Framework for Success in Postsecondary Writing - Selected Research Bibliography

This bibliography has been compiled by Cathy Fleischer, Rich Haswell, Chris Thaiss, and Kathy Rowlands based on suggestions from Task Force members and other resources. Additional citations/annotations are welcome. If you would like to submit, please refer to the definition of research below as a guideline for suggested contributions. All suggested contributions must include a full citation and a 2-4 sentence annotation of the source. Click here to submit suggested annotations.

The ideas underlying the Framework arise from years of research into writing and writing pedagogy. This Resource Guide provides references about the research basis of certain pedagogical practices. The research included here is not exhaustive but rather illustrative and is focused primarily on writing specific studies. The research used rigorous and systematic methodologies and was published in peer-reviewed venues:  researchers posed a question or questions; used methods appropriate to investigate the question(s); analyzed results through appropriate methods; and supported conclusions with results and theoretical rationale. Research studies included empirical, textual, and mixed methods, including both qualitative and/or quantitative methods, such as case study, teacher-research, observation, and meta-analysis.

Andrews, Richard, Carole Torgerson, Graham Low, & Nick McGuinn. “Teaching argument writing to 7- to 14-year-olds: An international review of the evidence of successful practice.” Cambridge Journal of Education, 39:  3 (2009):  291–310. Print.

This study looked at the conditions necessary for successful practice in teaching argumentative writing.  Most important: a writing process approach, some cognitive reasoning, peer collaboration, and explicit explanations of learning processes.

Alaimo, Peter J., John C. Bean, Joseph M. Langenhan, and Larry Nichols. “Eliminating lab reports: A rhetorical approach for teaching the scientific paper in sophomore organic chemistry.” WAC Journal 20 (2009): 17-32. Print.

A cross-disciplinary team of researchers report on the benefits of a year-long inquiry-based approach to scientific writing, as opposed to a formulaic approach, in a second-year organic chemistry class at Seattle University.

Albertson, Bonnie. “Organization and development features of grade 8 and grade 10 writers: A descriptive study of Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP) essays.” Research in the Teaching of English 41.4 (2007): 435-464. Print.

Analyzing over one thousand essays written for Delaware mandated school testing, the researcher found that formulaic essays (such as the five-paragraph theme) did no better with raters than other essays, and that what counted most was topical elaboration.

Bannister, Linda. Writing apprehension and anti-writing: A naturalistic study of composing strategies used by college freshmen. San Francisco, CA: Mellen Research University Press (1992). Print.

In a study of persistence in the composing process, Bannister found that students wrote more creatively when they used their apprehensions and delays during the act of composing as a natural part of the writing process.

Beyer, Catherine Hoffman, Gerald M. Gilmore, and Andrew T. Fisher. Inside the undergraduate experience: The University of Washington’s study of undergraduate writing. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass (2007). Print.

This report of a major study tracked the complex education growth of over three-hundred students through their undergraduate years, showing the importance of writing, critical thinking, problem solving, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, understanding and appreciation of diversity, and personal growth.

Bilton, Linda & Sivakumar Sivasubramaniam. “An inquiry into expressive writing: A classroom-based study.” Language Teaching Research, 13 (2009):  301–320.  Print.

Longitudinal classroom study found the opportunity for self-expression typical in creative writing assignments led to increased mastery of language and more sophisticated thinking among EFL/ESL writers.

Carter, Michael. “Ways of knowing, doing, and writing in the disciplines.” College Composition and Communication 58.3 (2007): 385-418.  Print.

This article analyzes eight years’ worth of program assessment data at North Carolina State in order to posit a definition of disciplines and disciplinary beliefs and practices based on North American genre theory.

Cho, Kwangsu, & Charles MacArthur.  “Student revision with peer and expert reviewing.” Learning & Instruction, 20.4 (2010):  328–338. Print.

This study compares three kinds of feedback (single expert, single peer, and multiple peers) and finds that the undergraduate students studied made more complex revisions to their writing when they participated in multi-peer response groups. 

Dochy, Filip, Mien Segers, and Dominique Sluijsmans. “The use of self-, peer and co-assessment in higher education: A review.” Studies in Higher Education  24.3 (1999): 331-350. Print.

A meta-analysis of the scholarship on peer-evaluation and self-evaluation during the composing process, this study indicates that there are benefits to both—support for revising and multiple drafting as an important pedagogy in the teaching of writing.

Gielen, Sarah, Ellen Peeters, Filip Dochy, Patrick Onghena, & Karen Struyven.  “Improving the effectiveness of peer feedback for learning.” Learning & Instruction, 20.4 (2010): 304–315.  Print.

