This work uses the methodology of institutional ethnography to explore the new territory of academic writing as a social process, a process embedded in the culture and practices of contemporary corporate universities. While we consider writing an individual process, writing emerged from the data as a social process, mediated by external social forces, the changing structure of the university, and individual understandings of the purpose of academic writing. Participants framed writing within three social contexts: broader social, institutional and individual, illustrating how these contexts work together, and separately, to frame the writing process. Within the broader social contexts, the history of academia, students-as-consumers are examined to shape an understanding of the place of academic writing historically. The institutional context explores academic departments as families, as well as common concerns among faculty regarding time to write and flexibility as a double edged sword. The individual context reveals the inner most concerns faculty express about writing: fear of rejection and insecurity.
At the same time, amid the fear and insecurity is the uplifting experience of seeing your name in print, and knowing that you have successfully (this time) negotiated the process. Finally, C.W. Mills' (1959) sociological imagination provides a theoretical framework to assist in understanding the data. What the data reveals is that academic writing is, indeed, a 'public issue'.