Methods in Writing Process Research

by Dagmar Knorr (Volume editor) Carmen Heine (Volume editor) Jan Engberg (Volume editor)
©2014 Conference proceedings 246 Pages
Series: Textproduktion und Medium, Volume 13


Methods for studying writing processes have significantly developed over the last two decades. The rapid development of software tools which support the collection together with the display and analysis of writing process data and new input from various neighboring disciplines contribute to an increasingly detailed knowledge acquisition about the complex cognitive processes of writing. This volume, which focuses on research methods, mixed methods designs, conceptual considerations of writing process research, interdisciplinary research influences and the application of research methods in educational settings, provides an insight into the current status of the methodological development of writing process research in Europe.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the authors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Content
  • Methods in writing process research: Introduction and overview
  • Part I: General Approaches to Writing Research Studies and Methods
  • Context in Writing Process Research: An exploratory analysis of context characteristics in writing process research in educational and workplace settings
  • Combining methods in AL-informed writing research
  • Between experience and empirical research: Writing process counseling as a natural setting for writing process research
  • Part II: Text Production Process Research
  • Looking beyond text: The usefulness of translation process data
  • The translator as a writer: Measuring the effect of writing skills on the translation product
  • New methods of text production process research combined
  • Comparing and combining different approaches to the assessment of text quality
  • Applying machine learning techniques to investigate the influence of peer feedback on the writing process
  • Part III: Practical Applications of Methodology and Assessment
  • Methods of measuring students’ text production competence and its development in writing courses
  • A showcase on reading and writing: Visual resources for analyzing, teaching and learning how to write academic texts
  • Author Index
  • Subject Index
  • Series index

← 6 | 7 → Carmen Heine, Dagmar Knorr and Jan Engberg

Methods in writing process research

Introduction and overview

1 Introduction

Research methods are at the core of assumptions, hypotheses, research questions, and research interests in writing research projects, regardless of researchers’ personal preferences, underlying research decisions, theories, situational circumstances, obstacles and hindrances, etc. Hence, research methods are, without doubt, a principal variable of any approach taken to investigate the production of text and its outcomes.

The major methodological advances of recent years have changed, re-focused and significantly influenced writing process research across Europe. The development of modern writing process tools on the one hand and the acquisition of qualitative and quantitative methods originating from neighboring disciplines, adapted to suit the needs of writing process research on the other, have brought about new techniques to track, investigate and value writing processes and products. Key logging, screen capturing, eye tracking and other process tools, as well as accompanying possibilities to obtain, measure, analyze, compare, assess and, as a consequence, teach, enrich the field of writing process research.

As the field broadens and opens up for transdisciplinary views, process and product phenomena are researched into from more diverse and multiple angles than previously possible. This gives rise to new methodological and theoretical approaches to research and their practical implementation and validation in the writing domains.

The X. prowitec-Symposion “Methods in Writing Process Research”, hosted by the writing center “Schreibwerkstatt Mehrsprachigkeit” at Hamburg University, 14.-15.02.2013 in Hamburg, which also marked the 20th anniversary of the German Association for Professional Communication in Education, Industry and Technology, prowitec e.V., acknowledged this development and brought together writing researchers and scholars from neighboring disciplines to discuss conceptual considerations of writing research, means of data collection and data evaluation, writing didactics methodology and writing research methods in interdisciplinary contexts.

Besides the ongoing general interest in content characteristics, competence and skill descriptions, two major areas of current interest in European writing research ← 7 | 8 → emerged from the symposium. The first is to combine different but complementary research methods and approaches to generate process data and their subsequent scrutiny and discussion. The second is the evaluation, effect measurement and quality assessment of the resulting process data and products in the respective writing domains against set research objectives. Domains which continue to be in focus are workplace and pedagogical domains and university settings, where writing research methods are applied and pupils’ and students’ writing practice, production competence and product quality outcome are examined and the feasibility of the methodology and its applicability for didactics are tested. It is here, where machine learning techniques, web-based learning environments and visual resources in the form of logs and videos begin to play an ever-increasing role in writing research.

We have assembled a number of contributions from the symposium into this volume along the aforementioned research interests and topics. The volume is divided into three parts.

2 Overview of the contributions to the volume

Part 1 of the volume starts out with three contributions reporting about general approaches to writing research studies and methods which suggest, critically discuss and apply a multitude of techniques to track, investigate and value the phenomena of the writing process in regard to theoretical, methodological, pedagogical and transdisciplinary views and set research objectives.

In “An exploratory study of context characteristics in writing process research in educational and workplace settings”, de Glopper, Van Kruiningen and Hemmen present a study of 70 peer reviewed journal articles published between 1980 and 2012 about writing processes in the educational and workplace domain. On the basis of the famous claim in writing research that writing activities are based on contextual factors, the authors explore to what extent and how context is accounted for in the articles. The study examines the characteristics that pertain to the methodology applied and to the writing contexts described in the publications. For the purpose of examining the characteristics, a coding scheme is used. The focus of the article is on methodological approaches and characteristics, the description of the characteristics of the contexts in which writing processes have been studied and the methodological discussion of context. This is supplemented by an analysis of the impact of context characteristics on study outcomes. The authors stress the differential treatment of context in the researched domains and suggest causes for this state of affairs.