The authors studied peer feedback among seventh graders and found that when peer feedback was accompanied by “justifications” (or reasons for comments), writing quality improved.

Graham, Steve and Michael Hebert. Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. A Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2010.  Print.

Expanding the work of earlier publications Reading Next and Writing Next, this document provides evidence demonstrating:  how writing about the material students read enhances their reading comprehension; how teaching writing strengthens students’ reading skills; and how increasing the amount students write improves how well they read.

Graham, Steve. “Strategy instruction and the teaching of writing: A meta-analysis.  Handbook of writing research.  Eds. Charles MacArthur, Steve Graham, and Jill Fitzgerald. New York: Guilford, 2006: 187-207.  Print.

This essay examines thirty-nine studies of explicit strategy instruction designed to develop students’ independent use of sophisticated cognitive processes and finds that strategy instruction is quite effective in improving students’ writing performance. Further, the study found that strategy instruction not only had an immediate effect on improving student writing, but the improvements lasted over time and were transferred to new writing tasks.

Graham, Steve and Delores Perin. Writing next: Effective strategies to improve writing of adolescents in middle and high schools – A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education, 2007.  Print.

This meta analysis of writing research identifies 11 key research-based instructional strategies that improve adolescent writing in middle and high schools.

Haas, Christina. “Learning to read biology: One student’s rhetorical development in college.” Written Communication 11.1 (1994): 43-84. Print.

This longitudinal study of one biology major and the development of her writing and reading during the four undergraduate years shows how study of audience awareness in her first-year composition course proved crucial to her later in college, especially when she had to grow more sophisticated in her evaluation of academic texts and their authors.

Haas, Christina and Linda Flower. “Rhetorical reading strategies and the construction of meaning.” College Composition and Communication 39.2 (1988): 167-184. Print

Through think-aloud protocols, the researchers found that college students need more instruction in reading college-level, academic texts, especially in sensing the discursive shapings of the genre and the rhetorical context of the writing.

Hassel, Holly and Joanne Baird Giordano.  “Transfer institutions, transfer of knowledge: The development of rhetorical adaptability and underprepared writers.” Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 37.1 (2009): 24–40. Print.

As the authors tracked students from an English 101 course into their first year writing course, they discovered the importance of developing students’ metacognition and emphasizing a process writing pedagogy.

Haswell, Richard H. “Documenting improvement in college writing: A longitudinal approach.” Written Communication 17.3 (2000): 307-352. Print.

Using a carefully controlled longitudinal sample of college juniors, the researcher found empirically substantiated improvement in their writing in a number of essay traits connected with complex thinking, for instance, idea elaboration, essay length, concrete thesis support, and sophistication of logic.

Haswell, Richard H. “Teaching of writing in higher education.” Handbook of research in writing: History, society, school, individual, text. Ed., Charles Bazerman. New York: Erlbaum, 2007: 331-346. Print.

Article reviews data-based research into writing sites, writing pedagogy, writing genres, and writing media in college.

Herrington, Anne, and Marcia Smith Curtis. Persons in process: Four stories of writing and development in college. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English (2000). Print.

In-depth, longitudinal case studies of four undergraduate students and their writing showed them gradually moving toward self-understanding, genre awareness, and sensitivity to the requirements of special, discipline-specific audiences.

Inman, James A. Computers and writing: The cyborg era. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum (2002). Print.

In an ethnographic study of a college composition classroom, the author found students in the act of composition using fifty-six different kinds of electronic equipment.

Jacobson, Michael J., and Spiro, Rand J. “Hypertext learning environments, cognitive flexibility, and the transfer of complex knowledge: An empirical investigation.” Journal of Educational Computer Research 12.4 (1995): 301-333. Print.

In a study of reading, comprehension, and transfer of knowledge, students who were asked to compare different cases and to use differing conceptual representations of knowledge performed better in applying and transferring their knowledge than did students who learned by drill and memorization.

Kendrick, J. Richard, Jr., and John Suarez. “Service-learning outcomes in English composition: An application of the Campus Compact Assessment Protocol.” Reflections: A Journal of Writing, Service-Learning, and Community Literacy 03.1 (2003): 36-54. Print

Using experimental and control classes, this study found that first-year college composition students who explored service-learning experiences improved in their sense of civic engagement, public responsibility, personal efficacy, and the complexity of social issues.

Kerr, Nancy H., and Madeleine Piccotto. “Linked composition courses: Effects on student performance.” Journal of Teaching Writing 11.1 (1992): 105-118. Print.

