Media Resource

Ask an NEH Expert: Writing and Editing

Dana Williams, Chair of the English Department at Howard University and professor of African American literature, discusses the writing and editing process. She shares what she loves about writing, but also what challenges her; how to work with other sources while preserving one's own voice; and how she revises her own work to remove superfluous words and sentences while maintaining and strengthening the force of her argument.

This video is one in a three-part series about historical research and writing. See also: Building an Argument and Validating Sources.

Questions for Analysis and Comprehension

These questions can be used before viewing the video to brainstorm ideas and review the concepts discussed in the interview, or after watching as a way to reflect on the interview.

  1. At what point in the research process should you start writing?
  2. What are different ways to incorporate information from sources into your own work?
  3. Reflect on the different ways you can represent an argument by using different forms of media: academic writing, audio recording, video, websites, visual representations. What do each of these mediums allow? What kinds of representation do they facilitate? What kinds might they hinder?
  4. How does your audience affect your writing or presentation, and vice versa?
Interview Questions with Timestamps
  1. What do you love about writing? (2:20)
  2. What are the biggest challenges you have faced as a writer? (4:30)
  3. How do you approach the process of writing for different forms of media? (7:35)
  4. What are some ways that you bring primary sources into your work without letting them overwhelm? (9:55)
  5. How do you create a conclusion that is more than just a restatement of the introduction? (13:16)
  6. How do you decide what to cut in the revision process? (15:55)
  7. All NHD students have word or time limits, which force them to use their words efficiently. What are your best editing tips for them? (19:50)