Every semester I hear this question at least once: What is good writing? Is it universal or is it cultural? The answer seems nebulous and changes depending on whom you ask and in which context you ask. What is basic writing and Who is a basic writer is following suit. In identifying how to help developmental writers, we need to know the answers.

I am banking on the known truth that research is a process which often leads the researcher to unexpected ends. Therefore, I cannot commit to the final product, but I can commit to the beginning.

I will begin with a historical search on readers and textbooks that speak to what good writing was. How did our forefathers (and undocumented educated fore-mothers) learn to write? What were they reading? How were their sentences structured? Etc. [I will ignore penmanship.]

Depending on how much surfaces will determine the depth and breadth of my paper. I am hoping to see an evolution of writing instruction and student products. There were gradual shifts which molded our modern ideas of “good” writing from those of two hundred years ago. What is the current shift and where is it leading us? Plus, it will be interesting to see the beginning. In seeing this, maybe it can help us better instruct basic writers who look to us to read the map.