← 8 | 9 → In “Combining methods in AL-informed writing research”, Perrin addresses writing from an Applied Linguistics (AL) perspective, drawing on writing as a language-based activity in complex and dynamic real-life contexts. Two methodologically complementary ways of doing writing research into real-life writing processes, namely ex post and in situ are examined. The author uses cases from literary writing and mass media production as examples. In his AL-informed writing research approach, the author considers writing to be a joint activity of researchers, practitioners and society. In this view, individual or collaborative writing is researched into as a material, mental, and social activity in analogue or digital environments, ex post or in situ, and, in order to understand and improve it. The author outlines a typology for four methodological perspectives in AL-informed writing research which include material differences between text versions, individuals’ writing strategies, variation of practices within and across organizations’ writing, and communities’ metadiscourse reflecting their written communication. The challenges of combining perspectives and methods are highlighted in this contribution.

In “Between Experience and Empirical Research. Writing Process Counseling as a natural setting for Writing Process Research”, Ruhmann refines a pedagogical setting – writing process counseling (WPC) – on the basis of experience in counseling academic and scientific writers. Experiences from writing process counseling at German universities set the scene for the description of the elements of writing process counseling, which include but are not limited to: the counselor and the academic writer, their interaction, techniques applied, the cooperative communication process and its interpretation and successive actions taken in the process and its evaluation. The author describes the dilemma of grasping the individual aspects of writing processes in an integrated way through research and sheds light on the cognitive perspective by contrasting WPC and cognitive writing process research, and the socio-cognitive perspective by discussing writer’s overload. The author introduces the concept of the systematic core and explains the task specific core of WPC and the rational and emotional cores. The non-empirical integrative virtue of the method is highlighted and a dialog between the heuristic WPC approach and empirical writing process research is suggested.

Part 2 continues with five contributions in the broader field of text production process research, including translation studies’ approaches for the evaluation of process data and writing skills’ effects on translation products. The combination, implementation, application and usefulness of process research methodology and the resulting data in learning settings is reported about. In addition to the process-oriented approach, product related variables of the production processes such ← 9 | 10 → as aspects of text quality assessment approaches and effect measurement also play a key role in these contributions.

In “Looking Beyond Text. The usefulness of translation process data”, Massey and Ehrensberger-Dow shed light on a challenge of translation process research, namely the establishment of its relevance to the quality of translated products. Drawing on a corpus of processes, the authors apply quantitative research approaches to determine process measures and classifiers which can complement traditional product measures of translation evaluation, in order to explore the differences between student and professional performance. The findings include an initial indication of an increased use of internal resources, more targeted use of external sources, stronger capability of distinguishing linguistic and extra-linguistic problem types, higher ability to process longer stretches of text and a more considered, reflective approach with professional and MA students than with beginners. On the basis of their findings, the authors propose that reflective text production may be a strong indicator of translation competence. The authors tentatively suggest a number of process-oriented “good performance” guidelines and discuss implications of their findings for diagnostics, training and evaluation.

In “The translator as a writer. Measuring the effect of writing skills on the translation product” Schrijver, Van Vaerenbergh, Leijten and Van Waes present the results of an experimental pretest-posttest study with an experimental group trained in writing instructive texts and a control group receiving placebo training. The study investigates the effects of genre-specific writing on the translation products of undergraduate translation students and compares these with the placebo group’s on the basis of transedited rich points, in order to gain insights into what influence writing competence acquired through intervention training has on translation product quality. The findings show that the experimental group’s translation products showed significantly fewer violations of target language genre conventions, yet a significant effect of the writing training on overall translation quality could not be determined.

In “New methods of text production process research combined”, Heine, Engberg, Knorr and Spielmann report about a research project located at the crossroads between the fields of writing process research and hermeneutics. The project encompasses academic writing workshops carried out with semi-professional and professional academic writers. During these workshops a combination of state of the art writing research tools and an interview method, originally developed in the field of educational psychology, were applied. The focus of the research project was on participants’ self-reflection during writing sessions and on co-constructed, collaborative social interaction through dialogue about participants’ subjective ← 10 | 11 → theories of their writing or their writing processes respectively. The contribution describes the incremental application of a mixed-method workshop design, discusses the applicability of the methods and their combination and initial reactions of the participants.

In “Comparing and combining different approaches to the assessment of text quality”, Grabowski, Becker-Mrotzek, Knopp, Jost and Weinzierl refer to an interdisciplinary research project which investigated the influence of subcomponents of writing literacy on three text types produced by 5th and 9th graders. With focus on their reliability, their interrelations and their concurrence, and with the aim to acquire appropriate quantitative characteristics of text quality, different approaches to the assessment of text quality are taken under scrutiny. Against basic assumptions regarding the concepts of writing literacy and the quality of texts, the authors introduce their empirical data material and analse four different approaches to the quantitative assessment of text quality through a comparison of their properties, strengths and weaknesses. The results are correlated and put into perspective with the consequence that the authors’ aggregated text quality measure provides a result that they classify as highly systematic.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (June)
Schreibprozess intersziplinäre Forschung Methodenlehre Lehrmethode
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 246 pp., 26 b/w fig., 15 tables

Biographical notes

Dagmar Knorr (Volume editor) Carmen Heine (Volume editor) Jan Engberg (Volume editor)

Dagmar Knorr (Dr. phil.) is head of the writing center Schreibwerkstatt Mehrsprachigkeit at Hamburg University and works in the fields of teaching academic writing, multilingualism and writing process research. Carmen Heine (Associate Prof., PhD) is a member of faculty at Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, Business Communication. She is a member of the Research Group for Knowledge Communication and works in the fields of writing process research and translation studies. Jan Engberg (Prof., PhD) is a member of faculty at Aarhus University, Business and Social Sciences, Business Communication. He is head of the Research Group for Knowledge Communication and works in the fields of studies of specialized discourse and of knowledge represented in and constructed from texts.


Title: Methods in Writing Process Research
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