Comparing the essays written by first-year college students in a stand-alone composition courses with those in courses linked to a content course, Kerr and Piccotto found students in the linked curriculum got better grades and wrote better papers, in part because they had acquired more insight into the discourse conventions of the content area.

Klein, Perry D., and Lori C. Kirkpatrick. “A framework for content area writing: Mediators and moderators.” Journal of Writing Research 02.1 (2010): 2-46. Print.

Studying student writing using a pretest-posttest design and path analysis, the researchers found that even as early as grades 5 and 6, “instruction affects genre knowledge, which affects text quality, which predicts learning during writing.”

Pritchard, Ruie J. and Ronald L. Honeycutt. “The process approach to writing instruction:  Examining its effectiveness.”  Handbook on the Teaching of Writing.  Eds. Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham, and Jill Fitzgerald.  New York:  Guilford Press, 2006:  275-290. Print.

This review essay draws upon numerous studies that examined the process movement, concluding that “writing and writing process are best understood as complex phenomena” and that “multiple factors influence the writing process.”  They suggest that additional study can help teachers understand this complexity better as they seek appropriate classroom practices that emphasize both process and product.

Rosen, Larry D., Jennifer Chang, Lynne Erwin, L. Mark Carrier, & Nancy A Cheever.  “The relationship between “textisms” and formal and informal writing among young adults.”  Communication Research, 37:  3 (2010): 420–440. Print.

This study of 718 young adults found that even among heavy users of text messaging, the use of texting features was low when presented with occasions for both formal and informal writing.

Russell, David R. “Where do the naturalistic studies of WAC/WID point? A research review.” WAC for the New Millennium: Strategies for Continuing Writing-across-the-Curriculum Programs. Eds. Susan McLeod, et al.  Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2001: 259-298. Print.

This overview of twenty years of quantitative and qualitative studies of writing use in a wide range of disciplines summarizes methods used in individual studies and makes a strong link between studies in academic and professional contexts. The author urges researchers to observe four key factors in measuring writing and learning growth: (1) kinds of writer/learner motivation, (2) identities/roles taken on by students in writing contexts, (3) tools used by writers, including genres; (4) processes writers employ and that teachers make available to students.

Sidler, Michelle. “Web research and genres in online databases: When the glossy page disappears.” Computers and Composition 19.1 (2002): 57-70. Print.

In an ethnographic study of the way college students use online databases to find scholarship for research papers, Sidler notes the continuing need for students to have methods that will critique such information and see through genre constructions, metaphoric language, and in general the allure of new digital technologies.

Smith, Michael, Julie Cheville and George Hillocks, Jr.  “ ‘I guess I’d better watch my English’:  Grammars and the teaching of the English language arts.”  Handbook on the Teaching of Writing.  Eds. Charles A. MacArthur, Steve Graham, and Jill Fitzgerald.  New York:  Guilford Press, 2006.  Print.

The authors summarize years of research on instruction surrounding grammar issues, demonstrating that teaching from a Traditional School Grammar (TSG) perspective may actually be harmful to student writers in part because it displaces time that may be better spent in actual composition practice.  They also suggest other approaches to understanding grammars that benefit students more.

Tsui, Lisa. “Courses and instruction affecting critical thinking.” Research in Higher Education 40.2 (2002): 185-200. Print.

Tsui found college students across the curriculum and across different institutions made a statistically significant connection between the number of writing assignments in their degree and the positive stress the institution put on critical thinking.

Van Waes, Luuk, and Peter Jan Schellens. “Writing profiles: The effect of the writing mode on pausing and revision patterns of experienced writers. Journal of Pragmatics 35.6 (2003): 829-852. Print.

Using keystroke analysis and contrasting two kinds of composing media—computer keyboarding and pen and paper—the researchers uncovered five distinct composing behaviors (“writing profiles”) and discovered that eighteen of the twenty writers switched behavior when they switched media.

Wardle, Elizabeth. “’Mutt genres’ and the goal of FYC: Can we help students write the genres of the university?” College Composition and Communication 60.4 (2009): 765-789. Print.

Reporting on a two-year study of a large first-year composition program [FYC], Wardle determines that genre knowledge combined, later, with knowledge of contexts within specific disciplines prove to be a necessary pedagogical step in the continuing development of successful writing skills in college.

Woodward-Kron, Robyn. “Critical analysis versus description? Examining the relationship in successful student writing.” Journal of English for Academic Purposes 1.2 (2002): 121-143. Print.

The researcher used functional linguistic analysis to examine the logical framing of twenty college-level student essays and determined that although critical analysis was expected by teachers and attempted by the writers, expectations in the one group and performance in the second group must be raised to meet post-college writing demands.