citizenship programs, English language learning programs, basic skills and job training centers, among others. While some of the adults receiving literacy instruction may have attained certain levels and forms of literacy, they lack the range and level of reading and writing skills required for education, work, parental and family responsibilities, and other purposes. The literature on adult literacy indicates that a wide range of largely untested theoretical frameworks, practices, texts, and tools are used in literacy instruction with adults. At present, there are neither clear objectives for the development of literacy skills nor standards for curricula and practice that take into consideration research on component reading and writing skills, valued literacy tasks linked to learning goals, and the social and cultural backgrounds and motivations of learners. Programs also differ in whether they provide or facilitate access to services for transportation, child care, and psychological counseling, which might affect the ability of certain segments of the population to engage in and persist with learning.
In conclusion, the outlook is bleak. It is clear the literacy problems of adults will continue well into the 21st century. We honestly don’t know how to fix them. Research isn’t there nor is the funding available to facilitate the research. This reality indicates to me that we, as a country, will continue to fall behind other developed nations, because literacy is the key to progress.

Kozol, Jonathan. 2011. Illiterate America (Kindle Locations 214-215). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
NRC (National Research Council). 2012. Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research. The National Academies Press,
National Council of State Directors of Education. 2009. Adult Education and Literacy Fact Sheet. Washington, DC.
OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). 2013. The Survey of Adult Skills: Reader’s Companion. OECD Publishing,
ProLiteracy America. 2003. U.S. Adult Literacy Programs: A Review of Research on Positive Outcomes Achieved by Literacy Programs and the People They Serve.

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